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This document was prepared as part of the company’s 100th anniversary celebrations. Major portions of it were used in The Atlantic Advocate article, for example. It provides some interesting insights into the early years of the J.D. Creaghan Company.

History of the J.D. Creaghan Company

One hundred years is widely recognized as a noteworthy anniversary. The year 1975 marks the centenary of the Creaghan family’s involvement in the dry goods business in New Brunswick. Today the J.D. Creaghan Company Limited operates stores at Newcastle, Chatham, Moncton, Fredericton and Bathurst.

It was in 1875 that J.D. Creaghan and his partner Donald Sutherland opened their first store in Newcastle.

The Founders

John Daniel Creaghan, a native of Mountbellew, County Galway, Ireland, and son of James Creaghan, was born on June 24, 1851. Having studied at the Franciscan College at Tuam, he located in Glasgow, Scotland. There he entered the dry goods business and at a young age was sent by the parent firm to their branch store in Fredericton. While there Mr. Creaghan traveled on behalf of this firm. It was probably during one of his visits to Miramichi that he saw the opportunity that Newcastle offered. In 1875 he located there and entered a business partnership with Donald Sutherland.

Always active in community affairs, he was a member of various local organizations. In 1876 he was elected recording secretary of St. Joseph’s Total Abstinence and Literary Society. A member of St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, he was a charter member of the Knights of Columbus, and for many years president of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. One of the organizers of Newcastle’s first Board of Trade in 1894, he was an alderman in Newcastle’s first Town Council five years later. He chaired two Northumberland County Victory Loan Campaigns. A man of vision, he was early interested in the mineral wealth of northern New Brunswick.

On November 30, 1882 he married Ellen Gertrude Adams, the third daughter of Samuel Adams of Douglastown. Her brothers had brilliant careers in both business and politics. She died on January 10, 1935. Their children were Mollie, Clare, Aileen, Donald Sutherland, Thomas Cyril, John Adams, Gerald Francis, Annie Adams and William Vincent.

Mr. Creaghan died at his home on Prince William Street on September 13, 1938 after several months of illness. He was eighty-seven years of age.

The other founder of the firm was Donald Sutherland. A native of Scotland, he immigrated to Fredericton where he was a fellow employee of Mr. Creaghan’s. A partner in Sutherland and Creaghan in 1875 he opened a store on his own in Chatham in 1888. On April 9, 1889 he married Isabella Mailer of Glasgow. Bankrupt in 1892 he sold out to Mr. Creaghan. He died of pneumonia a few months later in New York on January 30, 1893. The Miramichi Advance described him as “one of the most kindhearted and genial of men.”

The Business

It was in 1875 that J.D. Creaghan and Donald Sutherland, fellow employees in a dry goods business at Fredericton, formed a partnership to conduct business at Newcastle. They first located in the former F.K. Fraser store on Castle Street on the site of the present Town Hall. Their first advertisement, which appeared in The Union Advocate, the Newcastle weekly newspaper, described the business this way:

Important Notice
S.C. & Co.
Beg to call the attention of the inhabitants of Newcastle and surrounding district to their grand opening display of Dry Goods, in the Store lately occupied by F.K. Fraser, commencing on Monday Next, Nov. 1st, 1875 and beg to inform buyers that they have purchased for cash a magnificent stock of Dry Goods Consisting of Dress Material of every description, Shawls, Mantles, Furs, Millinery, Gloves, Tickings, Flannels, Ready-made clothing, Camp Blanketing, and they have also secured a large and varied Stock of Fancy Wool Goods, Clouds, Mitts and Promenade Scarfs & Which they are determined to sell at prices which will please everyone during these hard times.
– Sutherland, Creaghan & Co.
P.S. – Call and compare the prices and Goods.
October 26, 1875

The arrival of spring meant a great deal of excitement at Miramichi. As the ice broke up ships made their way up the river to the various communities. At Newcastle the Sutherland and Creaghan store was on the riverbank and ships unloaded almost at the back door. That first spring the new firm shared in the usual excitement.

The New Store!
New Goods
Sutherland, Creaghan & Co.

Respectfully: announce the arrival, (per recent Steamers from Great Britain and Ireland) of large consignments of Dry Goods for Spring & Summer Wear, Comprising the Latest Patterns and Designs in Dresses, Prints, Mourning Stuffs, Sacques, Collars and Cuffs, Kid, Silk and Thread Gloves, Hosiery, etc.; Grey and White Cottons, Household Linen, Men’s Ready-Made Clothing & Furnishings.

All of which are the best Styles and Value that an intimate knowledge of the trade could select for ready money purchase, and we will sell at a Shade Over Cost! Small Profits and Quick Returns.

