Friday, April 20, 2018

The plane makers of Roxton Pond Quebec, Canada

There was of course Planes and tool makers established in the big urban centers, Montreal (Dawson, Wallace) and Quebec city (VA Emond) but in late19th century, part of Canada's hand tools production was centered in a rural area around the little town of Roxton Pond, Qc in the Monteregie region.

Plaque celebrating more than a 100 years of plane making in Roxton Pond erected in 1974
pic from Jacques Heroux

Even during the zenith of Stanley Canada operations in Roxton Pond, the town was and remains a small municipality in southern Quebec, not far from the US border.
And since we had no wall in place (gentle Canadian political humour :-), Stanley came to town in 1907, with railroad cars loads, but we are getting ahead of ourselves...

In the beginning...

The area is known as the Eastern Townships (Cantons de l'est) it was first settled in the late 1700s early 1800s by Loyalist, including many Americans who fled after the independence of the States from England. Starting mostly in mids 1800s numerous French Canadians families will start to settled in the area in search of agricultural lands. Starting with an economic crisis, numerous French Canadians family from the Eastern Townships, immigrated south to the USA between 1840 and 1930 in search of jobs. Mostly factory's job during the Industrialisation of America.
Incidentally, that is how most of the Demers in the States came from...

Roxton Pond, circled in red.
The lake itself (not a pond) is in the middle.
Closest industrial centers are Granby (closest) and 
about two hours electric tramway ride from Granby to Montreal in 1916

This rotating immigration from and to the States and the mixtures of French and English culture in this mostly rural area, will generate many "bilingual" business men and entrepeneurs which would comes in handy during the industrialization period which was about to unfold in the late 19th century.

Why, of all places, Roxton Pond?

We have discussed briefly the flow of immigration to and from the US border nearby, but another contributing human factor may had been the fact that in a predominantly Roman Catholics Quebec, there was a small enclave of Baptist and Methodists, in this little community of Roxton Pond which may have attracted kind spirits. Part of this ebb and flow immigration would bring in trained tool makers.

Another factor to consider was that, unlike in England were industries could be setting up anywhere thanks to the newly invented coal fired steam engine, creating the industrialisation on a large scale, due to the fact that the only other source of power for years had been water power from their relatively small rivers which was in short supply.
Here in North America (US New England States, Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes)
we have an abundance of streams and rivers with high rain fall and Spring snow melt, accordingly,
early industries were established around the use of available water power.  These water powered facilities would later powered the large machinery invented by the English and Americans during the industrial revolution age, to be later converted to electricity, often still derived from harnessing water power.
Roxton pond has a small lake, with a stream flowing from it that was already powering a saw mill and a grain mill, with more potential to be tapped.
And while rural electrification in the Eastern Township took a long time to come, some places not until the 40s and 50s, Roxton Pond enjoyed electrification of its small village, powered by an electrical generator attached to the Grain mill. It powered primarily the lights in the village, but this was installed between 1902 and 1904!!

Wherever you set up shop, you need a way to get your goods to market.  There are two nearby economic center, Granby and Waterloo, which means railroad tracks passing nearby.
The Stanstead, Shefford and Chambly Railroads will reach Granby in Nov 1859 and Waterloo in Aug 1861. An electric tramway service was inaugurated in 1916 between Granby and Montreal, a 2 hours ride.
There was a growing railroads business between both the States and Canada, meaning easy direct access to and from the States. The important economic corridor between Quebec City Qc, Montreal Qc, Toronto On and Windsor On was of course well deserved by the railroads, and all the way westward to Vancouver Bc as the railroads moved West

Early Planemakers of Roxton Pond

One of the first documented plane maker in Roxton Pond was Sem (Samuel) Dalpe (1828-1894),
Born in St-Marc sur Richelieu Qc, his father Joseph, was a carpenter (menuisier).
Sem would learn his trade in plane making in Troy, New York with a Carter plane maker, thanks to a failed revolution in Quebec  in 1837.

The battle of St-Charles November 1837

His father Joseph participated in this rebellion, so the family fled to New York state to escape "troubles" (age 9). Around 1844 (age 16) he is a plane maker's apprentice in Troy, NY (near the capital Albany).  Sem was first listed in 1850 as a plane maker (age 24) in Worthington, MA, a year later we find him listed as a plane maker living at 11 Ferry St, Troy, NY. The same address as E.& C. Carter, the American plane makers.

