We recently came across some old family photos of the Fraser Mill. This got us interested in the early Fredericton lumber mills. So we did some research and found some interesting facts. Some photos are from the Provincial Archives of NB.
Donald Fraser, a Scottish immigrant, arrived in New Brunswick in 1873. By 1877, he had purchased a modest sawmill at River de Chute, situated along the St. John River. Five years later, in 1882, he established the Donald Fraser & Sons Company, incorporating his sons, Archibald and Donald Jr.
By 1894, Fraser and his sons had constructed a sizable sawmill in Fredericton, known as the Aberdeen Mill. However, in 1905, a fire, the cause of which remains uncertain but suspected to have originated from hot, friction-created wood shavings, engulfed and destroyed the mill. The workers barely managed to escape the rapidly intensifying inferno, leaving behind personal items including their coats. The lack of a water main on Woodstock Road exacerbated the situation, rendering firefighters helpless. In a desperate attempt, Mr. Hawthorne and Mr. Todd retrieved the old Alexandra Steam Engine from Morrison’s mill, where it was being utilized after retirement from city service. The engine was set up by the river and worked commendably. Following the disaster, there was a public outcry about the lack of fire prevention measures on Woodstock Road. Mr. Fraser declared to the City Council his willingness to rebuild, but only if water mains were extended to the location. However, the mill was never reconstructed.
Another of the early Fredericton lumber mills, the Phoenix Shingle Mill formerly the (John A. Morrison Mill), ran at Victoria Mills, which is now part of Fredericton (Lincoln Road Boat Club area).
Frasers purchased Victoria Mills from the Scott Lumber Company in 1912. Then in 1916 they acquired the Phoenix Shingle Mill (formerly the John A. Morrison property) from James Murchie’s Sons Company.
From 1912 through World War Two, the Victoria Mill was the largest scale lumber mill on the Saint John River.
Donald Fraser passed away in 1916 at 74, leaving behind a considerable legacy with 12 operational mills across New Brunswick and Quebec, vast timber possessions and leases. Fraser Lumber Company had grown to become the largest lumber company in the Maritimes and one of Canada’s largest, providing employment to several thousand people.
Between 1917 and 1940, the company, under the leadership of Donald’s younger son, Archibald, continued to expand and acquire new assets. This resulted in the creation of Fraser Paper as a subsidiary. The company faced several challenges, including the Great Depression. Both of Donald Sr.’s sons, born in the Scotch Colony, were instrumental in the necessary reorganization of the companies. However, Archibald passed away in 1932, followed by Donald Jr. in 1940. Despite these losses, the Fraser name lived on, transitioning into a new era under new leadership.
Dick Estey’s Saw Mill was located on the Fredericton waterfront a little more than half way up the block from Westmorland to Northumberland Streets. Carleton Street Bridge in background. PANB P5-5
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