The Jacob C. Weaver Threshing Machine

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Submitted by Roy H. Herr, 6260 Main Street East Petersburg, PA 17520

Mr. Jacob C. Weaver grew up as a farm boy in the vicinity of Strasburg, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. At the age of sixteen, he went to what is now Leola, Pa. to enroll as an apprentice at the Valentine Andes Machine Shop, where the Andes Threshing Machines were manufactured.

The Andes Shops were built in the shape of a horseshoe, and courses in the trades were offered there. The arrangement provided for a beginner to enter one end of the horseshoe shaped complex and, if successful, he would depart at the other end.

Four years after entering, Jacob C. Weaver graduated and left the place of his training. He had learned the secrets and acquired the skills to qualify him as a full-fledged blacksmith, cabinetmaker, patternmaker, machinist, wagonmaker, and wheelwright.

With these qualifications and abilities to make a living, Jacob returned to Bunker Hill, south of Strasburg, where he was employed by the Valley Spring Machine Shop. During that period of time, in the year 1876, he married my grandmother and they went to the Centennial at Philadelphia on their honeymoon.

After leaving the Valley Spring Machine Shop, he bought land about a mile up the road toward a place called White Oak, where he built his own shop. He also purchased a wood lot to serve as a supply of lumber for his manufacturing needs.

Later, when my grandfather's family had grown up, each spring he would enlist his sons, J. Maurice Weaver and Clyde W. Weaver, and also his son-in-law, V. Ray Eshleman (my father), to go to the wood lot to fell a quantity of poplar and oak timber.

The logs were hauled to the sawmill of the celebrated Hooker Weimer, where they were sawed according to Grandfather's specifications. The lumber was then hauled home where it was carefully stacked with spacing strips between each layer. It was left to air-cure outdoors for at least two years before it was fit for use in the construction of Weaver Threshing Machines, corn fodder shredders, horse powers, etc.

Five or six Weaver Threshing Machines were manufactured annually to meet the local demand. My grandfather did not employ a salesman. Every threshing machine cylinder was carefully balanced to the point that, when turning the cylinder at a speed of 1,000 r.p.m., the supporting frame had to remain still and vibrationless so that a nail would not tilt over when placed, standing on its head, upon the frame.

The Weaver Threshing Machine was well designed and sturdily built right down to the wheels. It was not only well balanced, but also efficient and very easy running. Many of the bearings were made of apple wood and are in excellent condition in machines which still exist. The last Weaver Threshing Machine was built in 1914.

It was my good fortune to preserve a complete Weaver Threshing Machine which my grandfather built in 1904. He sold it to a special friend by the name of Joseph Hostetter. These men lived a little over a half mile apart, but whenever Mr. Hostetter came in, Grandfather would stop whatever he was doing and the two gentlemen would sit in the big open doorway of the shop and visit for awhile. Those were the days!

Some notes on Mr. Wilmer J. Eshleman, machine man/historian (by Roy Herr):

For 27 years, Wilmer J. Eshleman volunteered his time as the official announcer at the Rough and Tumble Engineers' Historical Association annual reunions in Kinzers, Pa. and also at other shows. He was well qualified for this function, having worked as a blockman representing the New Holland Machine Company line of farm machinery before his many years with the Frick Company, Waynesboro, Pa. He served as the Frick branch manager at Canandaigua, New York, after which he was a Frick territory manager until he retired.

Frick gas tractor at 42nd R&T Reunion, August 15, 1990, being lined up to power 1904 Weaver Thresher by R&T president Otis As tie. The tractor, formerly owned by Wilmer J. Eshleman, is presently owned by Carl Simpson.

Wilmer is very knowledgeable and experienced in the field of steam engines, gas tractors, threshing machines, balers, saw milling equipment, and farm equipment in general. He is also a historian.

At show time, Wilmer always made every effort to have events happen on time. His familiar voice could be heard announcing what was about to take place, then he would intelligently explain the activity in progress, and describe in detail the equipment being demonstrated. His efforts contributed greatly to the enjoyment and education of the visitors

The Weaver Threshing Machine which Wilmer preserved bears the name of Clyde W. Weaver, dated July 6, 1904. That is likely the date Clyde (Wilmer's uncle) finished all the detailing work on it. Wilmer tells of helping to thresh when it often ran a half-day at a time without stopping. In recent years this machine has been at home at the R&T Engineers' Museum, Kinzers, which is about ten miles from where it was manufactured.

In the spring of 1990, Wilmer's good friend, Mr. A. D. Mast, organized an effort to recondition the Weaver Threshing Machine in the R&T shop. The machine was cleaned, adjusted, minor repairs were made, new belts fitted, and the woodwork was given a coat of linseed oil.

At the forty-second annual Rough and Tumble Reunion on August 15, 1990, the Weaver Threshing Machine once again demonstrated its ability to thresh wheat. Power was furnished by a rare Frick gas tractor formerly owned by Mr. Eshleman.

Wilmer felt well enough to travel to Kinzers for that event and also to visit with some of his many friends. After the threshing demonstration, on the return trip to the retirement village where he resides, Wilmer said, 'You know, I wish I could have that microphone in my hand again for just one minute.'

Wilmer Eshleman's health has not been too good. For anyone wishing to communicate or send a card to him, his address is Mr. Wilmer J. Eshleman, Brethren Village, Nursing Center, Room 133, 3001 Lititz Pike, Lancaster, PA 17601.