E&C Carter was a partnership between brothers Edward Carter, Charles Carter and possibly Richard Carter that made plane at 11 Ferry St, then 171 River St, in Troy NY from 1849-53.
Later from 1862-64, there was partnership with Step brother Cyrus replacing Charles and possibly again later, at a different address.

There is a family lore that the Dalpe family had members working in French steel making industries and had therefore some knowledge's of possible trades secrets. French steel making was different than German, English or American steel making.

Around 1852 he married, in Troy NY,  Edesse Nicolle (Nicol), who is believed to have been born in the Richelieu valley Qc, were Sem is from. (Township of Vercheres, and me too :-)
They would have 11 children, the first one being born in Troy NY in Aug 1853
The next children was born in Dec 1855 in St-Georges de Noyan Qc, where his father came back earlier. The remainders children are all born in Qc.
In 1858, he is in the neighbour town of St-Milton Qc
In Jul 1858, at the baptism of his twin daughters, he is listed as : Ouvrier, faiseur de varlopes (general worker, plane maker)
In 1861, he is listed as farmer only with a 50 acres plot of cultivated land

In 1865, in the small town of Roxton Pond, for the sum of $1,300.00 he bought the furniture maker business of Louis Payan Sr's from Louis Jr and Paul Payan, who were liquidating some of their father estate, and it is these same Payan that would go on to start Waterloo Steam Carriage Co.

The 8 acres plot in question, No 9, came with dwelling, woodworking shop 
a water powered saw mill,  a forge shop, some cultivated land and a large tree lot
Drawing by Johanne Rochon SSHY 

PQ stands for Province de Quebec

Sem Dalphe would be manufacturing planes there from 1865 until his death in 1895.
During this period (30 years), his planes have bear the following two stamps.

Top one is Embossed (Zb) for Zig Zag border, bottom one is Incluse (Inc)
Both stamps are shown enhanced with talcum powder.
Pic from Jacques Heroux

A peculiarity of his planes is that all the wood used to make them (Hetre/Beech) was harvested on his land (plot No 9). He was truly a busy person, farmer (vegetables and maple syrups), harvesting his land for raw materials, business man, making and selling his tools

In the 1871 census he has 4 workers making annually $2520 worth of planes, sold around $1 each...
Each workers produced an average of 630 planes a year for which they are paid $195 a year
He is quickly becoming prosperous in his enterprise's
He now owned hundred's of acres of land, three (3) houses, six (6) barns and stables and a dozen cows.

In Feb 1873 with his brother in law Phillipe Nicol, they founded Roxton Pond Tool Co, They part way three (3) years later in Feb 1876, but the Roxton Pond Tool Co continued on.
Philippe Nicol would then associated with Nectaire Gravel to: Faire le commerce et fabriquer les outils de menuiserie a Roxton Pond (to market and sell woodworking tools in Roxton Pond)

This, and the following similar pages
From A guide to Canadian plane makers & hardware dealers

Some of his production was sold to the Troy Tool Co, owned by his former master(s) where he apprentices and some of  his tool are found with the Troy Tool Co over stamped twice above his two lines S Dalpe stamp.
Similarly following joint ventures, some of his tools are "over stamped" with ROXTON POND TOOL COMPANY.

Troy tool Co was a tool distributor in Troy NY State

He is known to have published catalogs, and a copy of his 1899 catalog has been reproduced

My copy, published by the MacLachlan Woodworking Museum in Kingston On

The range of planes types offered is quite complete

In addition to vast assortment of planes, he sold: Prepared and blank blades.
Unable yet to figured out who or what Jowitt's Best Cast Steel is??

By the end of the 1880s, there was now three (3) major producers of woodworking planes
Sem Dalpe
Stephen Willard
Phillipe Nicol (also partner in Roxton Pond Tool Co)

S.F. Willard was a recently (?) immigrated American
plane maker to Roxton Pond
Willard will cease operations before Sem Dalpe death in 1894 

1881- Philippe Nicol, tool maker Roxton Pond, PQ
1888 P Nicol patented a transitional wooden plane.
(iron held in place with a wooden wedge in iron frame mounted on a wood base). 

