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Articles > What is a lumber shover?

You won’t find it in your dictionary!
29 Apr 2012

From a sketch. Copyright, Historical Society of the Tonawands, 2012.

1 - It's the name we chose for our printed history newsletter, which is mailed to paid-up members monthly.

2 - Beginning in the Erie Canal era, 1 1829, a lumber shover was a man who unloaded lumber to or from boats, storage on land, or at a lumber mill. Work gangs of lumber shovers would pick up multiple pieces of long, cut-lumber and "shove" them to the next man, who would repeat the process until the transfer job was done. Predominantly, this trade moved on the Great Lakes, the Erie Canal, and to the port of New York, in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

In the early 19th Century, multi-masted, schooner sailboats were used on the Great Lakes. Later, sailboats were replaced by steamboats. From the twin-cities "Lumber Capital" ports of Tonawanda and North Tonawanda, New York, shipment eastward on the Erie Canal required transfer to smaller "lumber hookers", lumber rafts, or canal boats and barges.

The name, lumber shover, has little meaning today, as the large, old-growth timber stands in the East and Midwest were depleted years ago. Modern mills may be far from any lake port. Typically, today's "lumber shover" is a heavy equipment operator, loading tractor-trailer trucks or railcars near controlled-growth forests. Virtually all Great Lakes boats are now self-unloaders, which means they have loading equipment built-in on board. The Welland Canal and intermodal (truck-rail-ship) containers have eliminated any need for transfer of freight at the Tonawandas, and Buffalo, NY.

For more images and history, read Buffalo's Waterfront, By Thomas E. Leary, Elizabeth C. Sholes, Arcadia Publishing (September 6, 1997), page 49.

1 - Erie Canal era. More...

Maureen K. Fleury, suite101.com

The Rouse Simmons was built in 1868 and was used to transport lumber.
Maureen K. Fleury, suite101.com