Goderich, Ontario, Can.
When questioning oldtimers about their early threshing recollections I have often heard this 'The first threshing machine I remember was made in Oshawa' and coupled with this statement would be 'And what a heavy brute it was!' These old unmounted threshers were well and solidly built and their owners continued to use them long after the mounted machines came on the market. Loading and unloading these old threshers and the down horse-powers into and out of the high wheeled wagons then in use is remembered as the hardest part of threshing.
The history of these Oshawa threshing machines date back to 1828 when Joseph Hall, a native of New Jersey, built a small thresher. His machine was considered quite a good one and he decided to begin the manufacture of threshers at Rochester, New York. Halls threshers were of the open cylinder type and received favorable mention during the 1830's. Early in 1840 John A. Pitts, who with his brother Hiram A., of Winthrop, Maine, had invented the 'endless apron' separator in 1837, came to Rochester and joined up with Joseph Hall. Together they built threshers of the Pitts type for two or three years and during this time the original Pitts machine was improved by extending the tailings elevator to deliver the tailings into the cylinder instead of on the apron. This improvement Hall patented in his own name and the resulting dissatisfaction broke up the partnership.
SECTIONAL, VIEW OF Miller's 'New Model' Vibrating Thresher
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Joseph Hall continued to manufacture several hundred machines a year in his Rochester factory while John A. Pitts moved on to Springfield, Ohio, and then to Buffalo, New York, where he founded the big Buffalo-Pitts Company. Meanwhile the territory north of Lake Ontario was rapidly becoming settled and as the brush was cleared and the farms grew bigger a demand was created for threshing machines. The only place to procure these was south across the lake and with Rochester having direct shipping connections it was only natural that Joseph Hall got the bulk of the orders. His export trade grew so extensive that he decided to explore the possibility if starting a branch factory in Canada and thus supply the market more cheaply by eluding the customs duty.
Joseph Hall chose Oshawa, a town of growing importance on the north shore of Lake Ontario, as the site of his new venture. In 1851 the Oshawa Manufacturing Company was origanized and a brick factory built an which scythes, hoes, and other hand implements were made but the difficult times of 1857 caused it to shut down. The following year Hall leased the idle factory and sent over from Rochester some of his best, workmen along with Francis Wayland Glen, a relative by marriage, as manager to open the Canadian branch and set an objective of one. hundred machines to be ready before the 1859 harvest.
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Before long Joseph Hall purchased the original building and built additional ones and under the spirited management of F. W. Glen the Joseph Hall Manufacturing Company grew and prospered. Skilled craftsmen were brought in from England and Scotland and the States. New lines were developed and before many years the firm was turning out such diverse equipment as turbine waterwheels, pumps, sawmills, printing presses and other heavy equipment in addition to their agricultural and threshing machinery.
The firm continued to build the Hall 'Champion' threshing machines of the apron type for over twenty years, improving and enlarging them as the years passed. With the demand for machines of the vibrating type Miller's 'New Model' as manufactured by the C. Altman Co., of Canton, Ohio, was adopted. This separator was designed to combine the best features of the old apron and new vibrating machines and old testimonials indicate that fit met with munch approval.
Up to the mid 1870's horsepower driven threshers were built then a special machine for steam threshing was designed. This machine had a 36 inch cylinder and a 42 inch apron and a portable engine for driving it was obtained from Wood, Taber and Morse, of Eaton, New York. In 1878 a boiler shop was built and the firm began to build portable engines after the same pattern in their own plant. These engines were of the round bottom locomotive boiler type with side crank engine mounted with cylinder to the firebox end and the belt wheel on the right hand side. Early engines had a long hinged smokestack with screen top. Later models had the McKenzie patent waiter spark-arrester. Besides portable engines, stationary engines of the Corliss type were built at the Oshawa factory.
Joseph Hall died at this Rochester home June 7th, 1865, in his 71st year. After his death the Oshawa plant continued under the management of F. W. Glen whose enterprise built the establishment into one of the foremost of its kind in Canada. In later years, however, he became engrossed in politics and succeeded in being elected twice to represent the Oshawa district in parliament and spent far too much time and money on this activity for his own or the company's good. A warning of events' to come took place in 1885 when the name was changed to the Joseph Hall Machine Works and by the early part of the next year financial difficulties resulted in bankruptcy and the extensive Joseph Hall Works that had gained a wide reputation as leaders in their day in the production of mechanical equipment, closed their doors on February 24th, 1886.
Approximately 5000 threshing machines and 100 portable engines had been built at the Oshawa factory and the closing of the plant might have been serious for their owners had not Roibert Woon, for many years accountant and secretary for F. W. Glen, realized and situation and gathering together as possible patterns, leased one of the foundry buildings and was thus able to furnish repair parts for former customers.
In 1894 Robert Woon formed a partnership with his son, purchased one of the original buildings and under the name of R. Woon Company commenced to build the 'New Oshawa Clover Thresher', an improved model of the original huller as built by the Joseph Hall Manufacturing Company. These machines had a re-cleaning mill attached and later models had self feeders and wind stackers. They enjoyed an excellent reputation for simplicity, ease of operation and rapid threshing and were produced in limited quantities until 1925.