Price, Sir William & Amelia Blanche (Smith)
Sir William Price 1867 - 1924 and Amelia Blanche Smith 1863 - 1947
William Price was born in Talca, Chile to Henry Ferrier Price (1833-1898) and Florence Stoker Rogerson. He was the eldest of seven children (though 2 died young). His brothers and sisters were Henry (Harry), Edward, Arthur, John, Terracita (Terry), and Florence (Flo).
Amelia Blanche Smith was born in Quebec City to Robert Herbert Smith (1825-1898) and Amelia Jane (Lemesurier) (1832-1917). She had six brothers and one sister (see above).
The three original Price Brothers running the family lumber company were bachelors. Having no heirs, they turned to their brother Henry Ferrier and his family, his eldest son being William Price Senior’s eldest grandson, and persuaded them to return to Canada.
William arrived in Canada in 1879, five years before his family moved north. After one semester at Bishop’s College School, he was sent to St Mark’s in England where he completed his studies in 1886. He then started an apprenticeship with Price Brothers. In 1899, with the death of the last surviving ‘Price Brother’, he became sole proprietor, president, and managing director of the family business.
In 1884, William married Amelia Blanche (Smith) at the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Quebec City. Three years his senior and a celebrated beauty, she would bear him eight children. The first two died in infancy. The surviving six were John (Jack), Arthur Clifford (Coosie), Charles Edward, Willa (Bill) (Glassco), Richard Harcourt (Dick), and Jean (Trenier-Michel) (Harvey). At the turn of the century, they built a substantial residence at 145 Rue Grand Allee a building which, albeit much modified, stands to this day.
William inherited a tottering empire, heavily indebted, technically in receivership…. more of potential than actual wealth. In the first decade of the 20th century, William planned and built a large newsprint mill in the town of Kenogami. The Kenogami Mill, the most productive newsprint mill in the world at that time, began operations in 1912. William associated with James Buchanan Duke, the legendary North Carolina tobacco tycoon, and Max Aitken (later Lord Beaverbrook), who helped with, respectively, hydroelectric power (the Ile Maligne dam and power plant in which he and Duke were partners), and financing for the Kenogami Mill.
On August 7, 1914, William was asked, by the Minister of Militia, to build, in twenty days, a camp where troops could be assembled and trained. William shut down his establishments, moved his workforce to Valcartier, and built the camp on schedule. Quebec had been selected as the port of embarkation for the Canadian Expeditionary Force. William was appointed Director-General of Embarkation, and, while not a soldier, he joined Quebec’s militia 8th Royal Rifles and had risen to Captain when he resigned in 1903. For his contribution to Canada’s War effort, William was knighted by King George V on January 1, 1915.
On October 2nd, 1924, Sir William was taken down by a landslide on the Au Sable River behind the Kenogami Mill. His body was found ten days later in the Saguenay River at St. Fulgence. His grave lies at the end of Price Park in Kenogami on the point of a high cliff overlooking the confluence of the Au Sable and Saguenay Rivers where he lost his life. Also, in Kenogami, is the Sir William Price Museum. Its focus is on the employees of the Company – something that would deeply please Sir William who never tired of demonstrating his appreciation for their loyalty and work skills. There remains today, amongst descendants of those families, fond memories of what it was like working for a company that so valued its employees.
To quote from Tony Price’s notes,
“Sir William was foremost a family man, a patriot, and an industry visionary and builder; amongst them, it is difficult to say which stood first. While his wife did not share his fascination for a remote, largely wilderness area and his love of the outdoors and, in fact, rarely came to the Saguenay/Lac St. Jean, he was a loving and inspirational father and nobody who knew him mentions his name without talking of his affection for children.”
Along with his business, war efforts, political activities, and sport William was
President of the Quebec Harbour Commission in 1912, Director of many companies including Union Bank, the Canadian General Electric Company, the Wayagamack Pulp and Paper Company Ltd., the Montreal Trust Company, the Quebec Railway, Light and Power Co., the Transcontinental Railway, and the Prudential Trust Company.
William’s first mention of Tadoussac is in a letter written during the summer of 1880 to his parents who were still in Chile. He tells of happy days spent in a canoe in the bay fishing for cod, perhaps hinting at the renowned salmon fisherman he would become. He did not spend much time in Tadoussac but he did acquire Fletcher Cottage, a lifelong source of pleasure for his wife, and built what is known as the Harry Price House where his sister ‘Terry’ spent her summers with the Harry Price family.
Blanche travelled occasionally to England and New York with Sir William. A few years after his untimely death she moved from 145 Grande Allee to Ave de Bernier where she lived the rest of her life. Her memory had faded. She was fortunate in her full-time companion, Muriel Hudsbeth, daughter of Dean Evans and his first wife.
We are told Blanche was handsome and charming and though her memory faded her charm did not. Teatime at Fletcher Cottage could have been the inspiration for the tea party scenes in the New York Broadway hit ‘Charlie’s Aunt’. She invited whoever passed by… the Bishop, the son of the grocer next door, whomever. Maids skillfully dodged about keeping teacups under the moving teapot spout. Visitors were charmed and left thinking she remembered them well.
With her during her summers at Fletcher Cottage were her sister Edie and brother Edmond. The three would play card games and pass the time happily in each other’s company. Also in residence for the summer were many grandchildren (six to ten or more at a time). They were kept to the eastern addition of the original house. The sleeping porch and playroom were where they ate their meals. Bill Glassco’s first stage plays were presented there to an audience of relatives.
On school days in Quebec City, six of her grandchildren lunched in the kitchen of her home on de Bernier. By then she remembered only ‘long ago stories’ yet she continued to extend a warm welcome and to look most elegant, dressed in black as she had since the death of her husband.
Amelia is buried in Mount Hermon Cemetery in Quebec City.
Willa (Lal) Price Mundell – 4/21