Agricultural Hall of Fame

John Goodison

2011 Inductee

John Goodison
John Goodison

Biography

John Goodison was born in 1849 in Wicklow, Ireland. Together with his parents, five brothers and two sisters, John moved to Canada in 1857, when he was eight years old and settled on a farm in Toronto.

He moved to Strathroy where he conducted a farm equipment business for 14 years, building up a good trade. After selling out of the business, he and his wife, Ida Marger, and two sons, Edwin & William, moved to Sarnia in 1882.

In Sarnia he was employed by the Sarnia Agricultural Implement Company, which would eventually become the John Goodison Thresher Works.

Goodison was one of Sarnia’s most prominent and highly respected citizens. He was known far and wide as the manufacturer of the Goodison Threshing Machine and Tractor Engines.

Goodison brought the rights to the Canadian Thresher, an innovation that dramatically improved the harvest of all local grain growers. His products also improved the harvest for Canadian wheat growers all across the western provinces.

John Goodison was a member of Sarnia’s city council from 1906 to 1915 (excluding 1912) and he also served on Lambton County Council. He was a Liberal and wielded considerable political influence.

He and his two sons owned a stock farm near the city.  He also an oil filed in Moore Township, on the 200 acres were eight producing wells.

He was a member of the Methodist Church, the Masonic Craft and the Beaver Lodge.

After moving to Sarnia Goodison worked for the Sarnia Agricultural Implement Company which operated a factory for manufacturing implements. The company was successful in making reapers, threshers, mowers, plows, corn shellers, etc. and expanded in 1884.  In 1886, they were forced into liquidation as a result of adverse experimentation and manufacturing difficulties.

The Sarnia Agricultural Implement Company
The Sarnia Agricultural Implement Company
The John Goodison Thresher Co. Limited
The John Goodison Thresher Co. Limited

Goodison, together with George H Samis purchased the interest and factory of the insolvent company and operated it successfully.  The following season, it was sold to Sawyer-Massey of Hamilton. The new firm retained Goodison as the manager.

By the fall of 1889 Goodison again secured sole ownership and renamed it Tunnel City Thresher Works but soon changed it to the John Goodison Threshing Company. With a great deal of determination and business sense he succeeded in building the most thriving threshing machine industry in Ontario.

The John Goodison Thresher Company factory was located in Sarnia on Mitton Street between Essex and Maria Streets. The frontage covered the entire distance of the street and three quarters of the block.

At this time John McCloskey of London was becoming famous for the success of his improved design of threshing machines. In 1892, John Goodison secured the rights to build the machine and persuaded McCloskey to work for him, until McCloskey’s death in 1902.

By 1914, the company employed 150 men in the factory as well as six travelling salesmen. Goodison machines were used extensively all over Canada  and could be found in every US state, Argentina and South America.

The John Goodison Thresher Co. Office
The John Goodison Thresher Co. Office

“If it’s as good as a Goodison, it’s a Goodison”

Goodison was also a distributor for Hart-Parr tractors, and later the Oliver line.

On May 5, 1915, Goodison secured a large order of 300 threshers for Western Canada. On the following day, after supervising the loading of machines on the rail car , he did not feel well. His son drove John home and he passed away shortly afterwards.

Edwin, his son and former secretary, took over the firm until he died the following year. John’s son William then assumed the presidency until his death in 1928.

The firm continued to prosper despite these deaths. Among the improvements made were the change to all-steel construction in frames, which completely replaced wooden frames by 1926, the gradual adoption of self-aligning, dust-proof ball bearings by 1927.

Beginning in 1921, to keep up with changing times, the company sold Hart-Parr fuel oil tractors. Hart- Parr merged with Oliver in 1930. Fuel oil was dropped when gasoline was found cheaper to use. Goodison stopped manufacturing steam traction engines in 1927.

Despite the depression of the 1930s, the company built a new factory in 1936 and became one of the largest thresher companies in Canada.

On Display at Lambton Heritage Museum

Don’t miss the collection of  Goodison steam engines and  the other Goodison artifacts in the white barn.