Miner Heritage Farm
100 Mountain Street
Granby QC J2G 6S1
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© MINER HERITAGE FARM
History of the Miner family
By Cecilia Capocchi, D.E.A. (post-graduate research degree) in History
The history of the Miner family is closely linked to the early years of the history of the city of Granby. In the 1820’s, the family of Harlow Miner was already among the 17 families residing in Granby. The hamlet, which already had a few pioneer families, was about to become a dynamic village.
The son of Dr. Allen Miner, Harlow Miner left Saint-Armand, a community near Philipsburg, at the age of 19, and headed for Sherbrooke. Along the way, he stopped in Granby to spend the night. He never left. He opened a shoemaker shop there and worked in making boots and shoes. In Granby, this pioneer of the industry discovered a growing economy that was compatible with his entrepreneurial spirit.
A few years later, in 1829, Harlow Miner started up the village’s first businesses: he built a tannery on the eastern shore of the Yamaska River, near the bridge, south of the dam that had just been built.
Granby was now an expanding centre: merchants, artisans and entrepreneurs settled in the village, thereby contributing to the economic and demographic growth. The tiny community that emerged bustled with activities: new buildings and new homes were built and infrastructures installed. Among these infrastructures were schools, churches, a post office and a stagecoach service.
Harlow Miner participated in the effervescence of the village by also taking an active role in community life. In 1829, he was on the first council of syndics that started up the first school in Granby. The school opened in 1831 for all children in the village, whether they were rich or poor. In 1841, he was part of a fund-raising campaign to build a congregational church. When a fire destroyed the church a few years later, he was on the rebuilding committee.
Meanwhile, Harlow Miner’s businesses evolved in tandem with the growth of the village. Thirty years after opening the tannery, in 1862, he founded “H. Miner & Son” by going into partnership with his oldest son, Stephen Henderson Campbell Miner. The son’s sense of business and entrepreneurship would dominate Granby’s industrial scene for more than 60 years.
Stephen H.C. Miner – the origins of an industrial giant
Stephen Henderson Campbell Miner was born in Granby on March 22, 1822, the son of Harlow Miner and Sarah Woodword. His early years of schooling were at the public schoolhouse and at Granby Academy, before going on to colleges in Vermont and Saint-Hyacinthe. He then wanted to study law in New York, but unfortunately he had to abandon his plans because of a lawsuit from 1850 to 1855 between his father and Francis G. Gilmour, the owner of a potash plant who was accused of neglecting to upkeep the part of the dam belonging to him. The lengthy legal proceedings cut deeply into the Miner family fortune, and young Stephen was forced to work in his father’s tannery. This introduced him to the business world.
After his founding of « H. Miner & Son » Stephen Miner, modernized the tannery, which consequently lost its artisan-type look. He began by installing a steam machine that doubled the power output and added 44 new dip tanks to the 16 that were already there. The tannery was thus able to boost its yearly production to 14,000 hides. Next, through a series of property deals, in 1875 he managed to gain control of the river’s energy output. He also enhanced relationships with Montreal wholesalers. And, in 1875, he built a second tannery, with an annual output of 55,000 hides.
Through the efforts of Stephen Miner, the Miner tannery activities were further strengthened, while maintaining an outstanding quality of products that enabled him to excel in the leather market. Attesting to this fact was the award of excellence the tannery earned in 1876 at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, because of the product samples being turned out at the Granby plant.
Now running the factory on his own after his father died accidentally during the rebuilding of the First Congregational Church, Stephen Miner quickly became the town’s most prominent businessman, and his business the most prosperous. The tannery survived the world economic crisis in the mid 1870’s and remained the town’s largest employer for a good length of time. It was even active on the major Canadian and American markets.
Stephen Miner’s tannery was a major economic engine for the community of Granby, requiring the creation of many other related economic activities, such as supplier businesses for exporting and jobs related to the hemlock business. The tannin made from the milling of hemlock bark was a key part of the hide-tanning process.
