Burchill, George

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George Burchill (May 8, 1820 – June 18, 1907) was a shipbuilder, lumberman and merchant in New Brunswick.

He was born in Bandon, County Cork, Ireland, the son of Thomas Burchill and Catherine Murphy, and came to New Brunswick with his parents in 1826. He found work as a clerk in a store in Chatham. Burchill was hired as a clerk by Joseph Russell and went on to become business manager for Russell's shipyard. In 1849, he married Bridget Percival. In 1850, with John Harley, Master Ship-builder, and aided by financial assistance from Rankin, Gilmour and Company, he purchased the shipyard from Russell.

Together Burchill and Harley were to construct nine square-rigged ships ranging in size from 568 to 1,002 tons. They built with quality materials, even importing oak knees from Quebec when necessary, and always prudently insured their ships and cargoes. Like most Maritime shipbuilders, they were also lumber merchants. They annually shipped as much as two million board feet of deals to Rankin, Gilmour in Liverpool.

The partners also traded in lumber and owned a general store. In 1857, on the advice of Rankin, Gilmour, the partnership was dissolved and Burchill set up a lumber and retail business in Nelson. His logs were processed at a sawmill owned by Charles Sargeant from 1868 to 1875. Burchill then purchased the Sargent operation. In 1881, he established the company George Burchill and Sons, with his sons John Percival and George Jr.

From 1880 to 1906 the annual average output of its mill was approximately four million board feet. The Burchills maintained their attachment to wind and sail for shipping. Although the first shipment of deals to leave the Miramichi by steamship did so in 1866, Burchill did not convert to steam until 1892. North American shipments, however, went by rail exclusively after 1885.

In the operation of lumber camps Burchill was ahead of his time. Many of the foodstuffs he provided did not appear in other camps for another 20 years. He also supplied such amenities as windows, towelling, blankets, and carpeting, but at a financial penalty. The costs of procuring logs himself were above what he had to pay for logs from others. He was also a benevolent landlord. From 1875 to 1896 the rents on the houses he had acquired with the Sargeant mill varied from $4.00 to $2.50 a month according to the changing economic times.

In 1904, he retired from the business. Burchill died in Nelson on June 18,1907 at the age of 87.


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