R. D. 4, Ashland, Ohio 44805.
Several years ago I was lucky enough to rescue from a junk dealer several bound volumes of a once prominent weekly newspaper of our community; The Ashland Press. There were eight consecutive years, all complete, running from July 1897 to July 1905, and all in very good condition. Every once in a while it is interesting to get these out and look over the happenings at the turn of the century. Besides the latest news on the Spanish American War, there was the Alaskan gold rush, the Wm. Jennings Bryan, Wm. McKinley debates of 1900 and McKinleys subsequent assassination and Teddy Roosevelt's election in 1904. The papers contain the latest local news of such things as train wrecks, runaway horse and buggy accidents, barn fires and every now and then, items regarding traction engines and threshing. I have now and then read stories in I. M. A. of accidents and incidents regarding threshing taken from old newspaper accounts and decided to look through those that I have and see what I could come up with, as it might be of interest to the readers of this magazine. In scanning over the pages, I have noted the following:
August 26, 1897: 'After dark last Saturday the packing flew out of the cylinder of Henry Greshner's threshing engine when it was near a bridge in the middle of the road east of town. It was with great difficulty that vehicles could pass. It was also a difficult task to remove the engine.'
August 31, 1898: 'John Light came home from his work in the Aultman Taylor shops in Mansfield last Friday night with a crippled hand. His helper struck a terrific blow at a tool that he and the ex-marshal were sharpening, and the blow not striking squarely, a piece of the metal flew off and penetrated Light's hand near the base of the thumb. He came home with the iron in his hand and expects to leave it there anticipating no serious results.'
May 10, 1899: 'BIG FIRE AT MASSILLON-The largest conflagration in the history of Massillon swept Russell & Co's mammoth thresher and engine plant Monday night, destroying property valued at fully $500,000. The fire started in the large warehouse at eight o'clock and in this structure was 300 finished machines, and all were consumed. A call for assistance was wired to Canton and a steamer and truck departed immediately, arriving almost too late to be of assistance. The firemen worked heroically and succeeded in saving the machine shops. By ten o'clock the fire was under control.
The saddest feature of the fire was the killing of Albert Bamberger, a volunteer fireman, by a falling wall, and the probably fatally injuring Christian L. Baotz, foreman of a department.
The company cannot accurately estimate their loss but the insurance only partly covers it. The cause is unknown.'
October 25, 1899: 'At Henry Long's farm near Hayesville last Wednesday an exciting accident occurred. Moffett Bros. were the threshers and while the engineer was in the barn the belt regulating the governor of the engine came off, giving the threshing machine an uncontrollable and intense speed. The effect was to break the cylinder of the machine to pieces, and the flying pieces shattered the front part of the machine and tore holes in the roof as big as a man's head. All of the helpers instantly dropped in their places and thereby escaped being hurt or killed. The engineer ran the most risk by running out of the barn and stopping the engine.'
July 4, 1900: 'Friday noon when Geo. Emmens was taking his engine past Wm. Kendig's barn a mile north of town, a spark from the smokestack set the strawstack on fire, and in very short order a large blaze was on hand. The neighbors were soon aroused by the blowing of the whistle. Soon they were there working heroically to save Mr. Kendig's valuable barn. It happened that the wind, which was strong, was blowing the right direction, and the building was thereby saved with the additional assistance those present rendered by pulling the top of the stack away from the barn and throwing water on the straw.
All of Kendig's family were away and they feel under a deep sense of gratitude for their faithful work. Mr. Kendig feels that they saved him from a very heavy loss.'
September 5, 1900: 'Tully Mish had a bad mishap last Thursday in coming from Mansfield with a new Nichols and Shepard traction engine that he had traded his old one for. As he was crossing the railroad at the farthest crossing from Ashland, watching the track and guiding his engine at the same time, the engine ran off the grade and upset. By means of derrick and ropes the engine was set up on Friday, but the damage amounted to over $75. As the company promised to send a man to Ashland with Mish, he will try to hold the firm for the damage.'
November 28, 1900: 'A threshing engine at the barn on Geo. Leiner's farm three and one-half miles east of Wooster burst at noon last Friday, resulting in the destruction of the barn and contents by fire. Leiner was standing by the engine and strange to say, while the shoe on one foot was blown off, he was not seriously injured. The boiler was blown entirely into the barn and no part was left where the engine stood. None of the 12 men present were badly injured.'
