Buried Alive

'Buried Alive'. See Ger. A. Payne's Article

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12157 McKinley Rd. Montrose, Michigan

Here is a story that will give you the bet a lot of you will want to go up and feeling of a friend being executed. I'll dig her out. Ed.

In the spring or early summer of 1923 road building business was booming. Three of my uncles, Simon Westfall, Rollin Payne and 'Joseph Westfall, contracted to build two miles of gravel road for Gennessee County. They formed a company to be known as Westfall, Payne and Westfall.

Being unable to obtain gravel for this road from the then producing pits they decided to open a pit on the banks of the Flint River where gravel had been taken out some years before hand. As the vein went down below the water level they decided the best way to work it was a sand sucker. A pump, pipe, etc., was purchased. Then the problem of power came to the front. The Port Huron Engine and Thresher Company was contacted and the new company was informed that a steam traction engine with enough power for the pump was in the neighborhood. It was owned by one Joseph Lavuck for threshing. The engine was a 25 or 26 HP. and developed something like ninety horsepower in the belt. (As I am told now it was a 32 hp. with a 10x10 bore and stroke simple engine with a piston valve).

I was eleven years old at this time. I will never forget that engine coming down the road. It had to pass where we lived on its way to the pit. It was late in the evening and starting to get dark. I never knew a steam engine could go so fast. It came roaring down the road, smoke and fire belching from its stack. I ran out of the yard and along side of it as it went by the gate and I really had to run to keep up with it. As I found out later engineer Lavich had the governor belt off and was giving the engine all the throttle he thought it would stand so he could get to the pit before dark.

The engine was put to work pumping soon after its arrival. On a clear day or when the wind was right you could hear the exhaust where we lived about one and a half miles away.

Westfall, Payne and Westfall operated this pit using this engine until about 1926 when, two of the partners sold out to a man named Leach. A new company, Westfall and Leach took over. They still used this engine. About 1928 the other Westfall sold out to Leach.

Sometime during the year 1929 Engineer Leach decided steam was too slow and electricity was what he needed to operate his pit.. So the old Port Huron was run to the place where it now stands under its own power.

Carelessness on some ones part caused a sand shot to be set so the sand and Water ran over the place where the engine stood so by the end of the season the sand had filled in up to the bottom of the boiler waist.

Electric power proved to be too expensive but by then it did not make much difference as the depression was with us and Leach lost his business.

Then another outfit took over with a dragline throwing their waste in piles along side the engine. As these piles grew soon the engine was completely covered where it rested until sometime during World War II when somebody with hand shovels dug the sand away about like you see it in the picture. By that time they were convinced it was a hopeless task so it was abandoned and there the engine still rests.