MEMORIES

Steam engine

Content Tools

Washington

I have spent many years as a kid and adult listening to 'old timers', as they are called, swap and tell stories of the good old days harvesting with horses, plowing, trips to town on Saturday night, good times and bad. They're all fascinating to hear. I love to see the old photographs.

My neighbor, Mac Hatley, who is, as he puts it, a 'tired and retired farmer', and whose land borders mine, recalls the first steam engine to come to the Palouse country in the state of Washington. I also received information from Mac's brother, Norman, whose farm is also next to mine.

The year is 1887, a man named Riley B. Hatley, who was Mac's father, went to Stillwater, Minn., where he bought a Stillwater steam engine. It was made in the state prison by the inmates. The engine was a 10 HP and was self-propelled by a chain drive from the fly wheel to the right rear ground wheel. It was also equipped with a seat for the driver and a tongue so it could be pulled by a team of horses. The engine was shipped down the Mississippi River by river boat to New Orleans, or that area. It was then transferred to a ship. From there it sailed around the tip of South America and up the west coast to the Columbia River, and on up to Portland, Oregon. It was again transferred to a river boat, a steam powered paddle wheeler, and made the trip up the Columbia River, to what is now Pasco, Washington, where the Columbia and the Snake River come together.

From that point it may have been transferred to another river boat for its trip up the Snake River, although the river boats from Portland to Pasco did not usually make that trip up the Snake River. At Almota, the engine was unloaded and R. B. Hatley hitched up a team of horses and the Stillwater engine was pulled up the Snake River canyons on a wagon road to his farm some 20 miles away.

As can be seen in the photo, the seat in the front of the engine was for driving the team. The smoke stack was on the rear of the engine. The teams and wagons hid most of the separator. It was made of wood and the make was Columbia.

R. B. Hatley not only did his own harvesting with this outfit, but hired out to the neighbors also. I was told that one neighbor paid him in three dollar gold pieces at the end of harvest. Some payments were made this way and at other times they were done on shares.

The Stillwater engine was used until about 1904, when it was replaced by the more modern horse-drawn combines. The engine was junked out just before or during World War I. This was the only Stillwater engine that I have heard of in our Palouse country, in fact, it's the only one I have ever heard of. Most of the popular steam engines here were J. I. Case, Advance-Rumely, Minneapolis and others.

The photo of the river boat is the steam boat at Lewiston, Idaho, a paddle wheeler on the Snake River which would have been typical of the river boat which hauled the Stillwater engine up the rivers.