We Invite Inspection
Sutherland, Creaghan & Co.
Newcastle, May 2, 1876

While the young firm advertised on November 22, 1876 that they would sell off their stock to coincide with the expiration of their lease in two months’ time, they continued at the same stand. (On November 26, 1878, Sutherland and Creaghan purchased a lot on the south side of Castle Street measuring thirty by ninety-nine feet for $1,800.) During the summer of 1880 this store was enlarged. “Messrs. Sutherland and Creaghan of Newcastle, who have recently enlarged their store at the head of the public wharf,” reported The Miramichi Advance, “advertise a splendid lot of goods. Their improved facilities and greatly increased stock ought to attract purchasers in both town and country.”

The success of the business attracted imposters and the following notice was given in October 1880. “It having come to our knowledge that certain peddlers and hawkers are taking advantage of our name through the country in the sale of their wares, we hereby inform the public that we never send out agents. The only way business can be done with us is direct with our store in Newcastle, and we warn our friends that all persons representing themselves as such are frauds and imposters.”

On November 5, 1881 a part of Lot 20 in Block B of the town plot was purchased from George Robinson for $1,035. The following item was carried by The Union Advocate on December 7, 1881. “The building and premises recently purchased by Messrs. Sutherland and Creaghan from Mr. George Robinson is to be at once enlarged and improved. The building is a one and a half-storeys, and it is intended to raise the upper store ten feet, building a new storey between the present lower and upper flats, thus making it a three-storey building. The main store is to be renovated and improved with more modern windows than those old-fashioned ones whose day and generation are passed. The upper flats will be fitted with hall and offices. Messrs. Sutherland and Creaghan have also purchased the building in the rear, at present occupied by Mr. Holohan as a butcher’s shop and intend raising it a storey and fitting it up as a store. Mr. George Stothart is the contractor.”

Goods for the retail and wholesale trade were purchased directly from the manufacturers by either of the partners who traveled each year to Great Britain. Prior to his departure in February 1882, J.D. Creaghan was tendered a complimentary dinner at United States Hotel, Newcastle by “a number of his leading fellow citizens.”

Having embarked on board the ship “Parisian” at Halifax, he proceeded to Great Britain where purchases were made at Manchester, Glasgow and London. “The numerous patrons of Messrs. Sutherland and Creaghan – and, particularly, the country storekeepers who deal with them – will doubtless reap considerable advantage from Mr. Creaghan’s visit to the British markets.” The goods crossed the Atlantic by ship and made their way directly to Miramichi or overland from Saint John by way of Fredericton.

Meanwhile Messrs. Sutherland and Creaghan had purchased from William Watt a lot of land on the south side of Castle Street measuring thirty feet by ninety-nine feet. It was November 26, 1878. Nothing further appears to have happened on this property until 1884. The Miramichi Advance of September 25 reported, “Sutherland and Creaghan are having their fine store front handsomely finished in black and gold. The work is being done most creditably by Mr. Humphrey Fayle, a skillful workman and when completed will very much improve the imprint and the appearance of the store which is the finest building in town. Messrs. S. & C. are evidently determined to keep pace with the times.” The firm moved to their new store in March 1884. The store was to be the centre of business in Newcastle until its destruction by fire in 1924.

In 1889 offices beside the Newcastle store were fitted up as warerooms for carpets and oilcloths, and still they were much too crowded. Further expansion was contemplated by making use of the building at the rear of the store. It was raised several feet until the floor level met that of the main floor. In early September, while various men were working on the structure, it collapsed. No one was injured. The wreckage was removed and a new edition measuring thirty-five feet wide and forty feet deep was constructed. The total depth of the store was eighty-five feet. An apparatus to prevent serious outbreak of fire was located in the new addition. A large tank was located in the attic. It was supplied by water from the artesian well at Mr. Creaghan’s residence. Hose was run to each floor, thus greatly reducing the risk of fire.

In 1888 Messrs. Sutherland and Creaghan decided to conduct business separately. They would however, continue under the name Sutherland and Creaghan. On November 19, 1888 Donald Sutherland purchased the Robert Bain store in Chatham for $2,700. Located on the south side of Water Street, just east of the Hoffman Block, it was occupied more recently by Robert Jacobson before its destruction by fire. The grand opening of the Chatham store took place on December 15, 1888.