Granby in Stephen Miner’s time
The Granby in which Stephen Miner resided was now a trade and industry centre. The town implemented administrative and political structures (the first mayor of Granby was elected in 1859), along with new municipal services (a fire department was formed in 1876). In 1877, the railway line between Sherbrooke and Montreal was completed, making it easier for the movement of people and commercial products. Later, the arrival of electricity and the telephone transformed people’s lives even more. Along with these innovations, urban and social life developed: around the 1880’s, many newspapers were founded, other churches were built and new institutions were created.
Along with contributing to the economic development of the town, Stephen Miner also participated in its political life. In 1872, he was elected municipal councillor, and the next year he was elected mayor. He was re-elected in 1892 for a mandate he fulfilled until his death, in 1911. Under his leadership as mayor, the village continued to grow and progress. In his first mandate, he opened the town’s first health office and started up the first police department. He also undertook the initiative to seek grants from Ottawa to build a new town hall on Main Street, which was inaugurated in 1876. Unfortunately, the town hall would be destroyed three years later, when a fire ravaged downtown Granby. Meanwhile, during his second term in office, mayor Miner conducted major projects to build the municipal aqueduct and sewage systems.
Other Stephen Miner businesses
Stephen Miner had come a long way from the time he first entered the business world. But his business sense wasn’t restricted to the leather trade: attracted by the expanding lumber market, he rented a sawmill in 1865. He made so much money in the first year of the sawmill operation he decided to buy it. He also acquired land bordering the river and rights on the Yamaska River dam by the Cowie Street cemeteries. In 1980, with the dam used for the tannery and the sawmill dam, he had total control of the village’s hydraulic power.
In subsequent years, he bought up all the lots bordering the river, up to Saint-Charles Street.
The village’s sawmill, whose production was now 4 million feet of lumber per year, continued to operate until 1896, when the facilities were completely razed by a fire. Stephen Miner decided not to rebuild the mill.
Around this same time, Stephen Miner partnered with an American to open a lumberyard in Whitehall, south of Lake Champlain to accommodate the 2x4s and 3x4s he sent by his own boat. In 1880, he also bought 4,000 acres of woodland in the Township of Stukely and he purchased a small industrial complex in Roxton Sud, Miner’s Mill, which had the most modern sawing facilities in the entire region.
Stephen Miner also had a financial interest in the business operated by his brothers – William Woodword Miner and Harlow Jr. Miner. The business, « Miner’s Carriage », made horse-drawn carriages and remained operative until 1880.
By 1883, Stephen Miner gradually gave up leather making because of the scarcity of hemlock bark and competition from American leather manufacturers. The closing of the old tannery would be the first step in this direction. In 1895, the fire that burned down the remaining factory installations marked the end of the Miner family’s tannery activities.
Around the start of the 1890’s, Stephen Miner went into the burgeoning rubber industry and founded « Granby Rubber ». Located on the south side of Cowie Street, at the corner of Saint-Charles Street, the plant specialized in making rubber boots and overshoes.
The new business did not have any difficulty getting off the ground: in 1891 the factory already employed 250 workers and made 40,000 pairs of overshoes per year.
A few years later, at the turn of the new century, the « Canadian Rubber Co. », the largest rubber company in Canada, bought Granby Rubber. In 1907, the Canadian Rubber Co. controlled six rubber factories. Stephen Miner was put in charge of the « holding » operation. That same year, he was named vice-president of the Eastern Townships Bank.
Stephen Miner was now a rich and powerful national-scale businessman. With his involvement in the 1897 start-up of the « Coal & Coke Co. » coal mine in Alberta, his investments in gold mines and forestry operations in British Columbia, Stephen Miner’s wealth was at its peak.
Despite his wealth, Stephen Miner still had a lively entreprenurial spirit When « Canadian Consolidated », a company with which he was associated, came under the control of the American firm, « United Rubber », Stephen Miner decided to battle the rubber giant. He was now into his 70’s, and he invested a million dollars in founding « Miner Rubber », a new rubber-products factory that he equipped with machinery from the world’s finest manufacturers. The plant started production in 1911, just before Stephen Miner’s death.
Stephen Miner’s passing marked the end of an industrial era in Granby. His funeral services were worthy of a man who was admired and esteemed by his fellow citizens, aptly regarded as the father of local industry. The entire population of Granby attended the funeral and the municipal council proclaimed 30 days of mourning.
