John Lewis Industries’ peg factory

Weeks Lake, Ship Harbour

The peg factory in Lower Ship Harbour was once a thriving industry that employed many men and women from the area. Established in 1922, the factory was destroyed by fire three times, the last in 1945, after which the business was moved to Quebec.

Not much remains of a once thriving industry in Lower Ship Harbour known locally as the “Peg Factory." Built on Weeks Lake where the lake meets Ship Harbour River, John Lewis Industries' peg factory started up in 1922 after having shut down a similar business at Lewiston in Sheet Harbour. The factory began manufacturing shoe shanks – the narrow, slightly curved, wooden inserts used in the sole of the shoe under the instep. The first factory was a rough, unheated building that was destroyed by fire in 1923. A second, larger factory with steam heat was rebuilt in its place in 1924, but burned down in 1935. The factory was rebuilt that same year and closed in 1945 when it burned down once more.

The main factory had two floors, the bottom containing machines used to produce thin veneer from white and yellow birch, as well as die cutting machines to stamp out various shapes such as tongue depressors, wooden spoons, and sucker sticks. Steam presses were used to shape the veneer, such as giving spoons the necessary curved shape. The second floor was used primarily for drying and packing the products, which were then shipped out of Ship Harbour.

The factory employed men to operate machinery, maintain equipment, and cut lumber from Ship Harbour to Mooseland. Many women worked at the factory, operating the stamping machines and packing the dried products in boxes for shipping. Average pay was a dollar a day, and many women and men boarded locally for about $2.50 a week. The work hours were 7:00 AM to 6:00 PM with an hour off to go home for dinner. According to one employee, management was quite strict and you were scolded for talking or telling jokes.

In 1945, the company relocated to Quebec where a more ample supply of birch could be found. In the later years of operation, the Eastern Shore wood was described as being infested with “a certain bug”. The company is still in operation in La Tuque where it employs over 100 workers and produces about 5.5 billion ice cream sticks and tongue depressors annually.