Peter Street Mildmay, Ontario N0G 2J0
Around 1870, John Beam, a farmer from Baden, Ontario, patented a
balanced sectional deck thresher which operated by a double set of
crankshafts driven by two spur gears on the outside of the
separator. This improvement was used by Simpson Merner on his New
Hamburg threshers and the rights were also purchased by Jacob
Jacob Bricker built a small shop in Waterloo, Ontario in 1850
and made tools and implements and, finally, threshing machines. In
1870 he purchased the Buehler Foundry Co. and operated it as the
Waterloo Foundry, making threshers exclusively. In 1880 Jacob and
his brother Levi formed a partnership under the name of Bricker
& Co., and the trade name ‘Lion Brand’ was used for
their product. E.W.B. Snider purchased the Bricker Co. plant and
began manufacturing a new threshing machine which he named the
‘Champion’ and later made traction engines under the name
Waterloo Manufacturing Co. The ‘Champion’ thresher was
built until the 1940’s, at which time the company took over the
distributorship of the ‘Belle City’ threshing machine in
During the 1850’s a new section of Western Ontario known as
the ‘Queens Bush’ was being opened up for settlement. In
1863 Samuel Merner arrived in Carrick Township and built the Royal
Hotel on a corner and a store across the road. This community
became known as Mernersville, and in 1868, with the establishment
of a post office, was renamed Mildmay, Ontario.
Samuel Merner had been born in Switzerland in 1823, and came to
Canada in 1837. Learning the blacksmith trade in Preston, Ontario,
he opened a shop in New Hamburg in 1844 making farm implements and
he became very successful. His oldest son, Simpson, established the
New Hamburg Manufacturing Co., and Samuel Merner’s Waterloo
foundry was purchased by the Waterloo Mfg. Company.
A foundry was built beside Otter Creek in Mildmay, Ontario in
1877 and after changing hands several times, with additions and
machinery being installed, was purchased by Henry Spitzig, a
foundry man from Waterloo, Ontario, in 1883.
Henry Spitzig manufactured the ‘Lion’ thresher which was
also a balanced deck separator similar to the New Hamburg and
Waterloo separators. Spitzig was joined in 1886 by Henry Berberich
and the business was expanded under the name of Spitzig &
Berberich. This partnership operated until 1887 when Jonas Herrgott
from St. Agatha, Ontario bought Berberich’s half share. The
firm was known as Spitzig & Herrgott until 1890 when Herrgott
took over Spitzig’s half share and operated as J. Herrgott
Spitzig continued to work with Herrgott for a short time and
about 1893 apparently reunited with Berberich when the C. Norsworth
& Co., of St. Thomas, Ontario, which manufactured portable
steam engines, was purchased by Spitzig, Berberich & Hauck and
began the manufacture of stoves.
Meanwhile, Jacob Herrgott, Jonas’ cousin, moved to Mildmay
and was employed under Jonas. In 1891 they formed a partnership.
Their 1891 stock book shows that besides the threshers, they made
or repaired choppers, plows, plow points, reapers, turnip pulpers,
mowers, and apple grinders, and they repaired steam engines.
Jonas Herrgott had other interests and was involved in a private
banking business. However, due to poor management, the bank
business went bankrupt, and Jonas lost all his investments, and
made an assignment in 1897.
In 1891 Jacob Herrgott signed an agreement to purchase the
foundry from Jonas for $2880.00 which was obtained from his
parents, who motgaged the family farm in St. Agatha, Ontario. At
this time, a one-half share of the business was assigned to his
brother Henry Herrgott for $1495.00. This partnership operated as
Herrgott Bros., until 1927.
Philip H. Lobsinger (born 1870) was an employee of the firm in
1890 and continued working at the foundry until 1956, a faithful
employee for over 66 years.
As there were no blueprints or written information for the
‘Lion’ threshers, these men passed their knowledge and
experience down to successive newcomers. The only guides they had
to build the machines were the wooden patterns used to copy the
parts from, and the experience passed on from generation to
The ‘Lion’ separator at that time (1890) was a basic
separator, with shakers and kickers (agitators), a platform for
hand feeding the grain into the cylinder, return elevator, wire
sieves, and long straw carriers to take the straw away from the
rear of the separator. The first machines were driven by horse
power attachments, and later on, the steam traction engine.
