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Great Grandpa Harvey


Tom Symington


Harvey Hughes was born in the year 1865, just after theCivil War ended. He was the son of Mr. John J. Hughes, and moved with hisfamily from Eastern Canada to Neche, North Dakota in 1874. They purchasedland through the Homestead Act, and John made a good living for Harvey andhis ten plus brothers and sisters.

Here is where Harvey's life separates from the lives ofthe rest of his family. In 1889, at the age of 24, he met a young girl atthe William Symington senior's home. Her name was Louisa Lock, of Englishdescent. Soon afterwards they were married in a Methodist church in Winnipeg,Manitoba.

For the next several years, the family was kept very busy.There were children coming quite.regularly,and there was much farm workto be done. Harvey had provided well enough those first few years. He hadpurchased three farms; one in the present St. Joseph township, and two inthe present Felsen township. On these he raised livestock as well as cashcrops. He seemed to always have plenty of help because the children in chronologicalorder are as follows; Ida (my grandmother), Katie, Florence, Alger, Roland,Georgia, Milford, Edith, Cynthia, Ivan, and Mildred. Eleven children andthey were all blessed with good health! That is an outstanding average eventoday. But with this many kids around, nothing stays quiet for verylong. They were making wild plum preserves in the late fall and the childrenwere shooting plum pits at their father. Now he was known to have rathera short temper at times and he picked up Katie, the right of course, anddunked her in a tub of water. She promptly up and left home to fend forherself in a dryer world, come what may, rain or shine. One spring the childrenwere staying home from town with a neighbor, Pat Hoole, while their folkswent to do the shopping and to purchase supplies. In the middle of the nightthe Pembina River flooded its banks cutting them off from town. Pat harnessedup the horses in an attempt to ford the river, but the bridge had been washedout. It was several days before Harvey and his wife got home to their childrenand things got back to normal.

In his younger years, Harvey had gone to school and studiedfor a degree in steam engineering. As in most cases, these educational experiencesstood him in good stead back on the farm where almost all machinery wassteam driven. In fact, he led a rather colorful life in connection withthis. He owned one of the first steam separators in the whole area, andevery fall he threshed for all of his neighbors.

He soon became known as the best hand feeder in the wholeNorthwest. One fall they threshed a full quarter section of heavy wheatin one day for a man named Tom King. Another fall he and his crew threshedfor nearly fifty days straight without a break in the weather.

He owned a combination feed grinder and wood sawing outfitwhich was gasoline powered. He went from farm to farm with this on a wagonand cut wood and processed feed. In his spare time he was an ardent hunterand was also an excellent shot. More than once he shot one hundred out ofone hundred clay pigeons at trapshoots in neighboring towns.

He sat and thought a lot and was always full of new ideas.These ideas usually led him to his shop where he would try to put togethera new invention. He and a good friend, Billy Fallardau, made an all woodenwater pump which would pump water on both strokes. This was designed tofill up the boiler on the steam engine. They applied for a patent on itonly to find that it had been patented several years before by someone else.Another of his brainstorms was the gas saver. This was a complicated devicewhich was meant to gather the fumes from above the fuel in the gas tankand direct these to the carburetor. He first tried this idea on the smallauxiliary engine used for running his feed grinder. One small thing thatwas overlooked, however, was that a spark plug wire was dangerously closeto the fuel line. The result was devastating. Pieces of feed grinder andengine all over the yard. I'm not quite sure just how Harvey escaped totaldestruction, but you can be sure that this never bothered him. He went rightto work on a new one for his Pontiac car. This time it was a success, hecould drive from his farm to Walhalla and back on one gallon of gas. Thiswas a total distance of nearly fifty miles! When he applied for a patentthis time, he was flatly turned down on the grounds that until it was perfected,it was just too blamed dangerous.

During the bad farming years and the great grasshopperplagues, he was a machine dealer for J. I. Case. He did a quite a businessfor as long as he was able to keep the dealership. His first car was purchasedthen, an early Buick with great big brass, carbide lamps on the fenders.It had a horizontally opposed engine which had to be cranked from the side.

The last farm that he purchased was all bush land and hadto be cleared. He cut down the trees and sold fence posts. Then he grubbedout the stumps and made a productive farm out of land which had formerlybeen waste. When he was burning the brush piles on the farm, he acquiredbronchitis, which led to cancer of the throat. Eventually this killed him.He died in 1959 at the age of 94. His wife, Louisa, is still living in Nechewith her daughter, Georgia, at the age of 99. She is still physically wellalthough her mind is cloudy.



Interviews: Chester Symington, Mrs. Lyle Symington, GarthSymington, Miss Georgia Hughes, and old family books and papers.

Lyle Symington, GarthSymington, Miss Georgia Hughes, and old family books and papers.