Wood Vallance Hardware Company was a dominant retail enterprise in Nelson, B.C. and region from 1904 until 1989

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by Sam McBride

For most of the twentieth century, the Wood Vallance Hardware Company Limited based in Nelson, British Columbia was a household name in the city, and reached out to customers throughout southeastern B.C. and worked with suppliers from as far west as Victoria, B.C. and east to Montreal, Quebec.

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1902 bill from Byers Hardware in Sandon, which operated until 1904 when Wood Vallance Hardware arrived and centralized hardware facilities in Nelson.  Image courtesy Ed Mannings.

The corporate story for Wood Vallance began with the company’s formation in 1849 in Hamilton, Ontario.  The story of Wood Vallance in the West Kootenay arose from the winding down of business of the predecessor company in the region, the H. Byers Hardware Company, which had hardware stores in the mining boom towns of Sandon, Kaslo and Nelson.

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Original Byers Hardware store in Nelson at Baker and Josephine streets.  Touchstone Archivess

G. Walter McBride, a London, Ontario native who gained extensive experience in the hardware was  business in St. Louis and later in Calgary and then Rossland, was chosen as receiver for the bankruptcy proceedings.  The business opportunity attracted the interest of the Wood Vallance Hardware Company Limited, which purchased the business from Hamilton Byers.  The new company would be an autonomous subsidiary of the Wood Vallance group which included substantial operations in Winnipeg, Calgary and Vancouver as well as Hamilton.

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Wood Vallance store in Nelson, about 1920s.  From McBride family collection.

In April 1904 the new Nelson-based Wood Vallance Company shut down the Sandon store, sold the Kaslo store, and expanded the premises of the former Byers store on Baker Street to be a prominent business in the field of industrial, commercial and household hardware, including sales of  mining and forestry supplies for the region.

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1906 bill for the Hume Hotel.  Owner J. Fred Hume was a major customer of Wood Vallance Hardware, and a close friend of R.L. McBride and Roy Sharp.  Image courtesy of Ed Mannings.

Walter McBride sold his Rossland store and came to work for Wood Vallance in Nelson as manager, with his nephew Roland Leigh McBride – who had gained experience working with hardware stores in Calgary, Rossland and Sandon – was appointed assistant to the manager.  Also working in the new business was Roy Sharp, who had worked at the Byers store in Nelson since 1901 and was given the job of driving a one-horse delivery wagon.  Also joining the staff were well-known Nelson businessman and sportsman Alf Jeffs, and Alex Leith, who came to Nelson from the Wood Vallance office in Hamilton to serve as secretary-treasurer of the new operation.

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float in Nelson parade, about 1930.  McBride Family Collection

R.L. McBride and Roy Sharp would continue as a team at Wood Vallance until they retired together in 1950 after 46 years of service.  Jeffs would work for 44 years until retiring in 1948.

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Thousands of products were in the 650-page Wood Vallance catalogue.  Touchstone Archives

Walter McBride was manager for 20 years before retiring in 1925, succeeded as manager and later president of the company by R.L. McBride.

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G.W. McBride, first Wood Vallance manager, died Oct. 13, 1925.  He was a half-brother of my great-grandfather Richard McBride of London, Ontario.  Touchstone Archives

Alex Leith worked for Wood Vallance in Nelson until his death in 1932 – one week before his retirement was scheduled to begin.  In 1919-1920 Leith and R.L. McBride were among the founders of the Nelson golf course,  and he would serve several years as President of the club and donate the Alex Leith Trophy which went to the Nelson club champion until the Ken McBride Memorial Trophy was established in 1945.

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The Wood Vallance Trophy in Kimberley was one of many sports-related sponsorships and donations over the years.  It continues to be awarded in annual tournaments. From Nelson Daily News, 1943.

In 1906 the Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company of Canada Ltd (also known as CM&S, and later as Cominco and then Teck) was incorporated.  This included the smelter in Trail and associated mines in West Kootenay as well as the huge Sullivan Mine orne Kimberley in the Sullivan Mine.  The CPR-owned company would eventually become the largest non-ferrous smelter in the world and a huge success, but in its early days its finances were shaky because of problems in processing the complex lead-zinc ore, as it had to be hand-sorted in a very inefficient assembly line.

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Wood Vallance long-service staff recognized in 1961 photo display.  Touchstone Archives.

Around 1910 CM&S was short of funds, and about to go under because no one would offer them credit.  The one supplier that gave them credit was the Nelson-based Wood Vallance Hardware Company.  This help was greatly appreciated by CM&S, and the start of an extraordinary, mutually beneficial, unofficial relationship between the two companies. Tom Lymbery writes about it in his book “Tom’s Gray Creek: A Kootenay Lake Memoir, Part Two”.  The remarkable connection lasted until the 1980s.

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Wood Vallance share certificate. Touchstone Archives.

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December 1949 Wood Vallance staff photo and identification.  Touchstone Archives.

In addition to using Wood Vallance as a supplier, Cominco would contract Wood Vallance to handle part of its Purchasing function, for industrial supplies like rails and steel.   As part of the enduring strong relationship, manager and president R.L. McBride would travel from Nelson to Trail every Thursday to meet CM&S executives and staff about purchasing requirements.

By the 1920s Cominco had developed differential flotation processing technology that made the Sullivan mine profitable, and they expanded by leaps and bounds, with Wood Vallance growing along with them.

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Nelson Daily News June 8, 1972.  Touchstone Archives.

Tom Lymbery noted that “Wood Vallance gave us excellent service, and the range of stock was amazing”.

“These days we would need at least 20 suppliers to obtain the stock we were receiving in our weekly shipments from Wood Vallance,” Lymbery wrote, recalling decades of Wood Vallance business with his family at the Gray Creek Store.

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A corporate change in 1963 enabled purchase of shares by employees.  Touchstone Archives.

