Lumber Kings of the Saguenay
The Business Legacy of a Trio of Bachelors to a Nephew from Chile
W. A. CRAICK
OVERLOOKING the famous gully up which dauntless General Wolfe and his brave followers climbed from the St. Lawrence to the Plains of Abraham, there stands a quaint old house, surrounded by trees and pleasant gardens. From its verandah one can look through an opening in the trees towards the valley of the River and beyond to the high south shore, or better still one may cross the lawn and, descending a short distance by a flight of rude stone steps, come at last to a ledge, whence a closer view may be had of Wolfe’s Cove and the steep pathway leading upward. It is all historic ground.
The house, overlooking this notable scene, together with the estate through which the steep ascent was made, bears the dignified ame of Wolfesfield. For eighty-five years this property has been in the possession of one of the most prominent families in the Ancient Capital. Within the old house there still lives one of the two surviving children of the second generation. Few families of distinction in Canada can boast so long a tenure of a single place of residence, as this lengthy association of the Quebec family with historic Wolfesfield.
It was in Í828 that the property was bought by a y^ung Englishman, by name, William Price. He had come to Canada several years before, some say to investigate the possibility of obtaining masts for the British navy. At any rate he had settled in Quebec and had gradually built up an export lumber business. In due course h*r married Miss Janet Stewart, the third daughter of the late Charles G. Stewart, controller of customs, and soon after took his bride to live at Wolfesfield. Fourteen children were born to the couple, seven sons and seven daughte -, and all were brought up amid the charming surroundings of the paternal estate.
In the story of the development of Canada, one of the most romantic chapters deals with the operations of the lumbermen. Following the fur traders, who were the pioneers of exploitation, there came the sturdy race of men who penetrated far up the mighty rivers of the country and hewed timber from the virgin forest. Theirs was no delicate task. They struggled hard against the forces of nature in a stern warfare that has no counterpart to-day and bit by bit they drove the fringe of civilization far back into the interior. The day of the lumber kings of the nineteenth century is over and never again on the same scale will there be
For his material the writer of this month's Family Sketch has visited the province of Quebec, where Canada boasts of ancient landmarks and historical wealth. Intimately associated by residence with some very interesting spots, the Price family have a past and a present that stands out distinctively in the business and political spheres of Canadian activity. For three bachelor brothers to found such notable enterprises, and to have them devolve upon the shoulders of three other brothers, sons of one who sought big things in South America, and for the last to be equally as good, if not shrewder in business than the founders—all this is so fiinique that this sketch more than maintains the high order of the series. A leading family of Ontario will appear in the February issue.— Editor
enacted in the rivers of Eastern Canada those famous logging scenes that form such a picturesque background to the settlement of the country. Lumbering operations of the
present time, extensive though they may seem to be, have lost much of the romance of the older undertakings.
Pioneers of the Saguenay
In the midst of this activity there stand forth conspicuously the figures of William Price and his three sons, David, William and John. They wero for many years in the forefront of the Canadian lumber industry, conspicuous by reason of the extent of their operations and the foresight they displayed in laying the foundation of what has since beoome one of the greatest commercial enterprises in Canada. To them must be given credit for the opening up of the Saguenay Talley and the settlement of large sections of the Province of Quebec. They were men of probity, whose word was as good as their bond, and they lived on tenna of friendship with the people who settled around their numerous mills and clearings.
There seems to exist a little uncertainty about the beginning of the Priee enterprises. William Price earn« to Canada in 1810 and shortly after his arrival the War of 1812 broke out. He took a commission in the Quebec Tolunteer Artillery and while it is doubtful whether he ever participated in any of the actions of the War, it is known that he was employed on one occasion in carrying despatches from Quebec to Halifax in midwinter, a journey which was accomplished for the moBt part on snowshoes.
After the War was over, ha is said to have entered into a deal with James McGill, the founder of McGill University, and the pair bought land on the St. Margaret River, where lumbering operations were begun. Later he acted as a sort of selling or shipping agent for the pioneer mill owner of the Saguenay, Peter McLeod, buying the product of his mill and sending it across the Atlantic. McLeod died insolvent and, his property being put up for sale by the sheriff, was secured by Mr. Price, who then began to manufacture lumber himself. When his eldest son David grew to manhood, he took him into partnership and the firm became known as William Price & Son.
