STEAM DOINGS ON THE WEST COAST

Elder Best Daniel

Picture from an advertisement of the elder Best Daniel

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Announcing his deal with Marquis de Lafayette  Remington (son of the sheriff of Carthage, III., at the time of the mob slaying of the Mocrmon leaders who were in   jail there at the time), to build under Remington patent rights this steam traction engine to power the Best combined; harvesters.

(From collection of F. Hal Higgins)

I went over to the funeral of C. L.. Host, Chairman of the Hoard of the Catterpillar Tractor Co., and the man who unhitched more oxen and mules in the western woods and ranches than any other man. I rate him No. 1 tractor man of the world in its 184 years development wince Col. Cugnot's 1769 steam job. Best was 73. HP was born at Albany, Oregon, where his father, Daniel Best, was a pattern maker at the Cherry Iron Works for a few years after he began building grain cleaners at Marysville in 71. I stopped in at Slate's ranch just south of Albany one day in 1944 and got old Nathaniel Slate, then 92, to check his memory and records on the Rests when they were at Albany.

'Dan Best was a, pattern maker and a good one,' said Clate. 'I had him help mo get up a combine in 1882. That was when we found out it would take a field full of horses and mules to pull it and began talking steam traction engines. Young Leo Best was out to the ranch with his father a time or two. He must have been 6 or 8 at that time.'

The Bests went back to California in 1885 and began building' their grain cleaners, combines and steam traction engines for the whole, grain ranching job. Don knew Remington (Marquis de 'Lafayette who ha 1 a shop up the road at Woodburn, of course. Remington took a boiler and made a steam tractor in '85, and three years later built a bigger

one he named Rough and Ready and took it down to San Leandro for demonstrations at the Best plant. They worked out a deal that sold Best the right to build under Remington patents for the entire Pacific coast. Remington told his steam tractor story in a full page in the Pacific Rural Press, illustrated with portrait of himself and 3 column cut of the Best built Remington pulling a Best combine.

Clarence Leo Best grew up in the steam tractor industry, starting in his father's factory as soon as he was through high school and a few terms in a San Francisco engineering college. I met him first in 1927 when 1 came out from Chicago to join the Caterpillar advertising staff as news editor. Hence, I have had a. nodding acquaintance with him ever since and was granted an interview to go over some old Best catalogs and settle, some questions on pioneering Best tractor history, only five or six years ago. 'C. L.'he never cared for the Clarence Leo handle given him by fond parents always wore a hat in the office. I caught him in a reminiscent mood that afternoon. He went over a 1906 Best catalog carefully, pointing out drawings he had made for this catalog after he had gone into 'Dad's' factory on completion of his engineering course across the Bay. He chuckled as he recounted how he had delivered, demonstrated and closed a deal for one of the Best 110 h.p. steam logging tractors. 'This young fellow had bought the outfit without letting his father know that he was breaking away from the safe and sure oxen and horses. Ho, when 1 landed at the mill, way up in the shadow of Mt. Shasta in northern California, the old man called his son into his office and preceded to give him a bad half hour as he, called him all the kinds of d. f. a lifetime of frontier logging had taught him. The son came around to me and tried to cancel the order. I did a lot of thinking that night without any real sleep as I figured out what to do the next morning. Here 1 was out to prove to Dad that 1 could sell his tractors. I was plenty fresh and cocky. But I had a lot of Dad's steel, labor and capital tied up in this deal with 400 miles between factory and me. Right after breakfast 1 fired up the bright new Best 110, hitched on the special Best logging trucks and started driving in circles from mill pond to the woods and back. No one was loading and unloading, just going through the motions of filling my part of the contract. That went on for three hours when the buyer came out and OK-ed the deal. You can imagine how I was stepping when I got back to the factory and reported to Dad with a signed check.

In the California Sacremento and San Jaquin valleys, generation after generation of grain farmers have used Combines. Here is J. R. Poundstone's 1903 Best steam combine that replaced his horse-drawn Holt of 1892 date... His grandsons, Marion and George, with aid of Marion's two sons, took off the 82nd grain crop from the ranch in 1951 and 60 of these crops were combined. Caterpillar Diesel tractors pull Harris combines the last few crops. Picture from the collection of F. Hal Higgins

'Some of those big 110 h.p. Hosts, each a little different, as ordered by its buyer-as to length of boiler, face of wheel, auxiliary steering engine over front wheel, etc., can be found in the woods of northern California where they were sprinkled between 1888 up through the early 1900's. The big ones like the Phillips boys and Lloyd Burr have cornered stand 17 feet six inches from ground to top of smoke stank, have 2-foot wheel rim face on wheels 8 feet high, etc. We built the big wheels to get over rough spots and stumps,' explained C. L. Best That both Bests lived up to their name is evident to anyone questioning logger, freighter, miner, rancher who owned any of their products. Both father and son knew their products and had supreme faith in them because they knew their buyers and what they wanted in some thing that would do their work and stand up to the job. Frank Cornell, Cat Deere dealer at Salinas until he retired three years ago, recounted to the writer his days with the Best factory as service man and then branch manager at Los Angeles at the time of the pre World War I tractor shows. 'Every tractor being offered on the Coast was there, but we in the Best camp knew of only two Holt, the enemy, and Best. We would work all night to get our latest model ready for the trials next day. CL was right at my elbow as I drove the last and deepest stretch of gang plowing. I could smell the clutch starting to burn and muttered, 'We can't do it without burnin; out the clutch,' I pleaded. 'keep the s.o.b. going!' I heard in my ear above the engine. We made it to the end, but the clutch was sure gone.'