Of the original 1904 staff, Alf Jeffs retired in 1948 and died in 1950.  R.L. McBride and Roy Sharp retired together in 1950.

Sharp died in 1953 and McBride in 1959.  Lifelong friends as well as work colleagues, they and family members are buried with memorial stones side-by-side in Nelson Memorial Park.

By the 1980s the business world had changed, and the stewards of the company agreed that it should wind down as a corporation, with final pay-outs to employees and final dividends for shareholders.

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1972 long-service staff photo display.  Touchstone Archives.

Subsequently, the name Wood Vallance has been used for storefronts, but the corporate entity of the past is long gone.  In retrospect, Wood Vallance had a significant role in Nelson’s transition from a boom-and-bust mining town to a regional centre of commerce and administration.

List of Wood Vallance shareholders in 1972. Touchstone Archives.

The two-page corporate history below was written during the World War Two years, with the final section added as an update towards the company’s 75th anniversary in 1979.

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first page of 2-page Wood Vallance corporate history

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second page of 2-page corporate history

 

Experimenting with photo scenes with friends in pioneer Nelson, BC

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by Sam McBride

My paternal grandmother Winnifred Foote was a camera buff who enjoyed experimenting with photography with friends in the early 1900s in Nelson, BC.

Here are some pics in various settings and posings of her friends Roy Sharp, Emily Wilkinson, Dr. Wilmott Steed and Elizabeth Lillie.  The year was likely between 1908 and 1910.  You can imagine that at some point in the afternoon the subjects of the photos told Winnie that enough was enough.

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Roy and Emily Sharp at left.  Wilmott and Elizabeth Steed at right.  All of these photos were taken by Winnie Foote, and are part of the Foote-McBride Collection.

On September 5, 1911 Roy and Wilmott were ushers at the wedding of my grandfather R. Leigh McBride and Eva Hume, who was Winnie’s best friend.  A year later, on September 11, 1912, Roy and Emily married.  Just a week later, on September 18, 1912, Wilmott and Elizabeth married.  Tragically, Eva Hume McBride died due to childbirth complications on November 23, 1912.  Two years later, on December 23, 1914, Winnifred and R. Leigh McBride married.

march 29 2017 scans0018The three couples would remain close friends in Nelson for life.  Their children would be childhood playmates, as the Sharps and Steeds were both just a few houses away from the McBride house at 708 Hoover Street, where Winnie took numerous photos of Dawn Sharp as well as Graham, Jack and Edna Steed bicycling and playing with young Leigh and Ken McBride.

march 29 2017 scans0014Roy was a close colleague of R.L. McBride at the Wood Vallance Hardware Company for almost 50 years, and is best known in local history as the Father of the Nelson Midsummer Curling Bonspiel, which was a huge event when I was growing up in Nelson.  Wilmott was the first of several generations of Nelson dentists.   Details of the lives of R.L. and Win McBride are in previous postings in this blog.  The stories of the Steed and Sharp couples are summarized in their obituaries published in the Nelson Daily News.

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R.L. McBride (1881-1959) of Nelson BC was head of the Wood Vallance Hardware business and a tireless volunteer at the Nelson Golf Course and in many charities

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By Sam McBride

My grandfather Roland Leigh McBride (1881-1959) was an interesting fellow who had a large role in the business and sports scene in Nelson, BC  in the first half of the 20th century.  Born in London, Ontario, he worked for three years as a CPR ticket agent, and then his hopes and ambition led him to move west in 1900 to Calgary and then on to southeastern British Columbia and the gold-mining boom-town Rossland, where he worked as a hardware store clerk.

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R.L. McBride, on right, was known by middle name Leigh from early years

He moved to Sandon in 1903 to work for Byers Hardware, and ended up a year later in Nelson at the start-up of the new Wood Vallance Hardware operation which would dominate the region`s hardware store business for several generations.  He rose to manager in 1924 and then president of Wood Vallance, and retired in 1950 after 46 years with the company.

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R.L. McBride in Rossland, c. 1902

In local directories in the early 1900s, R.L. McBride was listed as a “traveller“, as he had a commercial travellers license and was often on the road meeting with potential and continuing suppliers and customers, as far west as Victoria and east to Montreal.

rl with collar jpgHis roster of personal contacts amounted to thousands across the country.  He used the opportunity of extensive travelling time on sternwheelers and trains to get to know fellow passengers and discuss their hardware needs with them – feedback he used in making decisions on what items to stock and pricing.

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Second from right, enjoying tea party on Nelson beach

His nephew Judge Blake Allan told me once that R.L. had an ebullient personality and was extraordinarily popular in the community.  “If he was in politics, nobody could have beaten him,“ Blake said.  I was just seven years old when he died in 1959, but I well remember his gentle friendliness and sense of humour.

During his years in charge of Wood Vallance, the company had an ongoing contract with the Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company of Canada Limited (Cominco — now Teck) to manage its purchasing function.  In this regard, R.L. worked closely with Cominco CEO S.G. Blaylock for more than a decade, often taking his sons with him on visits to Blaylock at the Trail smelter, which grew dramatically in the 1920s to become the largest lead-zinc production complex in the world.

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R.L. McBride in Ward Street in Nelson, B.C., c. 1920s

As a businessman, McBride was ahead of his time in emphasizing customer service, marketing the Wood Vallance brand, and corporate sponsorship of local sports and charities.

In his early years in Nelson McBride was a keen curler, and played hockey with the Wood Vallance team in the local commercial league.  In 1908 he was elected president of the Nelson Hockey Club.  This was an exciting time for hockey in Nelson, as the superstar players of that era, Lester and Frank Patrick, were living in Nelson, and hopes were high that  Nelson might actually win the Stanley Cup.  Unfortunately, for various reasons – including a dispute about refereeing — that never happened.  While he apparently did not participate further in management of the hockey club, he was an avid Nelson Maple Leafs fan for the rest of his life.