Meanwhile there were extensive developments. William Price and his agents were active men, who scoured the country and succeeded in annexing not only all the best timber limits on the Saguenay and along the St. Lawrence for many miles, but all the more important water-powers. Looked
at in the light of present conditions, the fonnder of the business was evidently gifted with unusual foresight. He seemed to lose no opportunity of securing what he considered would be of value in years to come and in this he showed himself to be wiser than most of his contemporaries. His policy was continued by his sons with the result that the potentalities of the firm he established are today enormous.
It is of course contended at the present time that no one should have been allowed to secure such gigantic slices of the national ’omain. On all sides are beard complaints that certain interests are waxing wealthy at the expense of the public. But it should not be forgotten that there was a time when governments got down on their knees to such men as William Price and bis sons and implored them to undertake development work. They accomplished what the government •f that day could not accomplish, the settlement of large sections of the province. Their pay was not regarded at the time as at all excessive and, if to-day what they received has increased greatly in value, that fact should not be reckoned against them.
With all their holdings the firm of William Price and Son was unable to weather the financial storm of the fifties. The company failed during the time of the Crimean Wai, simply because they could not contend against world-wide disaster. Fortunately the set-back was only temporary and in a short time there was a reorganization and the new firm of Price Bros. & Company emerged. The brothers were David, William and John, a trio of young men of remarkably diverse characters but of decided ability, whose names are still re.ailed in the corporate title of the big company of today.
David Price was the politician of the family. He was a man of rough and ready ways, of sturdy physique, vigorous
and outspoken, who knew everybody ou the Saguenay by bis or her Christian name, and was as popular as such men usually are. It was natural that such an outstanding personality should take the lead in public life in the settlement which hi* fathe. had founded, and in 1854 he was returned to the House of Assembly of Upper and Lower Canada for the constituency of Chicoutimi and Tadousac. He represented Chicoutimi nnd Saguenay in the Assembly from 1858 to 1864, when he was elected a member of the Legislative Council. At Confederation he was named n member of the Dominion Senate, a rank he retained until his death in *lS8ii.
William, the second of the Price brothers, was the very antithesis of David. He was tall, slight a.id of delicate constitution, suffering from poor health all hia life. This rendered him gentle and retiring in disposition, a person of wide sympathies and one who was universally beloved. He too showed some interest in political affairs and
for a time represented Chicoutimi in the Quebec Legislature, supporting the government of Sir Henri Joly de Lotbiniere. though he, like all the members of the Price family, was really a Conservative.
John Price represented yet another type of man. While his brothers were principally concerned with the practical end of the lumber business and resided in the main at Chicoutimi, where the firm’s operations were centred, he lived in Quebec and took hold of the selling department and the financing and office management of the company’s affairs. He was a shrewd business man and to him is due in large measure the development of the Price enterprises to their present dimensions. Like his brothers he was drawn into the political arena, though it is said much against his will, entering the Dominion Senate on his brother’s death and retaining his seat
in the Upper Chamber until bis own death in 1898.
The three Price brothers are rememhered by many people still living, who recall their probity, uprightness and reliability, the generosity of their nature and the kindliness of their disposition. Oddly enough not one of the three ever married and there were no sons to whom to bequeath those vast possessions which they had accumulated through the years. David and William are reported to have made wills on the same day, devising each to the other and to John the property of whieh they should die possessed. William’s death occurring first, his share was divided between the two surviving brothers and, when David passed away John became the sole psrtnei.
The Heir Apparent
It now became necessary for the survivor to select an heir to carry on the Price mcmarchy. His choice fell naturally on the eldest nephew, who had already entered the employ of the firm in a junior position. The heir apparent was the son of Henry Price, a younger brother who had himself enjoyed a rather unusual career. Henry, it appears, had been attracted by the shipbuilding operations carried on by tbc Gilmours at Wolfe’s Cove just below the family residence. In their shipyard he learned the trade of ship’s carpenter and then being taken with a wandering spirit, sailed away one day for South America. He landed in Chile, where he spent several years in ranching nnd development work and became a comparatively wealthy man. Later in life he returned to Canada and settled on a farm in Ontario, whence he ultimately moved to Toronto and there in 1898 succumbed to rheumatism contracted during his South American experiences.
