Sir William Price Heritage Centre

The chapel St.James the Apostle. Source : Sir William Price Heritage Centre

Built in 1912, the St. James the Apostle Anglican chapel held church services for Price Company staff until 1966. That year the Frères Évangéliques acquired the chapel, using it at its original site at the corner of Price and King George Streets until 1986. However, the small chapel was threatened by demolition due to the proposed construction of a new building better suited to their needs.

The Sir William Price Heritage Centre was founded in 1987, thanks to efforts by citizens and Ville de Jonquière to save the St. James the Apostle Anglican chapel, a witness to a bygone era, a Jonquière heritage treasure. On the eve of its demolition it was moved to Ball Park, with the aim of establishing a museum. The organization’s mission is to promote the historical, architectural and industrial heritage of Saguenay’s Jonquière borough. The first exhibitions, displayed during the summer season, were followed by various illustrative themes.

A defining moment occurred in 1997: from then on, the institution was to operate on an annual basis, thanks to the recognition of Ville de Saguenay and the Ministère de la Culture, des Communications et de la Condition féminine du Québec. A permanent exhibition was created, with the theme of the Price family and their forestry company. In addition, every year the museum produces a historical calendar in order to raise awareness about the area’s history. It should be noted that the Sir William Price Heritage Centre was a major player in the reopening of the Sir William Price Memorial Park and was a venue as part of Saguenay, Cultural Capital of Canada 2010. In 2012, the Sir William Price Heritage Centre inaugurated a new permanent exhibition titled Works on Paper, portraits of Price Brothers workers (1930-1960).

The organization’s achievements would not be possible without the support of Ville de Saguenay and the Ministère de la Culture, des Communications et de la Condition féminine du Québec. It is important to acknowledge the participation of the Price family, as well as the commitment of the directors, members and employees, both past and present, who have carried out a multitude of projects and challenges, be they cultural, historical or economic.

The Price family

The Price name is directly linked to the birth and development of the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region. More than any other, it evokes the expansion of forestry, sawmills, and the pulp and paper industry. For over one hundred and fifty years, the Price family has left its mark in the collective memory of the local population.

The founder

No longer able to obtain Scandinavian lumber due to the Continental Blockade imposed by Napoleon I, the British Admiralty decided to turn to its North American colony. It was in this context that William Price disembarked in Quebec City in 1810 at the age of 21. Coming from a family originally from Wales, he had a mandate to transport wood from the forests of the Canadian colony back to the motherland. At that time, England had a pressing need for planks and masts for its ships. Business was going so well for the young William Price that he founded his own company in 1821: the William Price Company. Rightly regarded as an astute merchant having strong technical knowledge, he joined other British investors to further develop the rapidly expanding lumber trade. Profits derived from his commercial operations were reinvested in sawmills already in his possession along the St. Lawrence River, as well as in forestry operations. Wishing to gain access to the Saguenay region, William Price succeeded by forming a financial partnership with a group of residents of La Malbaie. This group took the name Société des Pinières du Saguenay, commonly known as the Société des Vingt-et-Un. This company, which built sawmills on the shores of the Saguenay River, and whose ultimate goal was to establish large scale facilities, was purchased by Price in 1842. Having become the absolute master of an immense territory providing incomparable riches, the name of William Price is now synonymous with the onset of intense activity in the Saguenay region. Mr. Price continued his business activities, and sent his sons to work at an early age in his various establishments on the St. Lawrence and Saguenay Rivers, so that they become familiar with the industry workings and acquire a sound technical knowledge. The founding of William Price & Sons Company in 1855 marks a turning point in the family’s history, reflecting the transfer of power to his sons David Edward and William Evan Price.

William Price (1789-1867). Source : Sir William Price Heritage Centre C13/014.

The heirs

The latter proved to be excellent managers, mixing business and politics. Indeed, they sat in the House of Commons and the National Assembly, as well as the Senate, in the case of Evan John Price, the last of William Price’s sons to head the company. The heirs were faced with a problem of succession, because none of them had children. They then turned to their brother Henry Ferrier Price, living in Chile, for him to return with his family and settle in Canada. A few years later, the eldest of Henry Ferrier’s family, William Price III, became the leading figure of the pulp and paper industry in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region.

William Price III (1867-1924). Source : Sir William Price Heritage Centre, C13.

The builder

Having become CEO of what had become Price Brothers & Company Limited, the future Sir William Price quickly understood that a new era was dawning in the late nineteenth century, with the appearance of pulp mills. Considering that the company held vast forest concessions in addition to being firmly established in the region, Price decided to engage in pulp production. To do this, he acquired the Pulperie de Jonquière. The increasing demand for newsprint in the major industrial cities of the eastern United States persuaded Price to invest in the manufacturing of paper in his newly acquired mill. Thus, Jonquière became the first city in the region to have a paper mill. In this way, Price distinguished itself from the other regional pulp mills that had not been able to diversify their production. In 1911 he undertook the construction of Kénogami, the first company town in the Saguenay, as well as a pulp and paper mill that would become one of the largest in the world. A man of action and major projects, he assisted in the early work of the future company town of Riverbend in 1924. However, fate ensured that he would never see the results of his project.

Jonquière Paper Mills. Source : Sir William Price Heritage Centre.