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R.L. McBride was a proud member of the all-male Nelson Masonic Lodge, and the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite.  It is noteworthy that many of his friends, business colleagues and customers were also Masons, including Roy Sharp, Wilmott Steed, J. Fred Hume, and J.D. McBride.  His wife Winnifred Foote belonged to an affiliated organization, the Order of the Easter Star

rl freemasn 1 001On Sept 7, 1911 my grandfather married Eva Mackay Hume, daughter of prominent hotelier and politician J. Fred Hume and wife Lydia, in an elaborate wedding at the Hume summer home across the lake from Nelson known as Killarney-on-the-Lake.  Tragically, Eva and premature baby daughter Marjorie Dawn McBride died a year later from childbirth complications.

In December 1914 R.L. McBride married Eva`s best friend Winnifred May Foote (1889-1960), and their two children were my dad Leigh Morgan McBride (1917-1995) and brother Kenneth Gilbert McBride (1920-1944).  The story in my family was that on her deathbed Eva encouraged Win to get together with R.L. after her death.  I recently heard from a niece of Eva’s that her mother Freeda Hume Bolton told her that Eva whispered in R.L.’s ear “marry Winnifred”.  Through the ensuing years, the McBrides and Humes continued their friendship.

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R.L. as a young father

R.L. McBride`s friends called him by his middle name Leigh, but within the family we called him R.L. to distinguish him from my dad Leigh.

In the spring of 1919 he was a driving force behind purchase of farmland in the hilly Rosemont section of Nelson, and construction of the nine-hole Nelson Golf Course, financed by the sale of shares and memberships.  He served on the club executive almost continuously for the rest of his life.

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R.L. hitting a drive on the Nelson Golf and Country Club, c. 1930

Through his support, Wood Vallance was a regular sponsor of golf tournaments and trophies, and he personally paid for the McBride Cup presented to the winners of tournaments for senior-aged members.  His sons shared his passion for the game, and were top rate players, particularly Ken, who won numerous Kootenay tournaments, as well as provincial championships and inter-university events as captain of the UBC golf team, prior to enlisting in the army in 1942.

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With older son Leigh and his brother Ken

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with Ken in 1932

As reported in Sylvia Crooks` book “Homefront and Battlefront:  Nelson BC in World War Two“, Ken`s death in action in Italy in 1944 was a tremendous shock to the community, particularly his  parents, who were never the same as a result.

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Both Leigh (left) and Ken were officers in the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada regiment.  Ken died in action, and Leigh was seriously wounded, taken prisoner and to hospital by the Germans, and returned to Nelson in a prisoner exchange in February 1945.

Funds were raised within the golf club for a silver shield known as the Ken McBride Memorial Trophy, presented to winners of the Nelson Labour Day tournament starting immediately after the war ended in September 1945.

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Daily News report of retirement of R.L. McBride and Roy Sharp in 1950

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from Nelson Daily News, August 1950

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from Nelson Daily News, August 1950

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invitation to retirement reception in honour of R. Leigh McBride and Roy Sharp in 1950.  The Whimster signature is of the printer, Bert Whimster, father of Lois Arnesen and Muriel Griffiths.  McBride Family  Collection.

 

R.L.`s community involvement over the years included serving on the hospital board, as well as the Red Cross, the Civic Centre project board, wartime bond drives, and with the United Church and the Association of Canadian Travellers.  He was particularly active during the world war years, in charge of bond drives, Red Cross support and events that welcomed soldiers back home from battle and responded to their needs.

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R.L. and Win with a friend, and SS Moyie in background.  C. 1951

He was in good health until his sudden death from a stroke in March 1959.  Though she was 8 years younger, his wife Win was in poor health in her later years, so everyone assumed she would die before husband R.L.   As it turned out, she lingered in care facilities for 15 months after his passing, before dying in July 1960.

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R.L. and Win McBride are buried in the Mason section of Nelson Memorial Park, next to the memorial stone for Eva Hume McBride and the premature baby who died a half century earlier.

sept 11 2014 006Also right beside the McBride gravesite is the grave of Roy Sharp and his family members.  Roy and R.L. were among the first five staff members when the Wood Vallance Hardware business began in Nelson in 1904.  Roy was always R.L.’s reliable second-in-command in the company, and the pair retired together in 1950.  Sharp was as active in the curling scene as McBride was in golf.  He served as president of the B.C. Curling Association in the 1930s, and led efforts to establish Nelson’s famous Midsummer Bonspiel.

 

Winnifred May Foote, born in 1889 in Perth, Ontario; came to Nelson, BC in 1900 at age 11; married R.L McBride in Nelson in 1914; died in Nelson in 1960

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My paternal grandmother Winnifred Mae Foote (1889-1960) was born in Perth, Ontario and came across Canada to Nelson, B.C. with her mother and sisters in 1900 to join her father Jim Foote who was working as a blacksmith at the Silver King Mine.  They lived in a rented cabin in the mine townsite before moving into Nelson in 1902 at a house by Cottonwood Creek and Hall Mines Road when Jim began working in construction with the City of Nelson.  Years later she recalled riding on the the mine’s spectacular tramway.

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Win with camera beside Kootenay Lake c. 1907

 

She was in a camera club where members took turns posing and practising photography techniques, and she learned how to make her own prints.  Many of these photos have been safely kept over the years in family albums.  Based on the pics, she had a happy time growing up in Nelson.  She worked as a Post Office clerk before marrying R.L. McBride in December 1914.

She died when I was 8, and was in poor health when I knew her, though she retained a playful disposition.  The big tragedy of her life was the death in action of younger son Capt. Kenneth Gilbert McBride in Italy in September 1944.

