The Napanee Mills Paper Company

Although there was talk of a chemical pulp mill at Fenelon Falls as early as July 1880 [FFG 17 July 1880; 2] the first serious negotiations with a manufacturer began in November 1882 when a public meeting was held in Scully’s Hall regarding “sufficient inducements” or bonuses that could be offered by the Village [FFG 11 Nov 1882; 2]. Negotiations with John R. Scott and A. Henry of Napanee were brought to a successful conclusion in December [FFG 16 Dec 1882; 2], and papers were signed on Wednesday, March 1st, 1883 [FFG 3 March 1883; 2].

Preliminary construction began on Tuesday May 1st, with the altering of the creek bed, the removal of an old shanty, and the construction of workers’ housing fronting on Francis Street West, all on the Market Square; construction also began on a large stable and a Lime Kiln [FFG 19 May 1883; 2 : 7 July 1883; 2]. By mid-July the kiln was fired up for the first time and lime began production. Shortly afterwards the foundation of the mill itself was commenced at the bottom of Francis St. West beside the lake [FFG 14 July 1883; 2]. Construction continued throughout the summer and into the autumn. The Napanee Mills Paper Company was incorporated 25 January 1884; and on January 30th, 1884, steam was got up for the first time in the pulp mill boilers [FFG 2 Feb 1884; 2]. The Mill was in full operation by the end of February [FFG 1 March 1884; 2] producing pulp and lime; by October it was employing 75 men. William Burgoyne was listed as a superintendent of the mills.

The mill was a huge boost to the economy of the village, and the surrounding agricultural community. Hand noted the demand for cord wood, coal and hay as well as the “constant succession of sleighs with wood for the pulp mill” that passed his office on Francis Street [FFG 30 Jan 1886; 2]. Continual improvements to the mill and grounds, such as the construction of a new wharf [FFG 23 May 1885; 2] also gave work to carpenters and tradesmen. Boats were hired, leased and purchased to draw wood to the mill. Mill profits were also enhanced by packing wood ash into barrels and selling it to American farmers for fertilizer [FFG 18 April 1890; 5].

During 1890 there were many complaints about the bad smell coming from the plant due to the use of pine [according to Hand]. When the Village Council threatened legal proceedings, measures were taken to correct the process by adding a condenser [FFG 24 Oct 1890; 4]. The Pulp Mill built its own new sawmill on the shore of Cameron Lake in the summer of 1891 [FFG 22 May 1891; 4 : 17 July 1891; 5] and it commenced operations in October. Although the sawmill was soon closed for the winter, it reopened in April 1892 [FFG 18 March 1892; 4].

By September 1893 both mills were in trouble. The parent company went into liquidation that month and by December the operations in Fenelon Falls were shut down “pending business arrangements”. There was hope that work would soon resume [CP 29 Dec 1893; 8]. In January 1894 the Napanee Paper Mills Company was declared to be insolvent, and their properties, including the Fenelon mill were advertised for sale in the Toronto papers [CP 12 Jan 1894; 5]. The auction took place on February 8, 1894 but the Fenelon property does not appear to have been sold at this time.

John R. Scott tried to keep the mill going by forming a new company, and it was reorganized as the Napanee Pulp & Paper Co. on 9 May 1894 [Hulse; 188]. Several appeals were made to the Village council to excuse the company from paying taxes [FFG 11 May 1894; 4]. The company had enjoyed “exemptions” for the past decade, and now wanted exemptions from taxation on “not only the pulp mill, lime kiln, dwelling houses (which the village solicitor says cannot legally be exempted) piling ground, pulp wood and the recently built saw mill, but also upon all the property the company may acquire in future!” [Ibid]. Negotiations were successful.

While the [saw and pulp] mill(s) in Fenelon Falls struggled back to life, the mills (both at Fenelon and Napanee) were sold in September 1894 to John Pugsley, of Pugsley, Dingman and Co. The pulp mill was closed for several months while repairs were completed and a new bleaching house was constructed of local stone [FFG 28 Sept 1894; 4]. Pugsley reportedly invested “thousands” in new equipment. The mill, and lime kiln recommenced operation in December 1894 [FFG 21 Dec 1894; 5]. There were frequent breakdowns and supply problems throughout 1895, and in August a rumour circulated that the pulp mill was closing [FFG 16 Aug 1895; 4]. And indeed, by late November 1895 the pulp mill was in trouble [FFG 29 Nov 1895; 4], but as the saw mill was still making money it continued to operate [FFG 17 Jan 1896; 51]. A Gazette ad, dated 30 December 1896, nonetheless stated that “all accounts due to the Napanee Pulp and Paper Company must be settled at once, as the Company is giving up business” [FFG 1 Jan 1897; 5]. Eventually the mills shut down and this closure was permanent. New technology was making this old style of pulp manufacture unprofitable, especially on this scale.

As early as October 1896, however, a Mr. Peuchen of Toronto was expressing an interest in the mill to manufacture chemicals [FFG 9 Oct 1896; 4], and on February 9th, 1897 he met with the Village Council and agreed to lease the pulp mill for the manufacture of alcohol, acetate of lime, charcoal and other products [FFG 12 Feb 1897; 4]. In late August the mill, now owned by the Standard Chemical Company commenced operations [FFG 3 September 1897; 4]. That business continued until about 1912.

571 Variant names: Napanee Paper Company, Napanee Pulp and Paper Company.

572 John R. Scott was listed as the manager in some directories from 1886-1893.

573 The offices of the company were on Colborne Street by October 1883 [FFG 13 Oct 1883; 2].

574 The usual number of workers mentioned is 40 [CP 22 Oct 1886; 5].

575 The smell continued into 1891 and 1892 and eventually involved the Ontario Board of Health. See FFG 29 May 1891; 4 : 24 June 1892; 4 : 11 July 1890; 1

576 See Elizabeth Hulse. A Dictionary of Toronto Printers, Publishers, Booksellers and the Allied Trades (Toronto : Anson-Cartwright Editions, 1982); 188.. Hulse lists as her source Books + Notions Vol. 10 (Jan 1894); 12 (April 1894)

577 Albert Brokenshire had part of his finger taken off by a saw in “Pugsley’s saw mill”.; “The small circular saws that cut shingles from bolts are commonly called “jointers”, but considering the numerous pieces of fingers they deprive the mill hands of in the course of a season’s work, it appears that “disjointers” would be a more appropriate name.”

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