Jesse Barber writes......


Here is a picture of a separator owned by Elmer Johnson, who is an old-time thresher man. He has been threshing for many years but had always used a tractor, but when the steam engine was put on he said that was the best power that the separator had ever

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Lavinia, Iowa

This picture was taken in 1895, the first year I helped thresh. I was 11 years old and carried water for the help. I am sitting on the hind wheel of the engine. This is one of the first self-feeders and wind stackers in our county. It was a 16 HP Compound Russell Steam Engine and a 3658 Port Huron Thresher. My father is kneeling with a checkered jacket on. I am sure none of these men are alive now except the children and me.

When I was born my father made me a cradle out of an old Case agitator separator he tore up. It did not have a self feeder, weigher or wagon loader for the grain or just a straight webb stacker. They would thresh awhile till the straw got filled up then they had a horse on each end of a rope and would pull it away. I am sure they had a 10 HP to run it.

I well remember the first steam engine Dad had. It was a center crank Case Engine. I was 5 years old when he brought it home and it had been used about 2 years. Dad had a big workshop on the farm so he got it ready to steam up and when it was ready to run he got my brother and I to sit on the running board and he would give us a ride. So we got on it with our backs turned and our legs hanging down. Dad was standing behind us. He started up and we went about 20 feet when the glass gauge busted. Dad jumped over us and ran around to shut it off and it scared us so bad we ran in the shop and hid under the bellows that ran the old style blacksmith forge. When he got the gauge shut off he started to look for us. We were so scared we didn't even move so Dad went to the house and asked Mother if she had seen us. She said no. So they came back to the shop and began calling us and we came crawling out. But it didn't take long until we lost our fear of it.

When my father died in 1928 at Mahomet, Illinois I went back there and after the services were over an old man came over where I was and asked me if I was Jesse Barber. I told h i m I was and he said he was Mr. Quinn and we visited about old times. I had not seen him since 1905 and he asked me how old I was when I first ran a steam engine. I said I was about 12 years old and he said I know how old you were. He said he came over to our place to get Dad to shell for him and I was running the engine and I was 9 years old. It was a center crank Case steam engine.

When I was 14 years old Mother and Dad went to the State Fair and this same man came to our house and wanted Dad to shell for him. I told him Dad had gone to the State Fair and couldn't shell till he got hack. He said, 'Why don't you run it?' I told him he would have to see Dad, but finally decided to do the work. I took the outfit and shelled his corn. I got a fellow that used to help Dad to help me with the job and we had good luck.

The winter I was 15 years old our neighbor came and wanted Dad to come and buzz some wood for him. Dad made a buzz saw on wheels so I told him I could take the outfit and do it. The neighbor was Len Rayman of Mahomet, Illinois. It was awfully icy and we had about an inch of ice on the ground. We had some ice lugs we put on the engine so it would not slip. When I got to his pasture there was a hill to climb so they pulled the saw up and I started up the hill and one lug broke off and the wheel started to spin. When I got nearly to the top of the hill all the lugs broke off of that wheel and it started to slide which was about 20 rods. I stayed with it. I would reverse it and it would turn around, when I was headed down I would reverse it again and it would turn around again. Finally I got to the end of the slant and got stopped. I went around the hill and did the job. There were some fellows standing there watching me. They told me they thought I was going to get hurt but I wasn't scared until it was all over. I didn't ever do that again.

I would like to hear from anyone who knows me.