Sawyer-Massey Limited (C. McQuesten & Company)

Location: 1836-1855, James and Merrick Streets; 1855-1946, Wellington Street North, Hamilton, Ontario

See a 1913 advertisement for a Sawyer-Massey Limited gas-powered tractor.

A sketch of the original foundry on James and Merrick Streets, Hamilton, Ontario (click for a closer look) The Sawyer-Massey Company began its life in 1836 as the Fisher & McQuesten firm. A year before, John Fisher and Joseph S. Janes came to Hamilton, Canada West, from New York State, with the intention of starting up a small foundry. However, financial backing was not forthcoming, and the foundry was unsuccessful. The determined Fisher contacted his cousin, Dr. Calvin McQuesten, and persuaded him to provide capital for the venture. With McQuesten's $1,500, further financial support from Priam B. Hill, land donated by Janes (on the northwest corner of James and Merrick Streets), and Fisher's experience and skill, the four men created the first foundry in Canada to manufacture stoves, as well as threshing machines, reapers, and other agricultural implements. In 1836, the foundry built the first threshing machine in Canada. The equipment was run on steam power, which was much more efficient and productive than the one horsepower machinery Fisher and Janes had originally been using.

That same year, Hill and Janes withdrew from the project, selling their shares back to McQuesten and Fisher. The foundry was successful, however, and over the next few years the two men built more buildings and hired more workers. In 1844 McQuesten's nephews - Luther, Samuel, and Steven Sawyer - arrived from New York State to work at their uncle's plant. Nine years later, Luther became a partner in the firm, which by this time was known as C. McQuesten & Company

A sketch of the Hamilton Agricultural Works on Wellington Street North, as it looked in 1870 (click for a closer look) Tragedy struck on James and Merrick Streets in 1855 when the plant burned to the ground, taking the lives of two volunteer firefighters. The firm built a new and more modern plant on Wellington Street North, near the Great Western Railway tracks. A year later, John Fisher retired to New York State and sold his shares to the Sawyer brothers. Another year later, Calvin McQuesten retired and also sold his shares to his nephews. The firm was now fully owned by the three Sawyer men, and was renamed L.D. Sawyer & Company (L.D.S.). The factory on Wellington Street North was known as the Hamilton Agricultural Works.

In the early 1880s, the company added new lines for new products, such as steam engines. That decade also saw the introduction of a line of products that would become as successful as the manufacture of agricultural implements: road-building machinery. In 1889, three Massey brothers - Hart, Walter, and Chester - bought a 40% interest in L.D.S. In order to reflect the partnership, the name was once again changed, this time to the Sawyer & Massey Company Limited Hart Massey served as president of the company until he died in 1896.

By 1905, the Wellington Street plant covered 14 acres and employed 300 workers. It turned out the most modern threshers, reapers, rock crushers, and road flatteners at amazing speeds (for that time). Five years later, the remaining Masseys withdrew their interest, and the company became known as Sawyer-Massey Company Limited, and later Sawyer-Massey Limited (S.M.).

Workers enjoy a cruise during a 1945 Sawyer-Massey Limited company picnic (click for a closer look) During World War I, the company temporarily abandoned their usual products to manufacture shells and engines for Great Britain. When the war ended, the company's directors decided to focus most of their efforts on road-making machinery, while still manufacturing agricultural implements. By the mid-1920s, S.M. had five Western branches and did business with several foreign countries. In July of 1927, the company was sold to Grosvenor Manufacturing Company Limited A new board of directors was elected, but the name of Sawyer-Massey remained. That same year, the company greatly expanded its manufacture of road-making and -maintenance equipment. A few years later, it branched out into the production of industrial equipment such as steel fabricators and construction cranes.

When World War II began, Sawyer-Massey was once again required to direct its operations to the war concern, moulding raw steel, copper, and brass into gun mounts. All threshing-machine and most road-machine production was suspended for the duration of the war.

When the war ended in 1946, the company decided to abandon production of agricultural implements entirely. That same year, Sawyer-Massey Limited became amalgamated with the Hamilton Bridge Company.

The old James Street lot that served the Fisher & McQuesten and C. McQuesten firms until the plant burnt down is now the site of a dry-cleaning establishment. The Wellington Street North plant is now occupied by Ball Packaging Products. Whitehern - Calvin McQuesten's old residence on the corner of Jackson and MacNab Streets - is now an historic building in honour of its architecture and its former resident's contribution to the development of the city of Hamilton.



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