When I hauled it out of the dirt and hacked away the alder roots that had grown all around, it looked like crap (not my original word here) , which would make sense because a bear had recently had one only a few feet away. I took the fire box door from the old Adam Hall stove home, soaked it in vinegar and wire brushed off most of the 50 plus years of rust the best I could, then painted it. It was part number 10 and 11 of the “Portable 923” and it bears the name of the company that produced it: Adam Hall Corp Sherbrooke, Que, Made in Canada.
Once upon a time it must have been a lucrative business producing wood burning galley stoves for the hundreds of logging camps in Canada. The 923 was portable, it’s portability seems to have been twofold (and questionable). For one it came in parts and the parts were numbered for easy assembly. It also had large rings attached so that it could be carried with four men using poles. I have read stories of them being used on the drive in Canada where they were used on boats and sometimes presumably shifted from one drive camp to the other. This may have been done in the very early days in Newfoundland.
The Adam Hall was the mainstay for logging camp cookery in Newfoundland for many years, how many? I would say about forty. Although the design is older I am not sure if they were used in Newfoundland until the 1920’s. The one picture I have seen of a cook stove from 1920 shows a different type of stove. The door I have came from a camp that existed from about 1958 to 1964.
I wonder how old it actually is? was this the first camp that it was used in? Or had it at least come from the contractors last camp on Sandy Lake, up over the new logging road when he moved camps, surely they didn’t outfit every new camp with new stoves every time they moved. If they did, the owners of the Adam Hall Corporation must have salivated at an order from the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company. It wasn’t uncommon for the “Company” to have more than 60 camps in operation during the era in which these stoves were used.
If I had the time and the tools I could put together an entire one of these old stoves out of the parts around the woods. In fact, sitting in one clearing I came upon one sitting upright, ghostly covered in moss and missing many parts, but almost as if it had just been left there. Why didn’t I take a picture?.
This patch of woods was the final resting place for these stoves any way you cut it. Even if they were still in good shape and could be reused in another camp, this was the end of the line for the old wood fired cook stove. The camp closed around 1964 and by that point the Company was putting oil fueled ranges into most of it’s camps. They also started to train the cooks, but by that point most of the cooks would have been pretty good, most having been doing the job for some time.
Oil stoves would have been considerably easier to use and control. I remember one relative remarked in a recorded interview that their used to be “plenty of sour bread.” The oil stoves would have eliminated the need to cut fire wood for each camp and that energy could be devoted to cutting more pulpwood. I wonder if the once plentiful supply of birch in the area the old stove was found had been a contributing factor to the placement of the camp.
I couldn’t stop but wonder, how many loaves of bread had been baked in the old stove, how many crocks of beans had been cooked and how many cups of tea had been dispensed from kettles boiled on its top. My great grandfather had made a living during some hard times in front of an Adam Hall stove, so maybe it is appropriate that I have this artifact. And this is what it is, or is becoming, an artifact. As those that worked in these camps die off we aren’t left with much of a record of a once very thriving industry. In fact many of the old campsites from 100 or more years of commercial logging have long since faded back into the alders and the same spruce and fir that their occupants cut so long ago. For many of the older camps, the stoves may be the largest artifact left.