Edna Steed Whiteley, a neighbor who knew Win well, told me in 2006 that Win was never the same after Ken’s death.  These pics of her were taken either in Nelson or on Prebyterian or Methodist church outings at Proctor.  The pic of her welcoming son Leigh in Vancouver in February 1945 on his way home in a prisoner exchange ran in the Vancouver Sun newspaper.

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Win with male friend (perhaps Wilmot Steed) in c. 1907

Win was active for many years in the Nelson IODE, the Order of the Eastern Star, the Nelson Golf Club and the Nelson Curling Club.

I recently discovered that Win played ladies ice hockey between 1910 and 1912.  She was a forward in 1910, and then moved to the goalie position.  She played on teams that competed within Nelson, and also for the team of the best Nelson players that played against ladies teams of other cities.  I was amazed to learn that she was a member of the Nelson team in 1910 that was coached by Hockey Hall of Fame player Lester Patrick, who, along with brother Frank Patrick, was among the best players of the era.  Lester may well have become involved with the team at the urging of his sister Dora Patrick, who was a player and manager of the team.

 

Here are some more pics of her, from her youth until later years, including the local Daily News write-up of her marriage in 1914 and her obituary (written by her son Leigh) in 1960.

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Win with Nelson as backdrop c. 1907

 

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Win c. 1907

 

 

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Roy Sharpe in front, with Win Foote next from left c. 1907

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Win (top) with friends in a fun pose.

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Win on horseback c. 1907

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Win with friend Wilmot Steed c. 1907

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Win at left with her sisters and parents and Mr. and Mrs. Lilly (parents of Mrs. Steed, grandparents of Edna Whiteley

 

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pic from Craig Bowlsby book “Knights of Winter, the History of Hockey in BC 1895-1911” has my grandmother Win Foote second from the right

 

 

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Win Foote, in middle of ice hockey teamates 1910

 

 

 

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Win c. 1910

 

 

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Win at far right with friends in Nelson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Foote sisters c. 1908.  From left, Win, Marion, Gladys, Isabel and Lillian.

 

 

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Win with baby Leigh 1918

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R.L. and Win McBride c. 1915 in Nelson

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Win with son Leigh and baby Ken 1920

 

 

 

 

 

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Win with elder son Leigh and younger son Ken in Nelson c. 1923

 

 

From left, Ken, RL, Win and Leigh

 

 

 

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Win and.L. McBride with grandson Sam McBride and R.L.’s sister Edith Monroe c. 1953

 

 

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The pioneer Foote and McBride families of Nelson B.C.

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By Sam McBride

My great-grandfather John James “Jim” Foote of Perth, Ontario (about 50 miles southwest of Ottawa) arrived in Nelson , B.C. in 1899 at age 38 to work as a blacksmith at the Silver King Mine.  A year later, in 1900, his family came from Perth to join him, including 35-year-old wife Wilhelmine Edith James (known to all as Edith) and daughters Winnifred Mae Foote, 11; Lillian Maud Foote, 9; Gladys Edith Foote, 7, and Isobel Bessie Foote, 3.

Born and raised on a farm in upstate New York close to the Canadian border, Jim Foote of Perth, Ontario came west to Nelson, B.C. in 1899 to work as a blacksmith at the Silver King Mine, He later worked for the City of Nelson as a carpenter, sidewalks foreman and superintendent of works.

The family lived in a rented cabin on the Silver King Townsite, and the girls attended a makeshift school there.  In 1902 the family moved to a house at Cottonwood Creek and Hall Mines Road, about a mile from downtown Nelson.  The move may have coincided with Jim Foote moving from employment at the mine to a job with the City of Nelson.  Another big event for the family that year was the birth in Nelson on Feb. 9, 1902 of a fifth daughter Marion Louise Foote (there were never any sons in the family).

Jim Foote was born Sept. 18, 1861 in Morristown, New York (near Ogdensburg) in a family farm on the south bank of the St. Lawrence River.  The land he saw on the other side of the river was Canada.   A couple of months before his first birthday, his father, John Foot (who tended to spell his name without the “e” at the end more often than not), went off to fight in the Civil War as a private in the 142nd New York Regiment of the Union Army.    Private John Foot contracted malaria while in army service, and was wounded in the buttocks in the Battle of Appomatox in April 1865 – one of the last North casualties in the war, prior to the surrender of South General Robert E. Lee at Appomatox Courthouse.   Foot’s injuries would cause him to live in pain for the rest of his life, and his many written requests for financial compensation went unheeded.  John Foot (1825-1903), who married Elizabeth Graham (1828-1871),  was a son of John Foot (1802-?) and Isobel Bovie (1805-?) who lived in upstate New York.   While their ancestry is not known, many of the Foote population in New York is known to descend from Nathaniel Foote who came to America from England in the 1600s.

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Win Foote, keen photographer  c. 1907

When he was about 24 in the mid-1880s, Jim Foote ventured into Canada in search of better prospects for his life ahead.  He arrived in Perth (about 70 miles northwest of Morristown) and met Edith James (1865-1941).  Her parents, Thomas G. James (1829-1902), and Sarah Best (1836-1888), both children of Protestant families who emigrated to Canada from Ireland (likely County Cavan) soon after the end of the War of 1812, were among the most prosperous farming families of Lanark County in North Elmsley, a small agricultural community outside of Perth.   Jim Foote and Edith James fell in love and married, despite the opposition of her parents, who thought she could have made a better choice, and only gradually came to accept the itinerant Yankee Jim Foote as a son-in-law and father of their granddaughters.

The five Foote daughters, from left: Lil, Isobel, Marion, Glad and Win

Jim Foote is listed in the 1913 city directory as Sidewalks Foreman with the city of Nelson.   The obituary in the Daily News after he died April 24, 1921 in Nelson said he was “for a number of years in charge of construction work of the city”.   My first cousin, once removed, R. Blake Allan (who was my dad’s law partner in Nelson for 20 years before his appointment as a judge in 1968, and was an enthusiastic genealogist in retirement years before his death at age 92 in Victoria in 2009) told me he remembered his grandfather Jim Foote well, and that he held the title of superintendent of construction with the city when he died.

