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Kings County GenWeb 
New Brunswick - Canada

JAMES ALFRED WHELPLEY
James Alfred (Albert) Whelpley was born on March 5, 1839 in Westfield, New Brunswick, Canada. He was the son of Thomas and Maria (Belyea) Whelpley. Although his parents gave him the middle name of Alfred, he used the middle name of Albert. He married Jemima Jane McLeod sometime before 1869.

J.A. Whelpley was an inventor and is credited with causing ice skating to become a favorite past time of Canadians. James invented the "Long Reach" ice skates when he was about 18 years old. He called them Long Reach after the stretch of the St. John River near his New Brunswick home. These skates consisted of a long steel blade that was fitted into a wooden top like a bob skate. A pair of leather straps fastened the skates to the wearer's boots. A screw in the skate fitted into the heel of the boot to keep the skate from slipping.

J.A. and his brothers began manufacturing the Long Reach ice skates in 1859. The skate factory was at Jones' Creek, near Oak Point, on the Western side of the Long Reach River in Greenwich, New Brunswick. The factory used a 41 foot water wheel for power. It also used a steam engine in freezing weather.

In 1868 J.A. went to Nova Scotia to work but re-joined his brothers at their Greenwich plant in 1875. When the factory closed in 1886, James A. Whelpley looked to the United States for continued commercial success and fortune. His new skate was granted a U.S. patent on April 8, 1884. The Whelpley skate won the endorsement of a National Amateur Speed-Skating Champion, G.D. Phillips who credited his win to being able to "get more speed with less waste of power" on Whelpley skates.

A pair of Whelpley Long Reach Speed Skates are on display at the New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.

In an effort to gain a wider market for the skates and a manufacturing opportunity, Whelpley signed a contract early in 1885 with William M. Caldwell of Brooklyn, New York and another contract in April 1885 with Samuel W. Hale of Keene, New Hampshire, to take over the machine shop and equipment of the Osborne Engine Manufacturing Company of East Boston.

By 1886 operations had been moved to South Keene with Whelpley employed as superintendent of the Keene Manufacturing Company. Whelpley made contracts in 1898 and 1890 with Keene Manufacturing for a salary of $2,000.00 per annum plus a percentage of the sales of his skates, as well as a curry comb and hacksaw frame he had invented and patented.

An 1892-93 Keene Manufacturing Co. catalog is in the collections of the Historical Society of Cheshire County (New Hampshire). Although the firm sold other specialty styles, the Long Reach skates were the featured item. The skates came in varying sizes and styles. Style No. 2 sold for 60 cents or 85 cents if you wanted nickel plated ones. No. 15 was described as "the celebrated speed skate used and endorsed by the most noted fast skaters in the U.S. and Canada" and sold for $6.00. Style No. 105 was the "Long Reach Speed Skate" which was
priced from $3.50 to $5.00. Ladies skates were also available in the catalog and there was a notice of the curry comb and hacksaw frame.

The next and last home of the ice-skate factory was in a building known as Thurston's Shop on Water Street in Marlborough. By August 1891, the factory was making nearly 1,000 pairs of skates a day--as well as the saws and curry combs.

It all came to an end with the sudden death of James A. Whelpley on April 22, 1893 at the young age of 54 years. His friends and co workers held a Memorial Service at the City Hotel in Keene to show their respect and express their grief over the loss of their employer and friend. The body was then returned to Greenwich, New Brunswick by train. The casket was accompanied to the railroad station by a large number of employees and friends. As the train was about to leave the station, officers and employees formed in lines upon Main Street and
along the side of the train. As the train pulled out, they "lifted their hats and stood with uncovered heads in honor of their late associate and employer".

James A. Whelpley was laid to rest in Brown's Flat United Church Cemetery near his boyhood home in New Brunswick. He left a widow, a son, and a daughter. His wife, Jemima, went on to live another 32 years before she was re-united with her husband in death. She was buried next to him in the Brown's Flat United Church Cemetery.

It was said of James A. Whelpley that he was "an honorable and upright man, much respected by everyone who came in contact with him".

James A. Whelpley accomplished much in his short life. His inventive and creative talents, business sense and strength of character not only benefited him but the communities he chose to live in.


This article sent by Brenda Whelpy several years ago.
She is a Whelpley/Whelply researcher from the US