The monster piece of logging equipment pictured is a bull block. In earlier days, the block would be situated at the height of a spar tree in a position to guide the steel cable in the direction which the operator wanted, to move the log being lifted, eventually to be loaded onto a truck. (Sooke Region Museum)

The monster piece of logging equipment pictured is a bull block. In earlier days, the block would be situated at the height of a spar tree in a position to guide the steel cable in the direction which the operator wanted, to move the log being lifted, eventually to be loaded onto a truck. (Sooke Region Museum)

SOOKE HISTORY: Butler brothers bull block logs in at a record size

Steel spars and grapple loaders eventually replaced bull blocks in logging industry

Elida Peers | Contributed

In 1946 four Saanich brothers, Claude, Wally, Eric and Tom Butler bought a timber sale in Section 55 Otter District and began a forestry company that they would run for three decades, harvesting the hillsides reaching as far as Leech River and the upper Jordan.

The main hauling road they initiated was called Butler Main, and is still well-known today, with many spurs reaching out through the hills. Harvesting that took place included Douglas-fir, red and yellow cedar, Sitka Spruce, balsam, hemlock and white pine, and provided employment for more than a hundred workers.

The monster piece of logging equipment pictured here is a block. You’ve heard the expression “block and tackle;” in this case, in the high lead logging practiced here in earlier days, the block would be situated at the height of a spar tree in a position to guide the steel cable in the direction which the operator wanted, to move the log being lifted, eventually to be loaded onto a truck.

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The block pictured is extra-ordinarily large, called a bull block, weighs over a ton, and was built by Washington Iron Works. Some of the loggers who worked with this block in the woods were Gerry Neal, Ed and Len Jay, Marshall Smith, Alf Shambrook, Frank Jessiman and Ray Pimlott.

In time, Ray Pimlott became foreman at Butlers, and in the 1970s when the introduction of steel spars and grapple loaders took over the industry, this block became redundant. It was given to Ray Pimlott by Wally Butler, and reputed to be the largest in the world, enjoyed pride of place at his West Coast Road home until he moved up-island in 1989.

Ultimately, the Pimlott family arranged that this historic piece of Sooke logging equipment was returned to our community and it rests today, courtesy of Alden Govenlock and Galen Parman, near the entrance to the Sooke Region Museum, nestled appropriately between trees of the rainforest.

While the Butler brothers sold the company and retired from logging in the late 1970s, Wally’s son Bruce tells us that though he was only a toddler when the family moved here, his dad would take him along in the truck on his business chores. Bruce also recalls that a couple of well-known Sooke seniors, Ray Vowles and Pat Forrest, were just youngsters when they cut their teeth in the work force with Butlers.

•••

Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum.


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