Cayuga, New York 13034
Scattered throughout the northeast are steam portable and traction engines manufactured by A. W. Stevens & Son. Although most of the machines still preserved were built in Auburn, New York, the company did a large business for about ten years at its manufacturing facilities in Marinette, Wisconsin.
The company was formed in 1842 by Abram W. Stevens of Genoa, New York. He was born here on February 14, 1815, the son of Daniel Stevens, a weaver and knitter, who made old fashioned 'homespun' goods.
Abram, with a limited education, left home at an early age to make his livelihood, and became a carpenter. For a time, he engaged in boat building at King Ferry on Cayuga Lake, and later became a millwright; his first venture equipping a large flour and feed mill at 'Northville,' now the village of King Ferry.
When he turned 21, Abram opened a shop in the basement of Milton Remington's foundry and machine shop in the village of Genoa, and there constructed a stationary steam engine. It was built out of cast iron, it being impossible at the time to secure steel without great expense.
This engine was the wonder of that section of the country and Stevens' reputation as a practical inventor spread rapidly. He constructed several of these stationary engines and installed them throughout the state.
In 1842 he married Lorana Remington of Genoa. They had five children, one of whom, LeRoy W., later became a partner in the business. That same year, Stevens went into partnership with Joseph Mosher and began manufacturing threshing machines. A few years later, Hiram Birdsall of Poplar Ridge was admitted into the firm. Later both Birdsall and Mosher retired.
Stevens' first threshing machine was very primitive, consisting merely of the cylinder supported by a frame, there being no fan, separator or stacker. As the trade demanded various appliances and improvements were added to the machine until it reached a nearly perfect state of operation.
The result of his inventive mind was shown in that his machines in later years were being sold throughout the country. Besides threshers, Stevens, while in Genoa, manufactured all kinds of agricultural implements, plows, harrows and wagons. There are also examples still existent of corn shellers and bur feed mills. He also made roof brackets for buildings.
But on January 23, 1878, the shops, buildings and new machinery were totally destroyed by fire at the store house and lumber shed were saved, along with the records.
A young lad by the name of Walter Arnold was credited with saving the nearby church from burning embers when he climbed up on the roof and doused them with a bucket of water.
Immediate steps were taken by the towns people to have the shops rebuilt so that the Stevens' firm would not move elsewhere. Subscriptions were taken and a considerable amount of money was raised.
However, the management, apparently eying Auburn as a more central location, decided to make a move and did so in October, 1878; leasing several buildings on Washington Street (some still standing) from Josiah Barber, a local carpet manufacturer. The buildings had been previously occupied by the Dodge & Stephenson Company, farm implement makers, who had gone out of business.
At the time of the fire, about 30 to 40 hands were employed by Stevens, most of whom followed the company to Auburn. A five year-renewable lease was negotiated and the company set about expanding its' manufacturing line.
LeRoy W. Stevens was admitted to the firm in 1870 and the firm was called A. W. Stevens & Son until 1898, when the 'Uncle Abram' retired, and the firm was moved to Marinette, Wisconsin.
Machines Manufactured by A. W. Stevens Company in 1903 (From 61st Annual Catalogue) Marinette, Wisconsin
Stevens Traction Engines (12, 16, 18, 20 and 22 horsepower):
Water Wagon (10 barrel capacity) Monarch Tender (8 barrel capacity)
The Stevens Double Tube Weightier (with self-feeder)
The Stevens Apron Separator (with wind stacker)
The 'New Stevens' Thresher
The New Stevens Thresher with Stevens Self-Feeder and Uncle Tom's Wind Stacker
'Big 4' Corn Husker
Power Corn Shelter
French Buhr Feed Mill
The Sattley Attached Stacker (for threshers)
The manufacture of portable and traction engines is believed to have started shortly after the firm went to Auburn. Mr. Stevens died May 12, 1900, in Auburn, but the firm was to remain in business for several more years.
By the time of his death, however, the company only had an office in Auburn; everything else having been moved to Wisconsin. The story is that the son wanted to move the company to the Midwest for a better market and to compete with larger firms such as Case and Avery.
The firm remained in operation until 1910 at its' headquarters on Pierce Avenue. The story goes that the Stevens Company went out of business following an expensive lawsuit with the Avery Company over reported patent infringements with an undermounted traction engine. The last year (1910) the company is listed in the city directories, it was making potato machines.
The historian of Marinette said he felt the company was dissolved and recalled 'they drifted away from making their main products and began to lose money.'