Established in 1890, the Dominion Chair Company, has a long history in Bass River. While the company endured many hardships, the Dominion Chair Company became one of Colchester County’s major industries. The company sold chairs across Canada and to places such as the Caribbean, South America, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.
It all started with brothers George and William Fulton, great grandsons of James Fulton, the founder of the town of Bass River. In 1859, the two brothers dammed part of the Bass River for a sawmill and the following year, they began working under the name Bass River Building and Furniture Company. George manufactured and William ran the marketing and sales for the company. This lasted until the early 1870s when the brothers disagreed about the future of the company. William wanted to move the company to Truro, where there was a direct connection to the railway, but George insisted on staying in Bass River. Their argument could not be resolved so George bought out William and managed the company and factory by himself.
In 1875, George bought the Acadia Chair Company in Portaupique. The factory proved unsuccessful, so it was eventually closed down and all of the machinery moved to Bass River. In 1876, George turned the business into a joint-stock company and renamed the it the Union Furniture and Merchandise Company. At this point in time, no chairs had been made by Union Furniture and Merchandise, just various lines of furniture, and growth of the company was slow. The opening of the Intercolonial Railway allowed Ontario companies to market to the Maritimes and it created competition for Union Furniture and Merchandise. Then, on March 17th, 1885, disaster struck for the first time. The Union Furniture and Merchandise factory, sawmill, and their contents burnt down due to a defective stove. Working quickly, the buildings were replaced by April 30th, 1885 and there were major improvements. The new factory was larger, better equipped and more economically operated. The company decided to specialize in the making of chairs and continued this way until seven years later when, on November 3rd, 1892, a fire broke out in a paint room and the factory burnt again. The factory was rebuilt by the next year and business continued as usual.
The current name of Dominion Chair Company Limited was introduced on May 1st, 1903. This name stayed with the company throughout the years and so did the unfortunate pattern of fire destroying the factory and mill. On December 31st, 1909, the factory went up in flames, followed by fires on November 23rd, 1940 and July 27th, 1948. Each time the factory weathered the loss and raised up from the ashes. However, the sixth and final fire on February 5th, 1989, hit the company the hardest. This fire combined with a recession caused by a drop in exports put Dominion Chair in financial trouble. Proposals for government funding to rebuild the factory were rejected twice and in 1991, Dominion Chair declared bankruptcy. In an effort to preserve the company, the Dominion Chair assets were sold to Merle Collins and Ebony and Ivory Wood Products, both of Debert, and some employees displaced by the fire were brought to Debert to continue manufacturing Dominion chairs.
Though the factory no longer operates in Bass River, you can find the still visit the Dominion Chair General Store. Built in 1890, the store continues to operate with a variety of food, drinks and old Dominion furniture to view.