1060 Chestnut Road, Ann Arbor, Michigan
He was born in 1857 and, when he died in 1946, was just short of 90 years of age. He farmed a substantial acreage and owned and operated Threshing machinery in a community of good farmland about 24 miles west of Toledo, just south of the Michigan State line. This community was about 8 miles northwest of Swanton, Ohio, where the A. D. Baker Factory was located. My father was a friend of Mr. A. D. Baker, and a loyal user and booster of Baker Traction Engines.
My father operated Threshing machinery for a period of over 50 years, startingin the year 1884 when he bought John Baldwin's one-half interest in the Luke-Baldwin 'Horse Power' Driven Threshing Outfit. He and John Luke were in business for 2 years at which time his brother, Daniel Habel, bought Mr. Luke's interest. The Habel brothers operated their machinery in partnership for 18 years until 1904 when Daniel Habel sold his interest to his next door neighbor, Dallas Cook.
The Habel-Cook partnership was dissolved in 1907 when my father bought out Mr. Cook's interest. From that date, until he quit threshing in 1938, he was the sole owner of his Outfit with the exception of 2 years in the early 20's when he was in partnership with Arthur (Teed) Perkins. One factor that influenced the purchase of Mr. Cook's interest was the fact that my two older brothers, Clarence and Philip, were now old enough to help operate the machinery. They had worked with the Outfit from the time they were real young boys. Clarence as the Water Hauler and Philip as a Hand Feeder. Philip prided himself as a fast, steady Feeder, and wore a heavy re-inforced leather glove on his right hand so that in his eagerness to keep the cylinder full his hand would not be cut by the band cutter.
I, who was 10 years younger than Philip, started as Water Hauler when I was 12 years old, graduating in time to Engine Man and then Separator Tender. My younger brother, Carl, also started as Water Hauler (or Water Monk, as we called him) at an early age, graduating in time to Engine Man. When he was Engine Man he, in the interest of fuel economy, tried to hold his steam pressure to a variation not greater than 5 lbs.
My father, over the years, worked as both Engine Man and Separator Tender. My brothers, Clarence and Philip, also did both. Other men in the community who worked as Separator Tenders for my father were John Schug, Grant Fleming, Simon Krieger, Purdy Cole, Dan Griesinger and Frank Fleming.
As mentioned above the original Outfit was 'Horse Power' Driven and the Separator was, I believe, a Leader with of course Hand Feed and Straw Carrier. The first Steam Engine was a Horse Drawn Russell which was later replaced with a Self-Propelled Russell. The Leader Separator was replaced by a Russell with Swing Straw Carrier, which I understand was quite an innovation in those days. The first Clover Huller was a Birdsell. The date of my first personal memory of the Outfit was approximately 1904. At that time it consisted of a Russell Engine, Frick Separator with Hand Feed and Wind Stacker and Hand Feed Birdsell Huller with Straw Carrier. It is of interest to note that with the advent of the Wind Stacker some of our neighbors refused to have my father thresh for them claiming that the Wind Stacker made it impossible to get all of the grain out of the straw.
The machinery above was followed in turn by 16 horse power and then 18 horse power Baker Engines, Advance, Advance-Rumely and Aultman Taylor Separators, and a Rumely Clover Huller. My father never owned Ensilage Cutters or Saw Mills, but teamed up with James O'Neal and Arthur Perkins for many years in sawing lumber, and with Arthur Perkins in cutting ensilage.
Some interesting side-lights recalled are-
The time when the governor belt broke on the last Russell engine (with the engine man down talking to the huller tender) and, as a result, the old Birdsell Huller ran so fast that its insides literally flew to pieces.
The summer that the heat blasted the Alsike Clover so that there was little seed, and we would hull all day and get maybe only 2 bushels of clover seed for our work.
The time that Jesse Baldwin (grandson of the original partner) risked his life by reaching over the band knives from the top of the Separator to grab a pitch fork (that had slipped out of the hands of one of the pitchers and was stuck in a bundle on' the feeder), to keep it from going in and breaking up the cylinder.
The summer when I was 10 years old and the pump on the Water Wagon did not work, with the result that the Water Hauler (brother-in-law Frank Krieger) and I pail-dipped water to fill the tank all season long. (My father was quite conservative when it came to spending money, and did not buy us a new pump. He thought we could fix the old one.)
The regularly recurring experience of getting stuck on the sand hill in front of my grandmother's home, and using fence rails from her fence to place under the drivers so we could get out. (She did not approve of this.)
Dan Greisinger's story of how, when he worked as an Engine Man for Charles Drumn, he solved a work problem. It seems the farmer delivered a load of fence rails to the engine along with a hand buck saw with the idea that Dan would saw the wood to length and use it for fuel. Dan placed the long rails directly in the fire box with the result that the fire door was left open and the steam pressure soon was gone. When the farmer came to inquire the cause of the shut-down Dan told him the wood was a little too long.
Moving the Outfit at night over narrow country roads and bridges with only a lantern hung on the front end of the engine for light, and guessing in the dark at steam pressures and water levels.
During the early years my father and his partners did not have much competition, and with many of the farmers storing the bundled grain in stacks and barns before threshing, the season or 'run' was quite long; however, as time went on, a number of other men bought and operated Threshing Outfits in our general area. Among the early operators were T. M. Cazie, Ed Hallet, Frank Knapp, Champion and Ottgen, Ed Gifford and Perkins, Sr., followed in turn by Chas. Drumn, Brooks Batdorf, James Batdorf, Teed Perkins, Fred Welch, Chet Wilbur and Joe Mossing. Late comers were the Baldwin Brothers, the Still will Brothers and Claude Hoffman.
With the advent of gasoline tractors the small community Threshing Machines finally supplanted the custom Threshers with their big Steam Outfits. My brother-in-law, W. F. Smith was a partner in one of these community Associations. Finally, the Combines supplanted community Threshing Outfits.