By 1866, the hydraulic power that was harnessed from the lake (Roxton Pond), was powering
two (2) saw mills, the flour mill of  Louis Bachand, a small wool mill and the two (2) large plane makers factory in town; S Dalpe and S Willard

Of the three (3) plane makers, the two major ones were Dalpe and Willard
in 1888-1889
Dalpe employed 7 (later on 8)
- Sem Dalpe
- Alfred Bernier
- Adolphe Germain
- Nectaire Gravel
- Elzear Lacasse
- Alfred Marquette
- Johnny Mailly

Willard employed 4
- Stephen Willard
- Philippe Nicol
- Louis Plante
- Hector Pouliot

Near the end of the 19th century, Roxton Plane makers were outputting together an estimated 10, 000 planes a year.
Until 1880, their productions were shipped out by the railroads from Granby (8 Kms away), then after that, from Roxton Pond South (5 Kms away).

A year after his death, in 1895 Sem's widow, Edesse Nichol, sold the Lot No 9 in the village St-Prudentienne (today part of Roxton pond), including the saw mill, plane factory, house and barn for the sum of $4,000 to Arthur Monty. That would be basically the same lot that Sem bought, and by then he had moved his family to a different house, not far from there.

In the beginning Arthur used up the left over stock of Dalphe tools, some still stamped S Dalpe, then he started to developed his own style of wedge and his 3 stars A Monty marks shows up

Imprint on the nose of my A Monty jointer

A Monty also had catalogs and mostly continued
with the models that Dalpe was producing.

Four (4) years later, in 1899 Arthur Monty sold this property to his brother Adelard Monty for the sum of $4,500. At the time of purchase, Adelard was previously injured in a farm accident, and was walking with difficulties. He then hired a Mr Adolphe Germain from Quebec city, to come and run the manufactory. Mr Germain was reputed to be some expert on tool making

The A Monty plane making factory.
Adelard is the one standing with the cane on the left
Pic from Societe d'Histore de la Haute Yamaska (SHHY)

Bearing the same first initial (Arthur and Adelard), the same stamp was used on the planes now attributed to Adelard.

Workers at the Adelard Monty Tool Factory in 1901
Notice the guy he hired to run the factory, Adolphe Germain is the highest paid

During his life, Adelard was twice the mayor of his small municipality. From Jan 1908 to Jan 1913 and again from Jan 1917 to Jan 1919. He manufactured planes until his death in 1927.
The business continued to operate until 1935 when it was then loaned to Ovila Lacasse but he never operated the plane factory, using mostly the saw mill.

The Roxton Pond Tool & Mill Co

The one that almost never was... and which became Stanley Tool Works of Canada

To be continued in Part two

Bob, the tool historian

With credit given to the pioneer work of Jacques Heroux into the plane makers of Roxton Pond
and the wealth of information to be found with the Societe d'Histoire de la Haute Yamaska (SHHY)
and the Societe d'Histoire du Protestanism Franco-Quebecois (SHPFQ
Other source of info used are
Guide to Canadian Plane Makers & Hardware Dealers, 3rd edition
A guide to the makers of American wooden planes., Emil & Marty Pollack 4th edition


  1. Bob,

    Great research, it is good to understand where we came from....Maybe it is an old fart thing but I'm been reading more about Texas and the Southwest deserts around the turn of the 19th Century.


  2. Good article Bob,,, enjoyed it! Looking forward to the next in the series.

  3. My Grandson last week gave me a moulding plane by A Monty.Today I cleaned it sharpend the iron. This is my first Canadian plane. I am so happy. Many thanks for your article on Roxton pond.

  4. You are very welcome "Anonymous"
    Enjoy your new plane, its a good one.

    Thanks for the comment, appreciated


  5. Yes this is Anonymous, got my e mail down now. the plane is 9 1/2 ins long, 7/8 tongue & groove, this one is the groove, works good. I use these planes a lot as I restore antique furniture.

  6. I have a 1-1/2 amonty wood plan from Roxton pond. Is there anyway to fine out how old it is and how much it might be worth.