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Lesson Plans

Sawmills In Northern BC

Grade Level

  • Grade 11 & 12

Main Idea

Sawmills in the Upper Fraser have had many successes and downfalls. The number of sawmills in the area has altered significantly over the last 100 years due to the changing economy.

Subject Areas

  • Geography 12
  • History 12
  • Social Studies 11


Students will be able to describe:

  • Community locations of the Upper Fraser.
  • Rise and fall of sawmill operations between the 1910's and 1970's.
  • Cost of operating a sawmill in the 1950's compared to today.

Teacher Notes

No prior knowledge of Sawmills is necessary to successfully present this lesson plan.


  • "Upper Fraser Communities" Map
  • "Annual Report" handout
  • "Sawmill Photos" handout


  1. Distribute map of "Upper Fraser Communities" to each student.
  2. Discuss with class which towns are still here today and why some are not.
  3. Ask students if they know how many sawmills/pulp mills are in Prince George and surrounding areas today.
    • 2003 – 12 mills
  4. Distribute graphs of sawmill operations from the 1920's to the 1970's to each student.
    • Ask students to point out significant changes and why the changes may have happened.
  5. Photocopy and distribute to each student or put on overhead "Sawmill Photos" handouts during the lesson plan.
  6. Ask class how many men a sawmill today may employ.
    • 250-350
  7. How many men a sawmill employed in the 1920's
    • 10-100 men
  8. Have class brainstorm what a sawmill's costs may be. Combine answers on the board.
  9. Distribute "Annual Report" handout to each student.
    • As a class skim over the handout and discuss what some costs are that students may not have thought of.
  10. Have students work in groups of 2 or 3 and distribute assignment handout.

Extension Activities

  1. Write a 500 word essay describing contributions to the fall of sawmills in the 1930's.
  2. Draw a map of communities between Prince George and Tete Jaune Chache on Highway 16.
    1. Label appropriate headings.
    2. List one sawmill from each community.


Upper Fraser Historical Geography Project., 2003.

Settler's Effects; Environmental, Cultural and Social Change 1805-1971.

Sawmills on the Upper Fraser

Crew at Newlands sawmill sitting on planks with a dog. Phil Brown is the second man from the left.

Beehive burner at Naver Creek Sawmills Ltd. 1960

Beehive burner at Giscome, B.C., 1935.

A sawmill

Sawmill under construction and stacks of lumber by river.

Student Assignment

In groups of 2 or 3 write 500 word essay on a sawmill in a community located in the Upper Fraser. Include in your research assignment:

  • Map of the area
  • Sawmill activity
  • Historic achievements of town/sawmills

Choose one of the following communities

  • Dome Creek
  • Shelly
  • Upper Fraser
  • Penny
  • McBride
  • Dunster
  • Sinclair Mills
  • Giscome
  • Willow River

Photographic History of Prince George
| Milltown to Downtown | Settlers' Effects |

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