The article following is provided by that wonderful publication, the “Puslinch Pioneer”, which for over thirty years has been dedicated to coverage of Puslinch Township news and history, and yes, most amazingly, is produced entirely by volunteers as a community service.  It is published ten times per year.  To assist with production costs, annual subscriptions of $25.00 are gratefully welcomed.  Please forward subscription requests, with remittances made payable to the “Puslinch Pioneer”, to the Puslinch Pioneer, R.R. #3, Guelph, Ontario, N1H 6H9.



Bob Barnett and the Titan 10-20

by C. Melzer.


(from the Puslinch Pioneer, v. 8. issue 6, February 1984.)




Bob Barnett & his Titan 10-20 in 1920.





Agriculture is the world’s oldest industry and its most important one.  It is estimated that half of the world’s workers are employed in agriculture.


In the industrial nations the tractor provides the main source of power on most farms. The first tractors, used in the 1870’s, were powered by steam.  They were big, awkward and expensive so most farmers stuck with their horses.  The early gasoline-powered tractors were not powerful enough to do the heavy farm work, but it wasn’t long before the engineers designed improved models.  The first all­-purpose tractors appeared in the 1920’s. Most farmers still remain­ed skeptical, but not Bob Barnett.  Mechanically inclined and always eager for a challenge it is not surprising that he was one of the first farmers in Puslinch to buy a tractor.


It was a McCormick-Titan 10-20.  (See Picture) It had a 2-cylinder engine.  A 40-gallon water tank mounted on the tractor cooled the engine because there was no radia­tor or fan.  It had big steel cleats to ensure a good footing, unlike some of the other tractors on the market at the time.  Bob recalls a family by the name of Lister in Nassagaweya Township who owned a Rumley Tractor.  It worked fine on flat ground, but hills were a real problem.  It dug such big holes try­ing to get a good grip on Mother Earth it was nicknamed the Ground Hog.  Bob’s Titan 10-20 wasn't with­out its faults either.  It vibrated terribly, so much so friends and neighbours were sure Bob would end up sitting in a fence corner.


 Despite the bone-rattling ride, Bob persevered.  His tractor could pull a double (10 ft.) disk harrow, while a team of horses could only pull a single.  After the ground is plowed it has to be harrowed (break up the clods) before planting.  The neighbours couldn’t help noticing that Bob’s work was finished while they and their horses still toiled in the hot sun. Soon he was lending a hand, or should I say a tractor?  The same thing happened at threshing time.  Although the steam-powered engine was noisy, filthy (it belched thick black smoke) and the danger of fire was ever present, many farmers were reluctant to try the new-fangled tractors.  With the tractor providing power, there was no more wood to cut or water to haul and it only required a two-man crew.  It wasn’t long before Bob found himself in the threshing business.


 He has many marvelous tales to tell but one sticks out in his memory.  He was hauling the threshing machine up the hill on Stone Road near the prison farm when the C.P.R. Electric Train, nicknamed Sparky by the locals, came charging down the track.  The front wheels of the tractor were already on the track and there was nothing Bob could do but pull the hand clutch to stop the machine and take a flying leap to safety.  The tractor, a 40 H.P. John Deere, was demolished but the threshing machine wasn’t touched.


As new and improved models of tractors appeared on the market place, more and more farmers real­ized their worth and a new age of power for the agriculture industry was well on its way.


At harvest time, before the advent of the tractor, the grain was drawn into the barn to await the arrival of the threshing crew.  With their own tractor to provide power some farmers decided to band together and buy their own separa­tor and do stook threshing at their own convenience.  One such group was formed in the Arkell area consisting of Walter Boreham, Bill Douglas, Bob Fitton and Oliver Hume.  They purchased a separator.  However, it was up north between Arthur and Orangeville and had to be hauled home.  Early one morning with their lunch, tools, grease, etc., Walter and Oliver set off driving Bob’s big 6 cylinder Massey Harris tractor which Oliver recalls, “Ate gas like you wouldn't believe”.  They took turns driving and sitting in the trailer hitched on the back of the tractor.  Oliver remembers Walter decided to ride on the fender for a while.  They were going through a small village when Walter, from his vantage point on the fender, inadvertently glanced into a window and saw two young ladies dressing.  “He must have got quite an eyeful”, laughed Oliver, “because he lost his grip and almost fell off the fender.”


Another tricky situation developed on the trip home when they came to a long wooden bridge over the river near Fergus. They didn’t know if the bridge could take the combined weight of both tractor and separator, which was several tons.  They had no choice but to give it a try.  How­ever, each sat on a fender ready to jump into the river at the first sound of cracking wood.  They made it across, but shortly thereafter ran out of gas. Fortunately, arrange­ments had been made for Bob and Bill to meet them and take over the last half of this incredible journey. Unfortunately, Bob and Bill had no idea what route the pair were taking home.  Bob recalls they travelled half the roads in North Wellington before finding the stranded pair.


One of the first successful combines was built in Kalamazoo, Michigan by Hiram Moore in the 1830’s.  It was pulled by 20 horses.  Most of the early combines were used out west.  Joe Ellis of Arkell remembers they started coming into Ontario during the 1940’s.  He was living in Dundalk at the time and bought his first tractor-pulled combine in 1952. The following year he traded it in for a self­-powered Massey Harris.  His love of farming prompted him to buy another combine four years ago and he does custom combining for a few area farmers.  Joe’s combine has no cab and he doesn’t wear those earmuffs either.  He likes to sit out in the air and be able to listen to make sure the machine is running proper­ly. Not so, for some area farmers whose computer-run combines have air conditioned cabs.


We’ve come a long way with our High-Tech, and with our masers and lasers and nuclear fission.  Hope­fully we will not misuse this awe­some power we have tapped into and will continue to sow and reap in peace.