100 Years Harvesting on the Homestead

Threshing mills and Steam engines

At seven o'clock a.m., we had three threshing mills and two steam engines set up to go for the day.

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R.R. 3 Shawville, Quebec J0X 2Y0

Robert Smith of Shawville, Quebec, with the Sawyer Massey 17 HP. Robert is our painter he painted all the engines and one threshing mill this year.

My grandfather, Norman A. Campbell, born in Scotland in 1862, came to Canada with his brother, as orphan boys. They were both very young at the time when they got here. They became separated from each other and had not taken up the same occupation. The brother's name was George B. Campbell, and he was, in later years, a lumberman and sawmill man. He was working in the timber country, and at one time ran for member of parliament. I am not sure if he was elected or not. My father, born September 12th, 1892, was named George B. Campbell after him.

In June of 1892, a big cyclone came across the river from Ontario and took a strip north and east of the river. It blew the house down where we lived and also a neighbor's house and also the house on our other farm as well. The cyclone was talked about by the older men when I was a boy. They said there were fanning mills, hens and small things like that came with it from across the river and dumped on this side of the river, which would be four to six miles away! My grandfather had a horse tied to an elm tree near the house and it twisted the tree off just above where the horse was tied. It left the horse tied to the stump.

My grandfather did not get the house up and finished until nearly that fall, and the family was not moved into it until close to winter.

Arnold Feibig on the engine, and his brother Walter at the bagger. John Stewart and Roy Wiggins are pitching sheaves. The picture shows two large stacks of straw; a third is out of camera range.

Some of the threshing gang. Standing on top of the engine is Eric Campbell. Back row, left to right: Glen Moore, Raymond Miller, Robert Smith, David Strong, Ken Barber, Garnet Martineau, Dr. Vet Grant Rodgers, Terry Knox, and Carl Tubman. Front row, standing is Brian Hodgins; kneeling, left to right, are Arnold Feibig, Alfred Russell, Roy Wiggins, Alex Russell, Ernie Feibig, Walter Feibig, John Moll from South Africa, Edward Tubman, and Bill Armstrong.

My dad was born that fall in a flat roofed shack about an acre away from where our house now stands. When my dad grew up he stayed on the homestead and became a farmer. When he was thirteen years of age he had a small cheap team of horses and was getting set up to farm. He thought he had a good team. Around this time his uncle, whom he was named after, came to visit his brother Norman, my dad's father. They had not seen each other for forty some years. They hardly knew each other. Well, my father said he took his uncle out to the barn to show him his horses, which he was so proud of. The uncle looked at them and said, 'Why you have no horses at all.' My father was very upset about that. Nothing more was said and the uncle left. Well, the following spring, a message came to my father that he was to go to Shawville to the hotel stable, for there were two teams of horses there. He was to pick which team he wanted. He had the choice of a gray team or a brown team complete with harnesses, blankets, girths and all. Well, he picked the brown team of Belgians and brought them home. He said he had them a month before he could tell them apart.

Anyway, my dad always said that was how he got his start. He went to work for an old fellow by the name of Andrew McCredie, when he was fourteen years old. He was to take his horses and draw his threshing mill with his team. Also, my dad was to help run the steam engine for threshing. My dad worked for him fifteen falls threshing. Dad said he was great to work for. When he stopped working for him, Dad bought himself a 24' 42 Sawyer Massey threshing mill and a 12-20 Wallis gas tractor and threshed until 1949, when he bought a new McCormick Deering 22-38 separator on rubber tires. In 1950, he bought a Massey Harris 30 gas tractor brand new. I still have both of them here yet and they are both restored. I still thresh with the mill every year, and I have since my father died in 1959 and I took over the farm. I have been here all my life farming. I was born in 1938 and have been here on the homestead ever since.

Cutting grain with a Massey Harris 44 Special tractor and a Massey Harris eight foot cut power binder. Evelyn Campbell on the tractor, Eric Campbell on the binder.

My father was a great thresher-man and I learned the trade from him. He taught me a lot about threshing. This year, 1992, we had the best crop of grain I have seen in this part of the country in 30 years. I planted oats the second week of May and we had a very wet July. Very hard to get the hay in, but at harvest time I could not believe we had such a crop of grain. Lots of it was 59 inches tall and 38 to 45 kernels to the head. I said to my wife, 'I think we will get out the 8' Massey Harris binder to cut with.' She said, 'I don't see why you want that.' I said, 'Well, when we get to the field I think you will see what I mean.'

A day or so later my neighbor came by and said 'Would you cut my grain?' He also said, ' The combines are all busy and I can't get one now. My grain is ready to cut and I have a heavy crop, too.' Well, we started to cut grain. We cut just about 100 acres this fall. Now, in the last good many years, we have had a steam threshing here every year, and this year we were going to have one again, now. Did we have a steam threshing! The best I have ever seen! I always like to do it all in one day. I knew with the amount we had, and the long straw, we would have trouble doing it, so I said to the wife, 'I'm going to buy a second mill.' I got a 28-46 McCormick Deering on rubber to match my 22-38 McCormick Deering, so now I have two mills.

