KING, JAMES, businessman and politician; b. 18 Feb. 1848 in Saint-Antoine-de-Tilly, Lower Canada, son of Charles King and Sarah Murray; drowned 21 June 1900 in Lac Matapédia, near Saint-Pierre-du-Lac, also known as Cedar Hall (Val-Brillant), Que., and was buried 23 June at Sainte-Anastasie-de-Nelson (Lyster), Que.
James King’s father, an Englishman by birth, settled in Saint-Antoine-de-Tilly in the 1830s and carried on a lumber business in Lotbinière. The planks produced by his sawmill were sold at Quebec. He also worked with Hans Denaston Breakey and Breakey’s son John on a development along the Rivière Chaudière (commonly called the Rivière Bruyante) in Saint-Augustin concession (Sainte-Hélène-de-Breakeyville), building a sawmill that served the Chaudière basin in the early 1850s.
Since colonization and lumbering were moving ahead rapidly in the outlying townships, Charles King shifted his operations up the Rivière Bécancour to Mégantic County. He signed numerous contracts to supply producers and acquired timber licences and tracts of land, mainly in the townships of Nelson, Inverness, Ireland, and Thetford. Having set up a sawmill near Sainte-Anastasie-de-Nelson and the Grand Trunk railway station, which had been built in 1852, he settled permanently in the area around 1861. The following year he bought lots and a sawmill at Saint-Pacôme on the Rivière Ouelle, and began lumbering on a large scale in that region.
In the early 1870s Charles King’s sons began officially to take over his functions. John had already been given responsibility for his father’s interests in the operation at the Rivière Chaudière, which Henry later assumed. James, the youngest, after studying at Bishop’s College in Lennoxville, where he received a ba in 1867 (and an ma in 1873), also joined the family business. In 1870, along with his brothers John, Edmund Alexander, Frederic, and Charles Jr, he founded King Brothers to manage their father’s lumber business. The deaths of John and then Frederic altered the firm in 1875 so that it now included only Edmund, resident in Saint-Pacôme, Charles at Sainte-Anastasie-de-Nelson, and James in Lévis. Henry also died around the same time, and James began looking after the interests of Henry’s young children. Then, in 1876, Charles Sr died. King Brothers took possession of his properties and, increasingly under James’s control, continued to expand. In 1871 the company had bought the Deschaillons seigneury from the Saint-Ours family for $37,266; the Rivière du Chêne ran through this property which comprised, among other things, nearly 90,000 arpents of ungranted land. The firm acquired the seigneury of Lac-Matapédia, some 40,000 acres, for $35,000 in 1881 and operated a mill there. It also owned timber limits and a sawmill at Grand-Pabos in the Gaspé region.
King Brothers went into mining in the late 1870s, following the discovery in 1876 and 1877 of asbestos deposits in Thetford Township, where the elder King had bought 5,000 acres in the fifth and sixth ranges for $2,500 from Thomas Allen Stayner* of Toronto in 1860, and a substantial part of the fourth range in a bankruptcy sale from David Burnett in 1866. Asbestos was found on the King properties (especially lot 26 in the fifth range), which were adjacent to the lots where the mineral had been discovered and were thus ideally situated for the coming development. In 1878 James also obtained from the crown for $274 (a dollar an acre) full title to lot 26 in the sixth range, where the King mine was opened that year. As well, King Brothers benefited from the creation of the mining village of Kingsville (renamed Thetford Mines in 1905), which was largely built on its land, subdivided into lots. However, in 1890 Honoré Mercier’s government had a mining law passed with a clause entitling the crown to repossess sub-soil rights to mining properties sold before a mining law of 1880. James King opposed this clause and joined the asbestos mine owners in the battle against it. Not only was he a leader in the Quebec Mining Association, which was formed that year, but he also won a seat in the Legislative Assembly as Conservative member for Mégantic on 8 March 1892, mainly in order to fight this measure. Having achieved his objective, he did not seek re-election in 1897.
Although King Brothers’ activities in the mining sector were of some importance, especially during the 1890s, they still were secondary to lumbering. The complex arrangements settling the estate of James’s brothers and father give some idea of the scope of the whole enterprise. Valued at $50,000 in 1877, the real estate in total was worth $300,000 twenty years later, at the incorporation of King Brothers Limited, which had activities and property extending over most of the province and credit that remained strong. To this total must be added the movable property. These estimates appear, nevertheless, to be lower than the real value – witness the $187,500 paid for the seigneury of Lac-Matapédia when it was sold in 1902. At his death in June 1900, James King, a bachelor, left a sizeable fortune to his brothers, sisters, nephews, and nieces, and a natural daughter; to his managers and advisers; and finally to Bishop’s College and the Church of England. King Brothers continued in business for a few more years and then divested itself of its main lumber and mining assets.
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