100 Years Harvesting on the Homestead

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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

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

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.

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