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Dictionary of Miramichi Biography

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ALCORN, ARCHIBALD STEPHEN (1886-1939)

ALCORN, ARCHIBALD STEPHEN, businessman and sportsman; b. Black River, 27 May 1886, s/o Archibald Alcorn and Marjorie MacDonald; m. 1912, Tyne Alvada Vye, d/o Edward S. Vye and Catherine M. Fraser; d. Blackville, 30 Apr 1939.

Archibald S. Alcorn's father, a native of Kelso, Scotland, was engineer on the Chatham Branch Railway in 1880 and superintendent at Chatham with the Canada Eastern Railway in 1891. In 1895 he moved his family to Blackville, where he was engineer and manager of a new steam mill which Alexander Gibson built there that year. He was also the postmaster at Blackville from 1903 to 1907.

As a youth, "Archie" Alcorn Jr sold and delivered the stovewood which was a by-product of the Blackville sawmill, and in an abandoned building on the millsite he opened a livery stable. As his business grew and prospered he also became involved in the pulpwood industry, and with the financial backing of a wealthy American sportsman he was soon operating on a large scale. Between 1914 and 1918 he acquired control over thousands of acres of lumber land and "came to the front as one of the largest employers of labor in central New Brunswick." It was reported in 1920 that his shipments of pulpwood generated more than half the revenue of the Fredericton-Chatham portion of the Intercolonial Railway and that, at age thirty, he was "nearing the millionaire mark."

Alcorn built a general store and hotel at Blackville and installed a diesel-powered electrical generating station, both for his own use and that of purchasers of the service. He had a 'hog ranch' and a farm called "Hardscrabble" at which cattle, sheep, and other farm animals were raised. He imported "carloads of western horses" for use in the lumber woods and bought trotters for his personal sporting pleasure. He lived in the most luxurious home in Blackville and owned both a Buick roadster and a Cadillac sedan.

Alcorn began to experience business reverses in 1920, however, and his fall, which was attributed to declining pulpwood prices, proved to be as spectacular as his rise. First to go was "Bill Sharon," the famous Fredericton-bred trotter which he owned with a business partner. The horse brought $25,000 US, the highest price ever commanded by a Canadian racehorse. News of the sale earned Alcorn "wide recognition...up and down the Miramichi and throughout most of New Brunswick." In June 1921, with two partners, he created A. Alcorn Ltd to take over his business affairs, but the move failed to protect him from his creditors, and bankruptcy proceedings were initiated that summer. In 1922 pressure from the bankruptcy trustees prompted him to quit as manager of the company, and his heyday as Blackville's most flamboyant entrepreneur was over. It took the receivers nearly three years to close the books on his operations, but it was reported in February 1924 that this had been accomplished and that his remaining assets were to be sold "under the hammer."

At the same time as he was conducting business in his own right Alcorn was in charge of operations at Blackville for the Nashwaak Pulp and Paper Co., the firm which had succeeded to Alexander Gibson's sawmill and other lumbering interests. After his financial collapse he continued for a time as superintendent of the mill, but a new Nashwaak Pulp & Paper Co. manager, in the person of William Neales, was transferred to Blackville from Saint John in 1923.

Alcorn was a member of the Masonic order and the United Church. He and his wife, Tyne A. Vye, had a son and five daughters.

There's big Archie Alcorn at Blackville, N.B.,

A beautiful town by the Miramichi,

He did a big business in Pigs and in Pulp,

He swallowed a million in one mighty gulp...

And then came the slump and the Pulpwood did drop,

And Archie with others went over the top.

- Michael Whelan

Sources

[b] church records [m/d] official records / Advance 21 Feb 1895; Commercial World 4 May 1939; Advocate 18 May 1920, 18 Jan 1921, 14 Jun 1921, 11 Jul 1922, 26 Feb 1924; Leader 27 Feb 1920, 8 Dec 1922, 5 May 1939, 3 Aug 1972, 24 Dec 1973; Alcorn family and business data; MacManus; Whelan (GMF)


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