These stories of Eric's father, grandfather and great-uncle, the Papermakers, were written in 1958 following the death of his father, Carl. They were clearly written by someone who knew the family history very well.
IN TRIBUTE: The Riordon Paper makers
Excerpt from https://riordon.org, May 23, 2005
Reproduced with permission.
John Riordon: 1833 – 1884
Charles Riordon: 1848 – 1931
Carl Riordon: 1876 – 1958
WITH THE DEATH in Montreal on June 14, 1958 of Charles Christopher (Carl) Riordon there came to an end an epoch which is without parallel in the pulp and paper industry of Canada.
This began with the operation of a wrapping paper mill, established in 1863 byJohn Riordon on the Welland Canal near St. Catharines, Ontario. John Riordon, then thirty years of age, sent for his younger brother Charles, then aged fifteen, to come and help him; a year later Charles was put in charge of the mill. When Charles was eighteen years of age he went alone to England and bought machinery for a new mill, and on the Christmas Day following, the machine began to turn out newsprint made of rags and straw at the rate of 25 tons a month. The Riordons turned to the making of groundwood pulp for newsprint in 1873. In 1886 the Canadian Sulphite Company, of which Charles Riordon was president, obtained letters patent to the Ritter-Kellner liner process, and the manufacture of sulphite pulp was begun at Cornwall in 1888. This was followed by the purchase by the Riordons of digesters in 1888 and the beginning of manufacture of sulphite pulp at Merritton in December 1890. In 1895 Charles Riordon ordered two new digesters from Cleveland and towed them across Lake Erie and down the Canal to the Merritton mill. In 1898 Mr. Riordon built the Hawkesbury mill, fed by wood from the Rouge River, and with an outputof 75 tons a day. In 1896 Charles Christopher (Carl ) Riordon, son of Charles. joined the firm and was made managing director in 1905. In 1909 the Riordon interests took over the Rouge River limits of the C. H. Perley Company of Ottawa and in 1912 two more digesters were installed at the Hawkesbury mill, increasing its capacity to 135 tons a day. In 1917 the Riordon company purchased the Ticonderoga Pulp and Paper Company of Ticonderoga, N.Y. and, in 1918-19, built a large bleached sulphite mill at Temiskaming, Quebec under the name of the Kipawa Fibre Company. In 1920 the Kipawa subsidiary was absorbed into Riordon Company Limited along with the properties of The Riordon Pulp and Paper Company Limited, and in this same year the Riordon interests bought out the huge properties of W. C. Edwards and Company Limited and Gilmour and Hughson Company Limited in the Gatineau Valley.
The Riordon enterprises which had thus begun as a modest wrapping paper mill in St. Catharines carried through advancing stages of chemical pulp manufacture and embraced a small empire of potential development. This, however, was not to be realized, at least under the name of Riordon. The fever of market expansion which raged in 1919-1920, gave way almost overnight to the chill of the “buyers’ strike" in early 1921, and the Riordon enterprise was caught with large inventories of high-cost supplies, heavy bond interest charges, ground rents and capital payments to be made on those great natural resources which could not be quickly converted into production, or, even if transformed,could not be sold in the depressed state of the lumber and pulp markets The mills were closed down and many unsuccessful attempts were made in Canada to salvage the enterprise. However, hindsight has made it clear that nearly a decade of time and tens of millions of dollars were required to set the enterprise fully in motion again. After painful operational beginnings and the sale of the assets to the Bondholders’ Protective Committees, and they in turn to Canadian International Paper Company and the gradual settlement of claims of secured creditors (but nothing for unsecured creditors or shareholders), the great Gatineau properties were swung into productivity in the late twenties with the erection of the large modern newsprint mill of Canadian International Paper Company at Gatineau, Quebec on the Ottawa River below the City of Ottawa and with the development by Gatineau Power Company of Gatineau River water powers at Chelsea and Paugan.
The motivation of the Riordons in overcoming the tremendous difficulties of the early development in the paper and pulp industry in Canada is perhaps explained by the reply ascribed to Sir Edmund Hillary whenasked why he would set out to conquer Everest – “Because it is there."
Charles Riordon – Pioneer
Charles Riordon 1848-1931 was a real pioneer, a man of quiet assurance, resourcefulness, enterprise, and courage. While in his twenties and thirties he mastered the technical processes involved in the fledgling sulphite pulp industry and became the outstanding figure in it. He improved upon the efforts of Sir John A. Macdonald in the newspaper field, in that he acquired the “Mail”and later took over Sir Johns “Empire” to make of the “Mail and Empire” one of the major journalistic enterprises of Canada; he was instrumental in building the Temiscouata Railway from Riviere du Loup, Quebec, to Edmundston, New Brunswick, and part of the Intercolonial Railway in New Brunswick; he was an early director, and later president, of the Niagara Falls Suspension Bridge Company; and was active in the foundation of Ridley College in St. Catharines. This last-mentioned activity sprang from Mr. Riordon’s love of learning. Although his early years had been devoted to manufacturing rather than to higher education, he was an omnivorous reader and student, particularly of philosophy and the classics. The library he accumulated in his home in St. Catharines contained the “great books” of English literature, and what he properly called his “recreation”consisted largely in reading these at whatever hour of the day he returned from his heavy pioneer labours at nearby Merritton. He had the habit of keeping various books open in different parts of the house, and would get in much of his reading “on the fly.” One time, in giving to a young friend his fine old copy of Pope’s translation of Homer’s Iliad, he pressed the gift upon the reluctant recipient with the encouragement, “Yes, you take it; I have no need of it: I have already read it three or tour times.”
