Beaver Lumber gets its start in business in Wolseley

Beaver Lumber started making tracks across the country in 1906. Its growth into one of Canada?s leading suppliers of lumber and building materials belied its birthplace in rural Saskatchewan.

Named after a quintessentially Canadian animal, it was born in a quintessential Prairie town ? Wolseley, Sask. Evolving from the Banbury Bros. Lumber Company into Beaver Lumber, it would eventually grow into a chain with more than 130 stores across Canada.

Originally known as the Wolf Creek District, settlers began arriving in the Wolseley area around 1880 but the pace of settlement increased with the arrival of the railroad in July 1882.

Like many other people, Edwin Banbury looked out West to settle. Born in Ontario in 1858, he grew up working on the family farm but decided to leave to pursue new opportunities with the opening up of Western Canada.

?My youth was spent felling trees, pulling stumps, picking stones on a small acreage. I knew there was no future for me on the small home farm,? said a quote from Banbury in a Wolseley and district history book. ?Besides the Toronto newspaper carried exciting government ads about land being surveyed and sold at very low prices per acre, the railroad was to be built across the prairie and I wanted to see all this, to choose my own land.?

Banbury and his travelling companions arrived in Winnipeg in March 1882, before continuing the journey west. Due to the unpredictable spring weather, they were delayed several times by snowstorms, as well as the resulting floods from rapid thaws.

Refusing the assistance of a colonization company in Brandon, the men chose to rely on their own good judgment in finding a homestead rather than paying a fee. Continuing in a westerly direction, they were pleased with the land in the Wolseley area and decided to settle there.

With money soon running out, Banbury contacted his father in Ontario for a loan in the fall of 1882. Rather than sending cash, he sent a railway ticket to Toronto. After heading back home he was able to convince his father of the quality of the land out West, as well as secure $500.

Banbury settled on some land, but eventually moved on to a nearby section that he purchased from a neighbour.

In 1883 he opened a livery stable and delivered mail throughout the area. He also served as the driver when the local doctor called on patients in the country.

Besides business, Banbury was also active in the local community. He was involved in municipal politics, as well as the local school board.

With the influx of people looking to settle in the area, Banbury and his brother Robert opened a lumber yard, delivering goods to people throughout the area. Upon the retirement of the owner of a rival company, they purchased Gibson Lumber in 1904.

Two years later the Banbury Bros. Lumber Company partnered with the Regina Lumber and Supply Co., creating a business with 12 lumber yards. Continuing to expand, the brothers proceeded to make a deal with a Winnipeg company.

Following the expansion, it was decided that a new name was needed. In an attempt to maintain a connection to wood, Edwin Banbury suggested the name ?beaver,? which was immediately accepted.

Beaver Lumber was purchased by Molson Canada in 1972, but the company was rebranded when it was sold to Home Hardware in 1999.

(Paul Spasoff is a freelance writer with an interest in Western Canadian history. Paul can be reached at backtothepast@sasktel.net)