The soldier settlement of Merville consisted of more than just farmland. By May of 1919 bunkhouses for single men, a cook house, office, stables and a general store had all been erected at the town centre along the Island Highway under the direction of the Land Settlement Board. By July there were fifty shacks up for settler families.
North of Nurmi Road, the Erskine & May sawmill was in operation by 1920. It seems that Erskine and May made quite a name for themselves in the area. Story goes that they had difficulty cutting a straight line and much of their lumber had an obvious taper.
But it wasn’t their reputation for wonky wood cutting that made them a topic in the BC Legislature.
Their fellow settlers had complained about having to pay $5 to $5.50 per thousand feet higher for lumber from the Erskine & May mill.
The Hon. E.D. Barrow, Minister of Agriculture, explained it this way: “Now I do not think this is a fair criticism from the point of view either of the board or the Merville settlers. As far as the board is concerned the Erskin[sic] & May lumber was cut entirely by white labor at wages in the neighborhood of 55 cents per hour, ordinary white men’s wages. In fact, most of the employees were settlers themselves. On the other hand all the outside lumber was cut by Orientals at low wages.” Source: Argus newspaper, November 10, 1921.
The Erskine & May mill was destroyed in the 1922 fire.