evidence of Kagetsu/Seymour logging camp
by Trevor Wideman
In 1920, nikkei timber baron Eikichi Kagetsu began extensive logging operations over 600 acres of prime forest in the Seymour Valley of the District of North Vancouver. The cedar logs that he and his workers harvested in the valley were transported down to the Vancouver harbour, where they were placed on ships bound for Japan. While very little has been written about Kagetsu’s operations in the valley, important physical traces remain. The objects here were very likely used by Kagetsu’s workers. They were uncovered near Mackenzie Creek by Bob Muckle and his team of archaeologists from Capilano University from 2002-2019.
The labour of the Kagetsu workers is symbolized by the saw, which they used to fell the rich timber of the coastal forest, and the leather boot, which protected their feet as they hiked and toiled. The water pitcher, tea cups, and rice bowls reflect the meals that sustained energy over long working hours. The basin represents washing-up after a hard day’s work. The Pond’s cream (which also provides possible evidence of women in the camp) would have soothed chapped hands, while the two small medicine bottles contained tonics meant to restore the vitality, energy, and stamina of the workers. Finally, the day might have ended with a bit of revelry, represented by the sake and beer bottles. Two of the bottles were found at the bottom of an outhouse. Was the latrine a convenient garbage dump, or was it a hiding place for the liquor?
While the Kagetsu operations ceased in 1924 when the Seymour Valley was taken over by the Greater Vancouver Water District, nikkeijin (Japanese Canadians) very likely continued to live and work in the valley until their forced removal from the coast in 1942. The objects seen here provide evidence of the lives lived in the Kagetsu logging camp, and help ensure that important nikkei stories are not forgotten.
Kagetsu, T. J. (2017). The Tree Trunk Can Be My Pillow. University of Victoria Press.
Muckle, R. (2017). Archaeology of an Early Twentieth-Century Nikkei Camp in the Seymour Valley. BC Studies, (192), 125-148.
Japanese Canadian loggers at Rice Lake mill, circa 1905. The mill was just south of the camp where these objects were found. The child pictured is Shigeo (Tony) Kato, the only Japanese Canadian to serve in the British and Canadian military for the entirety of the Second World War, and one of three permitted to enlist. Photo courtesy of the North Vancouver Museum & Archives 26-19E-7.
Clockwise from top left: Mrs. Hideyo Kato, Ayano Ikeda, and Ayano’s children Hatsue, Yoshie, and Teruko. This photo was likely taken in 1926 at Cedars Ltd. Mill, Lynn Creek, North Vancouver. Women lived and helped out in the logging camps on the North Shore. Photo courtesy of the North Vancouver Museum & Archives 10985.
The following objects were excavated by Bob Muckle and many students between 2003 – 2019 from the McKenzie Creek (MC) and Suicide Creek (SC) archaeological sites in the Metro Vancouver Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve, within the Seymour River Valley, in North Vancouver, BC.
Top shelf from left to right:
MC 156c, 156d, 157a aqua bottles from privy / outhouse / toilet
MC 166 Haku tsuri sake bottle
MC 159 green cider bottle
MC 296 cup (western style with ridges)
MC 581 cup (western style with gold rim)
SC 179 rice/soup bowl
MC 109 rice/soup bowl
MC 413 small dish
MC 202 rice/soup bowl
MC 269 small dish
MC 18 rice/soup bowl
Middle shelf from left to right:
MC 447 Stevens Comfort ceramic warmer (hot water bottle)
SC 453 leather work boot
MC 461 metal pan / shallow basin
MC 108 Ponds jar with lid
MC 266 Shinkeijyo bottle (liquid that unlocks God’s mercy)
MC 193 Kosai yakuin pharmaceutical bottle (Leben)
SC 47 metal kettle / coffee pot and handle
MC 782 saw blade