About a week went by, and along came another good friend of mine. He said, 'I found a nice wooden Favorite mill,' and he said, 'I would like to see you get it; with the steam engine it would look real smart.' Well, he went away home. He came back the next night and said, 'What do you think about the mill?' I said, 'Well, I don't know what to say.' He said, 'Here is $100.00 that will pay the truck to go get it.' I said, 'Okay, if you want it that way, I guess I will.' So now I have a 24-42 Favorite as well. I have two steam engines, a 17 HP Sawyer Massey compound and a 45 HP Case. Both engines are portables.

I also have a Sawyer Massey traction engine which I am now changing the boiler on this fall. The Sawyer Massey traction is also a 17 HP compound so it makes a matched pair.

My wife, Evelyn, queen of the harvest, helping to stook the grain. She's also the one who cooks all the meals. Note the length of the grain; Evelyn is five feet, eight inches tall.

In all the years I have threshed grain, I have never seen it so hard to get the grain to ripen. It took over two solid weeks to color it all. After it was cut and stooked it was alright, but it was late. We got into September and the weather was terrible all the time. Monday, September 7th I told the wife we would try to thresh on Saturday the 12th. She said, 'Okay, we will get ready, but what about the weather?' I said, ' Maybe it will clear up by then.' On Wednesday it started to clear up, and on Friday morning Arnold Fiebig from Dacre, Ontario, called and said he'd be over with his two brothers, Ernie and Walter, to help get set up. Ken Barber came over as well and I had Robert Smith helping too.

We dug up the potatoes, and got the wife going then, while we turned out some grain in the morning. We set up the mills and engines, then we loaded three big loads of grain in the evening to have for the next morning. Then we had supper. After supper, when the milking was done, we got out the fiddle and guitar and played until eleven o'clock. Then we all went to bed.

Keith Miller from Eganville was to come and run the Sawyer Massey engine the next day. He called and said, 'I just can't come tomorrow. I have to pour cement for a barn.' I said, 'Well, I don't know who I'll get.' Someone called David Strong from Perth, Ontario, which is a two hour drive from my place, and he was there at eight o'clock next morning, just like that. David ran the Sawyer Massey all day, while Arnold Fiebig ran the Case on the 28-46 McCormick mill. I told Arnold that mill and the long grain will surely make the Case snort. Well, it really did! With two men pitching bundles in the feeder, the oats sure turned out. It blew the screen out of the stack of the Case, and we had to wire it back in. We had 150 feet of 7' drive belt on the big outfit. Now, did that put on a show! I told Arnold that if my dad would have had that outfit when he was threshing in this community, back when he was alive, he would have threshed the whole country.

The little 17 HP compound Sawyer-Massey outfit was doing a fine job on the 22-38, and so was the 24-42 Favorite mill. We changed back and forth now and then. I was surprised how well the 22-38 McCormick would take the long sheaves to the little Sawyer. It was sure putting on a show for us.

If anybody wants to see threshing at its best, we did it this year. We got the Favorite mill home three weeks before we threshed and had it all cleaned, fixed up and painted.

The McCormick 22-38 is all painted too and it sure makes it look good along with my two engines. Also my 1936 John Deere two cycle on steel is all painted new too. Sure looks great. The John Deere was drawing wood and water for the engines. The grain was all drawn in with Massey Harris tractors, 44 Special, 333 Massey Harris, 30 Massey Harris, 44 Standard and a 55 Massey Harris.

When we think back on all the crops we have cut with the binder, leaving the 59' long grain all standing straight and not all twisted or flattened to the ground (it was especially good at handling Rodney Oats), we have to thank the Good Lord for this.

There were miles of grain up here all blown down flat this year. And none of it was Rodney Oats either. We had a lot of people in, from all over the country, to help us thresh and a lot of pictures were taken. We started at 8 o'clock in the morning and threshed until 7 P.M. in the evening. We had two wonderful meals served by my wife and all the women who helped her all day. After supper we set up some music. We had fiddlers, guitar players playing music until 12 P.M. Then we had another snack after that. So we had a full day. We threshed 1800 bushels of grain that day, with two mills going all the time and about eight wagons drawing in the sheaves, and two trucks drawing oats away from the mill. Every wagon load of sheaves would produce two truckloads of oats. The yield of oats up in this country was the same all over. Everyone was talking about it.

As I close this story, maybe you will notice that I had threshed Saturday, September the 12th, 1992, which would be the anniversary of my dad's 100th birthday. Next year if anybody would like to see steam threshing with three steam engines, and three mills all going at the same time, all the time, drop in for awhile; we will be glad to have you.