DUNN, TIMOTHY HIBBARD, businessman; b. 22 or 23 May 1816 in Maskinongé (Sainte-Ursule), Lower Canada, son of Charles Dunn and Mary Hibbard; m. 14 May 1845 Margaret Turner in William Henry (Sorel), Lower Canada, and they had nine children; d. 2 July 1898 in Sainte-Pétronille, Île d’Orléans, Que.
Timothy Hibbard Dunn was raised on the Dunn family property along the Rivière Maskinongé on the north shore of the St Lawrence River, west of Trois-Rivières, in the concession known as Crête-de-Coq. His grandparents Charles Dunn and Rebecca Logie had come from Vermont to the province of Quebec in 1778–79 as United Empire Loyalists. They established a farm on the Maskinongé, and at the Chutes de Sainte-Ursule on the same river they built what was reputedly the first flour-mill in the district, with an adjacent sawmill. The property was taken over in 1811 by their youngest son, Charles, who became a citizen of some importance in Sainte-Ursule and Maskinongé. He raised a family of 14 children, among whom, besides Timothy Hibbard, were Charles Edward, the eldest, and William Oscar, father of the writer and journalist Oscar Dunn*. In 1831 the family mill, which ranked second in importance in the Saint-Maurice region, employed 24 men during the summer months and generated an annual revenue of £200; in 1853, it had grown to include a blacksmith shop, a bakery, four houses, stables, a store, and other buildings, and was valued at £2,750.
In May 1841 Timothy Hibbard was hired as clerk with D. D. Calvin and Company, a new firm opened in Quebec that year by Dileno Dexter Calvin*, Hiram Cook, and John Counter*, who had been in business since 1836 forwarding square timber and staves to Quebec from Garden Island, near Kingston, Upper Canada. Charles Edward Dunn took a half interest in this new Quebec firm. Counter left the partnership late in 1843 and the business was carried on by Calvin, Cook and Company in Kingston and Dunn, Calvin and Company in Quebec. In January 1844 a third firm was set up, Hiram Cook and Company of Hamilton, to handle the partnership’s business among the timber producers of Upper Canada. On 2 Dec. 1844 Timothy Hibbard was admitted as a partner with Calvin, Cook, and his brother Charles Edward in the business of all three companies; each of the Dunns had a one-sixth interest and Calvin and Cook each held a one-third interest. In early 1846 Charles Edward pulled out of the business and his share was divided between Calvin and Cook.
During the 1840s the Quebec firm handled primarily the commercial aspects of the partnership business. The company based at Garden Island concentrated on the forwarding of timber from the Great Lakes to Quebec, while also operating a shipyard. From 1844 the Hamilton firm handled the financing and management of the manufacturers of square timber and staves with whom the group of companies did business. Little of the timber handled by the firms was of their own manufacture; as merchants, however, they would often purchase the wood or deal with the manufacturer on joint account. The Quebec group provided the essential services of a commercial agency. They would arrange sales contracts for their own timber and that of their commission clients, draw advances upon the timber forwarded to Great Britain, handle the discounting of promissory notes, arrange the employment of skilled axemen for the shanties, sort, cull, measure, and load the timber arriving from Garden Island in the port of Quebec, and keep their partners and clients informed of the state of the trade in Quebec and in the British market. All three firms were involved in advancing funds to manufacturers for production. The square timber or staves were generally signed over as security; interest and commission on sales, discounting fees for any promissory notes, and fees for forwarding the timber to Quebec were charged against the account. Furthermore, the advances were often secured by a mortgage on the manufacturer’s farm, mill, or other property. Although timber was the principal commodity handled by the Quebec firm, accounts in pork, peas, salt, and cheese were occasionally opened. In 1849 there was even a small account opened, including advances and commission on sales, for a shipment of iron from Quebec to Cleveland, Ohio.
Most of the business was conducted through contracts that reflect the integration of the services offered by each of the three firms involved in the Dunn, Calvin, and Cook partnership. Advances and commercial services were handled by the Hamilton and Quebec companies, and the timber was committed to the Garden Island firm to be forwarded to market in Quebec. This relationship provided considerable leverage in dealings with producers, leverage that was put to good use. The integration served, at least temporarily, to control the supply of timber in a trade recognized for its “boom and bust” cycles. For example, following the disastrous 1847 season, Dunn, Calvin and Company was instrumental in the formation of a cartel among oak producers to “ensure such amount of Timber as the trade may require (at Moderate & remunerating prices) and no more.”
