Ben Hokum & Son Limited started in 1956 with Ben Hokum Sr. and his son, Ben Jr. The father-son duo built a sawmill on the outskirts of Killaloe, a small town in Eastern Ontario. Little did they know that one day, they would be the pre-eminent sawmill in Eastern Ontario.
A small, circular sawmill was established in Killaloe and it wasn’t long before it was producing approximately 2.5 million board feet each year. In 1965, Ben Jr. had taken over the operation from his father, and brought some new ideas to the company.
In 1972, Ben Jr. established an associate company called North American Sawmills Machinery. The business fabricated sawmill machinery and parts and distributed steel. It was exclusive to forestry. A year later, Ben Jr. purchased a new band mill in Shawville, Quebec which had an annual production of 11 million board feet. That band mill would run for 14 years.
In 1974, the original mill was replaced with a new double-cut band mill in Killaloe. Today, that rebuilt band mill continues to operate as the company’s large log line.
A fire in 1987 caused the loss of the Shawville mill and the decision was made not to rebuild. Instead, Ben Jr. opted to concentrate on a the company’s growing operation in Killaloe.
By 1993, the small log component of the mill’s raw materials intake was steadily increasing. With timber coming in that was smaller, Ben Jr. had to create a way to handle smaller logs more efficiently. That need led to another innovation – a second sawmill at the Killaloe site to handle the smaller logs. Ben Jr. incorporated a twin-band saw, bull-edger, re-saw and edger-conventional technology.
Over the next few years, a few changes happened with the company. First, operating a conventional mill was not going to be a long term solution for small log processing as the process was too inefficient. That led Ben Jr. to research alternatives on how to make use of saw milling technology and automation. The result was a new, high production automated small log mill was constructed to replace the conventional small log line at a cost of $10 million. It was the only one of its kind in Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec, and remains the only one to this day. In 2000, the next generation of the family, Dean Felhaber, grandson of Ben Jr., took over the day to day operations.
The expenditure of the new mill was well worth it as the production of the operation rose from 28 million board feet to 40 million board feet annually. This allowed the company to maintain a workforce of 125, something that earned them a great deal of respect in the small, rural region that has few large employers.
in 2015, Dean Felhaber purchased the business from his grandfather. The mill sees a mix of white pine, red pine, jack pine and aspen which are processed through its two sawmills, situated on site. The mill is the largest in the county.
Hokum Lumber is a well-trusted brand that knowledgeable buyers look for when selecting their lumber needs. This small town sawmill operation grew to be the leading choice of quality wood products. Their commitment in using the entire log (creating mulch, sawdust, bark and chips), has led them into other markets including medium-density fibreboard, agriculture and landscaping.
While many things have changed and grown over time for Hokum Lumber, one thing has remained constant: exceptional quality and honest dealing.
2016 marked our 60th anniversary, a milestone we were proud to share with 100+ employees and our rural communities. To celebrate, we made some significant investments in our two mills and look forward to adding to that in the upcoming years.