The eldest of the daughters, Winnifred, married Roland Leigh McBride in Nelson on Dec. 21, 1914.  It was his second marriage, as he married Eva Mackay Hume (niece of Lydia Irvine Hume who she and husband J. Fred Hume adopted after her parents died) on Sept. 6, 1911 at the Hume property known as Killarney-on-the-lake across the lake from where the Chahka Mika Mall is today.  She died of childbirth complications on Nov. 23, 1912, and the baby daughter Gertrude died a few days later.   Winnifred Foote and Eva Hume were close friends, and the story in the family is that Eva on her deathbed encouraged Win to get together with R.L.

ornate wedding certificate for R.L. McBride and Win Foote.

In the community, the couple was known as Win and Leigh (he was never known by his first name Roland).

After son Leigh Morgan McBride was born on Oct. 31, 1917, the family always called the father “R.L.” to avoid confusion with the son.  Their only other child was son Kenneth Gilbert McBride born Jan. 20, 1920, and died in action in Italy on Sept. 16, 1944.  Win and R.L. moved into a house at 708 Hoover Street soon after their marriage, and remained there until R.L.’s death at 78 on May 14, 1959.  Win died at 71 on July 10, 1960.  I talked to Edna Steed Whiteley recently, and she agreed that Win never recovered from the shock and despair of losing son Ken in WW2.  My childhood memories of my paternal grandparents is that they were both in poor condition in the late 1950s, particularly Win, who had great difficulty speaking, and only wanted to play bingo with her grandchildren.  My father Leigh died in Trail August 5, 1995 after battling Parkinsons Disease for a decade.

R.L. McBride was born and raised in London, Ontario, where he worked as a ticket agent for the CPR for two years after finishing school at age 16.  His grandfather Samuel McBride (1819-1905) had come to Canada on a crowded emigrant ship from Northern Ireland at age 12 in 1831.  As a teen-ager in Brantford, upper Canada, he learned the tinsmithing trade, and joined his much younger brother Alexander McBride (1833-1912) in a retail business selling wood stoves and other metal items.   Alexander moved west to Calgary in the mid-1880s in search of cleaner air for his wife Lucy’s asthma, and established Calgary’s first hardware store under the name A. McBride and Company in the late 1880s.  By 1896 he was mayor of Calgary, and had branched out from Calgary with other hardware stores, including one in the gold-mining boom town of Rossland, British Columbia, which he hired his nephew G. Walter McBride to manage.

Within a couple of years, Walter McBride was successful enough with the store to pay off his uncle and take ownership of the Rossland store under his own name as G.W. McBride Hardware.   In 1900, 19-year-old R.L. McBride came west from Ontario to work for a few months for his great-uncle Alexander in Calgary, and then further west to work for his uncle Walter in Rossland.   He moved on to Sandon in 1903, where he worked for a year (including the winter of 1903-1904) for the Hamilton Byers Hardware store, which was one of three Byers stores in the West Kootenay.  A year later, Byers sold out to the Winnipeg-based Wood Vallance Hardware company, and the Nelson operation was managed by G.W. McBride, assisted by his nephew R.L. McBride, who succeeded to head the Nelson operation in 1924 when his uncle retired and moved to the coast.

Foote sisters in about 1905.  From left: win, Marion, Glad, Isobel and Lil

Lil Foote married Wilfred Laurier Allan (1891-1938) in Nelson on Dec. 22, 1915.  For a couple of years Wilfrid had been working at Wood Vallance Hardware in Nelson under manager George Walter McBride, who was an uncle of R.L. McBride, who would succeed his uncle Walter at top Wood Vallance man in Nelson after Walter retired in 1924.  Lil and Wilfrid’s first child, Robert Blake Allan, was born in Nelson in 1916. A year or so later, the Allans moved to Stavely, Alberta, where the Allan family had a general store.  Son James Henry Grant Allan was born in 1919 in Stavely, daughter Margot Francis Allan was born in 1922 in Stavely, and son Alexander Arthur Allan was born in 1925 in Stavely.   In 1931 Wilfrid moved his family back to Nelson as he took on the position of secretary-treasurer with Wood Vallance.  After he died in Chicago at age 47 his brother Alexander Hamilton Allan came from Stavely to Nelson to succeed Wilfrid as secretary treasurer of Wood Vallance.  In 1950 A.H. Allan would succeed the retiring R.L. McBride as Manager of Wood Vallance, continuing to lead the operation until his own retirement in the 1970s.  He died in Nelson in 1988.

Blake Allan died in Victoria in 2009, Jim Allan died in West Vancouver in 2010, and the third brother Alex Allan died in Toronto in 2010.

R.L. McBride in abt 1902 in Rossland, where he worked at his uncle’s G.W. McBride Hardware store.

After schooling in Nelson, Lil attended normal school in Vancouver and became a teacher.  She taught at Shoreacres, Renata and Harrop before joining the Central School staff in Nelson in 1912 until her marriage in 1915.  During World War Two she returned to teaching at the Lardeau district, Argenta, Kaslo, Central School in Nelson, and finally at Renata where she retired in 1953.  Daughter Margot died at age 19 in 1932.

Gladys (known as Glad in the family) Foote married Colin Argyle Moir, originally from Manitoba, in Nelson on Sept. 29, 1920.  They moved to Medicine Hat, Alberta where he worked in the farm supplies distribution business.   She died in Medicine Hat in 1966, and Colin died in 1972.  Several Nelson directories list Glad as working as a stenographer for Nelson businesses in the years after the First World War.

