Threshing Day in the Upper Ottawa Valley


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P.O. Box 207 Pakenham, Ontario, KOA 2X0

Around the middle of August each year, Eric starts feeling his oats. Literally! The objective is to determine whether the oat sheaves are ready to be processed by the Outfit.

The 29th of August was the appropriate date for 1990. The call went out and neighbors, friends and spectators showed up at the farm of Eric Campbell, just out of Shawville, Pontiac County, Province of Quebec, Canada. The Man Upstairs provided suitable weather, a shade hot.

The Outfit consists of a Sawyer-Massey portable steam engine and a McCormick-Deering separator. Both units were made in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. The Sawyer-Massey portable steam engine is an 1896,17 HP tandem compound, serial number 2104.

The McCormick-Deering threshing machine is a 1949 22 x 38 unit, purchased by Eric's father for $1,750.00. It still rolls on the original rubber tires.

Between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., 537 bushels of oats were threshed, one cord of slab wood and 300 gallons of water were used. This time included a lengthy lunch hour.

After supper, a typical Upper Ottawa Valley musical evening was enjoyed by those who stayed after the event, or dropped in later.

Among those taking part in the event were: Keith Miller, Eganville, Ontario, engineer and fireman; his father, August Miller, assisting on the engine and making himself generally useful; Alain Cote and Robert Smith, Shawville, Quebec, hauling to the granary and miscellaneous duties around the machine; two 83-year-olds, Norval McNeal and James Barber, exercising their pitchforks; Robert Hobbs, bagger and feeder. John Smith, Billy Crawford, Clarence Beattie and others loaded or unloaded sheaves and made themselves generally useful.

Please pardon any omissions no one was taking notes. It has been suggested that, next year, a register or guest book be kept. Your help was appreciated.

The origins of this annual event developed into the Pontiac Steam and Gas Association Show, held for many years on Eric's property. Philosophical differences led to a parting. However, a demonstration of the old threshing process is still held annually at Eric's.

A man with a rack full of hats, Eric divides his time between farming, sawing lumber with his homemade, portable sawmill, gathering and processing maple syrup and operating a machine shop noted for being able to perform unusual, if not downright weird, machining operations. Many machining operations are made possible through the use of accessories made in the shop. In his spare time,- with his wife, Evelyn, he participates in a local country music group which has produced several tapes and plays at local functions. I don't think he sleeps.

Eric also has an 1895 model Sawyer-Massey traction engine, serial number 1083. It is reported to be a 17 HP on a 13 HP boiler. It also is a tandem compound.

To revert back to the portable, it has been reported that during its working life, it regularly powered a 36 x 50 Waterloo hand feed separator.

Eric would appreciate receiving copies of any information on, or instructions about, this Sawyer-Massey series of tandem compound units.

While it is powered at present by a Massey-Harris 55 gas tractor, the sawmill may soon be teamed up with a recently acquired 45 HP Case portable steam engine which is in the restoration stage.

Should you be interested in observing, or participating in future demonstrations please contact: Eric J. Campbell, R.R. #3, Sawville, Quebec, Canada, J0X 2Y0. (819) 647-3166.

Call after the middle of August, and please don't call collect!