The Gartshore Foundry

In 1838, James Bell Ewart, a wealthy and enterprising citizen of Dundas procured the services of a Scottish millwright by the name of John Gartshore.  John had come to Upper Canada in 1829, and in 1835 built an oatmeal mill in Fergus, but two years later he was burned out.  He then came to Dundas and supervised the building and operation of a grist mill, the Ewart Mill, and then a foundry on Hatt Street specializing in iron and brass items.

The foundry consisted of a brass foundry, a boiler shop, a molding shop, a blacksmith shop and a pattern shop.  It became one of the most innovative manufacturing plants in Canada West and the largest employer in Dundas for 40 years, employing over 150 men at its height.  It produced stoves and steam boilers and machinery for sawmills and grist mills.  The foundry also functioned as an unofficial trade school for mechanics and other workers.  The 1875 Beldon Atlas states: “The Dundas Foundry has been to mechanics what a university is to literary men, and at the present day it would be scarcely possible to visit a town where manufacturing in their line is carried on without finding in its workshop one or more of the graduates of this well known old school.”  These ‘graduates’ included Robert McKechnie and John Bertram who went on to establish the Canada Tool Works, and John Inglis, the founder of the Inglis Washing Machine Company.

In 1846, the foundry burned down, but the energetic proprietor soon had it rebuilt but on a far larger scale, this time constructed of stone.  The buildings included a brass foundry, and boiler, molding, blacksmith, and pattern shops.  The 1851 Dundas map shows nine large buildings designated as Dundas Foundry/J.B. Ewart (which may have included a grist mill).  During most of the year, the machinery was driven by water power, provided by a flume that ran under the factory floor;  steam engines were used during the winter months.  To remain innovative, the company took on new work in order to supply components for the growing steamship and railroad building industries. Through these endeavors, they were able to contribute to many projects including a 35 hp engine for the steamer Valley City, launched in the canal in 1859, and two 300 hp engines for the Great Western Railroad’s car ferry on Lake Erie.  John designed and built a special treble-suction smut machine for cleaning smut mould from wheat for which he received a patent in 1857.

Gartshore’s works were only one of many foundries and machine shops operating in Dundas at this time.  An estimate of the total output of these operations can be made by noting that 410 tons of pig iron and 140 tons of bar iron were imported through the Desjardins Canal in 1848 alone!

In 1859, John’s foundry built the steam engines and machinery for the Hamilton Waterworks, overcoming major technical challenges, but running up a great deal of debt.  That, and a period of economic depression beginning in 1857, caused financial troubles for the Gartshore works.  In 1870, the business was sold to Thomas Wilson of Dundas, and John moved to Toronto.  After Gartshore’s departure, the Company was operated by a group of local businessmen either as the Thomas Wilson Company or the Dundas Foundry (it is shown as Dundas Foundry on the 1875 map).  By the late 1880’s, the business had floundered. There were several attempts to revive it, lastly by the Cochran Machine Company.  Pennington and Baker purchased the vacant building in 1890, using a portion of the space to manufacture telephone boxes.  This operation became  Valley City Seating, later Valley City Manufacturing, who specialized in the manufacture of church seating and laboratory equipment.

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