March 13, 1901: 'The Gaar Scott Engine Co. has written S. B. Freeman that it will do all it can to help B. M. Shoemaker, of Ruggles, to replace the thresher engine that was lost by fire recently. That means a big lift that is greatly appreciated by Mr. Shoemaker.'
July 17, 1902: 'One of the finest, if not the finest, threshing outfits in the county was taken out of town last Saturday by the Crone boys. It was a J. I. Case machine and consisted of thresher and traction engine, with all the latest appendages, carriers, stackers, and everything that is new and up to date. It was sold by Henry Greshner, agent for the J. I. Case Co., and cost the boys $2,200.'
July 24, 1902: 'TERRIFIC EXPLOSION THRESHING ENGINE BLOWS UP AND HURLS JAY JACKSON 142 FEET-The boiler of Ora Emmens threshing engine blew up Monday afternoon with marvelous results and miraculous escapes. The engine and boiler were demolished, and parts were hurled hundreds of feet. Emmens owns the engine and John Kissel the threshing machine. They were threshing Monday at Clint Boyd's, three miles north of Ashland on the Savannah road, in the yard just east of the barn. Jay Jackson had charge of the 10 H. P. engine.
The boiler had been leaking and it was brought to Mohn's shop in Ashland last Saturday. Mohn put a plug in the boiler and pronounced it safe. About eight o'clock Monday morning Jackson noticed that the boiler was leaking slightly. He at once notified Kissel, then stepped upon the footboard of the engine, signalling a stop with the whistle, reversed the lever and just had stooped down to scrape out the fire when the explosion occurred.
The noise was deafening and the effect awful. A huge cloud of dirt and steam enveloped everything. With a tremendous force the huge engine and boiler, excepting the one drive wheel was lifted 20 feet from where it stood while broken parts were scattered everywhere. Jackson was hurled far up and away to the southwest alighting in the field where clover had been out. The distance was afterward measured and found to be 142 feet. His escape from death was not much less wonderful than that of John Kissel, who stood about 12 feet to the rear and left side of the engine. The steam and water escaped towards him, knocked him a distance and only injured his face some. His left eye was scalded so that he could not open it. The worst injury came to John Wertman, who was feeding the machine. What is supposed to be the belt struck him upon the head, cutting a gash about six inches long from the center of the scalp to the back of the right ear. The skin and flesh was scraped off two or three inches wide to the bone, causing much loss of blood and consequent weakness. Pieces of iron just missed him and made dents in the machine as he leaned over for a sheaf and was struck. No one else was hurt except George Beymer and several others about the machine were slightly scratched. The feature that caused more comment than anything else was how those injured and uninjured escaped as well as they did. Jackson's escape was most remarkable. He attributes his escape to the fact that he was stooping down. Had he been standing up, the flying pieces would have struck him.
Shortly after he alighted on the ground he arose and in a dazed condition wandered around in a circle with his hand over his eyes. He had four or five cuts on his face in the vicinity of his left eye, but none appeared to be dangerous. His right arm received a terrible bruise near the elbow and swelled to nearly twice its size but further from those injuries, he was unhurt. His escape so lightly makes it doubtful in some minds that he was thrown so far, but those who were there say there was no doubt about it as they found where he struck and measured the distance.
The force of the explosion threw the flywheel shaft and face wheel constituting in all about 500 lbs. weight a distance of 200 feet. The flywheel was broken in two parts and one half was found opposite the rear of the machine some 150 feet away. Numerous other parts were scattered in all directions and a luckless chicken near was instantly killed. The grain sacks where men were measuring the grain were rendered wet by the hot water from the boiler.
Dr. A. M. McClelland was called and very hastily responded. He dressed the wounds of the unfortunate men. He considered Jackson not dangerously hurt, but thought Wertman's injuries serious and feared the effect of hemorrhages and the result of the shock.
The cause of the explosion cannot be attributed to any fault of the engineer but to the weakness of the boiler. The leak that had been discovered started the vent and after the explosion, it was discovered that quite a seam was rusted out. Surprise was expressed that the boiler held as long as it did. Jackson states that he had 90 or 100 lbs. of steam on, and the boiler was about half full of water when the explosion occurred. Emmens and Kissel very much regretted the accident. The engine was quite old.
Jay Jackson was in town Monday night with his head heavily bandaged and his arm in a sling, but as lively and gritty as ever. He reported Wertman getting along all right.
Many people Monday and Monday evening viewed the remains of the engine.'