From: "Representative Canadians -
A Cyclopedia of Canadian Biography being chiefly men of the Time"
Ed. Geo MacLean Rose, Rose Publishing Company, Toronto, 1888
(photos - collection: Patty Brown)

WILSON, J. C.,  M.P. for Argenteuil, Manufacturer, Montreal, was born on the 19th of July 1841, near Rasharkin, county of Antrim, Ireland, and came to Montreal with his parents in September, 1842, and near this city the family settled.  His father, Samuel Wilson belonged to a numerous family of farmers and artisans in Antim county; and his mother, Elizabeth Crockett, was decended from similar stock.  Her forefathers were of roving disposition, and their descendants are scattered all over the British colonies. 

Both Mr. Wilson's parents were religious people, and held a prominant position in the church. His mother died at an early age from the excessive hardships she had to endure in the vicinity of Montreal, as a pioneer settler.  His father, as a youth, received no training as an artisan, yet having a natural talent for using tools, he adopted the trade of carpenter, and in a very few years thereafter became an expert mechanic. He designed and made the first railway snow-plough used in Canada, and from his model the plough now used is still made. He entered the employ of the Grand Trunk Railway Company, and up to the time of his death was engaged by that company in building their cars. He was a very industrious man, and in the evenings, after leaving his usual work, frequently spent hours in his own workshop in his house at his lathe and bench, making furniture for himself and his neighbours.

James, the subject of this sketch, was educated by an old-fashioned schoolmaster in the rudiments of learning, and had to work for a living at a very early age.  He was apprenticed to mechanical engineering in 1853, and until 1856, he worked at his trade, when, having met with an accident that injured his right arm, he had to give up the trade of mechanical engineer.  Mr. Wilson now shows with pride some fine machinist's tools he made when he was an apprentice. On recovering from his injuries, a kind friend observing the talents and perserverance of the lad, sent him to the Model School, and from there to the McGill Normal School in Montreal, and in July, 1859, he graduated as a teacher. 

In 1859, he removed to Beauharnois, and taught the disentient school in that town until 1862, when he moved west to Belleville, where he clerked until December of that year, when he moved to Toronto, and accepted the position of clerk in the office of a wholesale news company. In 1863 he went to New York, and from November of that year until January, 1867, he had the management of the publishing house of T.W. Strong, of that city, and through his perserverance and industry gained the highest rung of the ladder of fortune in Mr. Strong's establishment.  While Mr. Wilson resided in New York he was a great favorite among the Canadians visiting there, and helped many of them when they were in need.

A deep-seated love for Canada, and a special inducement brought him again back to Montreal in January 1867, and he at once assumed the position of cashier and bookkeeper in the office of Angus, Logan & Co., paper manufacturers (now the Canada Paper Co.). He remained with this firm until September 1870, when he went into business on his own account.  He began the manufacture of paper bags by machinery, and was the first in Canada to supply the grocers all over the Dominion with this very useful article.  This proving, by energy and ability, a prosperous business, in 1880 he built a large paper mill at Lachute, province of Quebec, and in 1885 had to double it's power so as to be able to make six tons of paper per day. 

In 1880 Mr. Wilson was elected an alderman for the city of Montreal, and was again returned by acclamation in 1883. For six years, he represented St. Lawrence ward in the city council, and for four years was chairman of the light committee.  He was president of the Fish and Game Protection Club of the province of Quebec for two years; president of the Irish Protestant Benevolant Society for two years; and has occupied the principal chairs in several other societies in Montreal. Mr. Wilson is a life governor and vice-president of the Montreal Dispensary; a governor of the Protestant Insane Asylums of the province of Quebec; one of the board of Protestant School Commissionsers of Montreal; principal and head of the firm of J.C. Wilson & Co., paper and paper bag makers, Montreal; and at the general elections held February 22, 1887, was elected to represent the county of Argenteuil, province of Quebec, in the House of Commons at Ottawa. 

Mr. Wilson is an ardent fisherman, fond of lakes and brooks, and never hesitates to drive thirty or forty miles over a rough road to enjoy a few hours' trout-fishing, and thoroughly enjoys camp life. In business he is active, pushing, hard working, and far-seeing in his plans, and never puts off until to-morrow what can be done to-day.  With his employees he is a favorite, and is looked upon by them as most generous and kind.  Mr. Wilson has adopted as his motto " It pays to think."  In politics he is a Liberal-Conservative, and in religion an adherent of the Presbyterian form of worship. 

On the 6th of November, 1865, he married Jeanie Kilgour, third daughter of the late William Kilgour, of Beauharnois, province of Quebec, and has a family of five children --- three sons and two daughters.

From: "Paper in the Making - 
The First Century of Paper Making in Canada"
By George Carruthers, 1947

The Wilsons of Lachute

J. C. Wilson  founder of the well-known paper company that bears his name, was an Irishman born in 1841 near Rasharkin in County Antrim. When still a child, his family brought him overseas to Montreal, and at the age of twelve apprenticed him to a machinist. He was prevented, however from completing his full term, by a severe accident, and after spending a year or two at the McGill Normal School, and graduating in 1859 with a diploma for teaching, he set out to earn his own living by divers ways, and means.

First he was employed in a furniture factory at Beauharnois; then for three years as a school teacher in the same village; next in a book store at Belleville; then by a publishing firm at Toronto, and finally, in 1863, by another in New York. In 1865; he married Miss Jeanie Kilgour of Beauharnois, and in 1867 they returned to Montreal to live.

