| September/October 1957

Okemos, Michigan

In the Nov.-Dec., 1955 issue there is an article by Marcus Leonard of Salina, Kansas, who has some remarks regarding the A. W. Stevens engines, and how well he describes them.

In our family there were five boys and our father threshed before us with a Dingy 12 horse sweep and an old Buffalo Pitts separator. My older two brothers bought a Cady & Gless-brook engine made here in Lansing and changed the gears on the separator and had to have a new cylinder shaft made to accommodate the pulley. Dad took to the tall timbers and us smaller brothers went with Dad for a time because that sizzling thing had us frightened too. Later in life we all got in bed with steam engines and loved them. One brother, who was in partnership with me, had two Stevens engines. One a 12 and the other a 16 and we used them for nearly everything. Had both in sawmills we owned and while we also had other makes, the Stevens was our pride and joy. We had two Double Rumleys that we liked quite well but the fire doors opened on the right which was not handy to fire in the sawmill but they surely were fine for threshing and on the road. The Stevens was slow and the Double Rumleys were not too much faster but how they could pull or lug a load.

We had an experience with one of our Stevens unhooking at the cross-head end of the connecting rod and it sure did things but if the fellow who was running it at the time could have had head enough to hear the knock it should not have happened. The connecting rod end had a strap over the boxes (two piece) that keyed with a tapering key and fastened with a set screw, and if that ever worked loose it would make a pound plainly heard. And it would not have to be very loose either. When one of us boys was operating it we knew when there was a crosshead pound and we immediately took care of it.

After we boys got to be less afraid of the plain engine the older boys bought, we used to thresh some with them. At 14 I drove the team on the engine on the road and was water monkey. One day my brother did not run the fire down enough on finishing the job and had too much fire left. When Dad's big Percheons lifted it from the trenches it was in, it popped off and those big fellows headed for an orchard 15 rods away. They had to cross a plowed field and I had set the brakes so the rear wheels were sliding and they did not run very fast. The men took out after us and kept yelling to me to jump and just before they reached the orchard that is just what I did. They went under a tree with a large limb and it took the stack and governors, being at the side of the stack, off together, and tore the pipe loose from the boiler. Steam went a hundred feet into the air. There was no dome on the Cady. Took steam direct from the front end of the boiler next to the smoke stack. About the time they hit the tree the men arrived there. It surely was a mess and threshing was off for a couple of days. The Cady plain engine was not balanced at all and had to be dug in and blocked at all four wheels but it was a sassy little 10 horse outfit. Leonard's experience with muddy water in the Stevens surely was the same experience we had. We had an oil pump on the steam chest (hand) that when the engine primed and washed out the oil in the cylinder we would pump in a few strokes direct in the steam chest and again get oil on the valve and cylinder. These engines having the dome on the rear also would if water was high, draw over on a steep incline. When not under load they surely were about the stillest running engine one ever heard. Under load you could always tell if the valve was right. There is not too many of us old fellows left. It is a pleasing experience to get with a bunch like we find at the Reunions as at Pon-tiac, Illinois, and Montpelier, Ohio.

At the college centennial here last August I, with another fellow, operated a Huber and under mounted Avery for a week. The engines were owned by Walter Knapp who had 5 more of them at his home in Monroe. Walter is a swell guy to associate with too, and his father was an old line thresherman. I am retired and have plenty of time to go places and made several trips where they had doings in the steam line. The brother who was in partnership with me, went with the Huber Co., after we quit threshing and sawmilling and was with them 31 years-up to his death in 1938. I was with the Buffalo Pitts Co., two years but left that to enter government service. But I operated my sawmill up to 1908. In 1924, the brother who was with the Huber people got hold of a 40x60 Western separator and a brother-in-law had a 25 Rumley double like we once had, and I took my vacation off to operate that outfit for two years (1924-25). That ended my threshing and steam experience.


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