Henry Price was the father of seven children, five sons and two daughters. Two of the sons died in early youth and the remaining three, William, Henry and Arthur, form the present trio of Price Brothers. William, who was born at Palca in Chile on August 30, 1867, probably had little idea as a boy that he would one day come in for the ownership of a great Canadian estate, a circumstance that may have had a good deal to do with the soundness of his management of the property to-day. He was provided with a good education at St. Mark's School, Windsor. England and at Bishops’ College, Lennoxville, where he was nicknamed “Chile” Price, on account of his out-of-the-way birthplace. At the age of nineteen he was given a position in the office of his uncle at Quebec where his abilities soon commended him to the favorable notice of John Price.
Few young Canadians have inherited such an estate as that which descended to William Price when his uncle died in ISM. It was wealth in potentiality perhaps rather than in actuality, for had he been compelled to cash in, he might not have been able to realize more than two or three million dollars on the property, hut with the expansion of Canada. the gradual reduction of the supply of timber, the dev elopment of water powers and the growth of the pulp and paper industry, tlie cash value of the Price limits is expanding and may soon climb to very large figures.
The present William Price inherited 6,400 square miles of limits in the province of Quebec, and three hundred miles of private lands, made up of something' like six French-Canadian seigneuries. This was a total considerably in excess of any other individual or company in the province. It included at least a dozen saw mills located in various sections and there was also the advantage that the business had been long established and ably managed and was in charge of an organization that had been built up during many years.
The Third Generation in Business
Virtually, if* not directly, William Price represents the third generation of control in the enterprises associated with the family name. It is usual to find some traces of degeneration by the time a third generation is reached, for rarely does lineal descent exhibit an increasing degree of strength from father to son. Often the second generation undoes the work of the first. Under these circumstances the record of the Prices must be considered exceptional. William Price, grandson of the founder of the business, is perhaps a better man than those who preceded him in the management. He combines in his person all the strong qualities that his uncles displayed individually and under his administration the company has developed remarkably.
When once his own master, William Price reversed at least one item of policy which his uncle had held. Senator Price on more than one occasion had been decidedly outspoken against the proposal to commence the manufacture of pulp. The younger man recognized the possibilities of the pulp business and was not long in harness before he had branched out in this direction. With the assistance of a practical man named Porritt, he established the Price-Porritt Pulp Co. at Rimouski. This was followed soon after by the acquisition of the Jonquiere Pulp Company's mill on the Au Sable River near Chicoutimi, to which vas added a plant for the manufacture of paper and cardboard. From this beginning must be traced the construction and operation of the Kenognmi Paper Mills, an expansion of the Jonquiere Pulp Co. and one of the finest and largest paper mills in the Dominion.
Mr. Price bad meanwhile fathered another important movement, the incorporation of the Company, an event which took place in 1904. From being sole partner in the business, he became president of the new company. ThU ciiange did not involve any appreciable loss of personal control. He to-day holds a large majority of the common stock of the corporation and owns a considerable proportion of the bonds. It is still almost as much a Price enterprize as ever it was. A re-organization of the company in 1910 brought in both the Jonquiere and the Price-Porritt companies, which had up to that time been operated independently.
Reforesting Their Limits
The extent and influence of the Price monarchy of forest, wood and stream to-day may be estimated by a consider»* tion of a few figures. From their big paper mills 50,000 tons of paper are manufactured annually. Their twelve saw and shingle mills produce one bun* dred million feet board measure each year. They employ an army of 4,800 men, control on contract 250 camps and operate on elevan rivers. Their limita are estimated to contain three thousand million feet of merchantable timber and twenty million cords of pulpwood. At their present rate of cutting, they have a two-hundred year supply of wood in sight, but by consermethods they reforest their ' „thirty or
forty years. Truly this comprises a rich possession for any man to control Among the country's captains of industry William Price accordingly takes a prominent position. He is by far tbe most outstanding personality in the Price connection to-day and one to whom tbe other members of the family look with admiration. Not only has he achieved much in the directing of the affairs of the company, but he baa not spared himself in undertaking onerous work of a public character. Like his uncles he was early drawn into the
Slitical arena, running in Rimouski in M. He was defeated but in 1908 he eaptured Quebec West for tbe Conservatives. Defeated again in the election of 1911, he none tbe less retained tbe powerful influence which was bis as a supporter of the new government. He became the Conservative boss of Quebec, using the expression in its best sense, and is now employing his opportnnities to further the interests of the eity.