The Miramichi Advance of May 8, 1890 reported a burglary at the Chatham store in the following somewhat facetious manner. “A man known as ‘Scotty’ McRae, who is somewhat noted as a thief, was caught on Tuesday night about eleven o’clock, in the act of robbing Messrs. Sutherland & Creaghan’s store, Chatham. Miss Allen, daughter of Capt. Allen, who lives in the vicinity heard a breaking of glass and notified Mr. B.R. Bouthillier, who boards in the house, and also his brother, Mr. Robert Allen. Mr. Bouthillier, having put on his boots, hastened to the street and caught McRae in the act of drawing a piece of print through the broken window, by one end, the role being inside. McRae threatened to do dire damage to Mr. Bouthillier, but that gentleman seized and pluckily held on to him, until Mr. Allen appeared, when the thief was recognized by the latter and as it was not thought by Mr. Allen that he would keep out of the way, he was reprimanded and allowed to go. Mr. Sutherland was then notified by Messrs. Bouthillier and Allen, and while they were doing this McRae had the hardihood to return to his work, but he ran off on their approaching him again. Mr. Sutherland says that thanks to Miss Allen’s giving the alarm and Mr. Bouthillier’s plucky dealing with McRae his loss was only a pane-ful one. A warrant is out for this.”

An 1897 newpaper ad for the J.D. Creaghan stores

On February 1, 1892 Mr. Sutherland sold his interest in the Newcastle store and the Chatham store to Mr. Creaghan for $4,000. He shortly afterwards assigned to James Fish and A.A. Davidson. They offered the stock of the Chatham store for sale on February 27. Mr. Creaghan purchased it en bloc and offered it for sale in job lots. “Having purchased for spot cash the stock and real estate at Chatham and doubled the capacity of the premises,” he announced, “I have decided to continue the business at Chatham as well as at Newcastle on my account. My long business experience of eighteen years on the Miramichi and the kindness I have always received, impelled me to make greater efforts to please the public – who will find my stores at Chatham and Newcastle first-class warehouses in every respect. Ladies will have no cause to send outside for goods or samples. The very latest designs can always be found on my counters as soon as they leave the maker’s hands. I have just returned from a business visit to the leading centres of trade in United States and Canada having selected large lots of the latest novelties for spring and summer wear. As competition is a test, I respectfully invite keenest comparison and inspection of these merchandises – no trouble to show goods or give samples.”

William Murray, a Chatham merchant, had also assigned in 1892. Mr. Creaghan on August 8, 1892 purchased the Murray store on the north side of Water Street in what is today’s Digdon’s shoe store. Extensive repairs were made by James Mowatt the following May. Later that year the bankrupt stock of M.F. Noonan was purchased by Mr. Creaghan and offered for sale at the Murray store.

On May 28, 1896 Bridget Mills sold her home in Chatham to Mr. Creaghan for $1,050. It was to be the site of the present Chatham store. A party of workmen under the direction of James Desmond set about to convert the house into a store. The building was undermined and the lower storeys taken away. The roof which was but two or three years old was the only part of the original building that remained. An eight-foot high basement was constructed. The ground floor had a twelve-foot ceiling while the second and third floors measured nine feet. The new store with a fifty-foot frontage on Water Street and a depth of sixty-five feet was open for business in November 1896. A reporter to The Miramichi Advance described the new store:

“The main entrance is from Water Street through recessed double doors, which lead the visitor to the main floor. This is of birch laid in 2 and 2/3-inch widths, grooved and tongued and blind-nailed. There are no columns or other supports to interfere with a clear view of the whole interior. The walls and ceiling are all sheathed with 2 and 1/2-inch beaded pine, which is covered with white and gold. Continuous bracketed shelving runs all around the walls to a height of eight feet. The counters are of walnut and ash, finished in oil and of handsome design.

“Facing the entrance is the cash desk and in front of it, a circular counter and shelving for small wears, hosiery, gloves, laces, haberdashery, etc. To the right are the dress goods, black stuffs and ladies’ wear.

“In the right extension on this floor is a complete department for gentlemen’s furnishings. To the left of the main entrance are the prints, flannelettes, fancy and staple cotton goods, while on the left side of the extension is the woollen department – single and double cloths, flannels and woollen goods generally. Near the rear end of the extension are gentlemen’s hats and capes and a complete children’s clothing department, and on the right at the extreme rear is an exposed stairway leading to the second floor and on the left is the office. Near the foot of the stairway is a double doorway leading into a quadrangular space opening on Wentworth Street. It is through this that goods will be brought in. Flanking the quadrangle on the south is a wing about eighteen by fourteen feet from the main floor of which the rear of the basement is reached by broad stone steps. This part of the building is to be fitted as a bonded warehouse, and Mr. Creaghan hopes to have it so declared and placed under the official control for the convenience of this large increasing trade.

