A Logical Partner

1 / 2
Left: A pump jack at work, powered by a John Deere stationary engine.
2 / 2
Clockwise from left: The restored pump jack; back view; side view.Background: Close-up of casting.

Because my wife, Joan, and I take care of a
small, farm-related museum (Little Village Farm, Dell Rapids,
S.D.), we are always looking for unusual antiques. When my brother,
Mike, bought a junkyard recently, I had to have a look. It
contained a rather varied mixture of items, ranging from old cars
to piles of insulators and fruit jars.

As we walked through the 10-acre yard, I spotted an old pump
jack under a pile of old iron. Mike let me have it, figuring as I
did that it was probably stuck and totally worn. After I hauled it
home, curiosity got the better of me. By heating and cooling the
bolts and castings, I was able to get the jack apart by careful
pressing. As it turns out, it had never been used! Inside, both the
worm gear and its driver still had grind marks from when it was
finished at the factory. I checked all the shafts with a
micrometer, and found no wear.

A casting on the side of the flywheel reads “Waterloo Gasoline
Engine Company.” As most Farm Collector readers know, the
Waterloo Gasoline Traction Engine Co. and John Froelich were
involved with a tractor. Froelich split from the company in the
early 1890s. The company then changed its name to the Waterloo
Gasoline Engine Co. and, after 1894, concentrated on building
engines and, later, tractors. In 1918, the company was purchased by
Deere & Co., and the stage was set for the development of the
famed John Deere tractor.

Pump jacks would have been a logical sideline for an engine
company, as pumping water was a job for engines, and all farms had
to have water for livestock and household use. Oil-bath windmills
were not widely available until after 1910 or 1915. Moreover, few
farmers relished the idea of climbing up a windmill once or twice a
week to grease the open-geared mill.

Interestingly, the part numbers on the pump jack are similar to
those used on early John Deere tractors. For instance, a 1935 Model
B features part numbers such as B52R, B566R, B306R and so on. The
pump jack’s part numbers include P9R, P1R, P7R and so on. This
little unit was fairly inexpensive and easily built: The two side
pulleys for the wooden arms, as well as gear case halves, are the
same, cutting down on parts. Finishing a unit was simple: The gear
case castings were ground flat (no gaskets), then clamped together,
necessary machining was done and the parts were assembled, making a
nice, durable unit with an 11-to-1 ratio, adequate for engines of
the era.

Jim Lacey is an antique farm equipment enthusiast and
collector in South Dakota.

Farm Collector Magazine
Farm Collector Magazine
Dedicated to the Preservation of Vintage Farm Equipment