The brotherhoods of canoe builders

Benson Gray

Canoe History Enthusiast
Staff member
Many small businesses start as a family operation but I've been surprised at how often brothers and other family members were involved in canoe businesses. One of the oldest of these appears to be the B. N. Morris canoe company that seems to have had Bert running the office while his older brother Charlie helped with production. The twin brothers Walter and Wendell Grant learned to build canoes at Morris. Wendell went on to a long career at the E. M. White Canoe Company as described below from 1918.


Dan Miller has also noted that Walter and Wendell's sister Delia married E. M. White. Walter went on to setup operations for George Terry when he founded the Kennebec Canoe Company. Walter left in 1930 and started the Skowhegan Canoe Company. This is where Anson Corson learned the trade. He may also helped with production for the Sebago Boat and Canoe Company before starting the Corson Boat Company with his brothers Linwood and Clayton.

Another group of brotherly connections started when Alfred Wickett sought work building canoes at George Gray's hardware store. One of the first things George did was to enlist his younger brother Herbert to help setup the organization that eventually became the Old Town Canoe Company. Alfred Wickett soon brought in his brothers Richard and Humphrey to help him with production. Humphrey stayed with Old Town for the rest of his life.

Richard left to run the operations of the Chestnut Canoe Company in 1904. He had been lured away by William Chestnut who was setting up a canoe shop with his brother Harry as part of their father Henry's hardware business. Two other brothers George and Allie Ayers also left Old Town for Chestnut at the same time.

Alfred left Old Town in 1915 and soon started the Penobscot Canoe Company across the river in Milford, Maine and then the St. Louis Meramec Canoe Company of Valley Park, Missouri in 1922.

I'm sure that there are other examples as well.

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And let's also remember Earl and Floyd... The Willits Brothers. They stayed together throughout their career, from beginning to end until death did they part.

Absolutely, along with Peter and Christ Thompson of the Thompson Brothers Boat Manufacturing Company. Guy E. Carleton and his brother Otis H. Carleton were working together building bateaux in Old Town according to the 1870 census records. It is not clear if Otis stayed until the canoe business was added. Even Edwin M. White worked with his 19 year old brother George and Alfred Wickett in 1895 as described below.


The Carleton operations were purchased by Old Town in 1910 and White was added in 1984.

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