Family-Made Implements: Cornelius Aultman and Lewis Miller
(Page 2 of 4)
The owners of the shop in which Cornelius worked, Ephraim Ball and Michael Wise, became interested in Obed Hussey's reaper, and Ball and Aultman built five of these machines. A progressive Greentown farmer named Michael Dillman bought one of the reapers. The machine worked so well that Dillman decided to manufacture the reapers himself. Believing that Illinois offered a wider market for reapers, Dillman decided to move to that state. He needed a mechanic and invited Aultman to accompany him.
Lewis Miller, who had been teaching school but who saw opportunity in the reaper business, decided to 'Go West, young man,' and accompanied his step-brother and Dillman to Plainfield, in Will County, Ill.
Traveling by covered wagon, the Dillman family, along with Aultman and Miller, arrived in Plainfield during the spring of 1849, opened a small shop and made more than a dozen reapers. Miller helped in the shop and began to learn mechanics. The reapers apparently sold well enough, but Hussey got wind of the enterprise and traveled all the way to Illinois from Baltimore to demand a $15 royalty on each machine. After the 1850 harvest, Aultman sold out to Dillman and, again accompanied by Miller, returned to Greentown.
Back home, Aultman bought out Michael Wise, by then his father-in-law, and the Ball and Wise machine shop became Ball, Aultman & Co. Soon, Miller, George Cook (a wagon maker), and Aultman's brother-in-law, David Fouser, a molder by trade, joined the firm as partners too.
For the 1851 season, the new company built 12 reapers, paying Hussey his royalty on each, and six threshers. Greentown had no good access to either the Ohio Canal at Massillon or the new railroad, which was then being built through Canton, so shipping the Ball & Aultman machines was difficult and costly.
In late 1851, the firm moved to Canton and erected three brick factory buildings along the new railroad. Miller's brother, Jacob, also bought into the firm, the capital of which was then estimated at about $4,500.
Lewis Miller, by this time a first-class mechanic, took over the manufacturing end of the plant while Cornelius did the buying and selling. Cornelius also kept the books until 1852, when an accountant named Thomas Tonner was hired.
To get around the royalty payments to Hussey, Ball developed a machine that could be used for both mowing hay and reaping grain. For the 1852 season, Ball, Aultman & Co. built 25 Hussey machines; for the 1853 season, the firm built 25 of Ball's reaper-mowers and 25 Husseys. But Aultman, Miller and Ball all recognized problems with Ball's combined reaping-mowing machine. The platform that was necessary for reaping grain was in the way when cutting hay, but removing it weakened the cutter bar too much.