Jeremiah Mahoney, as the name implies, was an Irishman, born in Erin on the 'Emerald Isle,' emigrated to the United States about the time of the Civil War and served in the Union Army, from New York. After the war, he and a few comrades founded a bakery business in Chicago. Later, he sold his interest in the business, went to Bunker Hill, Dussell County, Kansas and bought a farm, with a house built of lime stone rock, quarried from the hills of the Smoky Hill River. The house now stands north of highway No. 40, midway between Bunker Hill and Dorrance. Jeremiah Mahoney lived on that farm the remainder of his life and it was there his four sons, Ed., Mark, John and Thos. E., the youngest, the subject of this sketch, grew to manhood. He will be Tom Mahoney from here.
In the late 80's and early 90's, custom threshing was considered a poor business because so many failed in it. For that reason, Jeremiah Mahoney advised his sons not to buy a steam thresher but they disregarded his advice and bought a Gaar-Scott steam rig of Sam Roe, a local dealer. in 1889. Self feeders and wind stackers were in the future. Mahoney Bros. did well that fall and earned enough to pay for the machinery. They paid two-thirds of it and bought land with the remainder. Their buying of land with part of their earnings that year, continued to be the policy of Mahoney Bros, and accounted for their large holdings of land in Russell County.
Tom Mahoney, when on other business in Kansas City, called at Avery Company's Branch. The company quickly followed the lead by sending Frank Averill, a high class salesman, to see Mahoney Bros. and he sold them a complete Avery steam rig, in 1898. They were so successful with it Tom Mahoney bought and operated nothing but Avery machinery as long as Avery Company did business.
The sale proved a good one for Avery Company, not because the machinery was paid for but what later resulted from it.
In 1899, Mahoney Bros, bought the second Avery return flue engine and separator and operated two rigs- - two brothers being with each rig. Tom Mahoney went to the factory in 1905 and bought two 30hp. under mounted engines from the blue prints, the only 30's built that year. The brothers operated two rigs a few years longer and all but Tom, the mechanical end of the combination, quit custom threshing.
Once, when questioned about the economy of an Avery under mounted engine, Tom Mahoney said, 'If it will only furnish me the power to thresh, I will get water and coal to it', and he did.
Tom Mahoney did more to build the enviable reputation of Avery separators in central and western Kansas, than any other man. What he did, had had its effect prior to 1903. The name Mahoney and what he did with Avery machinery were heard in every 'nook and corner' in central and western Kansas. Thousands of dollars worth of business in central and western Kansas, later enjoyed by the Avery Company, directly or indirectly, resulted from his successful operation of Avery machinery and records.
J. B. Bartholomew, President of Avery Company, was known by the employees of the company, customers and business world as 'J. B.' and will be J. B. from here. He was a genius and a practical machine man and for several years went into the fields with Tom Mahoney, remaining for weeks to make observations and decide upon changes and improvements. Many of the changes and improvements on Avery separators, which were factors in making them the cleanest, fastest threshers in headed grain ever built, were suggested and made by Tom Mahoney.
Avery Company, because he believed it better and insisted upon it, built him a 42-70, sixteen bar cylinder separator, with a cylinder speed of 1000. The speed of the regular 12 bar cylinder was from 1300 to 1350. With the 16 bar cylinder a larger drive pulley was used, which greatly lessened the slippage of the drive belt, especially with steam engines, separation at the cylinder was greater and the concaves could be spaced to thresh tough wheat better. Avery Company later built 16 bar cylinder separators on special orders at an additional price of $75.00.
Tom Mahoney designed and patented a Low Down headed grain feeder extension, which delivered the grain to the cylinder faster and more evenly with less expense and hard work than with standard extensions. Six men could pitch as much grain with the Low Down extension as ten could with a standard extension, because the grain was not carried the length of the stack and pitched down not up, into a high carrier. Avery Company built and sold Mahoney Low Down extensions with Avery machinery and to operators of other makes of machinery.
Tom Mahoney changed from steam to gas power in 1915 and bought a 40-80 Avery tractor. Oil trouble in earlier motors had been overcome. The catalog speed of that motor was 500. The capacity of a large Avery separator, in headed wheat, depended upon how much power was belted to it. Tom Mahoney was a fast thresher and his 42-70 separator was a load for any engine. The tractor with the motor at 500 did not pull the separator to satisfy Tom Mahoney and he lost sleep trying to solve the problem. The reverse lever could not be dropped down nor the safety valve set higher. He reasoned the only way to increase the power of the motor was for it to fire more often and did it by increasing the size of the drive pulley. The pulley was increased enough to put the motor to 600 and it pulled the separator to Tom Mahoney's satisfaction. The motor was balanced and no trouble developed from that speed. On the Salina Block, nearly all 40-80 tractor motors, belted to 36-60 separators and larger were operated at 600 and did good work.