Dick McBride of London, Ontario visiting his son R.L. and grandson Leigh in Nelson in about 1919. Dick worked as a tinsmith, and was part of the early hardware business established by his father Samuel in partnership with Dick’s uncle Alexander McBride, who established a thriving hardware store operation based in Calgary in the late 1800s.

Isobel Foote married Arthur Edward “Eddie” Murphy (1893-1950) on Nov. 16, 1921 in Nelson.  They built a home across the lake from where the Prestige Inn is today.    Through the years there were many extended family gatherings on the beach and dock of the Murphy residence across the lake.  Both Isobel and Eddie were expert rowers who won rowing competitions on Kootenay Lake.  Even though she was the shortest of the four sisters (less than 5 feet), she was one of the best basketball players at her school.   Isobel and Eddie had several successful businesses in Nelson, including contracting, interior decorating and signage.  They did not have children.  Like her mother Edith (who died in Nelson at age 76 in 1941), Isobel was a longtime member of the Nelson Pioneers group which was for Nelson residents who had been in the city since the 1890s.  I recall her once saying she felt a bit guilty because she arrived in 1900 rather than the 1800s.  She lived until 1988 (when virtually all of the 1890s pioneers would have died), but after 1974 she had serious dementia and resided at Mount St. Francis care home.

R.L. McBride with his sons Ken (left) and Leigh in about 1936.

The four Foote sisters remained close through the years, and there were many trips back and forth between B.C. and Medicine Hat.  While Glad and Colin and Isobel and Eddie had no children of their own, they were keen aunt and uncle to five nephews.

Jim and Edith Foote’s fifth daughter – and final child – Marion Louise Foote, was born in Nelson in 1902.  A popular young lady in Nelson, Marion died of tuberculosis in 1921.  Nelson’s city directory of 1919 has Marion listed as a clerk employed by the Hudson Bay Company in Nelson.

Jim and Edith Foote and their daughters are buried at Nelson Memorial Park, except for Glad who is buried with husband Colin Moir in Medicine Hat.

R.L McBride and wife Win Foote McBride are buried at Nelson Memorial Park, next to the gravestones of Eva Hume McBride and the daughter Marjory, who lived just a couple of days after her mother died in childbirth in 1912.  Right beside the McBride graves are those of R.L.`s longtime friend and next-in-command at Wood Vallance, Roy Sharp, and his family.

The four Foote sisters in mid 1950s. From left: Glad Moir, Lil Allan, Win McBride and Isobel Murphy.  Their youngest sister Marion Foote died in 1921.

 

 

McBrides and Extended Family Were Heavily Involved in Pioneer Hardware Stores in Calgary, Kootenays and Perth, Ontario

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By Sam McBride

For about a century there were several members of the McBride family and many more of the extended family working in the hardware store business in North America, predominantly with the firms of A. McBride and Company Limited in Calgary, Alberta and the Wood Vallance Hardware Company Limited store and contracting operation in Nelson, British Columbia, as well as several other hardware stores in the Kootenay region of southeastern B.C. and the James Brothers Hardware Store in Perth, Ontario.

It started with the emigration of McBride families from Ulster, primarily County Down, southeast of Belfast.  We know from records that five McBride brothers and their families left Ireland in the period from the late 1820s to the early 1840s, but we have no information on the parents.   In addition to Richard McBride (1792-1850), whose line of descendants is the focus of this report, the emigrating brothers included William McBride (1797-?), Alexander McBride (1803-1891), Thomas H. McBride (1806-1852) and Stephenson/Steney McBride (1811-1893).  There are hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of descendants of these brothers in Canada and the United States today, primarily in southern Ontario.

According to a family history written in the 1920s, Richard McBride (1792-1850) and Elizabeth McCormick (1794-1848) and five children from Ballydorn, County Down emigrated to Canada in 1831.  This was more than a decade before the horrific Irish Potato Famine of the 1840s, but circumstances were bad enough for them to pull up roots and take the chance that they would find better lives across the Atlantic in Canada.  As Presbyterians, they were discriminated against by the ruling class of Anglican and Church of Ireland forces, though their discrimination/oppression would not normally be severe as that of Roman Catholics who were in a minority in the north of Ireland but dominated the population of Dublin and southern Ireland.

Richard and Elizabeth McBride had a total of about 11 children, including half a dozen who died at an early age in Ireland.  Another daughter, whose name was not mentioned in family history accounts, died during the horrific six-week long voyage across the Atlantic in a 600-ton sailing ship packed with about 500 passengers.   Emigration ships were notorious in that era for disease, starvation and extreme discomfort for passengers.  The children who survived the ordeal were sons William (1817-1881), Samuel  (1819-1905) and John (1822-1887), as well as daughter Eliza (1826-1909).  The family resided for a short time first in the Kingston area, then Cobourg, Niagara and Brantford before settling in London, Ontario in about 1840.   The only children born to the family in Canada were twin boys in 1833 in Cobourg, Upper Canada (now Ontario).  One twin died at birth, and the other was Alexander McBride (1833-1912), who would become the most successful businessman of the family, and the first to move to Western Canada.

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Samuel McBride 1819-1905

Samuel McBride (my great-great-grandfather) was taken on as an apprentice by a tinsmith when he was 16, and that was his trade and livelihood until retiring in the mid-1880s.  Samuel was very active in the community, including service as an alderman, volunteer fireman, cemetery board, and with his church.  The term tinsmith refers to someone who works with cold metal, as opposed to a blacksmith who works with hot metal.   Tinsmiths are perhaps better known in history by the name variation “tinker” or “tinner”.  Alexander learned tinsmithing from Samuel, and the pair established a business together in London, Ontario.  Oldest brother William worked as a woodworker and carriage-maker and was among the leaders of the community, including service as Mayor (1859), and secretary of the Western Fair Association.  On May 24, 1881 William, age 64, was among approximately 200 victims in the worst natural disaster in Ontario history.  Celebrating Queen Victoria’s birthday on that day, a crowd of residents climbed aboard the steamship Victoria.  Panic ensued when the vessel tilted to one side, spilling people into the Thames River as it capsized.  Many died in their heavy clothing of the Victorian era even though the water was not over their heads.  The only member of the McBride family to die in the tragedy was William McBride.

