The Bolze Family Steam Engine History

Duty Bolze, Lenus Bossy Bolze, and David Longy Bolze'

February 1955: From left, M. L. ''Duty'' Bolze, Lenus ''Bossy'' Bolze, and David ''Longy'' Bolze at their sawmill with the Peerless just back from Arthur Young's shop.

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535 Evergreen Road New Bloomfield, Pennsylvania 17068

This steam engine is an Emerson-Brantingham Peerless TT model, serial #17544, 50 HP, the 200th built in 1916. It was bought in 1918 by the Bolze Brothers for their threshing and sawmill operation setup at R.D. Landisburg, Perry County, Pennsylvania, from Charles Garman. Mr. Garman lived at Elliotsburg, Perry County, a distance of two or three miles from the Bolze Brothers sawmill. The Bolze Brothers were: Lenus Bolze, 1876-1971, David Bolze, 1879-1955, and M. L. Bolze, 1884-1962.

In the late summer or early fall 1953, this engine burned in a sawmill fire at night. The engine had not been used for two weeks previous to the fire. 1954 found #17544 at the Arthur S. Young Boiler Shop in Kinzers, Pennsylvania, for a complete restoration, as the fire ruined the babitting and other parts of the steamer. Mr. Young had hoped to have the engine done in time to display it at the Pennsylvania Farm Show at Harrisburg in January 1955. But it was not to be.

In February 1955 the Peerless was returned to the Bolze Brothers Lumber Mill at R. D. Landisburg.

Two weeks later, Lenus and M. L. Bolze retired the Peerless, as David Bolze had passed away from a massive heart attack while working at the mill. The Peerless was basically in storage except for annual threshing with it for show locally, by Frank Bolze, the oldest son of M. L. Bolze.

Frank Bolze then bought the engine from his Uncle Lenus and father in 1960. The story goes that Lenus was worried that someone would get hurt while Frank was running it. Frank ran this engine at the Williams Grove show for years. During the Perry County Sesquicentennial Celebration in 1970, he formed the Bolze Steam Engine Club and toured the county with it and an old threshing machine. This was quite a sight at all the parades. They must have had 100 members in that threshing crew.

Invoice for Peerless engine #18284, now believed to be owned by Ervine King of Dover, Delaware, and housed at Rough & Tumble in Kinzers, Pa. (The Bolze Brothers had several engines.)

Frank Bolze passed away in July 1973. That fall, Jack Zeigler (grandson of M. L. Bolze) bought the Peerless from Florence Bolze. This kept the engine in the family. Jack took the Peerless to Williams Grove for the Labor Day week show for years. He also ran it in local parades during the Bicentennial in 1976 and at other events in the early 1980s. Jack then parked the Peerless under roof at his home and had a nice conversation piece, but it just sat there.

Along about 1983-84, I told my brother Jack, 'If you ever sell the steam engine, I would like first chance at buying it.' The answer was always the same: 'I am never selling it.'

Surprised I was when in the early fall of 1989 Jack called and asked, 'Do you still want the steam engine?' My reply was an immediate YES. Then I was told there was a man there to buy it with more money than I could ever hope to have. I must give Jack credit, as he told me the money didn't matter. If I wanted it, we would make our own deal. That we did, and my wife and I bought Peerless #17544 that week.

As money was hard to come by, we left the engine sit at Jack's for a 'few' more years. Other than steaming it up in late '89 and the fall of '91, the engine was not fired until August 1998.

It took almost two years of work just to get the arrangements made on the who's, what's, and when's of how to get a boiler ready for an inspection. Thanks to Steve Coldsmith of the Williams Grove Historical Steam Engine Association and Dan Gehman from the Rough & Tumble Engineers, this went fairly smoothly.

On March 14, 1998, the engine was taken to CSI Inc. at Emigsville, Pennsylvania, for a new stay bolt and a certified hydro. In late April, the state inspector checked it over, under, and through, and then issued a 100# certificate.

With the certificate issued, the next job was a new facelift for the Peerless. Removing the water tanks and lining them with fiberglass was first. The cleaning, scraping, sanding and wire brushing seemed endless. Anything I could remove I did, and I also sandblasted the parts. This all was quite a huge undertaking. Everything was repiped with schedule 80 pipe. As we loaded the Peerless to go to Williams Grove in August, the paint was still wet on the drive wheels. The green is brighter than original, but I like it. Having done 90% of the painting and all of the pin striping myself, it was a good feeling and well worth the effort just to see the Peerless in one piece again and running under its own power. It ran fairly well and trouble-free its first time out in seventeen years to be shown, save a hand-hole gasket.

The show at Williams Grove was a welcome break to enjoy the engine running instead of working on it. There was threshing, plowing, saw milling and a very nice spark show Saturday night with a full moon in the background.

Upon returning the Peerless home and then packing a 'few' valves and rods, three weeks later we went to the Shermans Valley Heritage Days held at Blain, Pennsylvania. Along with the 1897 Fricks of Steve Coldsmith and Norman Gay, we threshed, paraded and had a fine time in western Perry County.

The jobs to finish yet are hooking up and repiping the heat exchanger and installing a new platform which my brother Jack has recently sawn out for me with his sawmill.

In finishing, I must thank a few wonderful people. First and foremost, my wife Coleen; my brother Jack; friends Steve Coldsmith, Dan Gehman, Kirby Kitner, and Doug Weary; and last, my father-in-law, Harry McBride, as he is providing shelter for the Peerless. To all, thank you, and I almost forgot my cousin, Richard Bolze. Again, thanks to ALL.

List of owners of this engine from 1918, 81 years in the same family, and the same county too, from new.

M. L. Bolze. D. Bolze, L. Bolze, 1918-1960 at Landisburg, Pa.

Frank Bolze, son of M. L. Bolze, 1960-1973, Landisburg, Pa.

Jack Zeigler, son of Faye Bolze Zeigler (daughter of M. L. Bolze), 1973-1989, Landisburg, Pa.

Michael Zeigler, son of Faye Bolze Zeigler (daughter of M. L. Bolze), 1989-, New Bloomfield, Pa.

The engine was sold new in Perry County, Pa., to Charles Garman, Elliotsburg, 1916 or 1917.