Above is a very interesting picture. Even though I was not quite
seven years old when it was taken, October sixth in 1915, I’m
standing on the tractor wheel by the engineer.
The picture is of two Reeves threshing rigs threshing on the
same straw stack. One was a steam rig and the other was a gas
tractor. Dad had two threshing runs next to each other and one
finished on October the fifth the day before this picture was
taken. He talked the crew into coming over to help finish this
Not only were the engineer, thresher man and stacker man
involved, there were 12 or 14 bundle wagons, 8 to 10 grain wagons,
five or six field pitchers and the water boy there too. Quite a
group of men on an 80 acre oats field.
Note that the tractor is closer to the thresher than the steam
engine is. A hundred foot belt on the tractor put it fifty feet
from the thresher, while a one hundred fifty to two hundred foot
belt was required for the steam engine, which placed it seventy
five or more feet away. Steam engines have a way of making more
sparks rigs have to be set with the wind and there is more fire
hazard. Often log chains were hooked to the tongue of the thresher
and laid towards the engine so that the engine could pull up
quickly, hook on the chain and pull it away from the straw stack.
Sometimes, hot bearings would cause a fire, also.
Note the man standing on the left thresher, my dad’s
brother, with his two sons standing on 10 gallon cream cans by his
side. You probably have guessed it, they were filled with water,
the only fire extinguisher of the day. In Dad’s many years in
the threshing business, he never lost a machine in a fire.
Dad was sure the tractor was the first one in a county or two
area. Our engineers called it ‘The Moss Back’ because of
the difficulty many times in starting. Most of all of the first
tractors had priming cups over the cylinders making it easy to
prime. Canned ether was carried in the winter for priming purposes.
Many of the early cars had priming cups also.
Note the automobile in the picture, it was a Chalmers. The early
cars were mostly touring cars. They had tops that you could raise,
and had side curtains. However some of them did not have doors. We
were told as kids to get in the seats and sit there. No seat belts,
how about that?
The people in the picture, center group: My dad, Earl Gritten to
the left of the group; next Bob Davis, tenant; Mr. Campbell, land
owner; lady is my mother, next is my brother Merv, sister Lorraine,
and other ladies of community.
Unfortunately, old things did not mean much to me until I was
forty years old and by that time, Dad had passed on. However, I do
remember his telling about a lot of things that happened, and I
received the pictures, since I was the oldest son. Oh, if I had
just asked him more questions! I was thirty two at the time of his
death, fifty years ago.
Picture submitted by Vinson E. Gritten, 401 Burwash, Apt
313, Savoy, Illinois 61874.
Uncle Pete ‘s Rig
In the picture below, taken in September 1908 in Minnewaukan,
North Dakota, the engine is quite obviously a Nichols and Shepard
(probably a 25 HP) made in Battle Creek, Michigan. It is a
‘straw-burner’ note the wagon load of straw right back of
Uncle Pete had about two sections of wheat (about 1200 acres) of
his own, and he threshed extensively for others in the area – each
set lasted for several days, and his total run lasted several
months. He paid his men $2 per day, plus he furnished them food and
a place to sleep. These same men worked for the rest of the year in
the woods (in winter) for $15 per month, and for the railroad for
75 cents per day.
Uncle’s Pete’s widow, Aunt Lena, survives and still owns
this land, but now lives in Sunnyvail, California.
Picture submitted by Mary Ann Sindelar, Waukesha,
Wisconsin-grandniece of Uncle Pete. Mary Ann and her present
husband, Chuck, own a 1907, 9 HP Case steamer.