Economic activity began in the Valley after the Chicago fire in the United States which left 90,000 people homeless. During the period of reconstruction, American mills had an insatiable appetite for the great pines of the area. Several American companies operated logging camps in the region and exported the wood to the United States. These logging operations in the Townships of Lumsden, Hanmer, Capreol, Bowell, Wisner and Blezard, which make up Valley East today, were hardly of benefit to the region as the resources and jobs all went south. These activities were not conducive to the settlement of pioneers although they made clearing of the land easier for those who would come later.
With construction of the Canadian Pacific Railroad, the demand for lumber was maintained and the trains facilitated transportation to southern markets. In addition, the Government of Ontario outlawed the exportation of logs, which favoured the opening of mills in Ontario. The forest industry could finally become established in the area. The companies of Robert Booth and his brother-in-law A.B. Gordon figured among the most active in the Valley East area. Another mill, Portelance Lumber (located on the road between Hanmer and Capreol) is still in operation. The logging industry would create employment for many years in response to the demand for firewood and building timber, and a good many farmers would be loggers during the winter. Today, reforestation efforts and better forest management are beginning to bear fruit.