Fuller & Johnson Comes Home

Missourian’s patience pays off with Fuller & Johnson engine/mill combo

A brass plate on the mill’s wooden framework identifies the company that originally sold the unit.

A brass plate on the mill’s wooden framework identifies the company that originally sold the unit.

Photos by Ron McGinnis

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In 1942, when Green “Fountain” Allen up and walked off his place in the southeastern Arkansas town of Wilmar, he left behind a single-cylinder Fuller & Johnson 8 hp gasoline engine. He had used it there for many years, powering a buzz saw and grist mill, cutting logs for firewood and grinding corn into meal for members of the community. Normally his work was paid for in trade, not cash money. 

Fast-forward to a time several years ago when David Allen, one of Fountain’s grandsons, heard that the mill and engine had subsequently been obtained by a neighbor, whose nephew, Bob Hart, hauled them to Fresno, Calif. David got Bob’s address and wrote to him, asking that he be given a chance to purchase both machines if they were ever offered for sale. Receiving no immediate answer, he forgot about the offer.

Two years later Bob died, and two years after that, Bob’s mother passed away. After yet two more years, Bob’s brother found David’s letter and called him out of the blue. “If you want the engine and mill,” he said, “they’re yours, but you will have to come to California to get them.”

At that time David lived in Pine Bluff, Ark, still he says the long drive to Fresno and back was well worth the effort, even after counting road expenses. A small-engine enthusiast since his youth, he knew the value of what had been given to him.

Engine and mill bought new

Fully restored, the Fuller & Johnson Model N (serial no. 53036) now sits alongside the relatively small grist mill in David’s machine shop north of Springfield, Mo. The engine was shipped by the manufacturer on Aug. 12, 1922, from Madison, Wis. The engine generates 375 rpm.

According to a brass plate on the wood-encased mill, it was originally sold by Southwestern Supply Co., Little Rock, Ark. The mill appears to be a Williams model with 16-inch buhr stone and an unusual eight-sided wooden hopper. David believes that his grandfather bought both the engine and the mill new.

As youths, Fountain’s children were little impressed by the mill and engine. David recalls hearing stories from his dad about his childhood. He and his siblings hid out when they heard that noisy engine being crank-started by their father. They knew that their dad would soon be looking for them. It was a boring, all-day job feeding shell corn into the mill’s hopper, and none of them wanted any part of it, or of the next step in the process, sacking cornmeal.

Another of Fountain’s sons, David’s uncle Wilson, was disgusted by his tight-fisted father, who sent him with a gallon can to get a nickel’s worth of gasoline for the engine, when it would have been just as easy to bring home a whole gallon at a time and he wouldn’t have had to go as often.

Steam-O-Rama makes its pick

David joined the Southwest Missouri Early Day Gas Engine & Tractor Assn. in 2004. At a recent meeting, he listened to a friendly debate over what type of engine would best represent the group. A photograph of that engine was to be put on refrigerator magnets to be handed out as keepsakes at the 50th anniversary of the “Steam-O-Rama” celebration planned for September 2011. The event features displays of stationary gas engines and antique tractors along with steam engine demonstrations by members of the Ozarks Steam Engine Assn. at the steam engine grounds east of Republic, Mo.

David listened as members discussed several makes of gasoline engines featured at previous shows. He was surprised to hear that the club had never put a Fuller & Johnson on one of their collectible magnets. The club voted to feature Fuller & Johnson on the anniversary magnet, only to realize that the only club member known to own a Fuller & Johnson had his engines featured on the magnet for the previous two years.

One of the group’s junior members hesitantly spoke up. Knowing that his handsome dark green engine wouldn’t mind getting its picture taken, David said, “I have my grandpa’s old Fuller & Johnson and it has a good paint job.” 

David Allen, who had been at the right place at the right time on more than one occasion, will be rewarded for his good fortune when his engine represents the organization on its 50th anniversary magnet. He hopes to demonstrate corn milling at the show in September, belting his grandfather’s old Fuller & Johnson and grist mill together for the first time in nearly 70 years.

With his kind of luck, I wonder how well David does at the horse track? FC 

For more information: David Allen, 1220 E. Farm Road 80, Springfield, MO 65803; phone (417) 849-5076; e-mail: Davida@cityutilities.net. 

50th anniversary Ozarks Steam Engine Assn./Southwest Missouri EDGE&TA Branch 16 Steam-O-Rama, Sept. 15-18, Republic, Mo. Contact Jeff Ruth, 8984 St. Hwy. U, Rogersville, MO 65742; (417) 767-4632; online at www.steamorama.com. 

Dan Manning is the son, grandson and great-grandson of central Kansas hardware men. He is the miller at the historic Wommack Mill in Fair Grove, Mo. His favorite photographer and long-time friend is Ron McGinnis. His works can be seen at www.RonMcGinnis.com.