Alexan­der Wood: Out­stand­ing in farm im­ple­ments

The Glengarry News - Glengarry Supplement - - News - BY SCOTT CARMICHAEL News Staff

J.T. Schell, D.M. Macpher­son, John D. McIntosh and Hugh Munro are well-known names syn­ony­mous with Glen­garry’s in­dus­trial/man­u­fac­tur­ing past.

How­ever, one name – more of­ten than not – is over­looked, de­spite the fact that it belongs to the man who was ar­guably more suc­cess­ful than any of the afore­men­tioned group – or their con­tem­po­raries.

Per­haps Alexan­der Wood doesn’t re­ceive his due be­cause he sought – and very quickly, found – his fame and for­tune not in his na­tive Glen­garry, but at the other end of to­day’s High­way 43, in Smiths Falls.

Born to Roger and Mar­garet Wood ( née McIntosh) on the South Branch Rd. in Au­gust 1823, young Alexan­der trained as a black­smith and worked in a foundry owned by another branch of the Wood fam­ily in Osnabruck, where he learned the skills of a moul­der.

He later worked for Ebenezer Frost at Mr. Frost’s foundry in Smiths Falls for six months in 1843 be­fore go­ing to By­town.

Mr. Wood re­turned to Smiths Falls in May 1846, where he part­nered with his one-time boss to form Frost & Wood – an ex­pan­sion of the black­smithy and foundry Mr. Frost had es­tab­lished seven years ear­lier.

De­spite some early grow­ing pains, the busi­ness, by 1864, was man­u­fac­tur­ing and ex­port­ing a wide line of agri­cul­tural prod­ucts to mar­kets across the coun­try and around the world.

A copy of its let­ter­head from that year lists cul­ti­va­tors, iron and steel plows, drag cross-cut sow­ing ma­chines, horse hoes, road scrap­ers, the Buck­eye mower and Daisy reaper, and thresh­ing ma­chines among its prod­ucts, as well as “cook­ing, box and par­lour stoves, cir­cu­lar saw­ing ma­chines, grist and saw mill cast­ings, and job work of all kinds.”

Later years saw the com­pany’s prod­uct line ex­pand to in­clude other equip­ment such as binders, disc har­rows and dump rakes. The Legacy of Frost & Wood:

Out­stand­ing in Their Field –a Vir­tu­alMu­ site ded­i­cated to the his­tory of the busi­ness – adds that the firm was a leader in ser­vic­ing what it sold, en­sur­ing that ex­tra parts “were al­ways available, which added to its rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing a re­li­able pro­ducer of durable ma­chin­ery.”

Mr. Wood was in­stru­men­tal in help­ing Frost & Wood achieve its lat­ter 19th cen­tury suc­cess, hav­ing en­tered into a for­mal part­ner­ship with Ebenezer Frost’s sons, Charles and Fran­cis T. Frost, fol­low­ing the co-founder’s death in 1863.

In 1886, the broth­ers bought out Mr. Wood’s part­ner­ship for $50,000 – about $1,620,000 in 2017 CDN dol­lars.

Ac­cord­ing to Royce McGil­livray’s Dic­tionary of Glen­garry Bi­og­ra­phy, Mr. Wood may have “main­tained a fi­nan­cial in­ter­est in the firm,” even af­ter cash­ing out his shares, and de­voted much of his time there­after to his other busi­ness in­ter­ests in Smiths Falls, which in­cluded flour milling, saw mills

‘and shin­gle man­u­fac­tur­ing in­ter­ests.

He also built “a splen­did sand­stone man­sion, called ‘Glen­wood,’” on Cham­bers Street, ad­ja­cent to the Frost & Wood plant’s ex­pan­sive lo­ca­tion along the Rideau Canal in the town cen­tre, an es­tate that had “ser­vants’ quar­ters and its own ball­room.”

Mr. Wood died in Jan­uary 1895 at the age of 71, hav­ing been pre­de­ceased by his wife, Hen­ri­etta (née Baird) in 1866, and five of the cou­ple’s seven chil­dren who died be­tween Oc­to­ber 1853 and Septem­ber 1862 – none older than five.

As for Frost & Wood, the Cock­shut Plow Co. of Brant­ford, Ont. pur­chased 27 per cent of the com­pany’s shares, circa 1909, and bought out the re­main­ing shares in the 1920s. Frost & Wood con­tin­ued on, and dur­ing the Sec­ond World War de­voted much of its sched­ule and floor space to wartime pro­duc­tion, like many in­dus­tries across the coun­try. It was the largest mu­ni­tions man­u­fac­turer in Eastern On­tario dur­ing the war, pro­duc­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of hand grenades and ar­tillery shells, as well as bolts and bush­ings for Lan­caster bombers.

How­ever, the post-war years were lean.

In Novem­ber 1954, the plant’s gen­eral man­ager Ed Ryan – cit­ing low sales and de­mand, as well as par­ent Cock­shutt’s de­ci­sion to con­sol­i­date pro­duc­tion in Brant­ford – an­nounced to staff and the town that Frost & Wood would close in the spring of 1955.

Af­ter 116 years (Frost & Wood cel­e­brated its cen­te­nary in 1939) pro­duc­tion at the com­pany ceased on April 27, 1955 leav­ing 400 em­ploy­ees out of work, but with a rich legacy that re­mains to this day – thanks in large part to one of Glen­garry’s most suc­cess­ful, yet over­looked, na­tive sons.

HUGE FAC­TORY: The Frost & Wood fac­tory was mas­sive.


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