This Week in History


Marysville: A Company Town Like No Other

For the week of Monday March 30, 1998

On April 2,1886, Marysville, New Brunswick was incorporated as a town. Now a quiet suburb of Fredericton, Marysville has a unique story. For most of its life, it has been a company town whose three successive owners controlled its land and ran its affairs. The most influential owner was Alexander "Boss" Gibson, who owned the community between 1862 and 1907.

The Cotton Mill and Gibson Memorial

The Cotton Mill and Gibson Memorial
© Parks Canada / Dana Johnson / 1993

In the early 19th century, Marysville was established as a lumber community. In 1862, New Brunswick industrialist "Boss" Gibson bought the hamlet, including its mills, workers' houses, and lumber rights. Gibson rebuilt the lumber mills, and soon Marysville was producing more than any other supplier in the province. In the 1880s, half the goods shipped from the port of Saint John consisted of Gibson lumber, and his company may have been the largest in Canada!

Gibson used the large profits from lumbering to continue building up the community. He built a huge mansion, new workers' housing, a company store, a school, and the town hall – and that was just the start! In 1883, Gibson stunned everyone by starting to build a cotton mill – an area in which he had no expertise and for which the Maritime region offered few resources except water power. However, the Marysville Cotton Mill was enormously successful. One year after the completion of the cotton mill, Gibson named the town Marysville, in honour of his wife and deceased daughter.

Bridge Street, Marysville, 1885

Bridge Street, Marysville, 1885
© Provincial Archives of New Brunswick / PANB P18-364

Although complete control over a town might give most people quite an ego, "Boss"Gibson is been remembered as a generous man. He provided high quality but affordable housing, year-round work to both men and women, and relatively high wages. Some (but not all) welcomed Gibson's rule that no alcohol was allowed in Marysville. Families worshipped in churches built at Gibson's expense and attended picnics and fairs paid for by the "Boss". Gibson even gave all of his employees turkeys for Christmas!

The Marysville Cotton Mill National Historic Site now houses government offices, but remains a well-designed example of a late 19th century textile mill. Marysville Historic District, also a national historic site, gives a glimpse of a virtually intact, 19th century company town and celebrates the achievement of Alexander "Boss" Gibson.

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