A 12 hp C. Aultman Pheonix chain drive. North East of Hector, Minn. It has been in the Johnson family since the early 1880's. Photo taken in 1950. (We are unable to give the name of the sender as the name was not on the back of the picture and the correspondence  got separated from it. Sorry)

Doc' Wik from Minnesota Teaching History

You old steam fans who think you want to help the steam cause will have your chance soon when Or. Reynolds M. Wik's book, 'Steam in American Agriculture' comes off the University of Pennsylvania Press. 'Doc' worked five years on this to get his PhD degree from the University of Minnesota and win the American Historical Society's $1500 prize. His degree and work got him his new post at Mills College, in Oakland, Calif., where he has just arrived to teach History and Government Wik is a close friend of Hans Anderson in the engineering department of Minneapolis Moline Co., and also had fine cooperation from J. I. Case's advertising manager Wirt and Case Eagle Editor Durgin as well as personal contacts with many high officials of the present International Harvester, Frick, Ford, Cater pillar, Minneapolis Moline top brass. Doc and wife dropped in on me one evening after his arrival in California. His very Capable and loyal wife was a librarian at the University of Minnesota. In spite of a very heavy teaching program at this fashionable female institution of higher learning, I managed to get Doc away one evening for the Tractor and Implement Club dinner program in Berkeley. The club secretary has promised to give Doc an evening about the time his book comes out late this year or early next. There should be a strong rallying round by all you steam fans as well as anybody historically minded on mechanization to buy at least one copy and urge your local library to do likewise. That may help get more of such literature published.

Dr. Glenn Threshing Painting Restored

I got my second look at the Andrew Hill painting of the world's record threshing scene of 1875 when it was shown at the Glenn county fair at Orland Calif., recently. 1 first saw it hanging on the wall of a ranch house one might on a special trip out west of Corning where a reader of California Farmer-reported it after my story of the Glenn ranch with reproduction of the engraving made by Pacific Rural Press in 1876 appeared about five years ago. It was out on the old George Hoag ranch. Hoag was Glenn's super blacksmith who built all the wagons, headers, etc., when they couldn't buy such items big and rugged enough to suit their demands. Cn threshers, each and every one of' the six or seven that Glenn Ranch operated to harvest their 55,000 to 66,000 acres of wheat. Case; Nichols, Shepard and Co., (1876 name); Geiser; Pitts, and Gaar, Scott threshers were used after a lot of working over in the shops of George Hoag. He added the Jackson feeders on both sides and lengthened the cylinders to 48 inches, say the records of the day. The biff boys of the steam straw-burner thresher industry annually made California trips to have a look at these frontier wheat growers who were never satisfied with what the factories built and kept demanding bigger and better to equip their men to compete against the world in wheat production. John Nichols from Battle Creek, Mich., was there. Leonard Ames in his top hat was on!, from Oswego, in 1876. Ransome. Sims and Head sent one of the famous Ransome clan over to San Francisco from England to introduce their strawburning portable engine with the Russian (Schemiath) patent burner. But when it came to steam engines, it was always Enright or Rite.

A scene just after the soft plug went out. This was not unusual as we were using artesian water and going through heavy sod it would pull over and out would go the plug. We overcome this by taking a tip from the American Thersherman, by putting 1 quart of cylinder oil in the boiler before starting in the morning. This worked though a very bad practice. Morris Bowlinge, 1107 Jefferson Street,Toledo. Ohio.

NOTE

(This picture should be read in conjunction with the picture of the N and S 22 H.P. on page 12, Sept.-Oct., 1951 issue

The engine in this famous painting was the 18 h.p. Enright that blew up three years afterwards, turning somersault into the big threshing machine to destroy it while killing a couple of Chinamen and an engineer. Rice got the call to replace the Enright, his straw burner patent having won the court battles against Heald at Vallejo, Brown Brothers at Salinas, Enright at San Jose, and Ames as sold with return flue boilers by Baker and Hamilton after 1876, according to Rice's ads in Pacific Rural Press. This painting is the only piece of such art showing the pioneer California ranch methods. Mrs. Houghton, granddaughter of George Hoag, told me at her ranch that her grandfather brought Hill up from San Francisco for that harvest of 1875 to paint this scene. It is historically accurate. He never would reveal to his wife what the painting cost, but the artist was there all summer and seemed to appreciate the ranch meals. 'He looked hungry', reported Mrs. Hoag. When I saw the painting that night five years ago, it had a big hole torn in one corner from an accident to it in one of the hockings it got from a step son to Hoag. Seems he needed a little cash now and then for liquid celebration and or poker sittings, and would sneak the painting out and hock it for a sum some enterprising local shop keeper knew Mrs. Hoag would readily redeem to replace the painting on the ranch walls. That went on for some years until the death of Mrs. Hoag. With the passing of the first and second generations of the Hoags, the painting was' forgotten, neglected and left on the walls of the house till an Oregon cattleman bought land, building and contents. Hence, the red tape and time required to recover it by the Colusi Historical Society and its recent repair and showings at the three local county fairs in Tehama, Colusa and Glenn counties.

The kickers in a community are also the sitters, they have their feet spread out for others to walk over, so that they are always in the way