John McBride of the original family from Ireland married Lucinda Warner, worked as a wagon-maker, and for a time partnered in business in London with elder brother William.  He took his family the United States, and died in Massachusets in 1887.  Eliza McBride married Alexander Lowrie and remained in the London area with a large family.  Alex partnered in business with brother-in-law William McBride.  It was Eliza and Alex’s son-in-law Harry Bapty who wrote the family history in the 1920s.

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Alexander McBride 1833-1912

Samuel McBride enjoyed robust health and lived to 85 years of age, well-regarded in the community as a pioneer and builder of London.  He had a total of 11 children with three wives, outliving first wife Elizabeth Webster and then Anna Margaret McDonald before marrying Maria Goforth.

His two sons with Elizabeth Webster included my paternal great-grandfather Richard “Dick” McBride (1843-1921), who held a variety of jobs over the years, including tinsmithing like his father, and working in his father’s business.

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Dick McBride, son of Samuel McBride and father of R.L. McBride

Samuel’s children with Anna included George Walter McBride (known in the family as “Walter”), who moved to St. Louis as a young man to learn the hardware store business while employed by Shapleigh Hardware, before returning to Canada to work in family-related hardware operations in Calgary, Rossland and Nelson.  Kate McBride, a daughter of Samuel and Anna, married Noah Kettlewell, whose sons Charles Walter Kettlewell (1889-1942) and William Keith Kettlewell (1892-1954) moved to Nelson, B.C. in 1907 and worked as clerks and travelling representatives for Wood Vallance Hardware before the First World War, then served in the Canadian military during the war, and rose to higher positions in Wood Vallance after returning from battle.  They were among the staff at the Nelson store listed in the Wood Vallance company’s full page ad  following the Allies victory November 1918 recognizing staff who had served in the war, including those who were casualties.

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directory ad for Alexander McBride’s A. McBride and Co.

In 1856 in London, Ontario, Alexander McBride married Lucy Fidora Munson (1830-1909), with whom he had 8 children.  As Lucy suffered from asthma, her doctor recommended that she move West to cleaner air, so in 1886 Alexander moved the family to the pioneer prairie community of Calgary, two decades before Alberta became a Canadian province.

IMG_1209He soon established the firm of A. McBride and Company which was Calgary’s first hardware store, and would become the base for a chain of several such stores in Alberta and southeastern British Columbia by 1900.  Alexander served as Mayor of Calgary in 1896.  His sons who worked for A. McBride and Company in Calgary included Chester, Norman, Frank, James Duncan and Edward, who took over management of the company after his father retired.

In 1897 Alexander McBride established a hardware store in Fort Steele.  His sons Frank and J.D. McBride were sent from Calgary to run the store under the McBride Bros.  The economic outlook of Fort Steele took a dramatic turn for the worse in 1898 when the CPR decided to bypass Fort Steele from its new Crowsnest Pass Railway through the East Kootenay.  Instead, the rail station was established at the tiny community of Cranbrook, which boomed forward on its way to becoming the largest community in the Kootenays.

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directory ad for the J.D. McBride hardware stores in Cranbrook and Fort Steele in early 1900s

Knowing Cranbrook would grow, the McBrides set up a McBride Brothers store in Cranbrook, and for a few years both stores operated at the same time.  By 1902 they had closed the Fort Steele store, J.D. McBride bought out his brother Frank, and the Cranbrook store began operating under the J.D. McBride Hardware name.

The store continued in business until J.D. sold it in the 1920s and moved to the United States.  In the mid-1930s he returned to Cranbrook and bought his old store and resumed operation.  He was killed in an automobile accident near Spokane in 1941.  .

G.W. “Walter” McBride (son of Samuel McBride and Anna McDonald of London, Ontario) left Missouri in 1892 for Calgary where he worked in his uncle Alexander’s hardware business.   In 1896 Walter was assigned to start a new hardware store under the A. McBride Company name in the booming gold-mining town of Rossland, B.C.

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Rossland Miner ad for the G.W. McBride hardware store which in Rossland 1897-1904

A year later, Walter McBride served as a director of the new businessman’s club known as the Rossland Club.

About this time, Walter had done well enough with his store that he bought out his uncle Alexander’s interest and established the store as G.W. McBride Hardware which regularly advertised in Rossland newspapers.

In 1900 Dick McBride’s son Roland Leigh McBride (known in the family as R.L. McBride) left his hometown of London, Ontario at age 19 to pursue better prospects in the West.

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R.L. McBride c. 1903

He spent a couple of months working in Calgary in his great-uncle Alexander McBride’s hardware store business.  During this time he resided at a rooming house where one of his fellow residents was the future prime minister, young lawyer Richard Bedford Bennett.   Years later R.L. McBride (1881-1959) recalled that something he and R.B. Bennett had in common at the time was both were financially broke at the time.

Later in 1900 R.L. McBride left Calgary for Rossland, where he worked as an assistant to his uncle Walter at the G.W. McBride Hardware store for about three years before moving to the silver-mining boom town of Sandon to manage the H. Byers Company hardware store, which was part of the Byers operation in the region that included stores in Kaslo and Nelson as well as Sandon.  The head of the company, Hamilton Byers, resided in Nelson.

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Director ad for the H. Byers and Co., which had three hardware stores in the West Kootenay region prior to its sale to Wood Vallance in 1904

In early 1904, after residing in Sandon through the winter of 1903-04, R.L. moved to Nelson when the Byers Company wound down their operations.  Walter McBride came from Rossland to be receiver for Byers.  In April 1904 the Wood Vallance Hardware Company Limited based in Winnipeg purchased the Byers operation and established the Nelson store, while the Kaslo and Sandon stores ceased operation.   Walter McBride was appointed manager of the Nelson store and vice president of the company, and R.L. McBride was named assistant to the manager.  The 1896 building on Baker Street that housed the Byers store was extensively renovated for the new Wood Vallance operation.