There are many stories told of his practical abilities as mill manager, such as repairing with splints and bolts a broken major drive wheel; of acting as steeplejack when the proper expert was afraid: of how, when the water level in the Ottawa River fell below the required level he kept the Hawkesbury mill in operation through the emergency construction of a paddle wheel to push the water “up hill”.
For such most “practical” matters, through the realms of industry and public affairs, Charles Riordon achieved success in virtually everything he touched. Through his ownership and general direction of the “Mail and Empire” the acknowledged organ of the Federal Conservative Party he was held in highest respect and esteem on Parliament Hill. But his quiet, unobtrusive, almost shy personality caused him to avoid the limelight. Indeed, to the considerable chagrin of Sir Robert Borden, who had put his name forward on two occasions, Charles Riordon firmly refused to accept a knighthood.
Carl Riordon – Philosopher and Man of Action
Carl Riordon. whose death is mourned in these days, was possessed of great drive, both physical and mental, and this expressed itself both in organizational work and in the outdoors.
After graduation from the University of Toronto in 1896, he went to Queen’s University for a course in engineering, and then spent a year as a surveyor in Central British Columbia. He returned to St. Catharines and worked in the paper mills, remaining in the industry to become president ofThe Riordon Pulp and Paper Company, Limited.
With the outstanding position of the Riordon family in the pulp and paper industry, it was only natural that, when there was a move to form an association of manufacturers, Carl Riordon should be selected as the first president of the Canadian Pulp and Paper Association. This occurred on March 18, 1913. Under his initiative in 1914 the statistics of production,which constitute a considerable portion of the Association’s activities today, were begun, and in 1915 a major meeting of the association was held in Ottawa which gave a real impetus to association development. In 1915 under his guidance and with the aid of Dr. John S. Bates and Roy Campbell the Technical Section of the Association was formed.
Carl Riordon was a director of the Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada, Niagara Lower Arch Bridge Company, and Mail Printing Company, Toronto; and was a member of the advisory board of the National Trust Company, Limited. He was a governor of Ridley College, a one-time president of the Khaki League, Montreal, and a captain in the 19th St.Catharines Regiment from 1896 to 1904. He belonged to the University Club, Montreal, the Toronto Club, and the Rideau Club, Ottawa. He is survived by his wife, the former Amy Louise Paterson; two sons, Harold Dunham, and Peter, Thetford Mines, Quebec; two daughters, Edith (Mrs. Bennett) and Mary (Mrs. G.R. Forbes), both of Montreal; two sisters, Edith Amy (Mrs. S. B. Pemberton),Montreal, and Kathleen (Mrs. G. W. Crompton), London, England, and 12 grandchildren.
The independent spirit and resourcefulness that characterized Charles Riordon descended to Carl Riordon, but the duality of the man of action and enterprise and the man of studious and philosophic bent evidenced itself in slightly different form. In Carl, a larger physical frame and greater strength became the vehicle for the expression of a love of the outdoors, for the carrying out of major physical achievements. The life of the surveyor and prospector, pressing through the rugged interior of British Columbia exactly suited his urge to contend with the rough forces of nature, and to do so alone was no deterrent. So it was that when later the acquisition by the Riordon interests of the Perley properties and timber limits opened the door to obtaining a lease of the fishing rights on Lac Caché, north of Lac Tremblant (not too easy of access at the turn of the century), Carl Riordon quickly availed himself of the opportunity and, in addition, bought an island in the lake, since known as Riordon Island, and threw himself into that which was most pleasurable to him, namely, the actual manual work of revising shore lines, building wharves, floats and camps, and generally wrestling with the physical world. Coupled with this, and a source of perhaps even greater happiness, were the delights of the canoe. Carl paddled, portaged and camped all over the region in the Upper Rouge, Lievre and regions east and west, and followed with interest the ancient water routes and carrying places of the Algonquins, Hurons and Iroquois in their incessant warfare. If there were one photograph characteristic of Carl Riordon it would be in woods clothes in a canoe, indifferent to sun, rain and insect pests, as he conquered distance in the waterways of Quebec. He was similarly at home on snowshoes or skis.
