This is an example of an antique stump extractor used to expedite the process of removing tree stumps, or even large stones that would be too difficult to remove by hand. The model pictured here originated from Tweed, Ontario during the 1880s. It uses a relatively simple mechanism and large, powerful frame to to extract stones or stumps from areas that a farmer would like to use for more productive purposes, like building or planting crops. A rope on a winch is attached to the stump or stone. Two or more men then turn the winch, assisted by a large gear and block and tackle, which lifts the object out of the ground to be deposited elsewhere. The number of men required varied based on the weight of the object being moved. Manuals for other stump-lifters similar to this one suggest that it takes two men to lift a 5-ton load, and four men to lift a 10-ton. Horses or other draft animals could also be used for larger loads.
Prior to the invention of the stump lifter, stump-removal was one of the hardest and most important tasks for farmers, especially pioneers in relatively uncleared and undeveloped land. Trees would be cut down during the winter, when the agricultural workload was at its lightest. Stump-removal would have to wait until the ground had thawed in spring. A grub axe would then be used to dig around the stump and cut off small roots, and a pickaxe was used to cut the larger ones. It could take an entire day to remove a single stump, especially if it was one with especially tough roots like oak trees. It is no surprise that some chose to skip this painstaking process entirely by using dynamite to blow stumps to smithereens.