• Bolton’s first cooper was Francis McDonald, an Irishman who came to Canada in 1828 at age 14. He found work in Toronto and spent 8 years there before making his way to Bolton in 1836
  • The grist mill in Bolton needed barrels to transport flour so Francis seized the opportunity and took up coopering
  • In addition to flour, barrels were used for liquids of all kinds as well as fruit such as apples.  Coopers also made butter churns, buckets, water pails, milking pails, wash tubs etc
  • He built a 1½ storey frame house at the corner of Chapel and Mill Street and in 1841 married Ann Long.  The cooperage sat next to the house fronting on Mill Street
  • By 1846, there were two coopers employed in the business, the second possibly Thomas Bullowin
  • The 1861 census records that Ann and Francis were then the parents of 8 children
  • In early 1878, Francis bought a large lot on the west side of Queen Street, just north of the river.  To one side was a single storey brick ‘foundry’ with a  large frame structure behind to house the cooperage
  • On the south side of the lot, Francis built a 2 storey red brick house for his second wife Sabina Franks and their 7 additional children
Tremaine`s 1859 map of Bolton
  • At the height of the business, the cooperage supplied mills in Kleinburg, Woodbridge and Bolton, employing up to 20 men in the busy season. 
  • A load of barrels was shipped once a week to Caledon East while the mill in Bolton took a full load of barrels (100 barrels) every day, six days a week
  • Francis McDonald supplied barrels to a succession of millers in Bolton during his career:  George Bolton, James Cupper Bolton, Edward Lawson, John Gardhouse and Andrew McFall
  • In the 1880s, with the advent of jute bags for storing and transporting flour,  the volume of barrels needed for grist mills diminished rapidly
  • James McDonald, known as Jimmy, continued the business after Francis McDonald`s death in 1892
Flour barrel lid dating to the period when Andrew McFall was the miller of Bolton`s grist mill (1881-1894)










And the buildings?

  • Francis McDonald`s first cooperage on Chapel St is long gone. His first house at Chapel and Mill St was still occupied in the 1950s by the Lockharts
  • The second cooperage was demolished by George Rutherford after he purchased the house and remaining buildings in 1944.  George’s daughter Isabelle and husband Raymond Bottoms live where the cooperage once sat
  • Francis McDonald’s home at 96 Queen Street North still stands
1914 photo of the vertical board cooperage and the 1 storey brick `foundry`
1914 photo of 96 Queen Street North and the cooperage building to the right. Tucked behind the house was the outhouse which was still in use in 1944. It became George Rutherford`s tool shed