During the 1840s Timothy Hibbard Dunn had acquired an intimate knowledge of all aspects of the timber trade. In the early years he often spent time with clients along the St Lawrence, with Calvin at Garden Island, with Hiram Cook and Company in Hamilton, and more than once he spent the winter season overseeing the activity in the shanties, verifying the quality and quantity of the production and the accounts of the manufacturers to whom he and his partners had advanced funds. After his brother’s retirement from the business in 1846 he settled in Quebec as head of Dunn, Calvin and Company. Within the English-speaking business community there, he became a prominent figure, participating in public debate emanating from widespread concern over Quebec’s future as a commercial centre during a particularly trying decade. The inadequacies of the transportation network serving the city in the age of rail and steam were particularly menacing. In 1845 Dunn was among the commercial figures pressing for improved ferry service between Pointe-Lévy (Lauzon and Lévis) and Quebec, and later that year he joined over 100 other businessmen to call, in the Quebec Mercury, for a public meeting “to take into consideration the necessary measures to forward the proposed Rail-Road between Halifax and Quebec.” Such a line would provide year-round access to Atlantic shipping. In an effort to improve local financial services, he was one of the subscribers behind the incorporation of the District Bank of Quebec in 1847, although this bank never opened for business. Elected to the council of the Quebec Board of Trade in 1850, Dunn continued to press for the completion of a rail line to Halifax.
Domestic problems in transportation, however, were not the only clouds threatening the commercial future of the port of Quebec. With reductions in the protective tariff on timber in 1842 and the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846, Great Britain began to dismantle its mercantilist system of preferential treatment for the colonies, and turned resolutely towards free trade. In Canada this change in policy gave rise to a movement calling for annexation to the United States, and led to the Annexation Manifesto, issued in Montreal [see David Kinnear*] and signed by business and political leaders including Alexander Tilloch Galt, Luther Hamilton Holton*, and John Rose*. This sentiment was echoed in Quebec and Dunn was among those who, in October 1849, called a meeting of “persons, who are in favour of a peaceable separation of Canada from Britain with a view to annexation to the United States.” The timber trade was dependent on the imperial connection with Britain, however, and most of the key figures in it, including Peter Patterson*, James Bell Forsyth*, Charles Sharples, and George Burns Symes*, signed a counter petition. The meeting was not a success according to the report in the Quebec Morning Chronicle.
As the decade closed several factors were moving the partnership between Dunn, Calvin, and Cook towards dissolution. The division of responsibilities between the partners and the three respective firms became almost exclusive. Dunn handled all of the Quebec business, Hiram Cook ran the Hamilton firm and was moving into production on his own account, and Calvin concentrated on the business out of Garden Island. Furthermore, the late 1840s were difficult years for the timber trade in general, and losses due to failures among the firm’s Quebec clients cost the partners dearly. On 1 June 1850 the partnership between Dunn, Calvin, and Cook was dissolved, and Dunn announced in the Chronicle the opening of his own firm, in association with Willis A. Benson, under the name of Dunn and Company. Short-lived, this partnership was dissolved in December 1851, and Dunn continued alone until 1 Jan. 1853 when he brought in his brother Charles Edward.
At the end of 1857, Timothy Hibbard alone took over the business under the name T. H. Dunn and Company. In December 1859 he made his clerk William Home a partner and the name of the firm was changed to Dunn and Home. This association proved to be a lengthy one, lasting until 1872. It was focused principally on the large commission business Dunn had built up in the timber trade but also extended into other activities. In 1860 the correspondent for R. G. Dun and Company, the New York-based agency which gathered and distributed mercantile credit information, spoke favourably of Dunn and Home: “Timothy Hibbard Dunn [is] well known in our commercial community as a man of character and some means. ‘Home’ is a young man and enjoys a good [character]. This firm is likely to do well.” In 1861 and 1862 it was reported that their capital was moderate but that they did a “legitimate business” as brokers. Such observations at times went beyond the obvious concerns of capital and credit, and in reference to the partners’ character and experience it was noted that their ability was “good,” and that they were on the whole “attentive.” A cryptic reference to their temperate personal lives may be read into the remark that their habits were “steady.” By 1863 the business was considered “large” and the informant added that the two men were “called well off – credit good for their business wants.”