Appointed shortly after the accession of Mr. Borden to power to the chairmanship of the Quebec Harbor Commission, he has been responsible to a large extent for the important public works that are now being carried on at this port, works the magnitude and importance of which are scarcely as yet realized by the people of Canada. He has set the seal of hia approval on these undertakings by investing personally in Quebee real estate and in this way has done much to restore confidence in the nltimate usefulness of this deep-sea port.
In financial circles, Mr. Price takes rank as honorary president of the Union Bank of Canada. He succeeded his uncle on the' board of this institution, which then had its office in Quebec, and became ita vice-president. When the head office was removed to Winnipeg and it became necessary to choose a Winnipeg
man for the position of president, the old connection with Quebee was marked by the election of an honorary president belonging to the latter eity. Thia office was held until recently by the late Hon. John Sharpies and on hia death Mr. Priee was named to fill the vacancy. The Priee Company’s offices in Quebec are located in the Union Bank Building and there is a close alliance between the two corporations.
Mr. Price’s activities are not confined to these bat such institutions as the Quebec Board of Trade and the Jeffrey Hale Hospital, and such companies as the Quebec Steamship Company, the Gravel Lamber Company and tbe Métissé Lumber Company, mark him as a man of wide interests. He ia an exceedingly busy individual, working at high tension and accomplishing mach in little time.
The Present Price Trio
Associated with him in the business of Price Brothers, Limited, and in responsible positions as secretary-treasurer and assistant secretary-treasurer respectively, are his brothers, Henry and Arthur. Both are talented yonng men, though they lack the dominating personality of their senior. All three members of the present generation are married and have been blessed with large families. Mrs. William Price was Miss Blanche Smith, a daughter of the late R. H. Smith, former president of the Quebee Bank, and in ber maiden days one of the noted belles of Quebee. while Mrs. Harry Price was a Miss Gilmour, a member of the famous lumbering family of that name, whose operations were at one time carried on on an extensive scale above Quebec. Mrs. A. J. Price was Miss Elizabeth Avery of Ottawa, eldest daughter of F. W. Avery, one of the prominent lumbermen of the Ottawa Valley and a director of various big corporations. The three families maintain
fine establishments in the Ancient Capital, and may be said to be the leaders of English society in the city.
It has been mentioned that two of the late William Price’s fourteen children are still alive. One of these is Miss Cecilia Price, who resides at Wolfesflcld. A woman of fine tastes, her home in the old family mansion contains many treasnres, while the extensive grounds give evidence of ber appreciation of the beauties of flower and foliage. There is an extensive library in the house and many paintings, with old furniture and reliea, which possess considerable historic value.
Tbe other surviving member of the first family is Edward Price who resides in London, England. He was sent across the Atlantic many years ago, by John Price to establish a selling agency for the Price lumber in England and there entered into a partnership with a Mr. Pieree, as lumber brokers. Tbe firm prospered and Mr. Priee is reputed to be a very wealthy man. Hia family consists of three sona and three daughters, of whom two sons are engaged in their father's bnsinesa and one is a lieutenant in the Royal Navy.
A Soldier in the Family, Too
Richard Price was the soldier of the family. With Captain Duchesnay be formed one of the companies of the famous 100th Regiment, which was raised to go to the Crimea. On the way out be was taken sick and being landed at Gibraltar died there of fever. Louis Price followed his brother Henry to Sonth America but later returned to Canada and resided quietly in Toronto until his death a short time ago. He has left a son and six daughters.
