Three brothers, John, Robert and William Harrison, established mills in Owen Sound. Robert had a grist (flour) mill; William ran a carding (woollen) mill and John had a saw mill.
John’s first saw mill was located along the Sydenham River near the other two mills but after it was flooded out, he relocated it to a location on the Pottawatomi River. John Harrison died in 7 February 1902 but the business continued under the name John Harrison and Sons. An advertisement in Owen Sound on the Georgian Bay Canada (1911) said the company manufactured: pine, hardwood and hemlock timbers, lumber, sash doors, flooring, siding, etc.” This booklet also includes ten photographs of the different stages of the lumber industry.
In an article in the Daily Sun Times of 8 January 1938, E. J. Harrison, President of the company was interviewed. John Harrison and Sons was a year round business. The company had a winter camp at Fitzwilliam Island.
Business had improved in 1937. A housing shortage resulted in the need for lumber due to the renovation of many of the big houses being renovated and made into apartments. The company also provided lumber for the building of Strathcona School, new private residences and the docks on the west side of the harbour near the elevator.
The Company had a tug, the Harrison and a barge for towing and transporting raw material down from the north shore of Lake Huron.
Although this thriving business no longer exists, the family name lives on in the community.
Be sure to visit the 2017 featured exhibit to learn about other Owen Sound industries that played an important part in the life of the people of Owen Sound and area.
The special exhibit “Made In Owen Sound” will be in the galleries of the Community Waterfront Heritage Centre from May 20th to October 9th from 10 to 4 daily.
The Beginnings of Industry
Early industries in the village of Sydenham tended to reflect settlers’ needs. The first industry may have been shipping, with the arrival of W.C. Boyd in 1841 aboard his schooner Fly. After setting up a store at 8th Street and 3rd Avenue East, he immediately began importing flour, sugar, butter and other staples.
By the mid 1840s, lumber and furs were the primary exports from the region, but it wasn’t long before tanneries, brickyards and mills began popping up in and around the bustling village. In 1858, George Corbet started the Grey Foundry. That same year, a Scottish immigrant, William Kennedy – who came to Owen Sound to install machinery at the Harrison Mill – liked what he saw and opened a planing mill, sash and wood door factory. By 1864, he had discontinued woodworking altogether, focusing instead on steel at the Sydenham Foundry (which later became Kennedy and Sons).
An 1866 guide to local industry listed 20 businesses:
Harrison’s Flour Mill
Harrison’s Saw Mill
Harrison’s Carding and Fulling Mill
Chatwin’s Cabinet Factory
Riddell and Secord Brewery
Rossiter’s Fanning Mill
Lenfesty’s Pearlash Factory
Owen Sound Iron Works
Sloane’s Melodeon Factory
Frost Potash Works
Spencer’s Cabinet Factory
Dowsley Carriage Works
Miller’s Carriage Factory
Arrival of Train Service
The arrival of the Toronto, Grey and Bruce Railway in 1873 did much to increase the scope of local industries: for the first time the lucrative markets to the south were accessible. Ten years later, the CPR took possession of the rail line and determined Owen Sound would be the terminus for its Great Lakes fleet. That’s when things really took off and products manufactured in Owen Sound began shipping world wide.
The above text is from panel two.
Check out the artefacts highlighting industry in Owen Sound.
Empire Stove and Furnace Company Stove on display at the Museum
The Empire Stove and Furnace Company was established in Owen Sound in 1903 by W. J. Christie under the name Canadian Heating and Ventilating Company. Its primary products were stoves and furnaces. In 1917 after company reorganization, the name changed to the Empire Stove and Furnace Company. The company expanded its line to also include gas water heaters and a lot of custom work.
In a newspaper article dated January 8, 1938, and entitled “Empire Stove Company had Good Year ’37”, it indicated that they had introduced
a number of years ago porcelain enamel work to it is manufactured product and since that time has specialized in this line for other products. . . . [The company] is making iron castings which are used in the manufacture of the engines for Russell Bros., boats, a new industry which became firmly established in the city during the past year.
On July 22, 1944, the company had a large fire and the company never really recovered from that setback. In 1950, Maurice, Willard and Harry Christie sold the company to the Moffat Company. Two years later the company closed the foundry. At its peak, it had employed 165 employees and even in the thirties had about 100 employees.
The foundry was located near Russell Brothers. Both are now long gone from the Owen Sound landscape.
“Empire Company had Good Year ’37”, Owen Sound Sun Times, 8 January 1938.
Hay, Ellen, “Empire Stove One of the Industries that put Owen Sound on the map” Owen Sound Sun Times