May 21st, 1941

Berwick Register, May 21st, 1941:

Carriage Building Was Once A Leading Industry At Somerset

Carriages and buggies "made in Somerset" are still in use and will probably outlast many of the popular makes of automobiles. Carriage making was one of the many industries which flourished, in this district a number of years ago. Some of the finest carriages and sleighs in Eastern Canada were the workmanship of the late Mr. W. K. Bennett, father of Fred S. Bennett of Somerset. Two-seated Surreys, corning body and piano box body carriages, sulkies for racing, single and double express wagons, all the handiwork of a master workman, were produced at Somerset for upwards of forty years. Like other Nova Scotia industries carriage making has been transferred to Upper Canada.

The late Mr. W. K. Bennett was born at Scotts Bay Road and when a young man became apprenticed to John Ward, a carriage maker at Canning. He started the carriage factory at Somerset in 1870, having purchased the buildings of West Brothers, contractors, near Somerset Corner. He introduced horse driven power which was connected to a saw, turning lathe and boring machine. One of the things that Fred Bennett, whom The Register interviewed, remembered about the factory was the endless turning of the power shaft by the horse which he drove around and around to work the machines. Four workmen besides Mr. Bennett were employed at the woodworking benches.

The vehicles when finished were something to be admired and every piece of the woodwork was of well-seasoned stock carefully selected and fashioned to stand all kinds of usage. The rims and other curved work were moulded in a steam-box to the required shape. The steam box was ingeniously devised, being a series of wooden pipes and boxes carrying the steam to the moulding compartments from a small boiler. Some very fine scroll work was done by Mr. Bennett as well as hand carving.

The paint job would be the envy of the trade today, no less than twelve coats being applied. Two primary coats were put on and then two coats of heavy varnish, each of which were rubbed down to a dull finish. Successive coats were thinly applied and in turn rubbed down until the surface was a veritable part of the woodwork. It was then allowed to season and Mr. Bennett would not let a carriage go out of the shop until the finish was properly hardened.

The output was not extensive, about twelve new carriages being built in the course of a year. A good deal of repair work and other woodwork was done in the factory. Fancy sleighs were also built and some fine looking jobs were turned out. Mr. Bennett was not only a wheelwright and painter, but also a good upholsterer and the cushions and backs of the seats of his vehicles could be depended upon to last a lifetime.

Mr. Fred Bennett states that he has recently seen several of the carriages manufactured by his father and that they looked as though they would be in use for a considerable time yet, although probably forty or fifty years old. This is a tribute to the fine workmanship of Nova Scotia carriage makers.