It all started when the Shaw family received a few phone calls at their family run lumber company in Pembroke. The callers were enquiring about the possibility of building a ceremonial timber crib. The people who called wanted to commemorate the 100 anniversary of the last timber crib that went down the Ottawa River commercially. After much talk and consideration, Dana and his cousin John Shaw decided to give it a try. They gathered a team of men and with a blueprint built their timber crib over a six-week period. They worked with members like Tom Stephenson who had much experience to draw on.

Key Records spoke with Dana Shaw mid-way through the timber crib’s ceremonial journey while the crew rested on the banks of the Ottawa River. He told us about the timber crib’s history and the historical role the timber crib played in the development of the Ottawa valley. Back in the early lumber days when Ottawa was known as Bytown the trees were cut and squared in the bush. With a horse or ox the timber would be pulled out to the banks of a frozen river. In the spring the lumberjacks would assemble the timber into cribs and then move the cribs down rivers past Bytown. Guided by raft men, the timber cribs would be floated all the way to Quebec City. In Quebec City the cribs would be taken apart and loaded onto ships for their final destination, England.

The movement of timber cribs down the Ottawa River was a dangerous business. In the early days there were no dams and often the raft men would ride the timber cribs over the fast moving white water. The Wright Family were the first people in the area to attempt this in 1806. Their success created an economic boom to the valley now known as Canada’s capital. The last timber crib to commercially travel down the Ottawa River was in 1908. Lumberman J.R. Booth floated the last timber crib and decided to stop using this method as the economic times had changed. New methods such as the railway and boons had taken over.

When asked how he made his discovery the inventor replied, “It was a total fluke.” It happened to him one night in his basement when he connected an induction motor to a generator coupled by magnets. The hook up caused an acceleration effect. The magnets flew off the rotor and Heins quickly unplugged the shaking unit from the wall. He had expected the conventional generator to decelerate and instead it accelerated, defying the law of conservation and energy. After the discovery Heins dedicated more time to improving his prototype. As developments occurred, he filed several patents pending with the patent office. Now he is encouraging others to replicate his experiments.

For the Shaw’s historical reenactment the journey would start at the Bonnechere River and complete its journey at the Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Quebec. The museum is located right across the Ottawa River from the Parliament buildings. At the museum the timber crib would be set up for Canada Day on display for the museum’s visitors.

If you wish to see the Timber Crib in person, Contact the Museum of Civilization for more information at:

Fiddle music performed by Paulette Gauthier of Shawville, Quebec. Video of interview recorded June 24, 2008 at the Wharf in Quyon, Quebec. Video of Timber Crib traveling down the Ottawa River recorded June 27, 2008.