Posted by: Manager / Associate Curator | October 6, 2016

Legend of Howard Smith Totem Pole

domtar_totem-pole-framedFor many years the Cornwall paper mill’s totem pole stood in front of the Main Office before being re-located to the front lawn for all to see.

When the Mill closed for good in 2006, the top section of the pole was transferred to the Cornwall Community Museum where it has been safeguarded for future generations – in the stairway between the Museum and Archives.

Some former employees are in custody of the other sections of the pole.

The totem was a gift from the lumber and woods contracting firm of J.J. Seguin Company Limited of St. Lambert, QC to Howard Smith Paper Mills Limited.

A legend is carved into the pole. Its 51 foot height is symbolic of the age of Howard Smith Paper Mills Limited when the pole was carved.

domtar_totem-pole-1-2A noted Northern Ontario wood carver, Edgar Thibodeault, was instructed by Mr. Seguin to begin the totem pole with the founding of the Beauharnois, QC mill in 1912. This is represented by the grinning gargoyle at the bottom of the pole. Directly above is another gargoyle which depicts the taking over of Crabtree Mills by Howard Smith in 1916.

domtar_totem-pole-3-4-profileThe symbolic thunderbird appears. Its widespread wings indicate the expanding company which took over Lincoln Paper Mills and the Canada Paper Company in 1929. The grotesque figure with the prominent nose is an indication of the carver’s sly sense of humour as this portrays the addition of the Kraft Mill to the Cornwall facility.

domtar_totem-pole-5-6-profileThen came the dark depression years when Howard Smith’s growth was at a standstill. The carver showed this by the long dull section in the totem. The year was 1939 and as war was declared, Howard Smith acquired the Don Valley Paper Company as is shown by another figure with a long protruding nose.

domtar_totem-pole-7-8-profileAbove that is the bird known in Indian folklore as “Demon Raven” which with its spreading wings illustrates the post-war expansion in several divisions of the company and the incorporation of the arborite company in 1947. Finally, the top illustration with the monstrous nose portrays further expansion in the Kraft Mill. This section containing the top two birds is located at the Museum now.

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