Sawyer-Massey Co. Ltd.

Engine sample room

View of the Sawyer-Massey engine sample room.

Content Tools

When John Fisher moved from New York State in 1835 and built a small shop in the pioneer hamlet of Hamilton at the western tip of Lake Ontario, Canada, he established an industrial enterprise that was destined to become one of the largest threshing machinery industries in Canada. His shop was small and his tools few but Fisher was an enterprising man and the following year, 1836, he constructed the first threshing machine ever built in Canada. Although crude, it worked well and excited much interest among the settlers who had only the flail to beat out their grain.

Realizing the possibilities but lacking capital, Fisher appealed to his cousin, Dr. Calvin McQuesten of Lockport, N.Y., to enter into partnership with him. McQuesten proved an able executive and under his management the firm of Fisher and McQuesten prospered. The original threshing machine was improved and other lines added. In the early 1840s L.D. Sawyer and two brothers, nephews of McQuesten, came to work for their uncle and as the partners grew older, gradually assumed control of the business.

After the Lord called John Fisher in 1856, the name changed to L.D. Sawyer & Co. The factory, known as the Hamilton Agricultural Works, turned out reapers, mowers and other implements in addition to separators, horsepower and tread mills.

In the early 1860s the company began to make portable steam engines, and in 1887 added horse-drawn machinery to the output and became Canadian agents for Aveling & Porter road rollers made in England.

In the year 1892, H.A. Massey, president of Massey-Harris Co., became associated with the firm and the name was changed to Sawyer-Massey Co. Ltd. All engines built after 1910 had Sawyer-Massey in large letters forming a complete circle on the smoke box door.

The first portables and early traction engines were all of the return flue type. In the late 1880's a change was made to the open bottom, locomotive type boiler without a dome. Hundreds of little 13 HP simple, single cylinder, side mounted engines were built in the 1890s. Soon Sawyer-Massey was turning out 18, 20 and 22 HP for the eastern trade.

The western Canada market was not overlooked. A large warehouse was constructed in Regina, Saskatchewan, to supply the prairie needs and the demand for heavy plowing engines was met by designing a rear mounted engine which was built in both simple and tandem compound sizes up to 35 HP. Except for the re-arrangement of the gears and the omission of springs, both types of engines were practically the same.

Sawyer-Massey did not overlook the gasoline engine and, seemingly, worked backward at the idea by building the first gas tractors for the West in the 30-60 HP size, using the steam engine road wheels and gearing, and mounting a slow speed vertical four cylinder engine lengthwise on the frame and driving the belt wheel and traction with a bevel gear. Succeeding models were built in smaller sizes but retained the slow speed motor and the same general design.

Postwar conditions in the 1920s caused the firm to concentrate on the production of road rollers, rock crushers, power graders, etc., leaving their threshing machinery soon to become only a memory to those who used to operate them. IMA