Brodeur Bros. Boat Builders was a small family firm located on the shores of Georgian Bay in Waubaushene. It operated from 1932 to 1947.
Figure 1: The Brodeur Brothers c1935
The founders and operators of the business were seven of the Brodeur brothers: (From Left to Right) Walter, Albert, Edmund, William, Patrick, Sam and Steven. (William, centre, was the grandfather of the writer). Two other brothers and two sisters were not active in the business.
The Brodeur brothers came from a family of lumbermen. Their father, Jeremie Brodeur, was a millwright at the Waubaushene mill of the Georgian Bay Lumber Company. Jeremie and his family came to Waubaushene from Ste. Paulin, Quebec about 1885. (The first “Canadian” Brodeur had arrived in Varennes in New France about 1675.)
The Brodeurs were representative of many Quebec families who moved to Ontario to follow the lumber industry. No doubt Jeremiah must have passed on to his sons some important woodworking skills. As self-taught craftsmen they built the Brodeur homes on Cherry Street which are still standing today.
Their boat works consisted of a simple tarpaper and wooden frame building with a single boat slip. They generally built one or two boats at a time in their small shop. In later years they were located on Coldwater Road near Duck Bay road and the old Waubaushene bridge. Prior to 1937 they operated from a site off Balsam Street at the entrance to Matchedash Bay.
Figure 2: The Location off Balsam Street
The brothers apparently had no interest in growing the business. No one brother was in charge of the operation; they equally shared the responsibilities of running the business. They built to customer order and their sales were based upon word of mouth and reputation.
In their heyday they built up to ten boats per year, ranging in size from canoes and rowboats to cruisers and open launches. They also did repairs to other craft. Their wooden cruisers and launches featured solid oak frames and classic lines, with gleaming mahogany interior and exterior finishes. Their boats were very fast, powered by gasoline engines such as the Buchanan Comet. When business was slow the Brothers also worked for Ditchburn Boats Ltd. of Gravenhurst.
Figure 3: Brodeur Sedan “Witch”, 1932
The boats were often ordered by wealthy people from the Toronto area. The firm had a lot of competition such as Ditchburn Boats and Grew Boats in Penetanguishene.
The firm built a 50’ sedan launch for Loblaw’s called the “Movedalfen” which supplied groceries to cottages in Muskoka during the summer months. Although the brothers never had their own large boat, they would use the “Movedalfen” occasionally for family picnics.
Their biggest job was the construction in the early 1930’s of an eighty foot steel and wood yacht (“Kenosha”) built for C H (Charles) Sheppard who had bought the Georgian Bay Lumber Company headquartered in Waubaushene.
Charlie Sheppard also bought the 130’ ”Ambler”, which featured twin diesel engines and had a six-man crew. He gave the Ambler to the Canadian Navy to help in the World War II effort. The Brodeurs built four different boats for the Sheppard family, the last a beautiful mahogany cruiser with a cockpit and large seating area.
In the winter or 1939-1940 the Brothers built the gas boat “Julie F”. For 32 years Norm Brodeur and other family members would deliver gasoline and fuel to cottagers and businesses on the Georgian Bay shore and on the Severn River.
Figure 4: Coldwater Road Boat Shop and Cruiser c1945
During WWII the company had a government contract to build 25-32 foot diesel motor cutters for the Ministry of War. It ceased operations in 1947, unable to compete with mass production techniques.
Clément Brodeur, Grégoire Brodeur, Brodeur: essai sur l’histoire et la généalogie de la famille Brodeur en Amérique, 1981
Victor G. Brodeur, Brodeur Bros. Boat Builders, ClassicBoat Magazine, Fall 2008. Much of the information in this posting is derived from this article.
Susan Jones, The Hamlet of Waubaushene, School Paper, 1978, Waubaushene Public Library