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Wood Vallance ad in Nelson Daily News in 1908

Upon Walter McBride’s retirement in September 1925 R.L. McBride succeeded him as manager and vice president of Wood Vallance Company in Nelson, and then in 1931 R.L. McBride succeeded C.G. Wood of Hamilton, Ontario as President and Manager.  One of the interesting connections between Nelson people and the Wood Vallance company is that Jocelyn Morey, who was a close friend of Leigh and Dee Dee McBride in Nelson, was a great-granddaughter of C.G. Wood.

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Wood Vallance corporate ad honouring staff who served in the First World War, particularly those who lost their lives, including Robert Blake Allan, brother of Wilfrid and Alex Allan

The Wood Vallance store and contracting business in Nelson would be among the largest businesses in Nelson until the 1980s, when the company wound down operations but the hardware store continued under the same familiar name.

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Wood Vallance ad in January 1930 Nelson Daily News

The business in Nelson would be noteworthy for the long service and loyalty of employees, including R.L. McBride who, along with his colleague Roy Sharp, was among the 5 original staff of 1904 who retired in 1950.  The McBride and Sharp families were very close – to the point that they are buried in the same area of the Nelson Memorial Park.

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obituary in 1942 Nelson Daily News of Walter Kettlewell, grandson of Samuel McBride, who, along with brother Keith, worked for Wood Vallance in Nelson

Also buried near R.L. McBride is his first wife Eva Mackay Hume (1885-1912), niece of Lydia Hume and adopted daughter of Lydia and her husband, prominent Nelson businessman J. Fred Hume, after her parents died when she was young.  Eva, who had married R.L. McBride in 1911 at a ceremony at her parents’ home known as Killarney-on-the-Lake across the lake in Nelson, died due to childbirth complications a year later, along with the baby daughter named Gertrude.  In December 1914 R.L. married Winnifred Mae “Win” Foote (1889-1960), who had been best friends with Eva, who encouraged Win on her deathbed to get together with R.L.  The Foote family left Perth, Ontario in 1900 for Nelson, where Jim Foote worked as a blacksmith at the Silver King Mine.

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October 1950 report on retirement of R.L. McBride, succeeded by Alex Allan

The Foote family – which included Jim, wife Edith James, and daughters Win, Lillian, Gladys and Isobel – lived for a couple of years in a cabin next to the Silver King Mine before moving to a house on Cottonwood Street in Nelson.   By 1910 Jim Foote was listed in the community directory as a carpenter working as Superindent of Sidewalks for the City of Nelson.  His obituary in 1921 said he held the position of Superintendent of Works for the city.

Interestingly, it was cousins of Edith James in Perth, Ontario who founded and ran a hardware store operation which has a central place in the history of Perth.  For over 80 years, James Brothers Hardware stood as the retail centre of historic downtown Perth.

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James Brothers Hardware Store in Perth, Ontario

Crowds from town and country alike flocked there for their every need, while from their open offices on the mezzanine above the first floor, George and Lawrence James and later George’s son, Alan, and grandson, George, oversaw a mercantile enterprise that included not only the store, but a machine shop, a foundry, a Chevrolet dealership, a Ford dealership, two automotive garages, various woodlots, a bulk fuel oil business, a coal business, a snow fence factory, a billboard service and the local arena.

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My photo of Alan James in 1995

In my family history of the James family ancestors in Perth in the early 1990s I came in contact with Alan James, who had retired from the hardware business and was doing his own research on the family, including several trips to Ireland where he met distant cousins.  In June 1995 I visited Perth and received a grand tour of the city, including the original James farmland, from Alan.

A recently-published local history book titled “Follow the Crowd: the James Boys of Perth” by John McKenty tells a great story of how the business got started and evolved through the years.

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chart showing Leigh McBride’s direct ancestors for 3 generations

In 1915 in Nelson, Lillian Foote married Wood Vallance employee Wilfrid Laurier Allan (1891-1938), whose father Robert Burns Allan had moved West 10 years earlier and bought a general store in Stavely, Alberta which would be operated as a family business for more than 30 years.   At the end of the First World War Wilfrid moved back to Stavely to run the general store, assisted by younger brother Alexander Hamilton Allan (1898-1988).  In 1931 Alexander Leith — who had been among the original five Wood Vallance staff in 1904 and held the position of secretary-treasurer – died in Nelson.   Wilfrid Allan moved with his family back to Nelson in 1931 to succeed Leith in that position.  After Wilfrid died in 1938 his brother Alexander Hamilton Allan moved to Nelson from Staveley to take over the secretary-treasurer position.

Alex Allan had a long and successful career with Wood Vallance, succeeding R.L. McBride as President and Manager upon R.L.’s retirement in 1950, and leading  the Wood Vallance in Nelson until his own retirement in 1972.  A decade later, the Wood Vallance company wound down its operations and paid its shareholders final dividends.

Interestingly, family connections were prominent with both the A. McBride and Company in Calgary and the Wood Vallance Hardware in Nelson.  In 1993 I interviewed John Alexander “Jack” McBride (1906-2001), who had been a successful cattle rancher in Benalto in central Alberta and retired with wife Lillian in Calgary, where he was born in 1907, a son of Edward McBride, the son of Alexander who took over management of the hardware business from his father.   Jack said his grandfather Alexander was an excellent businessman, who at one time “owned half of Calgary.”  However, his sons who took over the business did not inherit their father’s business capabilities, resulting in the company being sold in to Comer Hardware in Calgary shortly before Alexander’s death in 1912.