Biography of John Sears Royce
FROM: History of Livingston County, New York
By James H. Smith
Assisted by Hume H. Cole
Published By D. Mason & Co. 1881


About the year 1815 a man who during his life was widely known as “Deacon Samuel Royce,” in company with his good wife, Betsey Reed Royce, emigrated from the town of Lyme, New London county, Conn., to Leicester, Livingston county. There Mr. Royce purchased a tract of timbered land from John Gregg, and with the aid of his sons in due time converted it into a productive farni. Lpon this same homestead which he had created, Deacon Royce died on July 12, 1850. He could look back upon a life well spent, adorned with Christian virtues, commanding the respect of many friends and the love of the family. He was a member of the close communion Baptist church, and the father of eleven children, ten of whom are now living.

Among these children was one named John Sears Royce, the subject of this sketch, who was born in Leicester July 15, 1819. His boyhood and youth were passed on his father’s farm, and although young Royce found much hard labor before him, he battled manfully with it till eighteen years of age, when his father became convinced that his son was born with an inventive genius that would riot contentedly brook the narrow restraints of farm life.

Fortunately for John. his father desired the happiness and future welfare of his children as much as the immediate advancement of his own affairs, and cheerfully allowed his son to act at will, and bade him God-speed in the broad field of invention.

The young inventor’s first work was a threshing machine, the entire drafting and pattern making for which was done by himself; and the result was a better machine than any in existence at that time. When twenty-two years old, Mr. Royce invented and perfected a plow which was a favorite with many farmers of that day, and was widely known as the Genesee Valley Plow. He then took out his first patent on a metallic spoke suspension wheel for carriages, which was followed by improvements in portable steam engines, and afterward by his great work on mowers and reapers.

In the year 1849, when thirty years of age, Mr. Royce was married to Louisa M. Boom, of Litchfield, Herkimer county, N. Y., and in thus selecting a life partner he was most fortunate, his wife proving a true helpmeet in all his labors. Mrs. Royce is spoken of as endowed with caution and prudence, combined with good business capacity, and prominent in the social circle in which she moves. She is looked up to and respected by a large circle of acquaintances and many valued friends. Seven children have been born to Mr. and Mrs. Royce, (of whom six are now living) viz: Ida A, Samuel J., (deceased,) Cora I., Jennie L., J. Byron, Carrie M., and Eva D. This family have been nurtured to habits of industry and characters of respectability.

In the year 1850, Mr. Royce took out a patent for a Rockaway carriage, which proved successful and in the manufacture of which he was engaged for nearly ten years, when he began the work which was destined to become the crowning achievement of his life—the invention of the combined mower and reaper, known as the Empire Harvester. During that era this was a successful machine, and Mr. Royce continued its manufacture till the year 1870. These combined machines weighed from 1,200 to 1,500 pounds, and the practical-minded inventor readily perceived that farmers were injuring their horses in causing them to draw these great weights of moving machinery over the soft fields, and immediately employed his mind in constructing a plan for a machine which should require less power than the ones then in use and yet do the work so successfully accomplished by a man with a slender “cradle.” The result was the machine known as the Royce Reaper, and the first one constructed weighed 370 pounds. It was a perfect success and possessed ample weight and power for cutting the heaviest grain.

During the years 1871, ‘72. and '73, a few of these machines were made, well tested by farmers, some improvements made, and in the year 1874, Mr. Royce took out patents in the United States, and Canada, covering nine claims. This machine worked a revolution in that branch of business, and still continues in almost universal use.

It was a proud triumph for Mr. Royce when his reaper secured, as it did, the first prize for simplicity, ease of draft, lightness and quality of the work done by it, at the great three days’ trial of the Centennial exhibition. Since that time, the Royce Reaper has invariably been awarded first prize whenever exhibited in competition in the States and Canada, and it is not exaggeration to state that Mr. Royce has made more valuable improvements in reapers than any other inventor.

Not satisfied with the success already achieved, in the year 1878, Mr. Royce invented and patented two other reapers, differing widely from each other, as well as from the first. One is known as the Centennial reaper, and the other as the Little Joker, the patent for which covers thirty-two claims, and which has never been presented before the public, but will, we trust, in due time make itself favorably known.

Mr. Royce’s last work is the invention of a header, thresher, cleaner and bagger, which, prediction says, will work an entire revolution in harvesting and reduce the cost of it to a nominal sum, It is expected that this machine will cut and prepare for market twenty acres of grain in a day, and its weight is not to exceed 800 pounds. For this great work all farmers will forever be grateful to the inventor.

In speaking of Mr. Royce’s characteristics it should be noted that he combines with his inventive genius, great energy and executive ability otherwise he never could have reached his present measure of success. He is a born inventor, has loved the solution of mechanical problems from boyhood, and his mechanical ideas always possess originality and simplicity—two great elements of success. The influence of his genius has left its impression upon many branches of industrial science. The light reaper that bears his name is the pride of his life, an honor to its inventor, and, like many others, the work of his life will live after him.

Mr. Royce is radically temperate in all respects, and earnest and industrious in his habits. He possesses generous impulses, and has never turned a deaf ear to the wants of mankind. Being social in his nature, he is ever ready to promote the welfare and happiness of his family and those surrounding him. Now, while living, he is respected by all who know him, and when his work is done he will be mourned by many.

Return to [ Livingston County Bio's ] [ New York History ] [ Online Biographies ]

All pages copyright 2009. All items on this site are copyrighted by their author(s). These pages may be linked to but not used on another web site. Anyone may copy and use the information provided here freely for personal use only. Privacy Policy