The ranchers of New Brunswick had one thing in common with Prince Edward Island, they preferred foxes to mink. Not only were the mink ranchers few in number, but, half of the ones that advertised stock for sale hid behind a ranch name. J. Walter Jones list "Permits issued to capture fur-bearing animals in New Brunswick" made in 1914 and the Dominion Bureau of Statistics census in 1938 are in the person's name. The only name that appears on both lists, of which we are certain, is the Great Canada Black Fox Co. Limited of Loggieville. In 1914, they had a permit to capture four mink, two marten and five fisher. In 1938, the Company had added Northern to its name and admitted to having foxes only. Were they early mink ranchers, or just momentary possessors of four mink? We don't know.
In the May 1915 issue of the Silver Black Fox, F. H. Copp of Port Elgin offered options on mink for the first and last time we can find.
Paul Flemming in his report on early New Brunswick people says "the first ranch that can be designated as such was run by Evan Bourns, Hugh Bourns and Hugh Church from 1914 to 1917 at Petitcodiac near Munroe's Fox Ranch. They were forced to give up the project due to lack of suitable feed- and low pelt prices.
"There were people licensed to keep mink as early as 1908 in New Brunswick, but it appears they caught pregnant females in the spring or box traps throughout the summer and only kept them until fall for pelting.
"The mink industry was slow getting into the Maritime's because of the success and the prosperity of the fox industry that preceded it. In the thirties, mink were raised to a large extent along with foxes.
"Mink ranching in New Brunswick seemed to develop in distinct areas throughout the province. These areas had a preponderance of fox ranches for the most part or were near to rivers or tributaries where food was available. This would also lead one to believe that some had caught and started raising mink from the wild in those areas. The mink districts were Debec, Bathurst, Newcastle, Petitcodiac, Salisbury and St. Croix River area."
Wanamaker Mink Breeders Association of the Range sounds like a group, but, likely would be a ranch, advertised in the May 1930 issue of the Fur Trade Journal "Pioneers and first successful breeders of ranch bred mink in New Brunswick."
Sterling Mink Ranch of New Mills advertised in the March 1929 issue of the Fur Trade Journal "20 years of select breeding." In November 1931, they showed four mink in the International Show at Sherbrooke, Quebec and were awarded four certificates of merit and were complimented "In dispatches" by the Show Manager.
In the February 1929 issue of the Canadian Silver Fox News, William E. Harmer of Norton had the following advertisement; "Mink wanted, two pair ranched or uninjured wild and one pair of marten." We are left to speculate on the success of his request as his name never appears again as a rancher or an advertiser.
Todd's Fox Farms of Milltown, who claimed to be in the business 15 years, which would have them starting in 1914, advertised in the November 1929 issue of the Fur Trade Journal "Listen - have to offer - at half price 300 silver foxes, four hundred mink - 45 badgers. Terms to suit. My animals will put you on easy street."
Valley Silver Fox Farms of St. Stephen advertising in the January 1930 issue of the Fur Trade Journal said "Eight years Yukon's."
B. M. Goodspeed of Peniac advertised in the November 1930 issue of the Fur Trade Journal `"Fine furred New Brunswick mink; pen born, tame, prolific." In the 1934 Dominion Bureau of Statistics list, there is a B. F. Goodspeed and Son which we presume is the same ranch and either the initial is a mistake or this is another member of the family.
We think it reasonable to point out that claims for a set number of years do not mean that these ranches raised mink continuously during these periods. As most had foxes as well as mink it could refer to their start in fox ranching. Another factor was a need to assure the purchaser that these mink were pen-raised; so the time reference could he to the fact that these mink were domesticated over this period by several different ranchers. Unfortunately, these ranches have long ceased to exist and we have found no way to check their claims.
Northern New Brunswick Mink Farms Limited of Bathurst advertised breeders for sale in the September 1931 issue of the Fur Trade Journal. Once was enough because we never found another advertisement. In 1939 they were listed as prizewinner's in a field day at Bathurst.
Bathurst Fur Mink Farms showed five mink in the November 1931 International Mink Show at Sherbrooke, Quebec and won a championship and reserve as well as three certificates of merit. J. E. Connolly placed fourth in a live mink grading competition at that show.
Bathurst Northern Mink Fur Farms Limited is listed in the 1938 Dominion Bureau of Statistics census. We believe that all three. names apply to the ranch owned by J. E. Connolly who was to become well known and respected by Canadian mink ranchers. He served on the Dominion Fur Council and represented his province on the Canada Mink Breeders directorate. He was honoured posthumously by Canada Mink Breeders in 1973.
James A. Flemming of Debec, started in 1927 with wild-caught foxes and in 1931 with wild-caught mink. In an advertisement in the October 1935 issue of the Fur Trade Journal, he says "Extra dark northern New Brunswick mink. Male kits $25 each. Satisfaction guaranteed. My mink are descendants of the best wild mink I have been able to procure over a period of years." At another time, he described these mink as St. John River Wild. Since that time good quality breeders have been added at intervals and this ranch alone or the early New Brunswick operations have survived to the present day. Paul W. Flemming the son of James A. is the present operator and he is a past President of Canada Mink Breeders Association.
Edwin B. Reed of Campbellton, had a mink ranch over the Quebec border at Caplin River. It was called the Gaspesian Mink Farm and was managed by W. B. McLellan. The following appeared in the February 1931 issue of the Fur Trade Journal under the heading of Quebec Mink "Selected extra dark Gaspesian stock guaranteed equal (to) any Labrador or Eastern Canadian Mink." We presume that these were wild mink from the Gaspe peninsula.
A. R. Lamont of Bristol said in December 1931 issue of the Fur Trade Journal "Fine, dark, full furred Quebec mink, select breeders."
W. R. McMillan of Durham Centre had this to say in his advertisement in the September 1937 issue of the Fur Trade Journal, "McMillan Mink, eastern type fine dark. Foundation stock the best we could find in Canada, from different ranches. Pedigreed and carefully culled for years. Ask for particulars. Prices reasonable. Ranch one mile from Jacques River Station CNR. Free advice from a successful rancher." In the October 1935 issue, we find his letter to the Editor referring to an earlier questionnaire on ranch problems. The advice from McMillan is mature and well reasoned. We suspect that he had mink before 1930. This suspicion is based on his admission that he paid $300 a pair for his original stock.
Killamarsh Fur Farm of Wirral, which we believe was owned by Frederick Graham advertised once. The advertisement in the June 1938 issue of the Fur Trade Journal said, "Fine dark Eastern mink - wanted: nutria, fisher and marten." We suspect he is selling mink and offering to buy the others.
William Drabble of Wirral, offered an article on "Theory of Feeding" in the June 1938 issue of the Fur Trade Journal. In succeeding issues, he has short articles on making a mink water fountain and on a catching box. In September of that year, he has his first breeding stock advertisement of a series that continues for several years.
It should be noted that the DBS census of 1938 did not list either of the two ranches from Wirral. So much for the accuracy of Government lists.
Payne Brothers of Bathurst never advertised. Paul Flemming says "Payne Brothers had a large and well-known ranch." In the December 1939 issue of the Canadian Silver Fox and Fur, there is a report of the first New Brunswick mink field day and show held November 22nd at Bathurst. Hubert Payne had the Grand Champion and several other awards. Other prize winners mentioned were Lockhart Ronald's, Northern Mink Ranch, Mrs William McKie, James Brown, Harper Kent, John Foley, Lee Cail and W. R. McMillan.