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Publication: Times&Transcript, Moncton, NB
Issue: 08 January 2010
Title: L.D. Lockhart took over and expanded Humphrey mills
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First it was the giant white pines, then the seemingly endless supply of spruce that made New Brunswick's forests so attractive to the world.
In the late 1600s, white pine logs were taken from the banks of the St. John River to France for ship's masts. By the early 1800s the British did the same, supplying the Royal British Navy with masts and spars.
Lumbering became New Brunswick's biggest industry and when John A. Humphrey bought his land on the outskirts of Moncton in 1850, lumbering was his prime interest. Included in his purchase were three mills on Humphrey Brook, including a small saw mill.
LeBaron Drury Lockhart managed the sawmill and became the owner after J. A. Humphrey's death in 1895. Using the name L.D. Lockhart and Son, Lockhart expanded the business in 1897 and built a large new mill on the old site. He added a planing mill, engine room, turbine house, a drying shed and a warehouse for the finished lumber.
Timber arrived at the sawmill by floating downstream from where it was cut on the Humphrey property or from other lumbermen via a nearby railway siding that connected to both the Intercolonial and the Moncton and Bouctouche Railway lines. The mill could be powered by water or steam. Eventually steam was used exclusively, using the mill sawdust as fuel.
The sawmill employed 20-30 men year round, sometimes 40 depending on the need. They worked 10 hours a day and six days a week. Wages were higher than average due to the expertise needed to operate the equipment. The mill produced rough and planed planks and boards, soft and hardwood flooring, grooved and tongued boards of different widths, laths, mouldings, clapboards and shingles. Various woods were used, such as pine, spruce, maple and oak. The largest saw was five feet in diameter and had a carriage 40 feet long. Large lathes, planers, a shingle machine and numerous other saws were used to prepare the lumber.
The Lockhart family lived in the original J.A. Humphrey home. The house was on the lane that went from the woollen mill to the sawmill and looked out over the lower mill pond.
L.D. Lockhart died in 1923 and his son John Humphrey Lockhart took over the business. He also continued to live in the Lockhart home near the mill.
Mid morning on March 7, 1936 while he was on jury duty in Dorchester at the Bannister trial, J. H. Lockhart received word that his house was on fire. He got permission to leave and jumped on the next freight train going to Moncton. His home was near the rail line so the engineer stopped the train and let him off in Humphrey Mills across from his house. By the time he arrived home, the fire was out. There was little damage to the front of the house and the house contents but the back of the house was almost completely destroyed by the fire.
Fire struck again in late July 1947. This time it was the sawmill. During the night the watchman, Thomas Lockhart, heard a loud explosion and saw flames shooting out of the boiler room behind the main mill. The fire spread quickly into the main building and the nearby piles of finished and unfinished lumber. The mill, equipment, a workshop, warehouse and several thousand board feet of lumber were lost. Damage was estimated at $100,000 and although the fire was partially covered by insurance, the mill was not rebuilt.
* Patricia Winans is a nurse educator by trade, having taught nursing at University of New Brunswick and at the A.J. McMaster School of Nursing in Moncton. She has always had an interest in local history and has participated in several genealogical organizations. A resident of the Metro Moncton area for the past 47 years, history has been her passion. Her column appears weekly. If you have a suggestion or an idea for a future column, Patricia can be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com or by telephone at 859-4879.