Dad's Threshing Days

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Route 1 Rimersburg, PA 16248

A regular and favorite topic of my father, Russell M. Traister, of Rimersburg, Pennsylvania, Clarion County, who is 90 years old, is about his threshing days. I, Owen Traister, his son, born 1924, remember the ending of the use of the steam rig and the beginning of the use of an Oil Pull before my World War II service.

Early in 1912, my grandfather bought a 1907 12 HP Russell traction engine. He also bought a 1901 Russell Slat Stacker thresher 27 x 42, and an Eli hay press from a neighbor. My father, who was 17 at the time, and his older brother-in-law did some custom baling in the neighborhood in 1912 and 1913. They threshed only on home farms. In 1914, Dad and his brother-in-law did considerable threshing in the neighborhood with a new Russell 24 x 42 Slat Stacker separator which Granddad had just purchased. In 1915, my dad and granddad became partners. Dad ran the Russell engine and separator with neighborhood help. In 1916, the old Russell 12 HP traction engine was traded for a 1916 10-20 Mogul to be used with the 1914 Russell 24 x 42 slat stacker. He only ran the Mogul one season because of continuing ignition problems. The Russell engine, which was traded on the Mogul gasoline tractor, had to be delivered by Dad to Clarion, Pennsylvania, about 20 miles distance. He said it was almost a two day journey because of muddy road conditions.

In early 1917, Dad and Granddad traded the Mogul for a 1902 7 x 9 10 HP Frick traction engine. Dad and a local machinist installed a new boiler at a local machine shop in the spring of 1917. In 1918, Dad bought a new Frick 26 x 42 separator with wind stacker. It cost a little over $90. He threshed in the neighborhood and baled with the old Eli (circa 1907) hay press. In 1920, Dad got a used 1914 Ann Arbor hay press and Granddad got a McCormick cornhusker and shredder, which was powered by the Frick engine. Dad always ran this equipment with neighborhood help while it was on the road. Granddad never helped on the threshing runs.

In 1922, Granddad bought a new Fordson for $440 to use on the home farm. This was plowing, running the corn husker, chopper, and general farm work until 1940 when Dad bought a new Farmall H for $750 to replace the Fordson. Dad tells of moving up a hill from one farm to another, in 1922, over a road that had limestone boulders sticking up on the surface of the road. He was using the 7 x 9 Frick pulling the Ann Arbor press, when a cleat slipped and the rock jolted the engine, breaking the pinion off of the intermediate shaft. The engine started backwards, but he cut it into the bank, stopping it but also breaking one of the front wooden wheels on the press, along with the tongue. They built a new shaft and rebuilt the wheel in the Linden pitz machine shop. They did the repairs out on the road. They were down three days with these repairs.

Dad continued to make these runs and in 1930 bought a 1925 20 x 35 Oil Pull which replaced the Frick engine. The Frick was sold to a local sawyer for about $200 in 1930. Dad says that up until about 1925 he got 4 cents a bushel for threshing wheat, 4 cents for rye, 3 cents for buckwheat and barley and 2 cents per bushel for oats. From about 1925 on, he got 6 cents for wheat and rye, 4 cents for oats and 5 cents for buckwheat and barley. He got 50 cents for timothy seed and $1 for clover seed. Coal, acquired locally, cost about $1.25 per ton and was hauled by team and wagon.

About 1926, Dad bought a 1923 Ford truck, which had been damaged in a fire. He rebuilt it and used it around the farm and with the threshing rig. Water was hauled in a 270-gallon water tank bought from Sears and Roebuck. It was mounted on a high wheel wagon with a hand action pump mounted on the rear of the wagon. Dad tells of using a steam hose to thaw and warm the pump in the winter mornings so they could go to the closest stream to get water. He says a hard day's threshing would take up to three tanks of water and a half ton or more of coal. Dad said that when getting water for the engine, you had to be careful not to get it out of a duck pond or it would foam, and then you had to drain the boiler and start over.

Baling wire came in bundles of 250. It cost about $2 per bundle. Baling was done in the earlier days for $1.25 a ton and later for up to $2.50.

Dad threshed in 1930, 1931, 1932 with the 20 x 35 Oil Pull and Frick thresher. He quit custom baling and threshing to go into the retail dairy business in 1933. The 20 x 35 Oil Pull was sold to a neighbor in 1935 for the purpose of crushing limestone. Dad said he paid $300 for it in 1930, during the depression, and sold it in 1935 for $375. This tractor is still in our neighborhood. It belongs to Ed Crawford, a grandson of the man who bought it from Dad. Ed enjoys it as a hobby.

From 1925-1933 Bobby Montgomery, a local lad, helped Dad on his seasonal runs. Bobby, now about 75 years old, has a Peerless traction engine, a Frick separator and the Ann Arbor hay press that Dad had. He enjoys them as a hobby and fires his engine up every summer.

During my time on the home farm, from 1924 to 1942, when I entered the Marine Corps, my brothers and I were involved with the 1 HP Economy engine with which we ran the grinder, washer, etc. and a 2 HP Fowler upright used to pump the farm water from the well to a reservoir on the hill. The Economy engine was in a wash house with the exhaust extending through the wall which had no windows. At about age 8, my brothers and I discovered we could stop the engine by lying on our backs and closing the exhaust off with our feet. Mother would then have to restart it. She finally discovered what was going on and I was given my only whipping from her.

Dad retired in 1961 and moved from the farm. He has since attended many reunions, including Rough and Tumble Engineers, Williams Grove, Penn's Cave and others. He is still doing good and enjoys engine talk. I now have a 1 HP Economy restored and running. I have been restoring Model T Fords since 1984.