New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

Who Owned the Mill at Tracy, New Brunswick?

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Who Owned the Mill at Tracy?

“… a gentleman living in the country, who had a family growing up around him, began to feel the great want of proper schools for the education of his children. After some consideration he resolved to move to Fredericton…. His children went to school and he embarked in commercial pursuits. His eldest son, having completed his education, was entered as a student at law; and the day his son was admitted a member of the Bar saw his father stripped of all his earthly possessions. That man was my father, and that son, he who addresses you!”

Lemuel Allan Wilmot

That was the normal risk of doing business in those days, including New Brunswick’s largest business; the forest industry. Opportunities for great profit and for total ruin were about equal; and struggles for competitive advantage often took place in the Supreme Court.

Jeremiah Tracy owned the mill at the village of Tracy, of course! However, there were other investors and ‘stakeholders’, as they say, and it was sometimes difficult to tell exactly who was in control. He lost ownership altogether on at least one occasion. Following is a summary of some of these events between 1825 and 1849.


The saw mill at Tracy was built by Jeremiah Tracy, a son of pioneers Jeremiah Sr. and Sarah Leighton. Jeremiah Jr. was born in 1786 on the Saint John River near Mauger’s Island and relocated to what is now Tracy in 1810.

Jeremiah Jr.’s income was from logging and by 1825 when he built his saw mill it seemed that everyone was in the woods. Most of the money on the Oromocto was being made by a few large operators, however, including George P. Nevers, William Scoullar, George Morrow and, to a lesser extent, the Woods: Daniel and his son John. There was competition for labour and local ties and family connections were important in securing this. So, Morrow (John Wood’s brother-in-law) became the most important operator in the county and Tracy (who was a friend and also a resident of the Oromocto) also gained prominence. Scoullar and Nevers were ever-present, but were outsiders in the labour market. John Wood’s zeal for logging resulted in too many bankruptcies, and he never rose to the level of George Morrow. Another player was Rankin and Company, a logging and shipping company who were also merchants to the industry. Morrow, who was a more local merchant, would have got much of his stock from Rankin and Company, for example.

Jeremiah’s main investor in 1825 was George P. Nevers. George did not take an active role in operations, however, and left it to John Wood to manage the investment, while George Morrow supplied Tracy’s woods crews. There was a large fire on the North Branch Oromocto in October of 1825 and, on October 7th, Jeremiah’s mill burned. He re-built the mill in the spring of 1826, but he was now in financial trouble.

George P. Nevers sued Jeremiah Tracy for £2000 in December of 1827. Daniel Wood then sued Tracy, and that judgment was issued in March of 1828. The Wood suit was for over £800 to recover loans and other costs. George Morrow also sued Tracy in 1832 for unpaid debts of £668 from an initial investment of £1238. In the meantime, Rankin and Company sued John Wood and George P. Nevers for bad debts in connection with the mill and that suit was not settled until 1834.

Tracy survived these onslaughts, and was building a second mill at the outlet of Oromocto Lake in 1833. In fact, when John Wood lost to Rankin and Company in 1834, Jeremiah was there to buy out John’s interests in the first mill, at Tracy. This also likely dispensed with the Nevers interests at the same time.

By 1839, the big operators were being forced further and further into remote regions to find prime logs. In that year, George Morrow received a licence to cut 30,000 feet of lumber from crown lands at Yoho Stream just inside Sunbury County on the Northwest Oromocto River above Tracy. Morrow continued his march up the Oromocto and now needed Tracy’s mill services more than ever. This self interest was revealed in early 1840 when George Morrow, Jeremiah Tracy, John Wood and about a hundred others petitioned to be allowed to throw slabs of timber directly into the Oromocto River to float away on their own. They even managed to describe the mess as a public service which distributed free fencing material to people downstream. As for the one hundred other petitioners – if it was good for Tracy, Morrow, and Wood, then it was also good for them – which sounds familiar.

George Morrow’s business imperatives and Jeremiah Tracy’s financial struggles combined in 1844 when Jeremiah was convicted of his debt of £668. plus costs to Morrow. Lots 8, 9 and 10 in Tracy were auctioned off on September 20th and George Morrow was the high bidder. George got the whole mill property for £15, and held it for about five years before selling it back to Tracy for £200.

Curious, isn’t it?, that all of these people were friends – ‘buddies’ even! They would witness the marriages of each others’ children on one day, and sue each other on the next. ‘And so it goes.’


Written by johnwood1946

June 13, 2012 at 9:11 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

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