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B.C.’s original Timber King reflects on 50 years of log homes

Williams Lake’s Pioneer Log Homes founder Bryan Reid Sr. said he did not regret one second

It has been a satisfying 50-year journey for Pioneer Log Homes of B.C. founder Bryan Reid Sr.

“I did not regret one day, not one minute, not one second,” he said while sitting in the living room at his home in Lac La Hache that was originally built as a show home.

“I worked with the most wonderful people on earth - our employees and our clients.”

Reid has loved log homes since he was a child.

When he was in Grade 5 his family moved to Williams Lake.

His stepfather, Albert “Bert” Chevigny, was a trapper who did some work for the game department.

“He used to trap this valley from Williams Lake to Lac La Hache, ” Reid recalled. “He’d trap the nuisance beaver. They used to dam up the farmers’ fields.”

Sometimes while doing the trapping they would walk miles, often through the snow, and stay in a little cabin, heated with a wood stove.

“It could be 50 below in those days,” he said. “You had rudimentary clothes, felt boots and layers of wool and you’d have icicles hanging off your face. If it wasn’t for that cabin, we would have perished. It was truly a lifestyle,” he said, adding he had great respect for his stepfather.

“He was a good father.”

Married young, Reid had four children: Penny, Bryan Jr., Heather and Sarah who he said are all doing well.

Wanting to provide for his young family, he decided he wanted to build a log home in Commodore Heights, on the outskirts of Williams Lake.

Reid knew Sampson Jack of Riske Creek (Tl’esqox First Nation) had built log homes for his community with local material and contacted him.

Jack agreed to build Reid’s log home, with Reid assisting him, and became his mentor.

The home was built out of local pine, that Reid and a friend, Hans Ploessl, harvested themselves.

Measuring 32 feet by 32 feet or 1,024 square feet, it fit the minimum requirement of the 1,000 square feet needed to get a bank loan in 1973.

“People would come and look because no one had built a log home in years,” Reid said.

Jack was also building a log home on South Lakeside at Renner Road at the time.

A pivotal moment emerged for Reid when someone from the coast wanted to retire in Chimney Valley and asked Reid to build them a log home.

At the time, Reid was working as a parts manager for Datsun so he did the building on nights and weekends.

“It was hard, but I had a family and I wanted to get ahead in the world. I did that for five or six years working on different projects.”

He got his brothers André Chevigny and David Chevigny to build with him, as well as his son Bryan Jr., who started when he was as young as 7 or 8.

Today David owns and operates Pioneer Logging and André has an aggregate company, after working several years with Pioneer Log Homes. His older brother Keith Reid owned a business in Kamloops and built cabinets for Pioneer’s homes for about 40 years.

In 1981, Chuck Moore and Reid Sr. started Chuck’s Auto Supply Ltd.

Reid continued building and stayed on with Chuck’s until 1986, he said.

“I had to make a decision and follow my dream of log building so I sold out of Chuck’s for a quarter of a million and put it into a business.”

Reid and Jim Redekopp purchased the Pioneer Ranch on the Horsefly Road for a building site and because they liked the name, used it to call their business Pioneer Log Homes.

The first home Pioneer built for someone in the U.S. was in 1983 for a client in Eugene, Ore.

“At that time there was no free trade between Canada and the U.S. and duty was 25 per cent. Whatever the house cost, when you got to the border you had to pay a quarter of it in tax, Reid said.

Without former U.S. presidents Ronald Reagan, George Bush Sr. and former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney developing the free trade agreement between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, Reid noted he does not think there would be a Pioneer Log Homes.

“I think that was one of the great steps in the development of North America, still to this day.”

Today Pioneer has four sites - one at 153 Mile, run by his grandson, also named Bryan Reid.

“Now he’s got a son and guess what his name is? Bryan Reid. That is an honour, that is an honour.”

The other sites are at 100 Mile House, Soda Creek, Xatsull First Nation and at Williams Lake First Nation.

In 2017 he sold the business to his son Bryan Reid Jr.

“I thought it was better not to wait until I was 90 and he was 70. He is in his prime. It was time,” he said of the decision.

While the company had been building homes for people all over the world, in 2014 Pioneer Log Homes became even more well-known with the launch of Timber Kings, a TV series on HGTV.

Episodes depicted the homes being hand-crafted in the Cariboo, then taken apart and shipped or trucked to destinations where they would be reconstructed.

Reid travelled to the destinations.

“I’d have cranes, trucks, people, food and materials to do our job professionally. I might be in Germany on Friday putting up a house and in Alaska the following Thursday.”

Cedar for the homes comes from Haida Gwaii and near Bella Bella, he said.

The logs are barged down, dewatered and then transported by truck.

Now that he is fully retired he is working on developing a show room in the lower level of his home with displays showcasing the company’s history and his own life story.

There are brochures, old tools, photographs, even books that impressed him about how oldtimers built homes.

An entire wall is dedicated to U.S. presidents, including photographs and signatures of each one, with the exception of Joe Biden because he has not ordered it yet.

“I feel so strongly that North America is such a wonderful place for business, for people to grow up and try and get ahead in the world. We don’t have the restrictions like other places in the world. We are truly blessed.”

Another display features the record-breaking Cedar Rocket, a log car made by the Reid and his long-time friend Gerald Overton, also of Williams Lake.

The log car has two Buffalo turbines made by Pioneer customers in Buffalo, New York

On Jan. 20, 2015, at the Wild Horse Pass at Motorsports Park in Phoenix, Arizona, the log car set a Guinness world record for the fastest motorized log car.

The Cedar Rocket was then sold at an auction for $350,000 US, with the funds distributed to veterans groups in the U.S. and Canada, including the legion in Williams Lake.

In recognition of his efforts, the American flag was flown over a special operations task force headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan on July 10, 2016 in his honour and in appreciation for his “unwavering support of American and Canadian Service members, wounded warriors and their families,” notes a framed certificate certified by Lt.-Col. John W. Lubas.

Reid was also on the board of directors for the Congressional Medal of Honour Museum Society.

In his home is a cedar table with signatures including those of George Bush. Sr., General Norman Schwartzkopf, Chuck Yaeger, and more. He said he transported it to various people to get them to sign it.

“I met with these folks and discussed log houses, business and soldiers and what we could do for these soldiers that were coming back. They were all gracious enough to sign this table for me.”

About four years ago Reid started working on a book with Kimberly Tent, a retired RCMP officer from Williams Lake, that will be published this year.

“It’s about how you can get ahead,” he said of the book. “There’s always the opportunity. All you have to do is take your brain to work. When you use your brain and exercise it, you get ahead.”

READ MORE: Pioneer Log Homes stars in HGTV Timber Kings

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Monica Lamb-Yorski

About the Author: Monica Lamb-Yorski

A B.C. gal, I was born in Alert Bay, raised in Nelson, graduated from the University of Winnipeg, and wrote my first-ever article for the Prince Rupert Daily News.
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