PRICE, EVAN JOHN, businessman and politician; b. 8 May 1840 at Quebec, fourth son of William Price* and Jane Stewart; d. there unmarried 31 Aug. 1899.
At the time Evan John Price was born, his family were living comfortably on their estate of Wolfesfield, on the very spot where James Wolfe* and his men had mustered for the battle of the Plains of Abraham on the morning of 13 Sept. 1759. William Price still had close family ties in England and sent his sons there to complete their education. In 1853, after a brief stay with Kenneth Dowie, a former partner of William Price and Peter McGill*, young Evan John was enrolled at a private school in Brighton, England. In November 1855 the headmaster, C. J. Langtry, commented on “the want of application and shabby habits of Johnny” and by Christmas the boy apparently had left the school. Still in England three years later, he mentioned in a letter to his sister Mary that he had no desire to become a student at Oxford. Having no knowledge of “Greek and verses,” he thought it better to make a career in farming or in business.
Yet Evan John does not seem to have shown an interest in the lumber trade as early as his eldest brother, David Edward, who in December 1844 at the age of 18 went to work for James Dowie and Nathaniel Gould, his father’s partners in London, and who returned to Canada in 1847 to take his place in his father’s firm. However, following a period of considerable development, especially after 1838 and particularly along the Rivière Saguenay [see William Price; Peter McLeod*; Alexis Tremblay*, dit Picoté], the company was facing serious financial problems. With great determination William overcame the difficulties and in 1855 founded the firm of William Price and Son. William Evan Price*, who was living at Chicoutimi in the heart of Price’s Saguenay empire, took over management of the company with his father. At about the same time David Edward was elected to the Legislative Assembly. Two other brothers, Henry Ferrier and Lewis Albert, went into business raising livestock with their uncle Richard Price in Chile. The third eldest brother, Richard, made his career in the British army and died at Gibraltar, while still young. Edward George Price remained in England after completing his studies and in 1866 founded the London firm of Price and Pierce, lumber merchants.
For his part, Evan John, upon his return from England in 1861, took a place at the head of the family business and settled at Quebec. However, he seems to have had little to do with the company in the beginning. Instead he directed his energies to mining exploration. He had various properties for this purpose in Wolfe and Megantic counties, some in his own name and some owned in partnership with William Rhodes, Thomas Sheppard Barwis, and Robert Lomas. In 1864 they exploited together what was probably a copper mine in Inverness Township, near Saint-Ferdinand-d’Halifax.
In January 1867, two months before the death of its founder, William Price and Son was dissolved. All of the company’s assets were sold for five shillings to Price Brothers and Company, a firm consisting of David Edward, William Evan, and Evan John. William Evan continued to run it until his death in 1880, and then David Edward took over the management. On his death three years later, Evan John inherited the company and took charge of its administration. As a close friend of the family, Walter John Ray, noted in his memoirs, “D.E.P. died in Augt 1883 leaving E.J.P. as the sole surviving partner of the three brothers – all bachelors – comprising the firm of Price Brothers & Co. – to continue by Divine right a business of which he practically knew nothing.” In 1885 Evan John’s nephew William Price*, who would later be knighted, joined the company and 14 years later it was he who assumed the responsibility of running it.
From his Quebec residence Evan John helped to administer the Quebec Steamship Company and the Quebec, Montmorency and Charlevoix Railway Company. He was also vice-president of the Union Bank of Canada and president of the A. Gravel Lumber Company. Early in the 1880s with Quebec capitalist Timothy Hibbard Dunn he invested considerable amounts in mortgage loans to Joseph-Édouard Cauchon*, the lieutenant governor of Manitoba. When Cauchon went bankrupt, Price and Dunn became major property owners in Winnipeg. A Conservative like his brothers David Edward and William Evan, Evan John was appointed to the Senate on 1 Dec. 1888 for Laurentian division, which David Edward had represented from 1867 to 1883. He did little as a senator, occupying his seat “only rarely,” according to the Quebec paper L’Événement.
Evan John Price died 31 Aug. 1899 on the family estate. Price Brothers and Company passed into the hands of his nephew and in 1904 became a public company with $2 million in capital. In the early years of the 20th century it moved into the pulp and paper sector.
AC, Québec, État civil, Anglicans, Metropolitan Church, 9 juill. 1840; St Michael’s Chapel (Sillery), 2 sept. 1899. ANQ-Q, P-666. Arch. de l’univ. Laval, Québec, 220. L’Événement, 31 août 1899. Gazette (Montreal), 1 Sept. 1899. Montreal Daily Star, 31 Aug. 1899. Quebec Mercury, 31 Aug. 1899. Le Soleil, 31 août 1899. Canadian directory of parl. (Johnson). Canadian men and women of the time (Morgan; 1898), 833–34. J. Desjardins, Guide parl., 71, 170, 251. Guide to Canadian ministries. Political appointments and judicial bench (N.-O. Côté), 171. Louise Dechêne, “William Price, 1810–1850” (thèse de licence, univ. Laval, 1964). John Keyes, “The Dunn family business, 1850–1914: the trade in square timber at Quebec”