But Miner Rubber’s operations continued. William Harlow Miner, the son of William Woodward Miner, Stephen Miner’s brother, oversaw the company’s continuity and expansion.
William H. Miner had worked at his uncle’s company for many years. Under his able management, Miner Rubber employed more than a thousand workers during the First World War. It remained Granby’s biggest company in the 1930’s and exported its boots, overshoes and rubber clothing to more than 50 countries worldwide. During the Second World War, it converted its production line to turn out military products, including gas masks, canvas, and rubber boots.
Post-war, Miner Rubber continued to be relatively prosperous, despite being affected by a steadily growing foreign market. The company had sales offices in Montreal, Quebec City, Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg and Halifax.
William H. Miner died in 1960. His son, John William Henderson Miner, who was the vice-president of the company, took over Granby Rubber’s the top managerial position. He didn’t have much time to leave his imprint on the company, as he passed away about 10 years after the death of his father. The company’s reins were then turned over to Kazimierez Lubecki, the husband of Sara
Miner, John William Henderson’s sister.
During the 1960-1970 span the company’s profits started to decline because of its inability to compete in a market where rubber products from Third World countries poured into the Canadian marketplace. When the remaining tariff walls fell in 1974, allowing overshoes and rubber boots free entry into the Canadian market, it was a fatal blow to Miner Rubber. A few years later, in 1982, shortly before its bankruptcy, the largest factory in Granby’s history was forced out of business.
Lubecki: a Polish immigrant in Granby
Kazimier Lubecki emigrated to Canada with his wife, Sara Elizabeth Miner, after the Second World War. In fact, like many anglophones in Granby, once the Second World War broke out, Sara Elizabeth Miner and her sister, Nora Eleanor Mabel Miner, felt a sense of duty to take part in the war effort and help the Allies’ cause. Thus, in 1940, the two Miner sisters enlisted in the Red Cross transport service in Montreal, where they were taught how to drive and mechanically maintain heavy transport vehicles. In 1941, they joined the lines of FANY (First Aid Nursing Yeomanry), the oldest all-female British military unit, which specialized in providing medical care but also handled transport and telegraph duties during the war. FANY’s mission was to help the Polish army, defeated by the Germans in 1939 and now taking refuge in Scotland, to convert its cavalry into mechanical units. Since few of the Poles were familiar with motorized equipment, the driving of service vehicles, ambulances and trucks, and the mechanical maintenance of such vehicles, this was entrusted to the women of FANY. Sara Elizabeth was a chauffeur for the Polish officers. This is how she met Lieutenant Kazimierez Lubecki, whom she married in 1944.
The Miner farm
Upon the death of William Harlow Miner in 1960, Sara Elizabeth Miner inherited « Flint House », the stone house at the corner of Mountain and Robitaille Street. William Harlow Miner bought the farmhouse, located on a 100-acre lot called Granby Hill, in 1946. The house and accompanying land added to the hundreds of acres surrounding Mountain Street that already belonged to the Miner family. « Pine Tree Farm » is part of this property.
William Harlow Miner bought Pine Tree Farm. In the 1920’s, Jersey cows that produced quality milk were raised on Pine Tree. The milk was sold to the Leclerc Dairy, which in turn sold it to Granby residents. The Jerseys were the farm’s pride and joy, to the extent that, in 1936, the farm vied for the gold medal in the agricultural awards of excellence. Along with cattle, the farm raised chickens for the sale of eggs and bred sheep and pigs. In addition to the animals, the farm had an apple orchard, a vegetable garden (especially potatoes) and sugar-maple trees to make maple syrup products.
In the 1930’s, William H. Miner built the famed red barn that is still there on the farm’s property.
Written by Cecilia Capocchi, D.E.A .in History, March 2009.
I remember a hundred lovely lakes, and recall the fragrant breath of pine and fir and cedar and polar trees. The trail has strung upon it, as upon a thread of silk, opalescent dawns and saffron sunsets. It has given me blessed release from care and worry and the troubled thinking of our modern day. It has been a return to the primitive and peaceful. Whenever the pressure of our complex city life thins my blood and benumbs my brain, I seek relief in the trail; and when I hear the coyote wailing to the yellow dawn, my cares fall from me- I am happy.
~Hamlin Garland, 1899