Millette et Fils - 125 years of history - The wood: our speciality



In 1873, brothers Didace (1856) and Émery (1858) Millette, return to the Eastern Townships after having worked approximately 8 years in a spinning mill in Ware, Massachusetts. They had little interested in exploiting the family land so their mother gave them $500 she had raised during the exile to the United States for the launch in the timber trade. They were respectively 17 and 15 years.

Didace and Emery decide to settle in the village of Lawrenceville. The construction of a two storey building begins immediately. The first floor is used for the workshop and the second floor is arranging to house for the whole family. They specialize in the production of construction materials such as doors, chassis, slats and shingles. They also built houses and barns.

Their business was flourishing so they expanded their property on several occasions, consequently extending their production to other items such as boxes for cheese dairies.

In 1891, they decided to legally found a company under the name Millette & Brothers. In 1893, the Millette brothers sell their first building destroyed in a fire and purchase a field, located at the turn of a rapid in the Black River. The brothers measure the considerable importance of the land, because they see it as a strategic advantage: the power of the water.

Pleased by their new location, the brothers undertake the construction of their second plant and move their equipment. Their range of products is expanding: they add furniture and coffins to the production of the moment.

Everything is for the best. The company is thriving. But in 1904, the brothers are going through a difficult test: a fire completely destroys the business. The factory is a total loss. They have no insurance. Despite this obstacle, they decide not to abandon their project and rolled up their sleeves, they undertake the reconstruction of a saw mill in 1905, a plant the following year, and they saw this as the perfect opportunity to integrate new machinery.

Second generation

From 1904 to 1913, the company welcomes the brothers five sons– Valmore, Emmanuel, Horace, Omer and Stephan. In March 1913, the company modifies its corporate name and becomes Millette & Sons Limited.

1913 to 1920 is a very flourishing time due to the First World War. Millette & Sons manufactured tent pegs and various products for the Canadian army. Then the line of product still widens: mouldings, deck posts, wood floors, sledges and rocking horses, etc

In 1921, changes take place in the company. Émery and his sons sell their shares to Didace and his three sons. The two founders will die shortly after: Didace dies in 1923 and Émery in 1925.

Consequently, Omer (1885), Horace (1887) and Stephan (1896) will hold the reigns throughout World War 2. Each one according to his talents contributes to the success of the company. Horace remains in the United States to learn woodturning. They buy a wood lathe and begin the production of “plugs” for paper companies, boiler handles, pill and clothes pins boxes and all kinds of small objects. Horace and Stephan will work until their deaths respectively in 1957 and 1960. Omer will retire leaving the presidency of the company to his son Jean. He will die in 1976 at the age of 91.

Third ģeneration

From 1960 to 1965, Jean Millette (1921), his brothers and Stephan, Richard’s son will be the company’s shareholders. In 1963, after three incipient fires in the old building built in 1905, the family undertakes the construction of a fourth factory. The main building is enriched by new wood lathes and a department of painting for the completion of certain parts. Over the years, several other buildings come to give breadth to the company: a hangar, a drier, a sawmill, an office and a wood furnace.

In 1965, Richard Millette (1933), Stephan’s son and Didace last grandson becomes the single owner by acquiring the shares of all the other shareholders. Under his control the company takes a new leap with the contract of manufacturing shipping crates for Bombardier’s Ski Doos in Valcourt. From then on the growth is constant. The number of employees is always increasing. When Bombardier added jet-skis and off road vehicles to its product range; the production increased at the same rate in the small factory of Lawrenceville.

Fourth generation

In the Eighties, Pierre (1960) and Stephane (1965), Richard‘s son-in-law and son, join the team in full expansion. They put up a building to operate a pack saw, they buy a nearby warehouse to add an assembly line and they move the administrative offices in a house beside the factory for all the employees necessary for the good performance of the company.

Despite all the acquisitions, the installations will quickly br cramped. In 2008, an agreement is concluded with Bombardier, now named BRP, to move the assembly lines in the BRP buildings in Valcourt. The company will continue manufacturing crate components, operates saw the mill, the wood lathes and the paint in Lawrenceville. The experience gained from working with BRP brought about a department specialized in crate manufacturing.

The establishment as a subsidiary in Valcourt will soon be followed by another in Ciudad Juárezthen and another in Querétaro, Mexico. Indeed BRP moving the production of its all-terrain vehicles and sea-doos in Mexico, Millette & Son follows them to Mexico and remains BRP crate supplier in the country and abroad. By the same token, the company widened its customer base in Mexico.

Richard Millette will have been the longest active president since the foundation of the company.He left all  administrative activities to the following generation but he remained in charge of the wood turning department until his death in 2015 at the age.82 age. His son Stephane became president of the company.

Fifth generation

Accustomed very young to work in the factory, Pierre Tessier and Dominique Millette (Stephan’s sister) 2 sons now joined the team; Alexis in 2014 and Pierre-Emmanuel in 2015. It is a rare privilege to see a fifth generation taking part in the destiny of a company. As their predecessors; they have the opportunity bring the thinking and the work methods of a generation while benefitting from the experienced previous generation still to the orders from the company.

The sustained efforts of the Millette family members and the work forces which have surrounded them for more than 125 years brought the company to what it is today: a leader in the wood manufacturing industry. And the adventure continues…