Biography of James Smart

James Smart, a leading manufacturer, in Brockville, dates his birth at Cupar, Fifeshire, Scotland, August 15, 1820, his father, Robert, being a linen manufacturer, and at one period an officer in the Scotch militia. The mother of James was Margaret Crawford, daughter of Thomas Crawford, miller, of the same place. When he was thirteen months old the family moved to Aberdeen, and when he was twelve years of age, they came to Canada, settling at Clarence, on the Ottawa river, below the city of Ottawa, the son there aiding his father to open a bush farm. The lad attended a private school before leaving his native country, his school days ending before he was thirteen years of age. He had some taste for study, and educated himself in subsequent years sufficiently to enable him to transact business.
In 1841 Mr. Smart came to Brockville, and apprenticed himself to the trade of a tanner and currier; worked his full time of three years; and then started in pursuit of a situation; found work near Kingston, and two years later, in company with some newly made friends, notably Alexander Mackenzie, recently Prime Minister of the. Dominion, he went to the western part of Ontario, purchased a tannery of Hon. Malcolm Cameron, at Sarnia, and carried on business there about six years.

In 1851, Mr. Smart went to California, by the Isthmus, and was absent three years to a day, having, in that short period, no inconsiderable experience of the “ups and downs of life.” He started a tannery at Sacramento, the first one in California, and went into the manufacturing of Mexican saddles and harness, making money rapidly. At length, in the early part of 1853, a great fire destroyed nearly everything he had, and what the flames spared a flood soon took, making clean work, as it is the nature of water, when liberally applied, to do. The whole country, for a short time, was a fresh water sea. Mr. Smart had his clothes and his pluck left, but not his health, nor much money; so when the waters had subsided, he went into the mountains, soon regained his health, and mined with fair success. In the autumn of 1854, he started for home in the “Yankee Blade,” which was shipwrecked when twenty-four hours out from San Francisco, and two hundred lives were lost. Mr. Smart’s satchel, with a great variety of gold specimens, and other valuables, sank with the ship, but he was saved, with a belt around his body containing a thousand dollars or more in gold dust. The steamer “Brother Jonathan” took him and the other passengers saved, back to San Francisco, and after returning to the mountains and mining two months, he took a steamer and returned to Canada, locating at Brockville. He had acquainted himself with a certain style of weighing scale, made in the United States, and securing a contract from the Grand Trunk Railway Company, in 1855, he went into the manufacture of scales and stoves, which led him into the iron business, and he built a foundry in 1856. He supplied the stations with stoves, etc., nearly all the way between Sarnia and Montreal. Having filled his contract with the railway company, and losing his foundry by fire, Mr. Smart removed to Gananoque. Two years later, in 1858, he was induced by Benjamin Chaffey, who was engaged in ship building, to return to Brockville. He leased a foundry; his business increased rapidly, and in 1868 he built his present foundry, known all over the Dominion, as the ” Novelty Works,” which are quite extensive. There are two molding shops, one 150 by 50, and the other 90 by 70; the machine shop 100 by 60, and the warehouse 110 by 40 feet, and two and a half stories high, A fifty-five horse power engine drives the machinery. Between
three and four hundred kinds of articles are manufactured in this great establishment, and, in brisk times, employment is given to about 200 men. At present 1879) the working force is very much reduced, all kinds of business being sadly depressed. Whatever work is turned out by Mr. Smart, is of thorough finish, he having his reputation as well as pocket at stake. In 1878 he attended the International Exposition at Paris, exhibiting a very large number and splendid variety of articles of his own manufacture, making one of the finest exhibits of the kind there. So pleased were the French jurors with his enterprise and skill, that they conferred upon him the Legion of Honor the greater honor from the fact that such a distinction is rarely conferred upon foreigners.

No man in Brockville attends more closely to his business than Mr. Smart. He has often been solicited by his political friends, the Liberals, to stand as a candidate for Parliamentary honors, but he has steadily refused to turn aside from his business. The “Novelty Works” have been an important agency in building up Brockville, and when better times shall return, he hopes to again completely fill his shops with workmen, and perhaps expand them, and thus help still more in the growth of his adopted home.

Mr. Smart is a member of the Baptist church, and is a liberal supporter of religious and benevolent societies.

On Christmas day, 1850, he married Miss Ann Bogue, of Westminster, near London, Ont., an estimable lady of great energy of character, to whose sympathy and cooperation Mr. Smart himself would be one of the first to acknowledge his indebtedness. Five children are the issue of this marriage.



Ontario Canada,

Search Military Records - Fold3

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It on Pinterest

Scroll to Top