Delivery was made either by railroad or by a team of horses. In the
early 1900’s the Mild-may Wind Stacker was added, followed by
the Lindsay Feeder, grain elevator, chaff blower, clover recleaner,
ball bearings, straw cutter and shredder, and Mildmay grain
Herrgott Bros, also manufactured a knuckle joint cider press and
each fall ran a complete cider mill to make cider and apple butter
for the surrounding communities.
Power for the machinery in the foundry was supplied by a Stevens
& Burns stationary engine until 1915. A water wheel to power
the plant was considered, but it was decided that not enough head
of water could be obtained from the Otter Creek at that point to
generate the power required. In 1915, a 10 HP electric motor was
installed to give the foundry the most modern source of power at
that time. This motor kept the lineshafts humming every working day
for a period of over 55 years, and was donated to the Ontario
Agricultural Museum in 1985 complete with the lineshafts.
By the early 1920’s, friction between Henry and Jacob
Herrgott increased, due to both having large families and operating
on a small scale, making 5 to 10 separators per year, and a few
cider presses. They bought the cider mill in Paisley, Ontario and
decided to part. Jacob continued to operate the foundry and called
it the Herrgott Co., while Henry took over the Paisley Cider Mill,
later moving to St. Clements, Ontario, where he set up a furniture
store and finally established Herrgott Industries, St. Clements,
Ontario, manufacturing a threshing machine much like the thresher
built in Mildmay.
Jacob Herrogtt continued to operate the Herrgott Co., on a small
scale, inventing a new feeder, the Mildmay Grain Thrower, and
perfecting the patented ‘Mildmay Straw Cutter and
Shredder’. Jacob was getting to be an elderly man, so in 1937
he turned the business over to his son Norman. However, after an
eight month trial he again took over the business, and sold it to
Charles & Philip Lobsinger in 1938.
During the Great Depression, money and jobs were scarce, and the
Lobsinger brothers purchased the foundry with a small down payment
and a large mortgage. They decided to build 10 separators the first
year, and borrowed heavily to meet the payroll and to buy
materials. Jacob Herrgott felt that they were starting too big, and
he would have the foundry back in about a year. However, the whole
Lobsinger family pitched in with all their savings, and the
employees let most of their wages stand, so that after the first
year the company began to show a profit.
Charles and Philip Lobsinger operated under the name of
Lobsinger Brothers. They were hard workers and could not expand
much during World War II due to shortage of materials. However
after the war there was a good demand for threshing machines, and
they kept putting their earnings back into the business and
increasing their output every year until production was up to 100
separators in the year 1951. This was quite a feat for the small
foundry, which was bulging at the seams and had only a staff of
about 30 men.
However the threshing machine was on its way out, and while
sales for the ‘Lion’ were satisfactory, other Ontario
companies were disposing of their thresher business.
Thus Lobsinger Bros. Ltd. acquired the parts for the Waterloo
‘Champion’ thresher, the #6 George White thresher and the
Mt. Forest ‘Favorite’ thresher during the early
As sales were declining due to shortage of farm labor and the
trend to the combine the Lobsinger brothers fought back by
pioneering the use of the forage harvester to pick up the grain for
the threshing machine, and also a kit to use on a haybaler in order
to thresh the grain in bales. These new ideas allowed Lobsinger
Bros. Ltd. to manufacture threshers for a few more years until
sales steadily declined. Charles and Philip Lobsinger retired in
1967 and the business was taken over by John E. Schmidt who had
been with the company since 1949. The last new ‘Lion’
thresher was sold in 1970 and the company has engaged in selling
repairs until 1985.
Over the years the ‘Lion’ has become better known as the
Mild-may Thresher, and sales were confined to a 100 mile radius of
Mildmay. In some small areas there would be a ‘Mildmay’
thresher in every barn. A total of over 1685 units were built at
the small foundry in Mildmay, and it likely has the distinction of
making the ‘last threshing machine’.
In the spring of 1986 the old foundry will be torn down and the
collection of thresher parts disposed of. The old Mildmay foundry
will be well represented in various displays at the Ontario
Agricultural Museum, Milton, Ontario by the complete cider mill
donated by John E. Schmidt, as well as the plastic sided
‘Lion’ demonstrator separator, a prototype combine and an
1888 antique thresher and line shafts from the foundry.