Wor. Brother John Alexander Humbird (died 25 February 1963) was a Charter member of Chemainus Lodge, No. 114, which was constituted in 1926. John A. Humbird served as the Wor. Master of Chemainus Lodge, No.114. in 1928-29.
Wor. Brother Humbird also has a prominent place in the history of Chemainus, B.C. He was the manager of the town’s major employer, the Victoria Lumber & Manufacturing Company, between 1924 and 1944, when the company was purchased by MacMillan Bloedel.
John Alexander Humbird is commemorated on a mural in downtown Chemainus, B.C.
John Humbird also played a leading role in building the Chemainus Masonic Temple in 1927.
Here is John A. Humbird’s 1963 obituary in the local Cowichan Leader newspaper:
“WAS IMPORTANT INDUSTRIAL FIGURE
J. Humbird Manager Here 20 Years
News of the death of John Alexander Humbird, Monday evening, February 25 , in Seattle, came as a shock to many Chemainus residents.
Reports state that he suffered a fatal heart attack at Seattle airport while on flight from California to his home in West Vancouver.
Manager of the former V.L. & M. Co.’s mill here from 1924-44, he left when the multi-million dollar business was sold but had visited Chemainus frequently since.
He was a patient in Chemainus Hospital last summer when he suffered a mild attack during one of his many visits.
He was born in U.S.A. and was a veteran of World War I. He also belonged to Chemainus Masonic Lodge.
He leaves his wife, two sons and two daughters. Private funeral services took place in Seattle Thursday. It was the family’s wish that public announcement be kept to a minimum.
FILES of the Leader show that John Humbird’s grandfather, John A. Humbird, Hudson, Wis, U.S.A., was among first directors of Victoria, Lumber & Manufacturing Co., incorporated by special act of the B.C. legislature in 1889.
For the next 55 years the Humbird name was associated with this enterprise, one of the largest mills, wlth associated timber holdings estimated at several billion feet.
First general manager of V.L. & Co was E.J. Palmer, an official of Weyerhaeuser, Seattle, one of the largest forest firms in the U.S.A. He it was whom J. A. Humbird succeeded in 1924, to assume a growing role in the affairs of the company and in the selling agencies of the industry on Canada’s Pacific Coast.
The Humbird family’s history in lumbering has been that of the industry in North America during the past century, a general westward movement, principally from the American Middle West to the West Coast and thence into Canada.
THUS it was that among the last directors of Victoria Lumber & Manufacturing Co. when the sale took place in 1944, were two members of the family, father and son, namely, T. J. Humbird, Spokane, Wash., and John A. Humbird, Chemainus.
T. J. Humblrd was reported in an earlier Leader to have been among original Weyerhauser partners.
This family connection wlth V.L. & M. Co. was also held by another American family, the Phippses. The name of William Phipps appears in the 1889 list of first directors and the name of Stephen C. Phipps, Hudson, Wisconsin, in the last list in 1944.
Name of another Chemainus employee for many years, the late A. E. P. Stubbs, also was included in the list of 1944 directors.
There was considerable guessing under way in the industry at the time of the 1944 sale. E. P. Taylor, Toronto industrialist, headed a new company, Victoria Lumber Co., which made the purchase, and the first manager was J. S. Johannson, previously manager of MacMillan Industries. Management of Victoria Lumber Co. was taken over by H. R. MacMillan Export Co. Ltd., according to the Leader’s files, and the association prospered, with the plant becoming a MacMillan unit, then MacMillan & Bloedel when merger of these two large forest groups took place in 1951 and finally MacMilIan, Bloedel & Powell River Ltd., when M & B and PR joined forces in 1959-60.
E. P. Taylor two years later, in 1946, organized British Columbia Forest Products Ltd., which for a time had H. R. MacMillan management, though the firms have been separate entities.”
(Source: Cowichan Leader, 6 March 1963)
“John Humbird – a tribute
Chemainus lost a dear friend on Monday, February 25, in John Alexander Humbird, who died suddenly at Seattle while returning home from California, where he and Mrs. Humbird had been visiting relations.
During the many years he served as general manager of the old Victoria Lumber & Manufacturing Company, predecessor to the MacMillan, Bloedel and Powell River Ltd., he made a host of friends.
MANY CHEMAINUS people own their own homes today through the financial help of “J. A.” and local servicemen will never forget the many parcels and cartons of cigarettes sent to them regularly overseas by Mr. and Mrs. Humbird. To the soldiers’ families, too, the Humbirds were very kind, with special goodies at Christmas, and drives out of town to the movies, then non-existent in Chemainus.
The children of that period will never forget him. To them he was a combination of Santa Claus, the Easter bunny and Daddy Warbucks. His love of young people showed itself in many ways — caring for two English children during the Battle of Britain, the big Easter egg hunt on the Humbird lawn, the annual Hallowe’en and Christmas treats so eagerly anticipated by the small fry, and those Sunday morning drives.
After Sunday School was out, Mr. Humbird in his big car would drive up and down the streets gathering up the little ones like a modern Pied Piper, take them for a drive, usually to Duncan or Ladysmith, and treat them to ice cream cones. It was unbelievable how many children he could crowd, like sardines, into the car, and the resultant damage to upholstery may well be imagined. Throughout the drive, everyone sang.
MR. HUMBIRD, though he had been living in West Vancouver for many years, retained very strong ties with Chemainus, and was always at the funerals of old-timers, even after a severe heart attack he experienced while visiting Chemainus last year.
He rarely missed a Remembrance Day service or the old veterans’ banquets, taking many pictures, which he sent later with his Christmas cards.
With his passing Chemainus has indeed lost an old and valued friend, and sympathy is extended to his widow and their family. R.J.S.”
(Source: Cowichan Leader, 6 March 1963)
Here are some more information sources on John Alexander Humbird:
- BC Archives photo E-02662 – Victoria Lumber and Manufacturing Company Limited; Lumber Yards, Saw Mills and Wharves, Chemainus
- City of Vancouver Archives – Photo PAN N57 – Victoria Lumber & Manufacturing Co., 1925
- University of British Columbia – Victoria Lumber & Manufacturing Co. Fonds
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