Wednesday, August 14, 2013

James Dunsmuir

The position of Dunsmuir, Diggle Limited changed dramatically over the next five years even though production remained steady. In the Comox Valley to the north, the company consolidated coal lands and acquired a charter and huge land grant for the Esquimalt and Nanaimo railway, which was built in concert with the company's California entrepreneurs. In 1883, Robert Dunsmuir bought out the original partners at Wellington mine and renamed the company R. Dunsmuir and Sons. Dunsmuir's second son, Alexander, was in charge of the San Francisco office. From 1887, Robert was a provincial cabinet minister so more and more of the management of R. Dunsmuir and Sons fell to James. And he excelled, becoming the real force behind corporate expansion and rising profits.

James' priority was the opening of the coalfield in the Comox area. Although his father had steadfastly refused to develop this, he relented to James' persistent requests in 1887. This mine at what would become Cumberland met the latest standards for efficiency and good management. James worked closely with his brother-in-law John Bryden and put in the first shaft, constructed a camp, and built a rail link to Tidewater Bay in a matter of months. By its third year in operation, 1890, the mine produced 114,792 tons of coal. It had taken Wellington mine twice the amount of time to reach that production level. James was proving himself to be as aggressive as his father had been and just as capable.
When I first saw this in the trees, I thought it was real. Someone's escaped pet. It is a toy and the other birds have chewed the beak off!

In April of 1890, Robert Dunsmuir suddenly died. If his sons were anticipating that they would now be in charge of the company, they were in for a shock. Robert left everything to his wife. For the next 17 years, Robert fought to gain control of R. Dunsmuir and Sons from his mother and sisters, leaving him frustrated and increasingly embittered. To complicate matters, Alexander was having an affair with Mrs. Josephine Wallace of California and his alcoholism was increasing. The booze eventually led to Alexander's death in 1900 and he left conflicting legal documents and wills.

This was more than a struggle between the generations - it was about keeping wealth within the family and a matriarch's determination to keep the rank of her eight daughters. In 1903, James was sued by his mother for control of the San Francisco sales office. He spent three days on the witness stand and the Dunsmuir's private affairs became headline news. James persevered and triumphed. He was confirmed as sole owner of the Wellington colliery, the Alexander colliery in the South Wellington district, the San Francisco office and as major shareholder of the Union Colliery of British Columbia and the Esquimalt and Nanaimo railway. He managed to do something his father had never accomplished - with his purchase of the California shareholders' interest in the railway and the Union mines in October of 1902, James Dunsmuir brought the entire empire into his own hands.

Around the turn of the century, (1900s), Dunsmuir's business endeavours also included improvement of existing enterprises and expansion in both mining and transportation. When the elder Dunsmuir died, Alexander became president of the Esquimalt and Nanaimo railway but James primarily oversaw the operation.

The most important innovation was a ferry-barge service from Ladysmith (where Baywatch babe, Pamela Anderson is from btw. Though she was born many, many years later than this) Harbour on Vancouver Island to Vancouver that connected the line to the North American railway network. Ergo, the Esquimalt and Nanaimo lines began showing a profit the next year for the first time.

In the mid 1890s, in Union Bay, the Union Colliery constructed a series of ten coke ovens to process the previously discarded coal dust. Dunsmuir also produced fire clay for brick making. Initially, this was only used for construction at the Union mine but later Dunsmuir sold it. Production at the mine continued to expand. In the Nanaimo region, the most significant new development occurred.

I really wanted to catch the morning clouds around the mountains but my phone camera isn't as good as my Kodak.
On Friday, I will tell you what that significant occurrence was. For now, thanks goes to the Dictionary of Canadian Biography website for all the above information.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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