John Hanbury: Brandon lumber baron, 1900-1914
The first business established in Brandon, in 1881, was a retail lumber company owned by Charles Whitehead.
Brandon was the natural site for a lumber mill: it was connected to a forested hinterland by a major river, the Assiniboine.
It was also situated along the main C.P.R. route and for a few years was the service centre for the frontier developing to the west, south and north.
By the end of 1882, eight lumber firms had established themselves in Brandon, many of them retail merchants, and among them Brandon Planing Mills and Brandon Saw Mills.
One firm that dominated the Brandon lumber industry for over a decade was the Hanbury Manufacturing Company.
From 1900-1914, this company was the most important industry in Brandon.
It employed 150 men there in logging, lumbering and manufacturing furniture, sashes and doors.
Beginning in 1899, J.A.Christie purchased logs from the Asessippi Milling Company, driving them down river to Brandon.
His successor, John Hanbury, soon owned the largest of the early logging operations in northwestern Manitoba.
Originally known as Hanbury and McNea, the new name was taken in 1909, when John and Wilfred Hanbury and four other financiers reorganized the company.
The firm’s milling and manufacturing interests were dependent upon timber taken from northern forests and moved, raft-like, through hundreds of miles of river by drivers.
Several million board feet were annually transported to Brandon from Duck Mountain.
Originally Hanbury cut on Riding Mountain, near Lake Audy, driving the logs down the Little Saskatchewan River past Minnedosa, and Rapid City to “the turn near the old dam where it flows into the Assiniboine ten miles west of Brandon.”
In 1901, Hanburys cut 7,982,147 board feet of lumber, making them the largest operators in Manitoba.
In 1902 John Hanbury acquired the Duck Mountain timber berths and held them until 1915.
The five berths varied in size from eleven to fifty square miles (17-80 sq. km.)
In the mountains, Hanbury’s manager began in September preparing for each season, hiring 150 men, many locals, and stocking the bush camps.
The end of March brought the end of cutting and the beginning of the log drive, which usually reached Brandon around mid-June.
In 1910, the Hanbury drive, consisting of 5,000,000 board feet and controlled by 125 drivers, was probably the largest timber drive on the Assiniboine River.
From 1901-1904, Hanburys was the largest lumber producer in Manitoba.
In the fall of 1907, the Hanbury mill was closed temporarily due to an overabundance of stock.
The company was reorganized, reducing the number of employees and causing a great deal of economic hardship in the Shell River area where local people had always depended on the income from the Hanbury drives.
In 1910, John Hanbury acquired lumber interests in British Columbia and he left Brandon.
The firm limped along under his son’s management until World War I brought a shortage of manpower.
The Hanbury Manufacturing Company’s warehouse and contents were sold in 1916.
The final real estate holdings and box factory owned by the company were auctioned in 1927.
– The Lumber Industry in Manitoba by Manitoba Historic Resources Branch
One of the city’s and, arguably, the province’s, finest residences stood on the northwest corner of 5th Street and Lorne Avenue for nearly eighty years.
Known as Hanbury House, the residence was built in 1899 for businessman John Hanbury, owner of Hanbury Manufacturing Co. Designed by local architect W.H. Shillinglaw, the house was completed in 1900 and cost Hanbury an estimated $2500.
The 14-room residence was said to be one of the finest frame houses in Manitoba.
Interior features included large fireplaces in the living room and master bedroom, an office, a music room, and a butler’s pantry decorated with wood panels and stained glass partitions.
The expansive property also boasted a large yard.
Hanbury sold the house in 1910 when he moved to Vancouver.
The home was maintained as a residence for many years, but later served as a boarding house and as a Salvation Army house.
Hanbury House was razed in March 1977 and was replaced by a housing complex.
source: Lawrence Stuckey collection, S.J. McKee Archives
photo courtesy of Heritage Brandon
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The key to keying
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