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OLAND, JOHN CULVERWELL, brewer, businessman, and politician; b. 17 Dec. 1849 in Trowbridge, England, son of John James Dunn Oland and Susannah Woodhouse Culverwell; m. first 13 Dec. 1876 Sarah Ann Ruggles (d. 27 Feb. 1915) in Weymouth, N.S., and they had six children; m. secondly 28 Sept. 1917 Emma Mary Ryan, widow of Thomas W. Casey, in Halifax; they had no children; d. 20 July 1937 in Saint John.

The Oland family emigrated to Nova Scotia in the mid 1860s. John J. D. Oland, the son of a solicitor, had failed to make his way in the world, despite marrying above his station into minor gentry. Seemingly a jack of all trades and master of none, he had most recently attempted to become a gentleman farmer when, in 1862, he left England for Truro, N.S. He worked there for the Nova Scotia Railway and then obtained a post in the Crown Lands office in Halifax. Finally, in 1867, with the financial assistance of other partners, he founded a brewery in Dartmouth as John Oland and Company.

Two years earlier he had returned to England to bring out his wife and their seven surviving children, among whom was John Culverwell. Nearly 18 years of age when the brewery was set up, John Jr had his career path determined by the partnership agreement, which stipulated that the three Oland sons then old enough to work would find employment in the business. After his father died in 1870, John assumed management of the operation. Three years later a new partnership, Fraser, Oland, and Company, was established, made up of George Fraser, former manager of Alexander Keith*’s brewery, John Oland, his younger brother Conrad George, and William Lowe, a grocer. In recognition of the large military presence in Halifax, the firm promoted itself as the Army and Navy Brewery. In 1877, after John’s widowed mother, Susannah, had reportedly received an inheritance from relatives in England, she purchased Fraser’s share, and the name of the business was changed to S. Oland, Sons, and Company. By this time it had an office and vaults in Halifax as well as its manufacturing works in Dartmouth. A fire levelled the brewery, as well as John’s house, on 6 Aug. 1878, but a new brick building was soon erected, and the business fully recovered within a year and a half.

As early as 1879 John C. Oland also tried his hand at municipal politics, serving as an alderman in Dartmouth. Between 1892 and 1894 he would be mayor of the town. He was the only member of the family to undertake any form of public service until his great-nephew, Victor de Bedia Oland, became lieutenant governor of Nova Scotia in 1968. A freemason, member of the St George’s Society, and captain of No.4 Battery of the 1st Halifax Garrison Artillery Brigade, John Oland was also active in Christ Church (Anglican) in Dartmouth as a vestryman and churchwarden. His commercial interests were not confined to brewing. In 1891 he was among the promoters and directors of the McDougall Distilling Company Limited.

He was generally more concerned with manufacturing and technological innovation than the marketing and entrepreneurial side of the brewing industry. In 1893 he and his youngest brother, George Woodhouse Culverwell, together with merchant John H. Bauld, George’s father-in-law, incorporated the Oland family business by legislative charter as the Maritime Brewing and Malting Company Limited; John became president and George vice-president and managing director. Two years later an English syndicate, Halifax Breweries Limited, consolidated four breweries in Halifax and one in Charlottetown. The Olands sold out to the new concern, taking shares in consideration, and John was appointed its manager. He held this post until 1901, when, barred from entering into direct competition with his employer, he left to work as a commission merchant specializing in brewing ingredients, supplies, and equipment. He then moved to Sydney. There he established a brewery that ultimately failed because he was unable to obtain a manufacturing licence from the federal government. In 1906–7 he was in Port of Spain (Republic of Trinidad and Tobago) managing a brewery. He spent the next few years in Ontario overseeing operations for the Port Hope Brewing and Malting Company.

In February 1915 Oland’s wife died of cancer in Peterborough, and he returned to Nova Scotia, finding employment as manager and master brewer at the plant in north-end Halifax that his brother George had purchased in 1909. He remarried in September 1917; his bride, Emma Casey, was a wealthy Irish Roman Catholic widow. In December that year his brother Conrad, a master brewer working for the English syndicate at the former family plant, was killed in the Halifax explosion, he himself was severely injured, and the Oland works were destroyed. After George purchased the Red Ball Brewery in New Brunswick to replace the one lost in the explosion, John moved to Saint John in 1918 to serve as master brewer. He retired in 1931 but remained in the city, living on a monthly pension.

John C. Oland had always been the technician in the family. It fell to his entrepreneurial brother George to run the business, which he did with spectacular success. Surviving his younger sibling by four years, John lived long enough to see the Oland family and business split into two feuding branches, based in Saint John and Halifax, but he played no part in the genesis of the dispute or in its outcome.

Barry Cahill

John Culverwell Oland left no will or estate-settlement file. The few personal papers that survive are in the possession of Jennifer Paterson of Chester, N.S., great-granddaughter of George Woodhouse Culverwell Oland and the Oland family’s unofficial historian and archivist. Records of the family business during J. C. Oland’s time are held by DUA in the Oland and Son and Affiliated Companies fonds (MS-4-135).

Acadian Recorder (Halifax), 7 Aug. 1878. Dartmouth Patriot (Dartmouth, N.S.), 1901–37. Evening Times-Globe (Saint John), 1918–37. Morning Chronicle (Halifax), 7 Feb. 1877. M. J. Bellamy, “The Canadian brewing industry’s response to Prohibition, 1874–1920,” Brewery Hist. (Longfield, Eng.), 132 (2009): 2–17. Can., Royal commission on the liquor traffic in Can., Minutes of evidence (6v., Ottawa, 1893–95), 1–5. Jan Forster, “The Maritime Olands,” Chatelaine (Toronto), 47 (1974), no.5: 40–41, 52–54, 56, 58; no.6: 30–31, 48–50, 52–53; no.7: 28–29, 48–51. G. B. Haliburton, What’s brewing: Oland, 1867–1971, a history (Tantallon, N.S., 1994). Craig Heron, Booze: a distilled history (Toronto, 2003). K. L. Johnston, “The Halifax drink trade, 1870–1895” (ba thesis, Dalhousie Univ., Halifax, 1977). Harvey Sawler, Last Canadian beer: the Moosehead story (Halifax, 2008). A. W. Sneath, Brewed in Canada: the untold story of Canada’s 350-year-old brewing industry (Toronto, 2001).

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Cite This Article

Barry Cahill, “OLAND, JOHN CULVERWELL,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 16, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed June 16, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/oland_john_culverwell_16E.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:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/oland_john_culverwell_16E.html
Author of Article:   Barry Cahill
Title of Article:   OLAND, JOHN CULVERWELL
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 16
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   2017
Year of revision:   2017
Access Date:   June 16, 2024