THE MACPHERSON MACHINERY
Being almost completely surrounded by water, it was only natural that the early settlement of Upper Canada, now the Province of Ontario, should begin at the lakes shores and river banks and gradually work inland.
Daniel Macpherson first saw the light of day at Helmsdale, Sutherland, Scotland, and when he was only three years old his parents decided to emigrate and try their fortune in the New World. In 1819 the family arrived by boat at Port Talbot, and locate 1 in the settlement being developed by Col. Talbot on the north shore of Lake Erie. Here young Daniel grew up and married the daughter of another pioneer family by the name of Ferguson. To the union were born eight sons and one daughter.
Inheriting much mechanical ability, Daniel was always 'fixing things' as a boy and when he 'grew older he made up his mind to manufacture implements to meet the needs of the pioneer settlers. In 1847 he made a trip to Lockport, New York, to endeavour to secure experienced workmen. Here he enlisted the services of William Glasgow, a woodworker, and Metthias Hovey, an ironworker and the following year they built a small shop and foundry in the nearby village of Fingal, Ontario, and began the manufacture of pioneer tools and implements of many kinds.
The firm was called Macpherson, Glasgow and Company Their products met with ready sale and before many years the small shop had grown into an extensive establishment. Meanwhile roads were being built inland and settlers following in large numbers. To supply their needs Daniel Macpherson chose the village of Clinton, sixty miles north of the centre of the fast developing Huron Tract, as the location for a branch factory. In 1861 he had his new establishment built in Clinton and the following year sent William Glasgow, his own son D. F. (Ferg.) Macpherson and Mr. Hovey's son Charles to manage it. The branch plant assumed the name Glasgow, Macpherson and Company, the reverse of the parent title.
Both factories built ploughs, cultivators, straw cutters, grain crushers, etc., and the Fingal plant experimented with threshing machinery until they perfected the 'Climax' apron type thresher in 1869. This machine met with early success and the demand caused both plants to concentrate on the production of horse powers and threshing machines. The first shipment of twelve Climax machines was made to Manitoba in 1876 The following year they were improved by the adoption of an end shake shoe and the 'End Shake Climax' continued in general favour for many years. With the advent of the vibrator type machines the right to manufacture the 'Minnesota Chief' separator in Canada was acquired from Sevmour, Sabin and Co., Stillwater, Minn. This machine combined the best points of the vibrator and apron threshers. Twenty seven were built in 1879 and their production continued and increased along with the Climax machines.
It is believed that no steam engines were built at the Fingal plant although an old sales record shows 12 were sold in 1876. The following is recorded in the 1877 Historical Atlas of Elgin County. 'Their Monitor steam engine has been awarded first prize at the N. Y. State Fair, Rochester, 1874, Eastern N. Y. Fair, Albany, 1875, N. Y. State Fair, Elmira, 1875, and Provincial Exhibition, Hamilton, Ont., 1876. For durability, convenience, and economy it has no equal, and it is lightest for its capacity of any engine made. It is so constructed as to be turned or cramped as short as a city hack, and requires no levelling, blocking or staking. This engine can be set and steam raised in less time than it takes alone to set a horizontal engine. The boiler is upright and the smoke stack is provided with a perfect spark arrester, thereby insuring safety from loss by fire.' In all probability the engines referred to were built in the United States. No records exist to show the extent of these importations and company advertisements in farm journals of the early 1880's do not. mention steam engines.
Any consideration of building engines at the branch factory was squelched by the explosion of the first steam engine brought into the district. This tragic accident occured January 21, 1800 about four miles south of Clinton. The boiler was of the horizontal type built in Brampton, Ont., and the explosion, believed to have been caused by low water, killed one man and seriously injured a number of others who had gathered to see the much talked about machine work. Needless to say, it was many years before another steam engine ventured into the district.
Following the death of William Glasgow in 1882, the two establishments became more or less independent. In Fingal Daniel Macpherson and Metthias Hovey carried on as Macpherson and Company, and continued to build the 'End Shake Climax' as long as the demand for an apron type lasted. A new separator which they named the 'Challenge' was developed and perfected for the Eastern trade and the well known Battle Creek 'Advance' separators were built for their Western customers. Daniel Macpherson died May 25, 1895 in his 7!lth year. After his death his sons John and Edward continued the business for two years and then sold all their patterns to the firm of George White and Sons of London, Ont., who continued to build the well known 'Challenge' separators for many years. Metthias Hovey, the third member of the original partners, died at Fingal, August 9, 1903, at the ripe old age of 87.
After the death of Mr. Glasgow, W. W. Farran entered the firm at the Clinton plant and along with D. F. Macpherson and Charles Hovey continued to operate as Farran, Macpherson and Hovey. The production of 'End Shake Climax' and 'Minnesota Chief' threshers for steam and horsepower was continued without a break until they were gradually replaced by a newer machine which the firm named the 'Monarch' separator. Mr. Farran left the firm about 1890 and Mr. Macpherson and Mr. Hovey carried on as Macpherson and Hovey Co.
The beginning of the century found the firm with outdated equipment trying to compete with firms using the latest in tools and machinery. With the prospects of the threshing machine industry never better, the results were discouraging. Realizing the situation, a group of six Clinton businessmen organized as The Clinton Thresher Co., Limited, and, in 1902, took over the plant, installed new machinery, enlarged the foundry and built an up to date boiler shop. The new company continued to build the 'Monarch' separator which had been on the market for fifteen or sixteen years. It was built in the 32 and 36 inch cylinder sizes with four body widths up to 60 inches and featured a series of lifting fingers and kicker forks over the straw deck. As the demand came for wind stackers and self feeders they were added and plans were made to incorporate the Stewart patent rear end straw cutting attachment.
With the forming of the new company arrangements were made with the Marion Manufacturing Co., Marion, Ohio, to build their well known 'Leader' threshing engines in Canada. These engines were of the open bottom locomotive boiler type with simple side crank engines mounted with the cylinder at the smoke box end. These traction engines mounted were side mounted and built in two sizes. Eighteen hp with 8x12 inch cylinder for Ontario and 20 hp with 81/2x12 inch cylinder for Western Canada. The reverse gear was of the shifting eccentric type. the flat spiral shifting device revolving with the crank shaft.
Tragedy struck swiftly Monday morning, May 13th, 1907 Sparks from a newly lighted forge fire blew into an opened door and ignited the pile of shavings around a planer. Fanned by a wind of gale proportions the plant was an inferno in a matter of seconds and the employees were unable to save any of the finished or partly completed separators or engines. Near by buildings caught fire and only with the help of fire fighting apparatus from nieghboring towns were the spreading flames brought under control.
Not more than fifty 'Leader' engines were built. They were well adapted to Canadian conditions and many gave long and excellent service. The Bell Engine and Thresher Co., of Seaforth, Ont., undertook to supply repairs for 'Monareh' separators after the fire.
With the complete loss of plant, machinery and patterns the firm was unable to recover from the stunning blow. The demon 'fire' had destroyed in minutes what had taken years to build