“The basement, proper, is reached by a stairway in the main store near the Water Street front and on the east side. It is lighted from Water Street by corrugated glass and is nicely floored and sheathed. Here is the stock of oilcloths and linoleums up to fifteen feet in width, Hessians and other heavy goods. Towards the rear is the wallpaper, reserve stock, etc., and at the rear, the heating apparatus, fuel room, etc. There are also convenient toilette rooms in the basement.

“The front portion of the second floor is devoted to carpets, window hangings and curtains, household drapery, wallpaper and home decorating goods. In the extension will be the millinery room and ladies’ private toilette room and at the rear a complete gentlemen’s clothing department, with private fitting room.

“The third floor will be devoted to light goods for reserve stock – trunks, valises, pillows, blankets, quilts, counterpanes, cotton batting and other bulky and light stuff.

“The building is fitted with Gurney-Massey patent heaters and ventilators and lighted by electricity – a special cluster of incandescent lamps lighting the lace and ribbon counter.

“The work on the new building after Mr. Desmond had put it in a position, therefore, was done as follows: masonry by Joseph Forrest; carpentry by John Ryan; painting by Wm. Johnson and Frank Barden; furnace work by Arch. McLean. The counters are by John McDonald.”

That fall Mr. Creaghan approached the Chatham Town Council about having a cement sidewalk laid in front of his store, he offering to pay half the cost. The Council agreed and the next summer the sidewalk was laid, the first of its kind in the town.

In November 1897 the Kimball cash system was introduced in the Chatham store. Containers to cash along a single wire track to a cashier who made the change and returned the container to the clerk.

Other developments in Chatham included the purchase for $2,000 on February 6, 1900 of the Cyrus Brown building on the south side of Water Street from Catherine and George Dick. Mr. Creaghan applied and received permission to erect and improve a building on the Dick property. In May the town clerk complained that the building in the course of erection was within eighty feet of Water Street and therefore was required by a town bylaw to be of brick. Mr. Creaghan argued that he was enlarging an already existing building and was therefore exempt. The town clerk took the case before the police magistrate, W.C. Winslow appearing for the town and R.A. Lawlor for Mr. Creaghan. The decision was awarded against Mr. Creaghan who appealed the case. Judge McLeod reversed the judgment on July 23. The Brown store which was rented out was destroyed by fire in September 1904.

The year 1905 was the thirtieth anniversary of the beginning of the business. It was to be a significant one in the history of the company. On March 1, 1905 J.D. Creaghan purchased from James Flanagan, merchant, the Caledonia Building, Main Street, Moncton with $25,000 worth of stock, which was offered for quick sale.

That same month J.D. Creaghan, D.S. Creaghan, Newcastle; Fulton MacDougall, Moncton; Howard McKendy, Chatham; J.W.Y. Smith, P.S. Archibald, T.W. Flanagan, Moncton; were incorporated as the J.D. Creaghan Co. Ltd. Capital stock was to be $100,000. J.D. Creaghan was elected president and Howard McKendy, secretary-treasurer. The head office was at Newcastle.

R.R. Bentley was the first manager of the Moncton store. While the Flanagan stock was being moved out to make way for the new spring stock, word was received that the S/S “Parisian” had been wrecked. Most of the goods were water damaged. New stock was ordered. Meanwhile the damaged goods were put on sale.

The Daily Times of May 30, 1905 described the new store:

“J.D. Creaghan Co. Ltd. have made a number of improvements through their establishment since taking over the business formerly carried on by Mr. James Flanagan in the Caledonia Building. The windows have been cased in after the latest fashion and the store has been painted throughout. The main feature in the improvements is the glass showcases or ‘silent salesmen’ put in. These are of the latest design, being equipped with electric light to display goods to the very best advantage. Nearly $700 has been spent in ‘silent salesmen’ alone. Each department of the establishment has been supplied with a new stock of goods and the store throughout presents an up-to-date and attractive appearance.”

Back at Miramichi further improvements were made to both stores in 1906. At the Chatham store an ell measuring thirty-six feet by twenty-two feet was added. At Newcastle the stairway was taken away so that the two stores were made into one. At this time there were six clerks at Chatham, nine at Newcastle and fifteen at Moncton.

The floorspace of the Newcastle store was extended in 1912. Other changes included the installation of a new cash system and new display cases and fixtures.

Disaster struck the Newcastle store on May 23, 1924. At 4:30 in the morning fire was discovered by Thomas Power who lived across the street. It began near the office. Having spread through the Creaghan building it spread to A.A. Davidson’s building next door. Both buildings were destroyed. The loss to the Creaghan firm was put at $75,000 for stock and $10,000 for the building. The insurance covered half this amount.

