In 1907 at the launch of the St. Marys and Western Ontario Railway, Henry Lincoln Rice was, to outward appearance, a confident, respected leader in this undertaking. As president of Carter Milling, he was a person of consequence. But in truth his mill was teetering on the edge of failure.
The promising railway venture did not succeed and eventually Canadian Pacific Railway bought the line for much less than the stakeholders had invested. Rice, among others, narrowly escaped financial ruin. Believing that things must improve, Rice continued to upgrade his business. The 1908 dam created a larger millpond beside the Flats while a new elevator on the siding near the mill was built to receive grain shipments.
Seeking financing to upgrade further, in 1913 he asked for debenture backing from the town. He had strong supporters but also strong detractors who reminded voters of the disastrous losses of Rice’s rail line. The debenture bylaw just failed to get adequate support. Almost immediately after this defeat, Rice had a mysterious fall from a train near Woodstock, described two weeks ago in Muriel Sheldon’s Looking Back column.
Was the fall an accident? Rice was under great stress relating to his business and embroiled in litigation with other milling interests. Soon after, he gave up his life-long affiliation with the Methodist Church and, with his family, began attending St. James Anglican – a startling change at that time and in that social set. Perhaps too many of his business detractors were Methodists and he no longer felt welcome in that church.
But by 1915, Rice restructured the business as St. Marys Milling Company. He kept afloat during World War I. This week’s photograph, taken in 1920, shows his milling complex that by now included the opera house. But Rice could not survive a subsequent series of setbacks: a recession in the early 1920s, unwise speculation in grain, and the destruction by fire of the original gristmill in 1921. By 1925, transfer to a new owner, J.G. Wolverton, was finalized. The Carter milling empire was no more.
In 1917, Rice’s son Lincoln was invalided home from overseas service, soon followed by Catherine (Kitty), his English bride. When their son, Ted, was born in 1920, three generations lived in the Jones Street family home with little income to maintain all-important appearances. However, when H.L. and Charlotte Rice celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1930, newspaper accounts of the reception in their honour were glowing, remarking on their good fortune and the many friends and relatives in attendance. Their most interesting gift came from their daughter Kathleen, “widely known woman prospector of Northern Manitoba” – a bottle of gold dust from her own claim.