A successful operator of threshing machinery kept it in good condition Tom Mahoney's separator stood upon a cement floor in a large shed, with a well equipped shop in the shed, near the machinery. In the fall, after the season's run, he worked on the machinery until it was in good condition.
A good operator, when the wind blew too hard or it rained too much to thresh, did not jump into the wagon, go to town, loaf in a booze joint all day not sit at a poker table at night. Tom Mahoney did none of those things but checked his machinery and when the time came to thresh, no stops in the field were made to repair the machinery.
Tom Mahoney was one of the first operators in western Kansas to furnish a full crew, pay and board them. For a number of years, the men were paid by the day but later by the hundred bushels threshed and were directly interested in what the machine threshed, as their wages depended upon the bushels. A man who did not or could not do his part, was weeded out' by the other men. Tom Mahoney paid, fed and treated his men well. They were allowed days off to rest but were paid for full time and many of them returned year after year. Much of Tom Mahoney's success as an operator resulted from his ability to handle his men.
Headed grain, in Kansas, generally was stacked with two long narrow stacks in a setting, stood lengthwise, side by side, far enough apart to drive a wagon and header barge be-between them. Tom Mahoney educated patrons for whom he threshed year after year, to set their stacks to save time. Stacks in large fields were in line across the field. The machine began on the side away from the wind and unless the wind changed, the row was threshed without turning the machine. To save time, the separator, sometimes was coupled to the front end of the engine and the engine backed from one setting to another, saving the time of cutting the engine back to the separator and into line.
Tom Mahoney carried an extra man, team and header barge, for cleaning up. The machine pulled to the next set, when the stacks were so nearly threshed, a fork full could not be gotten without scratching and a waste of time. The man with the header barge cleaned up what remained, hauled it to another set and pitched it into the feeder with grain from the other stacks. Cleaning up was done better and with less loss of time.
Many moves were made threshing headed grain and with a full crew and high expense, it was important to move and set quickly. Every man in Tom Mahoney's crew had his place and was in it. Two men were there with the belt, when the engine was in position, others set the extension, wind stacker, climbed the stacks and within a few minutes, the weigher was dumping so often, the spout carried a solid stream of wheat.
Tom Mahoney threshed through the entire eras of steam and gas power. In 1924, he threshed 100,000 bushels of wheat, with his 45-65 Avery tractor and 42-70 separator his last large run. For years threshed, his average of 2900 bushels of wheat for 30 days and more than a total of 2,000,000 bushels of wheat threshed, were records, probably never equaled.
In 1924, when it became evident Avery Company would fail, J. B. did not forget Tom Mahoney, with whom he, had gone into the fields, his friend of many years and a faithful friend of Avery Company.
J. B., a man of great ability and determination, had been President of Avery Company since 1905 and under the guidance of his indomitable spirit,
had seen the company grow into one of the largest and most progressive threshing machine companies, envied and feared by other company's. He was president in 1914, 1915 and 1916, when salesmen frantically wired and telephoned orders to Branches and when full steam and gas rig orders, many for cash, one after another, were lost because the factory could not build the machinery. J. B. saw all that and all for which he had worked nearly his entire life, lost, and with his great spirit crushed, went to the quiet of Tom Mahoney's home to rest and get away from all of it.
Avery Company owed Tom Mahoney and when at Tom Mahoney's, J. B. told him, the company could not pay but had the parts to build a separator and built 42-70, sixteen bar cylinder No. 20,092 for Tom Mahoney--the last separator built by the old Avery Company.
In 1923 Tom Mahoney traded his 1915, 40-80 Avery tractor for a 45-65 Avery. The company changed oiling systems on those motors and made a mistake. Bearing trouble developed in those motors.
J. B. shipped Tom Mahoney a new motor with the old type oiling system and Avery separator No. 20,092 on the same car. The car was set in Dorrance, the day before Avery Company went into receivership and whatever the amount of Avery Company's indebtedness was, to Tom Mahoney, J. B. had paid it.
Elmo, the son of Tom Mahoney, has the 45-65 Avery tractor and 42-70, 16 bar cylinder Avery separator No. 20,092. Both are in good condition and not for sale.