Dunn brought his two sons, Logie Henry and Stuart Hunter, into the business, and at the reorganization in 1872 the firm was taken over by them, although he continued “to aid and assist them.” He remained involved in the timber business in this informal capacity until his death in 1898.
Dunn and his different partners operated principally as commission merchants, making advances to timber manufacturers in the west, and specialized in hardwoods, above all oak and elm, which dominated the firms’ accounts by the 1870s . Serving clients in Quebec, Ontario, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, and in later years as far distant as Arkansas, Kentucky, and West Virginia, the Dunn company was the principal supplier of oak in the Quebec market and came to control well over half of the oak trade in the port. Furthermore, as the trade in square timber, and oak in particular, began to decline during the last two decades of the 19th century, Dunn and his firm acted as commission agents for timber and sawn lumber being shipped from different ports in the southern United States by lumbermen from Canada. The firm also operated occasionally on its own account, at other times on joint account with timber manufacturers or Quebec merchants. For Dunn the best business was that which saw his or his commission client’s timber sold on contract to a Quebec timber shipper before the axemen were sent into the woods. Prices were set, delivery dates for the following shipping season agreed upon, total quantity estimated, quality and average size of the timber stipulated, and advances scheduled before the first tree was felled. Because of the costs, the unavoidable delays in final sales – sometimes of several years – and the risks, the firm assumed the forwarding of cargoes on consignment to the British markets in Glasgow, Liverpool, or London only as a last resort in the case of unsold timber arriving in a poor Quebec market. From the 1850s through the 1880s, Dunn carried on business that often exceeded $250,000 in sales annually. At the peak of the Quebec trade in oak timber in the late 1870s, the firm’s annual accounts exceeded $350,000 and the capital in the business amounted to about $175,000.
Dunn had business interests that extended beyond the timber trade, both personally and in association with his partners or other capitalists. From the 1850s he had demonstrated a keen interest in railway promotion as a council member of the Quebec Board of Trade, which in 1852 expressed its support for the “Halifax Railroad . . . in connection with our Canals.” Not incidentally such a route would carry the western trade through Quebec. The year before, Dunn had attended an international railway convention in Boston as delegate from the council. When the construction of the Intercolonial Railway was included as part of the confederation agreement in 1867, Dunn and his partner William Home were among the Quebec businessmen who became interested. They associated themselves, acting as financial backers and guarantors, with François-Xavier Berlinguet* and Jean-Baptiste Bertrand for the construction of four sections (nos.3, 6, 9, and 15) between the Rivière Restigouche and the Miramichi River, reputedly one of the most difficult lengths along the line from Fraserville (Rivière-du-Loup), Que., to Truro, N.S. By the terms of the contracts dated 25 May 1870, Dunn and Home signed bonds for double the contract price on sections 3 and 6, which were to be built for $924,888 and $913,892 respectively by 1 July 1871.
The venture quickly began to sour. Costs soon outstripped payments, because the low prices attached to the partners’ successful bids, which had been made on incomplete engineering reports, were not open to revision under the fixed-price contract system adopted by the Board of Railway Commissioners and the federal government against the recommendation of the chief engineer, Sandford Fleming*. Moreover, persistent difficulties with district engineer Marcus Smith delayed work. Writing to Hector-Louis Langevin*, commissioner of public works, in February 1871, Dunn attributed Smith’s attitude to his previous association with unsuccessful British tenders on these same sections and his antipathy for the French Canadian partners. Langevin having reassured them, Dunn and the other financial backers he had called upon for assistance, Thomas Glover, John S. Fry, and John Ross, continued the work. The contracts were eventually modified, and the deadline for completion relaxed. Nevertheless, the sections were still unfinished in May 1873 when workers struck over wages three months in arrears. The commissioners took back the contracts and completed the undertaking – at an additional cost of $244,472, according to commissioner Charles John Brydges*. Dunn and his partners claimed $523,000 in fees for work, labour, materials, and interest from the federal government, and launched in 1875 an unsuccessful suit for this sum against the crown. In 1878 Dunn extricated himself from the unfortunate business, transferring his claim to John Ross and John Theodore Ross*, who appealed the suit to the Supreme Court of Canada, only to lose in 1896.