His first job in Montreal was cashier and bookkeeper for Angus, Logan & Co.; but in 1870, backed by his former employers, be went into business by himself as a manufacturer of paper bags. Incidentally, his factory on Craig St. was the first in Canada to make them by machine, although machine-made paper bags had. been manufactured in the States since 1851. The business expanded steadily, and in 1879 Mr. Wilson saw that it would be advantageous to make his own paper.

With this end in view, he inspected several water-power sites in the vicinity of Montreal, amongst them the foot of the Long Sault at Point Fortune. But as the Quebec, Montreal, Ottawa Occidental Railway had just been completed from Montreal to Ottawa, and parties in the parish were desirous of establishing manufacturing industries there, Mr.Wilson was led to Lachute. Lachute was then a village of about 650 inhabitants, and the site on which the paper mill stands today was a forest of pines, oaks, and maples. At a meeting convened in the old Court House where the Council sat, Mr. Wilson exhibited his plans, and petitioned the parish for exemption from taxation for twenty years, providing he built the mills as designed.

The council complied with his request, and in June, 1880, work on the first building was begun. The corner stone was laid- on September 7th - in the presence of Alderman Wilson (as he was then), Hon. J.J.C. Abbott (who later became Prime Minister of Canada), and Thomas White, M.P., of the Montreal Gazette - and in November the building was complete. During the fall and winter the machinery was installed, the paper machine being a Rice, Barton & Fales 72-inch double-cylinder, and in April, 1881, the first sheet of paper was made.

It was Mr. Wilson's aim to manufacture a class of manilla papers such as were then being made in the United States. A mill superintendent was obtained from below the border, but for the first two years the product was not a success. In 1883 he engaged a second expert from the States, who found that the secret of the trouble lay in the kind of lime used for boiling the jute stock. Lime from Montreal, from Hull, and from Lachute was tried, but not until the first carload of lime from Dudswell, beyond Sherbrooke, was used, did Mr. Wilson obtain the quality of manilla he wanted.

It proved so satisfactory, that by 1885, another paper machine was needed to take care of the orders. The new machine room was commemced in May of that year and completed in the fall. A 72-inch Harper fourdrinier was installed and made it's first paper on January 7, 1886. Even this addition, however, soon proved insufficient to cope with the demands of his bag factory and his customers, and in 1891 he began construction of tail races for his third mill. In 1893 this third unit was finished, and on May 21, 1894, paper was run over the new machine, an 84-inch fourdrinier, also made by Rice, Barton & Fales. Thus the capacity of the Lachute Mills was brought up to fifteen tons a day.

The year before, Mr. Wilson had bought a groundwood pulp mill at St. Jerome, which had been built previous to 1890 by a firm known as Delisle et Cie, and which is still in operation. Despite the demands made on him by his business, he seems to have had the time and energy to devote to numerous outside interests. In 1887 he was elected Conservative Member of Parliament for Argenteuil, retaining the seat until 1891, when he declined re-nomination. For a number of years he was an Alderman of Montreal, and was also deeply interested in the Protestant charities and other organizations of that city, being president of the Irish Protestant Benevolent Society for two years, a member of the Protestant Board of School Commissioners, and a Life Governor of the Montreal General Hospital, of the Protestant Insane Asylum, of the Maternity Hospital, and of the Montreal Dispensary. As an ardent disciple of Izaak Walton, he helped organize the Fish & Game Protection Society of the Province of Quebec, and later became its president.

Mr. Wilson had three sons, and one after another they entered their father's business. In 1896, William W. C. Wilson, the eldest, had charge of the pulp mill, F. Howard Wilson was in the head office, and Edwin H. Wilson, the youngest, was working in the paper mill with a view to taking charge of them at some future date.

And so when in 1899 Mr. Wilson died, at the age of 58, the sons were able to carry on the concern he had founded. The following year they built the fourth mill, installing a 90-inch double-cylinder machine, which was soon converted into a Harper fourdrinier. About the same time, the pulp mill at St. Jerome was burned down; but it was soon replaced by a new plant, equipped with two Pusey & Jones three-pocket grinders and two 73-inch wet machines.

In 1902 the company, which up to that time had been a partnership, was incorporated as J. C. Wilson, Ltd., Mr. F. Howard Wilson being elected president. The mills were now making 30 tons of paper daily, the varieties heing hag-, flour-sack manilla, news, tag, tissue manilla, and wrapping.

After 1905

In 1907 Mr. William Wilson retired.  Mr. F. Howard Wilson carried on as president until 1927 but retained the title until shortly before his death in 1929, when he relinquished it to his younger brother, Mr. Edwin H. Wilson.

Today, three of the above-mentioned machines are still running. The 72-inch Harper fourdrinier has been discarded, but the two cylinder machines have both been converted into Harpers, and the 84-inch straight fourdrinier is unchanged. These three now have a greater capacity than the four original machines, turning out forty tons a day. Members of the family still on the business are Mr. Edwin H. Wilson, president; his two sons, E. Kilgour Wilson and James C. Wilson, of whom the former works at the mills and the latter in head office as assistant-secretary; and F. Howard's son, F. Howard Wilson Junior, who is assistant sales manager.


The Wilson mills at Lachute are now turning out forty tons a day of wrapping and toilet paper and paper bags. Three of the machines are still in use, the cylinder machine installed in 1881 having been transformed into a Harper and discarded about 1922. Mr. Edwin H. Wilson is president of the company, having succeeded his brother on the latter's death in 1929.

See also:
His son W.W.C. Wilson, His son F.H. Wilson, His son E. H. Wilson, His son-in-law Percy McIntosh, His son-in-law Edgar Campbell Budge., his grandson F. Howard Wilson, his brother George Wilson, his brother-in-law R.A. Becket.

*Researching J.C. Wilson.....................Patty Brown (great-great granddaughter)

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