The office saw a minimum of him from mid-June to mid-September; he would be at “Caché”, delighted to see his intimates if they would visit him, but in the course of the day they too could expect to see a minimum of him unless they were minded to join him in moving boulders, hewing logs or cutting trail. In the evening, however, came the period of speculative discussion as the shadows lengthened and the loon made his plaintive call across the waters of the lake.
The same love of Indian lore and of Canadian history attracted him to acquire the large house which stood to the west of the ancient ‘pass’ between Montreal and Westmount mountains (known from earlier Colonial days as le chemin de la Côte des Neiges) which was within the site of what was the camp or lookout of General Amherst. Mr. Riordon called his home ‘Amherst’ in recognition of this fact. ‘Capitulation Cottage’, where the surrender of Canada to the English was signed on September 8th, 1760 was within a stone’s throw of ‘Amherst’ and Mr. Riordon made energetic personal efforts to prevent the destruction of the historic building, but unfortunately it perished through carelessness or misunderstanding on the part of workmen constructing the Côte des Neiges Reservoir.
Carl Riordon’s strong sense of history, caused him, in common with the late Professor Leacock, to hold in great affection the University Club, located as it is on the site of Hochelaga as discovered by Cartier in 1535. (“Stevie”, as Leacock was familiarly called, used to refer to it as the “birthplace” or the “centre” of Canada). Carl was a life member of the Club, and for over twenty years was perhaps its most consistent habitué. His use of the Club was somewhat in the style attributed to the English club member – courteous and warm enough towards his fellows, and a delight as a luncheon companion, but nevertheless somewhat shy and diffident, and mostly devoting himself to the reviews. Anyone engaging him in conversation, however, would find a companion not only well-informed on almost any topic, but, moreover, one ready to question and explore, bringing out new and engaging aspects of whatever was under discussion.
When in Montreal his love of physical exertion and of Nature caused him to walk, every morning that was compatible with the wearing of city clothes, from “Amherst,” along the road on Montreal Mountain paralleling Cedar Avenue, then down Peel or McTavish to his office in Beaver Hall Square. His brown satchel came along, sometimes for its normal utility, but usually “to give me a little more exercise.”
In 1921-22, when it became apparent that the great program of uniting the natural resources of the Rouge, the Upper Ottawa and the Gatineau (which has since actually come to pass in the enterprise of Canadian International Paper Company and Gatineau Power Company) was premature, he simply retired from the industrial scene. He continued to act in fiduciary affairs, as a director of the Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada and as a member of the Montreal Advisory Committee of the National Trust Company. He also continued on the boards of the Niagara Lower Arch Bridge and of Ridley College, both early enthusiasms of his father.
His simple withdrawal from the business scene was a matter of surprise to many who had known him as an industrialist, with his soundly-inherited courage, his intellectual powers and his drive. But they did not take into account the directness, the utterly straight line thinking which he applied to himself. Just as without any emotion he would conclude that a certain timber was too short for a certain purpose, or that a certain great rock was patently too great for him to lift, so he concluded that, under economic conditions existing in early 1921, he had reached the limit of his usefulness as an executive and that others should carry the load. So he simply stood aside.
It is not given to many men to produce, let alone commit to paper, solid thinking upon abstract matters. In the realm of “meditations” there come to mind, of course, such names as Marcus Aurelius, La Rouchefoucauld, Lamartine, Henri-Frederic Amiel. With the last-mentioned there is a peculiar association,became not only was the Journal Intime of the Geneva professor one of the treasures of the Riordon library, but there runs a curious parallel in the characteristics of Carl Riordon, who, like Amiel was in a sense a very solitary man, never forcing himself upon the company of others, but ever a delightful companion when companionship was offered, and generously reciprocated. It could be said of Carl Riordon as one of Amiel’s contemporaries said of him: “In serious discussion he was master of the unexpected, and his energy, his entrain affected us all. How often did he not give us cause to admire the variety of his knowledge, the precision of his ideas, the charm of his quick intelligence! We found him always, besides, kindly and amiable, a nature one might trust and lean upon with perfect! security.”
Carl Riordon, like Amiel was one who thought deeply, and put his conclusions on record. It is doubtful whether he everseriousl y intended that these should be widely published. However, when after he had reached the view that his function as an industrialist had come to an end, he crystallized his ideas and his own position among his fellows by the imaginary creation of a group in society which he called “We Questers”. With the intellectual honesty which was characteristic of him, he fulfilled, to the best of his ability, the role he had assigned himself, never entering into the area of advice or decisions, but remaining in that of ‘findings’ or experience which the “Questers” would make available to the executives.
Carl Riordon was, for all we know, following the conclusions reached by Henri-Frederic Amiel: “Let the living live -, and you gather together your thoughts, leave behind you a legacy of feeling and ideas; you will be most useful so.”
The world may, or may not, agree with Carl Riordon’s “Credo”, but there can be no doubt that for their contributions to the pulp and paper industry John, Charles, and Carl Riordon will ever occupy a place of honour in the industrial history of Canada.