McFarlane-Neill Building

Walter McFarlane of Devon (St. Mary’s Ferry) established a blacksmith shop in an existing building at the corner of the current Union and St. Mary's streets in about 1863. He first did repairs on ironwork on carriages and then began repairing and manufacturing farm equipment, including hames (a curved metal frame, attached to the collar of a workhorse, with rings which the traces or straps pass through and are attached to whatever the horse is pulling.) In 1880-1881 the plant began producing peavies (a tool with a spike and hook, used for moving logs.)

On November 3 1882, after the famous and devastating St. Mary’s fire, McFarlane opened his replacement, two-storey brick factory building; it had an ell to house an engine and boiler room. In 1883 it produced 600 peavies and 300 pairs of hames a week, requiring close to 100 car loads of rock maple for its annual production. By the year of his unexpected death in 1898, he had enlarged the property size and building stock to include various sheds and a stone machine shop.

In 1900 the McFarlane-Neill Company was established, with local and out-of-province shareholders, to operate the factory, which gradually expanded its range of manufactured products. By the early 1920s it was taken over by the Thomas Pink Company of Ontario. In 1926 the company was reorganized and a new manager was appointed.

In the 1930s two fires occurred on the property, damaging a barn and destroying the dry-house. In 1939 the now-named Canadian Warren Pink Co. Ltd closed the factory and moved its entire stock, etc to St. Catherine’s in Ontario. *

Between 1941-1944 the British Admiralty Technical Mission used the building for the production of shell casings for World War II ammunition. Many local people were employed, in both day and night shifts. [Two of the shells produced at that time are currently on a national tour as part of an exhibit titled “Ordinary People in Extraordinary Conflict – New Brunswickers in Wartime, 1914 -1946”, prepared by the New Brunswick Museum]. Since then, a number of businesses and a community policing office have used the building.

Almost opposite the factory building, at 119 St. Mary’s St. is the original McFarlane private residence; thus forming an important heritage pair, illustrative of Fredericton’s strong factory history.

(This information is by courtesy of Anita Jones who researched the history of the Company.)

* Fires and firefighting played an important roll in early community (St. Mary’s Ferry) life. Walter McFarlane and Samuel Dayton shared the cost to purchase a hand engine from the City of Fredericton, leading to the creation of the first village fire company. The whole village joined in having fireman’s festivals every summer, raising money to build a fire station, buy new hose pipes, and uniforms for the firemen. (The alarm bell from the fire station was subsequently placed on a trestle atop the roof of the McFarlane-Neill building, and is readily seen in existing photographs. The bell remained in this roof corner location from approximately the mid-1920’s, until the late 1940’s, when it was relocated to the MacLaren Avenue fire station as part of an outdoor display, which continued until the 1990’s. That bell is now in a fire fighters’ museum in the York St. fire station.) [This information taken from “History of Saint Mary’s” by Mrs. Susan Squires, 1936 and augmented by local common knowledge.]

The McFarlane-Neill building (constructed in 1882) compared to construction dates of other Fredericton industrial buildings:

• John Palmer Co. Ltd, Argyle St. (1913)

• Palmer-McLellan Shoe Co. Ltd, Aberdeen St. (1912)

• Hartt Boot & Shoe Factory, York St. (1898/99)

• Marysville Cotton Mill, McGloin St. (began operations in 1885)