The Watford Corn Sheller

Canadian-built corn sheller showcases several unique features, including wood frame construction and an unusual flywheel configuration.

| August 2017

While attending the annual Portland, Indiana, engine show several years ago, I visited with a fellow corn sheller enthusiast. This gentleman was a very serious corn sheller collector and quite the resource. He suggested that I take a look at a one-hole sheller he had brought along as a candidate for future restoration. While it appeared mechanically complete, it did have some serious structural problems. I asked him just who made such an unusual machine, and he replied, “It’s a Watford!”

The Watford was unlike any sheller I had seen. The input power was designed to be a one-man crank input. That was where all the similarities to common corn shellers of the period came to an abrupt end.

First, a bit of background on the famous inventor and businessman, Thomas Doherty. Born in 1843 in Lanark County, Canada West, Thomas was the youngest child of James and Rachel (Garrett) Doherty. His formal education ended in 1857. He married in 1864 and spent the next several years running the family farm.

Doherty showed inherent mechanical aptitude early. He started with a small machinery repair shop on the farm. He also became an accomplished thresherman and mastered the internal workings of the machine. In 1875, enticed by free land, he moved his family to Watford, Ontario, Canada, where he intended to establish a business.

Watford was first settled in 1851 at what was known as Brown’s Corners, a stagecoach stop between the village of Warwick and Brooke Township. The Great Western Railway, built in 1856, caused the settlement to be relocated near the tracks in its present location. It was incorporated as the village of Watford in 1873.

Doherty founded Watford Agricultural Implement Works (WAIW) in Watford in 1875. The business provided a large and diverse line of products and a repair service. WAIW grew significantly over the next five years. With continued growth, in 1882 Doherty took on a partner.