In 2010 I purchased a 1914 Sterling No. 21 threshing machine from the estate of Milton Watry, a founding member of the Lakehead Harvester Reunion club, Esko, Minn. I brought the machine home after the show in September. I had a small field of oats planted over some new seeding grass. The oats that were going to be left on the field looked good enough to bind, so I did.
The Sterling needed some minor repairs before a test run could be made. A little research indicated that a 4 to 6 hp engine was necessary to operate the Sterling threshing machine. My 6 hp International Model M was brought out; after a few speed changes, it seemed to run the Sterling perfectly.
The oats were dried and loaded. On a Sunday morning two weeks later, I set up the machine and engine and brought out my International No. 15 hay press equipped with an International 3 to 5 hp International Model LA and baled about a dozen bales of straw. It was fun and the grandkids even got to help pass grain bundles to the thresher. After watching the Sterling perform, I knew it would take more than I had anticipated to restore it to good working condition.
Late last winter, after cutting firewood for a wood-hungry outdoor boiler, my cousin, Ken Skoglund, who’d earlier said he would help me restore the Sterling, began disassembling the old Sterling threshing machine. He didn’t stop until all that was left was four wheels.
I would love to hear from anyone with more information or literature about the Sterling No. 21. I found some information in C.H. Wendel’s 150 Years of International Harvester, and the Wisconsin Historical Society sent me a copy of a Sterling advertising brochure. It appears the line was built by Heebner & Sons, Lansdale, Pa. Heebner started building threshers in the early 1840s, calling them Little Giants.
In 1909, International Harvester bought the rights to sell those machines under the Sterling name. I’m not sure when that agreement ended because International didn’t start building its own threshing machines until 1925. Heebner & Sons remained in business until 1926. International also sold a couple other brands during that period. The Sterling line included four models: No. 21, No. 21-1/2, No. 26 and No. 30. FC
For more information: Wayne Skoglund, 2964 Elm Rd., Barnum, MN 55707; (218) 389-3378.
Read more about Sterling threshers in Harvesting Old Iron: Antique Threshing Machines Restored.