By James G. Stewart
Minnesota City,Minnesota 55959
I have threshed and shredded corn ever since 1919. I have only missed two years since then and that was 1926 -1928, the three years that I was in Chicago, Illinois. In 1927, I was home on vacation and I got in a few days that year. 1968 would make 50 years if I had not missed those two years.
To begin with, I started out with a 32 x 52 J. I. Case handfeed machine with a slat stacker and a 12-20 Rumely Oil Pull Tractor. In 1920 I bought a Sears Roebuck 12 Hp. portable gas engine. Then, in 1922 I bought a 1 cylinder I.H.C. Mogul Tractor 10-20 Hp. The first few years I put my engines on a neighbor's shredder but in 1922 I bought a new I.H.C. Shredder. It was a four roll and was not too good of a machine. In 1929 I bought a four roll Appelton that was quite a lot better machine. I also bought a 10-20 McCormick Deering from my brother that was new the fall of 1926. In 1930, I quit using the Case and bought a 24 X 40 New Racine with wood frame and steel sides. It was a used machine. Then in 1932, I bought a J. I. Case 15-45 Steamer that was built in the year 1905. I used it to do some custom work, then after that I just used it at home to do our own work.
In 1943, I sold it for junk, but if I would have known what I do now, I would have kept it. I did not think at the time that they would ever become so valuable as they are now. If I had known what I do now, I would have gone out and bought a few of them. A junk dealer at Rochester, Minnesota, was cutting them up for a dollar a horsepower. $25.00 for a 25 Hp.and there was some really good ones that went for scrap iron.
In 1932, I lost my left hand at the wrist. It was on the 8th day of December and I was using the steam engine and the Appleton Shredder. I had just got the steamer and it was the first job that I used it on. It happened right here at home. Well, I
never used the Appleton again. We only had a little corn to finish and we fed the rest of it in bundles. We had not threshed yet. So after I got able, we used the New Racine thresher and the steamer to do the threshing.
The fall of 1933, I bought a four roll Rosenthal shredder brand new and I used it until 1936 and in 1937 I bought another four roll Rosenthal shredder new. They were a big improvement over the McCormick and the Appleton. In 1950, I bought another Rosenthal four roll shredder and I traded the 1937 in on it and I still have it. We do our own corn shredding with it yet, but I have not done any custom work with it since 1957, and then it was only a few jobs.
In 1938, I bought a 12-24 Waterloo Boy Tractor and I used it for custom work a couple of years. In 1939, I bought a 12-20 Rumely Oil Pull Tractor and used it for thirteen years. In 1942, I bought a new Woods Brothers Thresher which I still have. It is a 26-46. In 1962, I bought a used 28-46 J. I. Case Thresher. It was a 1923 model and I still have it. I also painted it so it looks pretty good. In 1942 I had also bought another 10-20 McCormick Deering. I still have both toys.
When I first started threshings it was not like in the old days, but I had about 25 days threshing, and also a few silos. I had two silo fillers, one a papeck and one new O.K. that I got new in 1942. I still have it and use it to fill our silo every year. Up until 1950, I always got in from 15 to 25 days corn shredding and in 1944 I got in about 40 days. That was the biggest year I ever had com shredding. We still do our own threshing, also filling and corn shredding. I will be 67 years old this summer as I was bom August 6, 1901, and only hope that I can make it to 50 yearsand I think I can!
I have been to quite a few of the Reunions in this part of the country and I enjoy them a lot as I always meet old friends and make some new ones. As one gets older and looks back on the past, I suppose that it looks brighter than it was, but it seems that the old days were happier days than now. When I was a boy we always looked forward to threshing all summer and we had a lot of good times when we finally got to threshing. My father and grandfathers were all threshermen.
A few days before I was born, my father's engine just about blew up. He had a brand new Nichols and Shepard 32 x 52 thresher with a swingstacker. They tried it the day before and they could not start it with all the belts on, but they finally got it going and he came there late that morning
He went right down and relieved the man that was feeding. You see it was a hand-feed machine. He had only fed a few minutes and the engine let go. His father-in-law, the engineer, told my dad when he came that the engine was going to handle the separator fine but someway or other he had had a few drinks and he thought that he was getting water in the boiler but the hose was on the outside of the barrel instead of in the barrel. Well, it burned off four or five stay belts in the crown sheet and blew the fire out. He hired another engine and got a boiler maker out to fix his engine. In a few days, they had it running again. It must have had a good boiler or it would have been worse. The engine was a 12 Hp. Aultman & Taylor. I think the last time it was run was in 1915 so you see it had a good many years after that.
When my father started threshing in 1893, he had around 90 days. After the turn of the century, it got down to about 40 days. How well I can remember when the small rigs first started to come in and a farmer bought one. Everyone thought that he would go broke and some of them did. Now, they do not think anything of paying ten or twenty thousand dollars for a combine and on top of it all, they are so much shorter lived than a threshing machine.
My neighbor, Mr. Lester Mause, has a J. I. Case Thresher that was new in about 1890. It is a 36 x 56. To begin with, it was a hand feed machine but shortly after the turn of the century they added a blower and feeder and weighter and it is still running but it always had the best of care.
In all the years that I have worked with machinery, outside of losing my hand, I have never had a serious accident. I might have had some close calls that I don't remember but I don't think so. Mr. Lester Mause, Mr. Masstenbrook and I are the only ones in this part of Winona County that are operating threshing machines. There is one still running at Plainview, Minnesota, but that is in Wabasha County. A Mr. Rats owns it.
Last fall, when we went to Steam Engine Joe Rynda Threshing Bee at Montgomery, Minnesota, I saw something that you don't see any more. On the farm where he was threshing, there were four large stacks of grain to be threshed. He did not thresh them as they had four small ones for him. They were going to wait until November to thresh like they used to in the old days.
There is a little threshing done over across the river in Wisconsin from where I live. We are only about ten miles from the Mississippi River and there are more machines there than there are around here.