Preserving a Steam Traction Legacy

A pair of Missouri brothers continue their forebears’ passion for steam traction engines.

| April 2019

 separator-and-threshing-crew
The Fieker Bros. threshing crew in Lawrence County, Missouri, posing with their Gaar-Scott thresher in this undated photo. Ernest Fieker is shown fourth from left; Edward Fieker is seventh from left.

More than 100 years ago, two Missouri brothers went into business for themselves. With a steam traction engine at the heart of their enterprise, they threshed, sawed wood, performed roadwork, pumped water out of mine shafts and moved buildings. The engines they worked with are long gone, but two successive generations have followed their lead, keeping the brothers’ legacy alive.

My grandfather, Edward H. Fieker, was born in 1888 in Newton County in southwest Missouri. He was the youngest of seven children born to German immigrants who later moved to a farm in Lawrence County, near what would become Stotts City.

In its heyday, Stotts City was a booming but rough-and-tumble lead and zinc mining town surrounded by farmland, prairie and timber. It was the stereotypical late 1880s mining town of the western frontier with all the necessities required to support a population of a little more than 900, from general store to undertaker. Some lead, but mostly zinc, was produced from the Keystone, Boston Loy, Julia West, Three C’s and Mystic Valley mines.



sawmill
The Fieker Bros. crew sawing lumber near Sarcoxie, Mo., in about 1912. Edward Fieker is leaning on the drive wheel, next to the axle; Ernest Fieker is standing behind the engine, with an axe in his hand. Ernest and Edward’s older brother, Fred Fieker, was helping out that day. He is shown sitting on the water tank on the side of the engine.

In 1901, construction began on the White River Railway. Completed in 1906, the line was a division of the Missouri Pacific railroad connecting the main line at Carthage to the St. Louis, Iron Mountain & Southern railway at Cotter, Arkansas. The White River Line ran just 2 miles north of Stotts City. A depot was built with a section tool house nearby.



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