It would scarcely do to omit, in any account of the Price family a mention of the connection of the Prices with the
Lakes. A sister of the first Mrs. William Price married William Phillips of Quebec and their daughter became the wife of Lt.-Col. Percy Lake of the 100th Regiment and was the mother of Major-General Sir Percy Lake, K.C.M. G., and his brother R. S. Lake, former M.P. for Qu’Appelle, both well-known names throughout the length of Canada.
The Evidences of Business Talent
The outstanding characteristic of the Prices would seem to be absolute reliability. They have not only been scrupulously honest themselves but have demanded a like honesty from those with whom they have had dealings. As evidenced in the present William Price, this thorough-going aversion to anything that might be characterized as tricky, takes the form of unforgiving hostility towards those who have deceived him. If so strong a man may be said to have any weakness, it has been his openness to accept the word of others without questioning their good faith. Somewhat inclined to be impetuous, he has taken up schemes without due consideration of the reliability of those who have proposed them, with the result that occasionally he has been led into difficulties, which a less unsuspecting man might have avoided.
This characteristic can be illustrated by a story which is told of the late Senator John Price. Senator John, who resided at Wolfesfield, was a regular attendant at the Anglican church at Sil!ery. Among his fellow-parishioners was a man who once got into some serious straits for money. In his difficulty he bethought himself of the Senator, who had the reputation of being kind-hearted and generous. With some fear and trembling as to his reception, he stated his case.
“How much do you requiret’’ asked Mr. Price.
“I would like to have two hundred dollars, Mr. Price, if it would be convenient to you to lend me such a sum,’’ answered the man.
The Senator promptly made out a cheque for the amount without a single word being sai 1 about security. A whole year passed before the borrower was in a position to pay the debt and in the interval not a word was ever uttered about the transaction, though Mr. Price and the debtor saw each other every Sunday at least and, sometimes daring the week. The Senator, an honest man himself, believed in the equal honeaty of the borrower.
At last the man appeared again before him, stating that he was prepared to pay the two hundred dollars.
“Are yon quite sure you can do so witbont any inconvenience to your family or yourselft’’ he was asked.
“I don’t know about that. Mr. Price,” was the reply, “hut I intend to pay yon now and at once, both principal and in-
“Therc is no interest owing me.” said the Senator.
“Oh vrs there is Mr. Price,’’ maintained the man. “I’m going to pay it
alon? with the principal.”
“Then you can give it to the Church, for I won’t accept it,” retorted the big lumberman, “and I’ll add the two hundred dollars to the gift, seeing I must do something to overcome your stubbornness. ’ ’
In the days when David Pnce was King of the Saguenay, a like trustfulness was evident in his dealings with the men who worked for the company or sold it supplies and, for that matter, in their transactions with him. A visitor to Chicoutimi was surprised on one occasion to see a farmer come in with a load of hay for the stables. The agnculurist unloaded the hay and drove off without receiving any payment for the produce or anything to indicate that the hay had been purchased by Price Bros. He questioned the man about it, and the fellow opened his eyes. The notion that the Prices would ever doubt his word if he said he had delivered a load of hay to them on a certain day, was beyond his comprehension. If one of the Price
Bros, ordered anything by word of mouth, it was as good as a written document frum anyone else.
Ixjved by the French
The history of the settlement of the Saguenay Hiver is interwoven with the history of the Price firm. They were the lords and benefactors of the French people who followed their lumber jacks into this hitherto unsettled region. What the relationship was that bound William Priee and his sons to these people is exhibited for all the world to see in the granite monument at Chicoutimi that commemorates the kindly deeds of the Father of the Saguenay. When this monument was reared in honor of Wm. Price several years ago, it was a FrenchCanadian priest who pronounced the warmest eulogy on the lives and character of the men whose memory it perpetuated nnd it was a throng composed almost entirely of Freneh-Canadians who listened to nnd applauded his narration.
