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The History of Mackenzie Milne & Sarnia

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Charles Mackenzie is born in Dunkfield, Scotland on October 5th, the third of seven brothers.
  1836 Sarnia is first founded.
The Mackenzie boys move to Port Sarnia to enter the ship-building industry. Charles and older brother John decide to become tinsmiths. 1847 Port Sarnia is a thriving ship-building community. With no railroads at this time, and very few roads, the water routes provide the most common means of transportation.
Charles and John begin making and selling stove supplies. The store is officially established under John's name. 1848 Population of Sarnia is about 800.
  1853 "The Lanark Observer" prints their first paper.
  1856 Sarnia receives town status.
  1857 Oil is discovered in Oil Springs. Lambton becomes a boom town with oil fields being found in Petrolia too.
Charles and John establish the Liverpool Oil Company on Exmouth Street. The Mackenzie brothers buy a ship and become the first men to export crude oil to England. 1861 Lambton County is still 90% bush land.
Charles Mackenzie marries Agnes Young. they have 11 children together. 1863  
David Milne arrives from Scotland and joins the Mackenzies. 1872  
  1873 Alexander Mackenzie, Charles' brother, is elected Prime Minister of the dominion of Canada and succeeds Sir John MacDonald.
John dies; Charles assumes the entire business and changes the name to Chas. Mackenzie Company. 1877  
Mr. D. Milne becomes partner with Charles. They become Chas. Mackenzie, Milne & Co. 1881 Lambton capitalists begin looking to the booming Petrolia oil fields, envisioning a railroad to link Sarnia-Petrolia-Dresden. The project is never begun because the Grand Trunk tunnel under St. Clair was assured by the time funds could come together.
Charles becomes founder and president of Lambton Trust Co. (now Canada Trust) 1887  
Charles becomes reeve of Sarnia ('til 1894). He becomes the chief director of the St. Clair Tunnel Committee, and promoter of the Sarnia Transportation Company. 1888  
  1890 Plans for the building of the St. Clair Tunnel appear, September 19th, in the Sarnia Observer.
Charles Mackenzie founded the Sarnia Consumers Gas Company to sell manufacturered gas. This company became Sarnia Gas & Electric Light Company in 1893. 1891  
Mackenzie sells fifty 1200 candle power arc street lights to Sarnia at $65 per lamp, moonlight schedule. 1893  
Charles is elected to the board of trustees for a prospective Sarnia Hospital. He donates $4,000 to this cause and more in his will. 1894 Electric light service begins with street lights at the corner of Lochiel & Christina, and with lights at C.S.Ellis store and Mackenzie Milne, the Boys Brigade Hall and the Canadian Oil Co.
Charles Mackenzie dies on September 15th. At the time of his death, the store was the largest hardware outlet west of Toronto. 1900  
D. Milne becomes president. The store becomes incorporated; Mackenzie, Milne & Co. Ltd. is capitalized at $100,000. Charles' sons Malcolm and Charles Jr. would eventually follow in his footsteps. 1900  
Peter Paton is appointed president of the firm after D. Milne steps down with failing health. 1918
  1929 A major economic disaster causes the Great Depression. Sarnia fares better than most towns. Only 456 people were unemployed in 1932.
  1934 The Sarnia Imperials bring home the Grey Cup, officially becoming the Canadian Sr. Rugby Football Champions.
  1938 The Blue Water Bridge is completed.
  1953 The worst tornado ever to strike in Canada up to this time causes over $5 million damage.
Peter Paton dies leaving his son Peter Jr. as president of the company 1957  
Peter Paton Jr. sells Mackenzie Milne to Hugh Shabsove. Paton starts another hardware store on Russell Street. Hugh moves Mackenzie Milne fron Front Street to 526 Vidal Street. 1964  
  1966 Lambton College is built
  1969 Ontario Hydro Lambton Generating Plant is opened on November 7th.
A disastrous fire destroys a quarter of the building and 70% of their stock (arson is suspected). Hugh's son, Ed Shabsove, takes over and moves the company to 1275 Plank Road.
The sluggish economy all but shuts the firm down. The newspaper sadly reports "our oldest firm closes after 134 years". 1983  
Mackenzie Milne is bought by four partners" Ross McEachran, Ted Crombeen, Brad Blake and Allan Primmer. The store is moved to 1490 Plank Road. 1983  
Allan Primmer becomes sole owner and president of Mackenzie Milne. 1992  
Greg Primmer, Al's son, becomes a partner and store manager. 1995 The second St. Clair tunnel is completed.
  1997 The twinning of the Blue Water Bridge is completed.
Mackenzie Milne celebrates 150 years! 1998  
Mackenzie Milne moves to its present location at 1392 Plank Road. The new store is three times bigger with an inventory of $1 million. 1999  

News Clippings
Mackenzie Milne Historic Image

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Four business men buy Sarnia's oldest firm
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Sarnia's oldest firm closes
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First photo of Sarnia
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A Compelling History
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