An important area of business for Dunn, one which he first began to develop in the 1850s, was investment in mortgages, real estate, and bank stocks. From the 1850s through the 1890s he built a portfolio that exceeded $200,000 in mortgages alone; mortgages on timber coves in Quebec, residential properties in Toronto, farms as far afield as Colorado, educational institutions, and property of all sorts figured in his accounts. Among his later investments there was an 1895 mortgage taken on the Roman Catholic cemetery in Denver, Colo, through Dunn’s local agent. From 1869 Dunn began accumulating property on the southern end of Île d’Orléans, opposite Quebec, and, with his son Logie Henry and associates Home and François Gourdeau, assembled much of what became the parish of Sainte-Pétronille. Dunn built the family estate, Homestead, erected an Anglican chapel, and set up a small golf-course on this property.
Notable among the mortgage ventures of his later years was Dunn’s business in Winnipeg. From 1881 large sums were advanced on mortgages to Andrew Graham Ballenden Bannatyne*, prominent in the Winnipeg business community. In association with Evan John Price, he lent $100,000 on urban property in Winnipeg and land in St Boniface to the lieutenant governor of Manitoba, Joseph-Édouard Cauchon*, in 1882, and an additional $23,000 the following year. Dunn also advanced at least another $50,000 on his own account on other property in downtown Winnipeg, including the Grand Union Hotel. The land boom that had fuelled these investments came to an end in the 1880s, and Dunn and Price foreclosed on most of the mortgages they held in Winnipeg, including the Cauchon properties, as a result.
Some of Dunn’s mortgage investments had gone into industrial properties, such as the sums advanced to a shoe manufacturer at Quebec and to an owner of a small vinegar factory. Guaranteed, however, by fixed property, these investments involved little risk. Dunn’s share in the extensive industrial property around the Chute Montmorency involved him more closely with industrial activity. The site, purchased in 1890 with Andrew Thomson*, Peter Patterson Hall, and Herbert Molesworth Price, had on it the Hall-Price Mills and it provided leased access to the hydraulic power of the falls to the Quebec and Levis Electric Light Company (renamed the Montmorency Electric Power Company in 1893), the Montmorency Cotton Mills Company, and the Riverside Manufacturing Company. Dunn’s investment in stocks included appreciable sums in all of these industrial enterprises, and his personal involvement extended to participation during the early 1890s as a director of the Montmorency Electric Power Company.
Dunn’s most impressive venture into industrial activity was as a director and a major shareholder in the Standard Drain Pipe Company of Saint-Jean (Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu), established in 1885. The largest manufacturer of drain-pipes in the province of Quebec, the company represented a capital investment of $200,000 by 1894, employed some 150 men, and annually produced about 700 railway-car loads of pipes worth more than $100,000. At a time when urban centres across Canada were developing their services, Standard Drain filled contracts for Montreal, Toronto, Quebec, Sherbrooke, New Glasgow, N.S., Saint John, N.B., Ottawa, and many other places. The competitive position of the company was certainly improved by a price-fixing arrangement between Standard Drain, its principal Canadian competitor the Hamilton and Toronto Sewer Pipe Company, and importers of pipes from Scotland. The only sectors of the Canadian market to escape the control exercised by this cartel were those municipalities in southern Ontario near the American border which could obtain lower prices from manufacturers in Ohio.
Timothy Hibbard Dunn died on 2 July 1898 on his Île d’Orléans estate following an illness of three weeks. He was mourned in the Quebec papers as a “greatly respected and esteemed” member of the community, and his passing was given front-page coverage. The Montreal Daily Star observed that “by the death . . . of Mr T. H. Dunn . . . Quebec loses one of her oldest and most prominent citizens, a self-made man of very large means, and one of the most patriotic of Quebeckers.” The timber business he had pioneered was continued by his son Stuart Hunter Dunn into the second decade of the 20th century, and his personal fortune, estimated at over one million dollars, guaranteed a comfortable future for the Dunn family. Fundamentally conservative in his investment strategy, Dunn had protected his growing fortune from business difficulties by making most of his mortgage and stock purchases out of a trust fund created for his children. Bank stock, real estate, and loans on mortgage represented safe investments for this capital. He did, nevertheless, invest in some of the industrial development attempted in Quebec during the last decades of the timber trade. Without necessarily taking an active role in the creation and direction of these ventures, he was clearly willing to invest in such enterprises as the Drum Cabinet Manufacturing Company, Canada Worsted Company, Montmorency Cotton Mills Company, the Riverside Manufacturing Company, and the Quickcure Company, all projects promoted by local capitalists to develop the industrial potential of Quebec City during the difficult closing decades of the 19th century.