The monument as it stands to-day contains three stone tablets. One of these bears the coat-of-arms of the Price family. The second commemorates the name of William Price, “Le pere du Saguenay.” The third has the following inscription, “Erected by the inhabitants of the counties of Chicoutimi and Saguenay and other sorrowing friends in memory of William Price, M.P.P. Died in Quebec 12th June, 1881, aged 53 years. In life, respected and beloved; in death, lamented. ’ ’ Two years ago the inhabitants of Chicoutimi subscribed money to repair the monument and place an iron railing around it, and a movement is now on foot to add tablets to the memory of David and John Price.
Though Englishmen and members of the Anglican Church, the Prices have always been tolerant of the religion and language of the people among whom they have dwelt. In the days of David and William Price, there was a great display of friendliness between the brothers and the first Roman Catholio Bishop of Chicoutimi, Dr. Racine. Indeed the three became regular cronies and the two Englishmen were frequent and welcome guests at the Bishop’s Palace. Many of the churches on the Saguenay were built by the Prices and in 1874, the brothers donated all the lumber needed for the erection of a large seminary at Chicoutimi to Bishop Racine. When fire and famine threatened to wipe out the settlement, the Prices came nobly to the rescue with provisions and supplies, and it is largely because of their help on this occasion that they are so favorably remembered.
Nor has the family been lacking in military spirit. It has been already stated that William Priee. its founder, took part in the defence of the country in 1812, and that Richard Price set forth with the 100th Regiment for the Crimea. The present William Price has also done his share of soldiering. He entered the 8th Royals in 1887 as second lieutenant, and rose to the rank of captain. At the time of the Boer war he assisted in organizing two companies for the Canadian contingent and held open the positions of all his employees who volunteered for service. His brother Arthur actually went to the scene of conflict os a private and served throngh the campaign with the First Contingent.
He Took King Edward Fishing
As a family all the men-folk have been fond of outdoor life. Fishing has natturnlly been a favorite pursuit, for the reason that they have had the control of so many fine rivers. When the late King Edward visited Canada in I860, it was with David Price that he went to the St. Margaret’s River for salmon fishing. The present William Price own* a number of fishing preserves and reckons fishing as his special hobby. With his brothers he also enjoys moose-hunting, and to Harry Price belongs the credit for having bagged the finest moose head yet shot in Quebec.
(Continued on page 141.)
(Continued from page 16.)
Without trimming their sails to the wind, the Prices have yet been successful in gaining the good-will of those in positions of power. With Sir Lomer Gouin, the provincial premier, and with Mr. Drouin, the mayor of Quebec, William Price is on the best of terms, in spite of his political affiliations with the opposite party. This favor has not been gained by any underhand devices but is an open recognition by both the provincial and municipal governments that the Prices are working along reliable lines and that their efforts in the development of the province and city are worthy of support. ■ '
The Prices have been good masters. Old William Price is recalled as an English gentleman of most kindly manners, who treated his servants and employees with consideration. His son followed his example in this respect and to-day the present William Price shows goodhearted qualities. It is known that he has pensioned out of his own pocket and without any obligation a number of old employees of the firm, holding it as his duty to see them cared for in their old age.
They are above all a family that have not been spoiled by prosperity. Approachable, friendly, considerate and without “side,” they have won the esteem of those with whom they have been thrown in contact. Their homes are homes indeed and their children are being brought up under the most favorable conditions. There is no ostentation among them; they live simply, dress sensibly and enjoy solid pleasures,—altogether a family that is a credit to Canada and in its way a useful national asset.
(Note.—This is the seventh of the series of family sketches appearing In MacLean's. In February, the Allans; in March there was given an account of the Osiers; In June, the Merediths; In September, the Molsons; In November, the Bordens, and In December, the Denlsona. The next will appear in the February Issue.—Editor.)
Bad Boys Mainly Good
I have always liked so-called “bad boys,” says James L. Hughes, late Inspector of Public Schools for Toronto. I never call a being created in the image of God “bad” for three reasons: first, he is not to blame for his attitude to life; second, because he is mainly good; and third, because I do not wish to make him conscious of his badness, but of his goodness. I had special sympathy with “bad boys,” because silly people had called me “bad” when I was a boy until I almost became proud of the title, and decided to prove that I was proud of it by doing recklessly wicked things. I am glad that my self-respect and my many other deeper interests prevented me from taking what in many cases is the natural course of such treatment as I received from the Church.