Nichols & Shepard

Content Tools

369 S. Harrig Street, Madisonville, Kentucky 42431


Carl Donahoo was born in Daviess County, Kentucky, April 24, 1903. He bought a 12 HP Compound Russell when he was 18 years old and steamed tobacco plant beds for 10 to 12 years. One time the front flue sheet started to give him trouble. He pulled it behind a road grader to the McClean County Highway garage to have it welded. The welder blew the light transformer putting the lights out in Calhoun, Kentucky, so he gave up and the engine was sold for scrap.

Carl farmed and ran a 65 HP Case for a Mr. Elec Ayers, threshing wheat and hulling clover for several years. About this time he went to work for International Harvester and bought a 16 HP Advance but sold it before he could bring it home. He used a 12 HP portable Gaar Scott to steam cars of molasses for a feed mill.

Billy Byrd and Carl Donahoo in front of the 16-60 Nichols & Shepard after a 28-hour trip from Calhoun to Madisonville, Kentucky, August 1968.

In the late 20's he bought a 50 HP Case sitting in a horse lot where the Owensboro, Kentucky Airport is located. He reflued it and drove it to Calhoun, his home, and steamed plant beds with it. In 1929 the Oliver people took over the Nichols and Shepard Company and shortly after Mr. Donahoo bought a 16-60 D.C. rear mounted engine which had been turned back to the company. It was located at W. Louisville, Kentucky, 12 miles from Calhoun. He liked not to have gotten it home. It stalled on every hill because the boiler was full of mud. He could hardly remove the hand hole plates, as the mud was so hard and it took him three days to rod it out. With this engine he steamed plant beds using a 121/2 yard pan charging 41/2 cents a yard. He steamed with the Nichols and Shephard until 1964 and from 1964 to 1977 with a 65 Case portable that he pulled with a tractor. At the end he was getting 18? a yard with 16-2/3 yard pan. When threshing wheat with the N&S engine he pulled a 28 x 50 Keck-Gonnerman separator and threshed wheat, beans and oats. When he quit threshing in 1943 he was using a 22 x 36 McCormick-Deering tractor pulling a 28 x 48 Case separator that he had restored after being damaged.

One time while threshing with a K.G., a fork came off the handle, tore up the concaves and tore a hole in the grain pan.

One day he was moving from one farm to another and was going down a long hill, when the key came out of the clutch pulley on the Nichols and Shepard. The water wagon and pan wagon were pushing him; he had no way to stop. Luck was with him; he did not meet anyone and didn't go in the ditch.

Once while steaming plant beds he thought that the pop valve was off and was trying to set it by the steam gauge. He put on another gauge and found out that he had set the pop at 180 pounds when the engine carried 150 pounds.

In 1941 he started a shop doing general repair work, welding repairs on cars and trucks, and especially tractors and farm equipment. In 1968 he sold the Nichols and Shepard to me with hesitation as he said, 'you don't sell a member of the family, especially if you have raised 4 boys on it.' He still has the portable Case, is an active member of the Tennessee-Kentucky Threshermans Association and attends the Boonville Steam Show at Rockport, Indiana, the Pickneyville Show and Old Threshers at Mount Pleasant. In 1977 he was given an old Thresher's Award at Mount Pleasant. Mr. Donahoo is an authority on steam engines and it is a privilege for me to know him.

Edgar Hill was born in Christian County, Kentucky, October 8, 1904. At the age of 10 years he started firing a 20 HP Advance at his father's saw mill. The Advance was bought in 1910 and was also used for steaming tobacco plant beds and threshing wheat. His father, Matt Hill, threshed wheat with a 6 HP Springfield-Kelly, then a 16 HP Geiser which he traded for the Advance. In 1934 Mr. Hill and his father bought a rebuilt 22 HP D.C. R.M. Keck-Gonnerman for $900. The engine was shipped from Mount Vernon, Indiana, to Hopkinsville, Kentucky, a distance of 101 miles for which the freight bill was $85. The shipping weight was 12 tons. It was used to thresh wheat, pull the saw mill, steam plant beds, and pull a rock crusher for the W.P.A.

He got 5? per yard for steaming plant beds with a 121/2 yard pan. He quit threshing with steam in 1954 and with a tractor in 1962 and quit steaming plant beds in 1964.

The Advance and Keck-Gonnerman engines pulled a 32 x 54 Case separator. Mr. Hill says some days the Advance would steam like a house on fire and other days, you couldn't get it to do anything. One time with the Advance while going down the road, the key in the draw bar came loose. There was a high bluff on the right side but the separator dropped in the ditch and stopped before going over the side.

With the Keck-Gonnerman he steamed asphalt out of railroad cars one time for 3 days, with 175 pounds pressure, and 11/4' steam pipe. He turned the injector on at 4:00 P.M. and never turned it off until 1:00 P.M. the next day and every flue was leaking. In 1936 he bought a 50 HP Case water wagon, 28 x 50 Case separator, and plant bed pan for $175. Houston Townsend was firing the 50 HP Case pulling the 32 inch Case separator. The old engine was doing her stuff and Houston said 'Mr. Edgar, she sure is preaching the word, she's going to bust that smoke stack wide open. I'm just keeping her coming hot all day.' While threshing with the Case, the follow head nut on the end of the piston rod came loose and tore the cylinder up; had to get a new one.

Mr. Hill got 10? a bushel for threshing and usually in a good day's run would thresh between 1900 and 2000 bushels. He is partial to the Keck-Gonnerman engine because it is easy to handle, with the Case being his next favorite. He now has a portable 50 HP Frick made in 1927 that he restored this spring and exhibits at the Tennessee-Kentucky Thresher men's Association. He also fires Newt Howell's 19 HP Keck-Gonnerman on the saw mill at the show.

He is a Director of the Tennessee-Kentucky Association, attends the shows at Rockport and Mount Pleasant, where in 1977, he was presented with an old Thresher Award. Mr. Hill works part-time as a machinist at the Pennyrile Machine Works at Hopkinsville. His knowledge of steam engines and tractors is unlimited.

These two gentlemen are of a breed that have few left and it would be to the younger men's advantage to learn all they can from them and the ones like them.