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Dictionary of Miramichi Biography

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HUTCHISON, RICHARD (1812-1891)

HUTCHISON, RICHARD, lumber and trading company head, militia officer, consular agent, JP, MLA, MP, and benefactor; b. Mearns parish, Renfrewshire, Scotland, 20 Jan 1812, s/o David Hutchison and Mary Pollok; m. 1843, Elizabeth Stewart Mackie, d/o Alexander Mackie and Elizabeth Stewart, of Douglastown, formerly of Aberdeen, Scotland; d. Douglastown, 27 Sep 1891.

After finishing his schooling in Mearns parish at age fourteen, Richard Hutchison went to work for the trading firm of Pollok & Gilmour in Glasgow, one or both of the partners of which were among his relatives. He spent four years there, after which he was sent to the Miramichi, in the spring of 1830, bearing a letter of introduction to Gilmour, Rankin & Co. He advanced steadily in his employment and became a partner in the company, "probably in the late 1840s." In 1852, upon the death of Alexander Rankin, he was made resident manager. Around 1870 he became sole proprietor, and the firm was subsequently known as R. Hutchison & Co. Throughout the period in which he was head of the company, it was among the largest and most successful lumber businesses on the Miramichi, and for a long time it had one of the most productive shipyards.

Hutchison was the keeper of a postal way office in his store at Douglastown from 1851, when he succeeded Alexander Rankin in that role. Later the keepership was transferred to his chief clerk, William Russell Jr. For many years he was a leading figure in the county militia. He was made a captain in the 1st Battalion in 1839, and when the 4th Battalion was formed at Douglastown in 1865 he was appointed lieutenant colonel and commanding officer. In the 1840s he was a school trustee for Newcastle parish. In 1847 he was named a justice of the peace, and he was recommissioned as such in 1855. In 1853 he was one of three commissioners of lights for the Gulf of St Lawrence, with responsibility for lighthouses at Point Escuminac and North Cape, P.E.I. In 1865 he was the Norwegian and Swedish vice-consul for the port. For some time, he was also the Miramichi representative for Lloyd's shipping register.

From soon after its creation in 1854 Hutchison was president of the North West Bridge Co., which built the first highway bridge across the Northwest in 1855-56. This was to have been a privately-owned toll bridge, but after it was finished it was bought by the province for the free use of the public. He was president of the Newcastle Gas Co. when it was formed in 1861 to introduce gas lighting to the town. In 1862 he was one of the incorporators of the North West Boom Co., which controlled log driving, booming, and rafting on the Northwest, and he was still on the board of directors when the company was restructured in 1873. In 1884 he was a founding director of the Miramichi Steam Navigation Co.

Hutchison entered politics in 1865, winning the provincial by-election held to fill the vacancy created by the death of Robinson Crocker. He was also successful in the general election later that year and was appointed to the Executive Council as a member without portfolio. He was defeated in 1866, however, when he ran on the anti-Confederation ticket, even though his detractors claimed, possibly in jest, that he was handing out "a barrel of flour and an overcoat" for each vote. In 1868 he was elected to the House of Commons to fill the seat formerly occupied by John M. Johnson. He sat until the expiration of his term in 1872 and then retired from politics.

Hutchison was one of a committee of three which met in 1849 to organize the Newcastle and Douglastown Mechanics' Institute. In 1850 he was elected to the board of trustees of St James Presbyterian Church. He sat on the board for thirty-three years and, while filling the office of chairman, "directed church matters with great efficiency." When St Mark's Presbyterian Church was organized in Douglastown in 1880 he donated the organ. Much of his public generosity was channeled through the Highland Society, of which he was president from 1852 through 1891. Statistical information on his donations to the society was not publicized, but he was no doubt a major contributor to such projects as the Presbyterian Academy, which the society erected in Chatham in 1861.

When he died, Hutchison, the public figure, was described by the Miramichi Advance as "one of the most prominent, best known, and deservedly esteemed men in the province." In the view of many, indeed, he was "a great and honorable man," and while it was said that he had no sympathy for, and wasted no charity upon, those whom he believed fell short of the correct standard of uprightness, it was also said that he was considerate and even generous, in dealing with his many debtors all over the County. The author John Rankin was less charitable than most in asserting that Hutchison "lacked the elements of touch and sympathy with his fellow creatures" and had "much of the Puritan sourness in his disposition." Father William C. Gaynor struck a similar note when he stated that Hutchison had "a turkey-buzzard's eye for mortgages on poor people's farms."

Hutchison's wife, Elizabeth S. Mackie, was an accomplished artist, a number of whose watercolors of flowers are held by the New Brunswick Museum. A museum publication states that these works, "with the hair brush strokes, the wiping out of lighter veining, and the miniaturist's exactness in showing every pistil, stamen, and anther," are similar to the works of better-known watercolorists of the 19th century. She was also a charitable woman who was "frequently known to go, in most unseasonable weather, and over heavy roads, into the back woods carrying food and clothing to the poor and destitute." When she died in 1867, at age fifty, her funeral was one of the largest attended on record.

Hutchison and his wife had two daughters and three sons. The daughters lived unmarried in Saint John, where the elder of them, Mary E. Hutchison, built the short-lived "Sailor's Home" in 1890, with a rumored $35,000 in assistance from her father, who spent more and more of his own time in Saint John in his later years. The second of the three sons was D. A. Ernest Hutchison. The youngest was Alexander R. Hutchison, who was a physician in Australia at the time of his death in 1880, at age twenty-seven.

Sources

[b] LDS-IGI [m] Gleaner 20 Mar 1843 [d] Advance 1 Oct 1891 / Advance 20 Jan 1881, 1 May 1890, 12 Jan 1893, 23 Aug 1900; Advocate 15 Dec 1880, 7 Oct 1891; Arbuckle (re. North West Boom); Facey-Crowther; Gill; Gleaner 7 May 1839, 25 May 1847, 21 Jan 1854, 11 Aug 1855, 11 May 1861, 11 Jan 1862, 20 Dec 1862, 8 Apr 1865, 23 Dec 1865; Graves; Hist. Highland Soc.; Hoddinott; Hutchison papers; JHA 1853 (re. lighthouses) and 1856 (re. public works); MacManus; Manny (Ships); Memories; NB Museum (flyer re. watercolorists); News 16 Jan 1985; Rankin; Telegraph 26 Feb 1867; World 3 Dec 1884


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