johnwood1946

New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

The Textile Mill at Geary, N.B.

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By JohnWood1946@hotmail.com

The mid 19th century was a time of great moralizing about the state of domestic and commercial affairs in New Brunswick. It seemed that the whole economy centered on the timber trade, while agriculture was mostly for subsistence. Hard work in the winters with easier times in the summers was frowned upon as morally inferior. The people were poorer than they should have been, and housing was sub-standard. The whole economy was too subject to the demand for a single trade commodity. Agriculture and manufacturing seemed to be the answer to this situation, and one project was to find locations for one or more cotton mills in the province.

George Kingston lived on the South Branch Oromocto and had a brother, Joseph, in England. Joseph had the financial means and experience necessary to start up a textile business. The province sent a group to a London trade show in 1851 and, by the winter of 1853-54, Joseph Kingston was in New Brunswick with plans to build a steam powered cotton mill somewhere on the Oromocto.

George Morrow was a big-time lumber merchant from French Lake, and controlled all of the timber on the Rockwell Stream through Geary and all the way back into what is now Camp Gagetown. William Smith was also a timber merchant and, at that time, owned the saw mill that Morrow had first established on the Rockwell Stream in Geary. Morrow and Smith donated land to Kingston’s project and the steam-powered cotton and woolen manufactory was built here. The factory had two stories, with a cotton works on the upper level and a woollen mill below. This, in Geary, was the first cotton mill in New Brunswick and only the third in Canada.

Kingston anticipated that he would run short of operating capital and, in 1854, applied for a grant from the province. Charles H. Clowes, JP, and 220 other Sunbury Countymen signed a petition supporting Kingston’s application. The province then appointed a committee to look into the merits of the application and their chairman, the powerful William Scoullar reported that there were twelve looms in operation weaving cotton cloth; two in weaving cotton and wool satinette; one in weaving cheek; one warping mill; two winding machines and one frame mill. Kingston had told them that he also had several looms on board ship inSaint John which he intended adding to the establishment. The committee recommended a grant of £200, but this was never forthcoming and by 1861 the operation was out of money. Kingstonfirst tried to mortgage the business but soon had to liquidate it. The mill was closed and the machinery was moved to a new mill (Park’s cotton mill) inSaint John.

Fred McGrand wrote a book in 1967 about Sunbury and Queens Counties. In it, he recounted that at least one marriage occurred between workers at the mill, and that was between Thomas Harper and Mary Kingston, the owner’s niece.

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Written by johnwood1946

July 8, 2011 at 3:16 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

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