Creaghan’s – A Dependable Place to Shop for 100 years

The company temporarily located in the Brander Building two doors away. A new brick building was designed by R.A. Frechette of Moncton. A.A. Davidson rebuilt next door in the same architectural style. The new store measured fifty-five feet by ninety feet. Tozer Brothers of Newcastle were the contractors. Davidson’s building measured twenty-eight feet by fifty-eight feet. It was later acquired to become part of the store.

In 1937 the Moncton store was enlarged, to include the entire building from Main Street to Seymour Street.

In 1938 Donald Sutherland Creaghan, after the death of his father, became the second president of the J.D. Creaghan Co. Ltd. He was involved with the company for over sixty-two years prior to his retirement due to ill health in August 1967. Throughout his life he was actively involved in the community. He was three times elected mayor of Newcastle: April 1923, April 1924 and April 1939. He was an alderman from 1925 to 1927 and from 1933 to 1935. He served many years as a county councillor. For more than thirty years he was Norwegian and Swedish vice-consul. A charter member of the local Knights of Columbus, the Newcastle Rink Association, and the Newcastle Curling Club, he was one-time president of the Newcastle Rotary Club, and the first chairman of that organization’s sponsoring committee of Air Force Cadet Squadron No. 315. During World War II he was vice-president of No. 10 Air Observer School at Chatham, he helped organize the Soldiers Entertainment Committee, and was chairman of the GreekWar Relief Fund for Northumberland County. He was a member of the Miramichi Officers Mess and served as chairman of the Northumberland County Progressive Conservative Association. Actively involved in the organization of the Miramichi Broadcasting Company, he was a director of that concern. He married Rita Buckley. The children of this marriage were John, Mark, Richard P., Thomas V., Alan B. and Nora. Mr. Creaghan died June 9, 1968 aged seventy-eight.

On the 75th anniversary of the company a fourth store was opened at Fredericton on September 25, 1950. The large three-storey Edgecombe Building on Queen Street, three hundred and thirty feet long, stretched from Queen to King Street. H.H. McCartney was the first manager. Successive managers were Robert Curll, A.E. Brown and Richard P. Creaghan.

In 1960 a branch of the J.D. Creaghan Company Limited was opened at the new Fairview Plaza in Saint John. Under the management of Marven Creaghan, it was closed out in 1970 when a new store was opened on Main Street, Bathurst. Managers at this last branch have been Mrs. Travis, Mrs. Aube and Mrs. Mae Veniot.

D.S. Creaghan was succeeded in 1958 as president by William V. Creaghan. Having commenced work with the firm in 1919, he was manager of the Moncton store by 1923. He was vice-president and general manager from 1953 until 1958. A graduate of Harkins Academy, Newcastle, he also received a bachelor of arts degree from the University of New Brunswick. A pilot with the Royal Air Force in World War I, he was later president of the Moncton Flying Club. Several organizations made demands on his time. He was president of the Moncton Board of Trade; honorary president of the Moncton Junior Board of Trade; charter member and president, Moncton Gyro Club; president Moncton City Club; president of the Albert the Jubilee and the Aesculapius Fishing Clubs; vice-president, Moncton Community Chest; vice-president of the Retail Council of Canada, Maritime Region; vice-chairman, Hospital Board; member of the executive of the School for Those Suffering Cerebral Palsy and Mental Retardation. Having retired as president of the J.D. Creaghan Co. Limited in 1972, he was chairman of the board of the time of his death on June 25, 1973. His only son is the Hon. Paul S. Creaghan.

In 1966 the company’s head office was moved from Newcastle to Moncton. Three years later a second store was opened in that city in the new Highfield Square, an indication of the company’s intention to stay abreast of the times.

Donald A. Creaghan became the fourth president of the J.D. Creaghan Company Limited in 1972.

While there have been many dry goods businesses started at Miramichi, few have survived to celebrate their one hundredth birthday. It was through the energy, good sense, and vision of J.D. Creaghan that this business expanded during his lifetime to include stores at Newcastle, Chatham and Moncton. The program of expansion was afterwards continued by Mr. Creaghan’s successors. Stores were opened at Fredericton, Saint John, Bathurst and a second store at Moncton. As the J.D. Creaghan Company Limited commences its second century, the good wishes of the citizens of New Brunswick go with them.

History of the Caledonian Building

Opening of Fredericton Store (1950)

Creaghan’s Stages Innovative TV Fashion Show (1958)

Opening of Saint John Store (1960)

Creaghan’s to have New Owner (1986)