MHS Centennial Business: James Richardson & Sons Limited / Pioneer Grain Company / Richardson Pioneer
In 1857, James Richardson was 39 years old when he began devoting his full time to his Kingston, Ontario grain business, after 13 years running his own tailor shop. Many of his customers had been farmers who had paid with farm products and he found that he could sell them later for more money than the original price of the clothes. He was joined by sons David and George, and by 1880 the firm hired its first representative in Manitoba, Edward O’Reilly. Their first cargo of grain arrived by the Great Lakes in 1883, to be housed in Kingston’s first elevator, with a capacity of 60,000 bushels. O’Reilly was initially based at Portage la Prairie, but by 1896 had an office in the Winnipeg Grain & Produce Exchange on Princess Street.
James Richardson died in 1892, but his sons carried on the business, and George was the first member of the family to visit Manitoba. On George’s death in 1906, his sons James and George joined, and the centre of operations moved increasingly westward. In 1912 the business was incorporated as James Richardson & Sons and moved into the Winnipeg Grain Exchange Building on Lombard Avenue. Operations expanded rapidly during the First World War, and on one day in 1916 the grain office handled more grain than any previous year. By 1923 the Executive Office had been transferred from Kingston to Winnipeg, and Winnipeg became the Head Office in 1939.
While the business moved into new fields of investment, including radio, real estate, air transportation, and oil and gas, the family remained personally involved. James A. Richardson’s wife Muriel Richardson directed growth for 27 years after her husband’s death in 1939, and sons George T. Richardson and James A. Richardson continued the family involvement. Hartley T. Richardson is the present Chief Executive Officer. The Richardson Building holds a dominant place on the Winnipeg skyline, as the Richardson family does in Winnipeg life.
Pioneer Grain Company / Richardson Pioneer
Arising from a 1913 reorganization of the parent firm, the Pioneer Grain Company is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Richardson International. It operated country elevators around Manitoba and, through the years, it acquired additional elevators from other firms, including Thorson-Olson (1921), Goose Lake Grain & Lumber Company (1923), Saskatchewan & Western Elevator (1931), Reliance Grain Company (1948), Western Grain Company (1951), Independent Grain Company (1953), Weyburn Flour Mills (1964), and Inter-Ocean Grain Company (1972). It later operated under the name of Richardson Pioneer.
Country Elevators (Manitoba)
“Richardson V-Ps named,” Winnipeg Free Press, 24 June 1977, page 16.
“Lang quits post at Pioneer Grain,” Winnipeg Free Press, 26 January 1988, page 31.
Grain: The Entrepreneurs by Charles W. Anderson, Winnipeg: Watson & Dwyer, 1991.
“James Richardson & Sons, Limited,” Winnipeg Free Press, 24 June 1995, page 28.
“City’s first family celebrates,” Winnipeg Free Press, 16 June 2007, page 26.
Page revised: 14 January 2023