Monday 12 January 2015

Off the rails

There was a time in this fair land when the railroad did not run. But if there’s anything we’ve learned from Gordon Lightfoot, it’s that everything is better with rails….. Or, is it?

In an earlier day, Hampton was a center of agriculture and forestry, with very few enterprises outside of these primary industries. But by the latter part of the 1800s, Hampton was a town with rails and this was causing a huge impact on the community and its people. The G. & G. Flewwelling Manufacturing Co. took advantage of railway access to transform local forestry into an international business. And up the street at Hampton Station, another industry was about to make its mark.

In 1897, contractor William Langstroth and a team of twenty men completed a new building alongside the track, just behind the Wayside Inn & the Court House. With the building's completion, the Ossekeag Stamping Factory was born (pictured here, at bottom left, in an image bravely taken from the Court House roof). Ossekeag Stamping manufactured enamel wares, including various bowls and ladles such as the two samples below from the museum’s collection.

From its advantageous site, the Ossekeag Stamping Factory soon became an economic concern. By 1898, the factory employed about 250 men and required both day and night shifts to manage workload. For seven years the factory produced enamelware from this spot but, in 1905, the railway that connected Ossekeag Stamping to the rest of Canada brought another change.

Ossekeag Stamping Factory became of interest to another growing company - the McClary Manufacturing Company of Ontario. McClary Manufacturing was run by John McClary of London, Ontario and between 1879 and 1902 he expanded his considerable business with new warehouses in Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg, Vancouver, Saint John, and Hamilton. In 1905, not long after McClary opened its Saint John warehouse, they bought out the Ossekeag Stamping Factory and the site was shut down.

Though many “built the mines the mills and the factories for the good of us all” during the early heydays of the rail, not all would survive. Ossekeag Stamping Factory is an excellent example of both the opportunity – and the challenge – that the coming of the railway would bring.

For more on McClary Manufacturing, see University of Western Ontario’s site:

Also of interest is the bio of John McClary, at the Dictionary of Canadian Biography:

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