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Box 426, Morley, Iowa 52312


A very important and exciting event in the life of most farmers was the 'threshing days.' The annual threshers meetings, arguments, actual threshing, the generous and delicious meals, jack knife trading (sight unseen), pranks (cigarette butts in hip pockets), jokes (frogs in drinking cans) and the congeniality of neighbors were eagerly awaited in those days of the past.

One of the more prominent threshers of the Morley area was William Boots, who was assisted by his twin sons, Willard and Willis and in later years by his grandson, Merwyn.

William Boots threshed in the early 1900s. It was done by a horsepower operated machine. His first steam power was a Star single cylinder engine, separator unknown, having a safety feeder, Sattley swinging stacker and an automatic weigher.

Two years later Mr. Boots purchased an American Starr separator from Des Moines, Iowa. The 12 horsepower engine was traded for a 14 horsepower Starr which was operated for four years.

The next engine was a Reeves cross-compound, double cylinder, purchased from Duke, Hart, and Hughes of Des Moines, Iowa, and this company is still in business today selling Allis Chalmers road machinery.

In 1918, Mr. Boots purchased from the Avery Company, Peoria, Illinois an undermounted, double cylinder 22-40 horsepower Avery steamer, and a 32 x 64 Avery separator, 'Yellow Fellow.' This machine was delivered to Morley by rail in June. Price of engine, $2,200, separator, $1,400, weight of engine, 17 ton.

The machine took a crew of 25 to 30 men for full operation and on the best days, 5,600 bushel of grain was threshed.

This machine was in threshing operation until 1928. The day of the 'gas tractor' had arrived and the Boots family purchased two large Minneapolis tractors and a new Minneapolis separator. Old 'Yellow Fellow,' the original 32 x 64 separator continued to thresh for several more years, then was sold to a company threshing group at Newport and Riverside near Olin, Iowa. Ray Grassfield with a Twin-City tractor threshed with the original separator for several years.

Bill Klinefelter near Forest purchased the separator from Grassfield. After several more years of threshing with 'Yellow Fellow,' the Boot's separator purchased in 1918, became a part of (Bill Klinefelter's museum of woods and retired machinery). Since the writing of this article, the author has learned that Howard Klinefelter, son of Bill, has disposed of the original separator.

The Avery steam engine was retired from threshing in the early 1930s, but was used for several years in sawing lumber, and railroad ties 21/2 miles northeast of Morley and west of the original John Tallman farm. This property is now owned by Eugene Eldred.

Several years after this, the engine was scrapped and the boiler was purchased by Mr. Danly, Mechanicsville, Iowa. The boiler of the engine was used in the old rendering plant near 'Pioneer Hill' two miles north of Mechanicsville, or six miles south of Morley on the Morley-Mechanicsville Road.

Ellsworth Tallman, another 'ole time thresher' and sawmill operator had various machines: an Avery undermounted steamer, an Avery separator, Twin City tractor, and Aultman Taylor separator. This machine was operated in 1934 by Roily and Ivan Duncan as Ellsworth was engaged in building a saw mill at the Green (Center Church area). At a later date another machine was purchased, an Avery steel separator and Twin City tractor which was operated by Ellsworth and his son, Virgil Tallman.

The Avery Company offered Mr. Tallman, also the Boots brothers (Willis and Willard), opportunities to operate Avery Company machines as instructors and mechanics in Argentina, South America. These offers were not accepted because Argentina was considered too wild and uncivilized at that time.

Another machine was operated in the Dakotas for one year by Mr. Tallman.

Milt Miller who operated several steam outfits in this vicinity was noted for being a genius at inventions that modified the threshing equipment. He gained considerable recognition and fame among the 'threshing fraternity' by the invention of a swinging stacker (apron type) and a tailing auger for the separator. For one of these inventions, Mr. Miller received as compensation for his patent rights, a new Rumely steamer and separator.

The threshing crew who operated this machine were Sam Weaver the separator man, Milt Miller, engineer. Wilse Gilmore the tank man. They drove a large pair of bay horses named Cook and Perry, named after the two famous explorers. These two horses were colts at the time of the North Pole expedition in 1909. The writer of this article remembers this team as still being used in 1926, as a bundle team on the Del Miller farm now owned by Russell Tenley and driven by Wilbert Hayes.


The Avery steamer belonging to Ellsworth Tallman gained fame and notoriety in the Wapsipinicon area through an accident. The steamer broke through the Shaw bridge in 1919. It plunged 30 feet from the bridge into eight feet of water.

Ten years ago, Ellsworth narrated his account of the accident: 'I knew when the break through started that I could not get out of the cab until the engine struck the water. The back of the engine broke through first and the back edge of the cab caught the bridge plank ripping off the top of the cab. After the engine struck the water 30 feet below, I swam out of the cab toward the south shore, but my narrowest escape from serious injury or death was the planks of the bridge that the engine had loosened when it broke through which kept falling near me while I was swimming out. I was considerably concerned that the boiler would explode when the hot boiler struck the cold water of the river. But I was lucky, and didn't receive any injuries although I lost my billfold and had my gold watch 'dunked.' After the engine struck the water, the whole river area was covered with steam for a short time.'

Since the Shaw bridge had not been posted with the correct tonnage or weight unit, Mr. Tallman received a $3,000 settlement from the county.

A stump puller, owned by John Smith, with a system of extra pulleys to give more power was used to pull the engine from the river. There were difficulties. Cables had to be fastened to the engine under water, as the engine had settled on its side and had to be righted first. Then the large drive wheels had filled with mud and would not turn until the engine was part way out of the river. Nearly a week was spent in this operation assisted by Willis Boots, Ben Smith, Roily Duncan, George Lindley, and Nick Schueler, a blacksmith.

Later, the engine was towed to Morley by the Boots' Avery by George Lindley and Willis Boots. The engine was later restored by Ellsworth and sold to Henry Rickels west of the Antioch Church.

A threshing machine in the Forest area with a near fatal tragedy was a machine operated by John Siebels, engineer, and Charlie Vernon, separator. Mr. Siebels was caught between the feeder of the separator and the engine. An attempt to get to the engine throttle by Charlie Vernon, loosened the iron poker which broke the water gauge which in turn spewed scalding water on both men. However, neither man was badly burned, although Charlie did have some blistered hands for several days afterward.

The Boots' Avery steamer broke through the wooden bridge, east of the Earl Duncan farm. It took several days to repair the damage to the engine as the repairs had to be obtained from the factory at Peoria, Illinois.

Reuel McColm and Kelsey Hanna operating a threshing machine that was involved in a fatal accident that stunned the community. It occured at what is now the Donzel Ehresman farm. Following item from THE ANAMOSA EUREKA, Thursday, July 30, 1936:

'Lowell Klinefelter, 36 years old, was fatally injured Tuesday when the threshing machine into which he had tossed a bundle of grain picked up his pitchfork and hurled it back at him. The handle of the fork was thrust into his head.

'He was hurried to the Mercy Hospital here Tuesday afternoon, but died without regaining consciousness. Klinefelter had been one of a crew working on a farm near Morley.

'Funeral services took place at Forest. Chapel Church with Reverend Hanson in charge of the rites. Many attended the services. Burial was in the Forest Chapel Cemetery.'