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The Rock Problem

By Collections Curator Ruth Bitner
October 2012

A Dreaded Job

Rocky fields are the scourge of farmers everywhere. In parts of Saskatchewan, it seemed like there was a new crop of stones every year. Until the 1940s, the only way to get rid of them was to pick them by hand or put a chain around them and pull them out with horse or tractor.

Two men stand amongst large rocks clearing land near Swan River Valley in 1904 Clearing land by hand, Swan River Valley, 1904.
Saskatchewan Archives Board, R-A14231

A Mechanical Breakthrough

Perhaps Peter Anderson had picked too many rocks. The Southey machine shop owner came up with a way to help his farmer neighbours with their rock problem. In the late 1940s, he designed and built the first successful mechanical rock picker.

Anderson rock picker Anderson rock picker, Southey, 1964.
Saskatchewan Archives Board, 64-473-06

The Idea Catches On

Anderson’s invention paved the way for the rock picker business in Saskatchewan. Vonda farmer Rosaire Bussiere designed and built a rock picker in 1961 and set up a company called Rock-O-Matic in Vonda to manufacture it. Englefeld machine shop owner John Schulte began building snowblowers in the late 1940s and started into the rock picker business in 1958.

Raymore farmer Wilf Degelman built a machine in 1963 and two years later set up a manufacturing plant in Regina.

From Saskatchewan to the World

Rock handling equipment continues to be an important part of both the Degelman and Schulte businesses although each manufactures a wide variety of other equipment. Their products are sold in many parts of the world. Rock-O-Matic later became Highline Manufacturing with rock pickers continuing as part of their product line.

Man stands beside Degelman rock picker, colour photo Degelman rock picker, Dalmeny, 2006.
Ruth Bitner photo

Related WDM Research Papers:

Get Adobe ReaderResearch Documents are in PDF format and require Adobe Reader to view.

Innovative Implements: The Strength and Legacy of Saskatchewan's Manufacturing Industry by Amy McInnis (WDM)

Saskatchewan Farm Facts by Ruth Bitner (WDM)

Saskatchewan InnovationYou might also be interested in:

- More Saskatchewan Innovations

- About the WDM Collection

- How to donate an artifact