ANQ-E, CN2-15, 17 sept. 1853. ANQ-M, CE3-17, 14 mai 1845. ANQ-Q, CN1-49, 1840 (no.71), 11 mai 1847, 21 févr. 1848; CN1-116, 21 nov. 1843, 16 déc. 1845, 22 janv. 1846; Fichier protestant; P-134, 11 févr. 1871; P-219/4. Arch. de l’univ. Laval (Québec), 220/1–13 (fonds Dunn). Baker Library, R. G. Dun & Co. credit ledger, Quebec, Canada East, 45, 22 May 1860. Mount Hermon Cemetery (Sillery, Que.), Reg. of interments. NA, RG 30, 12471: 368. Private arch., Dunn family (Sainte-Pétronille, Que.), Genealogy. QUA, 2248a–b. Can., Prov. of, Statutes, 1847, c.113. Canada Gazette, 27 Jan. 1844. Charles Robb, Lumbering on the River du Loup; notes of a trip to Hunterstown, St. Maurice territory, Canada East (Montreal, 1862). Morning Chronicle (Quebec), 27, 29 Oct. 1849; 1 June 1850; 31 Dec. 1857; 23 Dec. 1859. Quebec Gazette, 12 Jan. 1844. Quebec Mercury, 8 May, 2 Aug., 21 Oct. 1845; 2 July 1898. Cyclopædia of Canadian biog. (Rose and Charlesworth), 2: 542–43. Mariages de St-Joseph (1875–1965), Notre-Dame (1911–1965), Ste-Anne (1876–1965) et Christ Church (1784–1965) de Sorel, Antonio Mongeau et J.-M. Laliberté, compil. (Québec, 1967). Répertoire, baptêmes-mariages-sépultures, Trois-Rivières protestant, 1767–1875, Lucie Beauvillier et Carmen Grondin, compil. (s.l., 1979). M. C. Boyd, The story of Garden Island, ed. M. A. Boyd (Kingston, Ont., 1973). J. C. Dent, The last forty years: the union of 1841 to confederation, ed. D. [W.] Swainson (Toronto, 1972), 213. John Keyes, “The Dunn family: two generations of timber merchants at Quebec, 1850–1914” (paper presented to the Canadian Business Hist. Conference, Peterborough, Ont., 1984); “The Dunn family business, 1850–1914: the trade in square timber at Quebec” (phd thesis, Univ. Laval, 1987); “The trade in timber from Quebec, 1850–1914” (paper presented to the Forest Hist. Soc. Symposium, Vancouver, 1986). B. [J.] Young and J. A. Dickinson, A short history of Quebec: a socio-economic perspective (Toronto, 1988), 116. Catherine Breslin, “The other Trudeaus,” Chatelaine (Toronto), 42 (1969), no.9: 32–33, 108–11, 113. Charles Drisard, “Les Dunn,” L’Écho de Saint-Justin (Saint-Justin, Qué.), 1er juin 1924: 1, 12. “How many banks have been established in Canada . . . ,” and “Counting Canada’s banks,” comp. S. Sarpkaya, Canadian Banker & IBC Rev. (Toronto), 85 (1978), no.5: 29–32 and no.6: 32–37. John Keyes, “La diversification de l’activité économique de Timothy Hibbard Dunn, commerçant de bois à Quebec, 1850–1898,” RHAF, 35 (1981–82): 323–36.
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Cite This Article
John Keyes, “DUNN, TIMOTHY HIBBARD,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 12, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed June 2, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/dunn_timothy_hibbard_12E.html.
The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:
|Author of Article:||John Keyes|
|Title of Article:||DUNN, TIMOTHY HIBBARD|
|Publication Name:||Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 12|
|Publisher:||University of Toronto/Université Laval|
|Year of publication:||1990|
|Year of revision:||1990|
|Access Date:||June 2, 2023|