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N.M. Paterson and Sons Grain Company

This has been a family-owned and operated company from its inception in 1908 until the present, when the third generation is managing the company. Norman Paterson was born at Portage La Prairie, Manitoba in 1883. He worked at various jobs connected with the grain business; in 1908 he moved to Fort William (today Thunder Bay), where he purchased screenings from the terminals and shipped them east as feed. In 1912 he started his own company, N.M. Paterson and Company, and in the same year built a small 50,000 bushel mixing house. In 1914 he constructed a 100,000 bushel cleaning and drying elevator. Needing to source grain for his terminal business he started the Royal Elevator Company, and purchased a line of fourteen elevators in south-central Saskatchewan. He formed the Interior Elevator Company to operate the Royal Elevator facilities. In 1920, now with seventy-six country elevators, he put all elevators under N.M. Paterson and Company, discarding the “Interior” name. While expanding his country elevator business, which peaked at 108 elevators in the 1940s, he was expanding his terminal capacity and going into lake shipping. By 1923 he had terminal capacity of 1,350,000 bushels. In 1915 he had purchased and operated three small lake vessels to move grain between terminal elevators; after adding four steel lake vessels, he formed Paterson Steamships Ltd. in 1926 and acquired thirteen more vessels. By 1930 the company operated a fleet of thirty-two vessels and had terminal capacity of four million bushels.

In 1940 Norman Paterson was named a Senator by Prime Minister Mackenzie King. During World War II many of the company's vessels were loaned to the government for the war effort; seventeen were lost. By the 1950s the fleet was restored to thirty-five. Paterson's two sons, Donald and John, who had served in the Royal Canadian Air Force, joined the company; John concentrated on shipping, and Donald on the grain business. In 1950 the grain and shipping companies became N.M. Paterson and Sons Ltd. In the 1960s the company began to consolidate its country elevators through trades with other companies, sales, and closures on abandoned rail lines. The company built its first high throughput elevator at Orkney, Saskatchewan in 1976. In 1978, facing high costs for new equipment for air pollution control as well as the need to refurbish a deteriorating facility, it closed its terminal in Thunder Bay.

In 1981 John Paterson died, and Norman relinquished the presidency to Donald. The company's head office was moved from Thunder Bay to Winnipeg. In 1983 Norman Paterson died, one week after his 100th birthday. Donald and John each had two sons, who are now involved in the company. In 2004 the company had forty-six licenced primary elevators, of which twenty-three were in Saskatchewan, with storage capacity of 117,490 tonnes. The company owns NutraSun Foods, a pneumatic flour milling operation located in Regina; it produces a line of organic (NutraBake) and conventional (SunnyBake) Hard Red Spring and Hard White Wheat flours.

Gary Storey

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Further Reading

Anderson, C.W. 1991. Grain: The Entrepreneurs. Winnipeg: Watson and Dwyer Publishing Ltd.; Wilson, C.F. 1978. A Century of Canadian Grain. Saskatoon: Western Producer Prairie Books.
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University of Regina Government of Canada Government of Saskatchewan Canadian Plains Research Center
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