Milltown Cotton Mill Workers Monument
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The website is at www.milltowncottonmillmonument.ca.
Also on 11 August, a successful fundraising auction at the Milltown Legion raised more than $6,500 for the monument fund. The 13 auctioned paintings depict people at work, exterior views of the mill and falls and textile work objects such as shuttles and bobbins. Two of the paintings -- by St. Stephen artist and retired art teacher Jim Thornton -- are on permanent display at the Charlotte County Museum.
Since March 2005 a Milltown Cotton Mill Workers Monument Committee has been making plans and raising funds for the project. The campaign is led by local historian Bill Eagan (see photo), whose mother and father both worked at the mill. They lived only a few hundred yards from the gates of the mill, and he remembers from childhood the thunderous sound of the 1200 looms operating in the old red-brick building. His well-received book, Woven in Time: An Oral History of the Milltown (St. Croix) Cotton Mill (Korby Publishing, 2004), contains extensive documentation on the mill's history and the stories of those who worked there.
The mill was one of the biggest and longest-operating cotton mills in the province and attracted workers from all parts of New Brunswick as well as from other provinces and England, Scotland and the United States. By 1950 about 1,000 workers were employed there. The mill is known in New Brunswick labour history for its record of labour activism, which goes back to the early years in the 1880s. In the 1950s the workers' union, Local 858, Textile Workers' Union of America, played a leading part in community efforts to save the mill from the shutdowns that were affecting the entire Canadian textile industry.
The bronze monument planned for the site will depict both a male and a female worker from the mill. The design will include a wall of red brick, with inscriptions chosen by donors stamped into each brick. Also at the site a tower will house the original bell from the mill, a reminder of the times when the bell rang to signal shift changes and regulate the way of life in and around the mill.
The total cost of the monument is expected to run between $180,000 and $200,000, of which more than half has already been raised. The Town of St. Stephen has contributed $10,000 as well as the land at the old site of the mill. The New Brunswick government has donated $20,000. Labour organizations, including the Canadian Auto Workers and the Canadian Union of Public Employees, have also given support, as has the local union at the pulp mill in Woodland, Maine. Donations from retired workers, local businesses and Milltown High School graduates are also being received.
The winning design for the monument was submitted by Halifax sculptor Peter Bustin, who has also created The Iron Worker at the Angus L. Macdonald Bridge in Halifax as well as The Sailor on the Halifax waterfront. The model for the statue will be unveiled at an event at 7 p.m. on 11 August 2006 at the Milltown Legion. Paintings by eleven artists depicting scenes at the mill will be sold in a silent auction to raise funds.
All donations to the monument fund are tax-deductible. Contributions should be made out to the Town of St. Stephen/Workers Monument and mailed to the Milltown Cotton Mill Workers Monument Committee, 3960 Route 127, Bayside, NB E5B 2V7. The Committee chair, Bill Eagan, may be contacted at 506 529 4393.
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