Rt. 3, Box 79AG Douglas, Georgia 31533
It was 7:00 A.M., Friday, August 7, 1992, the first day of the 29th Annual Pioneer Days sponsored by the Chippewa Valley Engine and Model Club, and I was on the grounds. The day before I had traveled from Douglas, Georgia, by way of Jacksonville, Florida, and Minneapolis to Eau Claire to attend the show. A few club members were already busy on the grounds and I was privileged to assist with firing up several of the steam traction engines. There is nothing that can compare with the smell, sound and sight of these old engines coming to life! A fine way to start a day! This was also a time of renewing old acquaintances, reminiscing and hearing the various stories about problems, repairs, engine performance and so on.
Left to right: 1916 Case 65 HP, owned by David Brazeau; 1911 Case 60 HP owned by Joe Fisher; 1916 Case 65 HP owned by Gary Schacht; and a Farmall conversion owned by David Brazeau.
For Pioneer Days this was the year of the Case, though not necessarily planned that way, for the steam traction engine representation. Present were Gary Schacht of Stanley, Wisconsin with his 65 Case, and Dave Brazeau, also with his 65 Case. These two engines carry serial numbers 33373 (Gary Schacht) and 33389 (Dave Brazeau) which indicates that these engines could have been built within a few days of each other in 1916. Another Case, this one a Tom Terning one-quarter scale Case 65, is owned by Mr. Charles Ouimet of Gilman, Wisconsin. The engine was built in 1990, and I must say that Tom does nice work! A beautiful little engine. Joe Fisher of Thorp, Wisconsin, had a 60 HP he can boast of a few more years, as it carries serial #26386, built in 1911. This engine is equipped with a balanced valve and a Waters governor and does a snappy job on the sawmill. Herman Gindt, Boyd, Wisconsin, was busy once again with his home built traction engine. This engine was built jointly by Herman and his friend Lawrence (Bub) Mickelson of Cadott, Wisconsin. This engine, a 6 x 7 center crank type, had already spent a lifetime working in a Wisconsin creamery, and now is into its second career.
Dave Brazeau had his steam powered Farmall tractor. He uses a vertical firetube boiler along with a vertical steam engine to power it, and needless to say, it draws a lot of attention as it moves about the grounds.
Some of Daniel Kiekhafer's operating models. He does all his pattern making, casting and machining. A few models are from kits, but most are his own work.
Dan Kiekhafer, Colfax, Wisconsin, had his model display going. He has quite a variety of gas and steam engine models, including a Case traction engine and the crown jewel of his displaythe fully working model of the Phoenix log hauler. Dan does a great deal of the pattern making, casting and machining required in building the models. He must have the patience of a saint!
6 HP traction engine built by owner Herman Gindt, Boyd, Wisconsin, and Lawrence Michelson, Cadott, Wisconsin, working on the shingle mill. The engine came from a creamery in the area which had discontinued operation.
The antique gas engine display was of a size and variety that the three days of the show could have been spent on just this display. It seemed like almost any make, model or size was there somewhere.
Mike Mahnke's 1910 2HP air cooled IHC, serial number KB 1097. This engine was restored from what was very close to a terminal case.
One of the featured engines was a 1902 IHC 10HP screen cooled engine, serial #E2201, owned by Mike Mahnke, Bessemer, Michigan. He also had on display a 1910 IHC, air cooled, 2 HP, vertical engine, serial #KB1097. Mike says this is a very rare engine. When he found the engine it had a tree growing through the crankcase and the tree had burst the casting. Had he not shown me the before and after pictures, it would have been hard to believe that it could have been restored to look and run like a new one. Tom Enderson of 'Jim Falls, Wisconsin, had a 3 HP Fairbanks Morse vertical engine with the saw rig that it has been on since new and that goes back a lot of years.
Patrick Rubenzer with his 1941 Case 'LA', serial number 4510925. The tractor was purchased new by his grandfather, Conrad (Cooney) Geottl. Rubenzer lost track of the Case after his granddad's death, but found it 12 years later and restored it.
The farm tractor display was as extensive as the gas engine display one could have spent the entire three days in that section alone. I wish I could have had the time to talk to each of the owners and pick up some stories. There surely must be some good ones among all those tractors. I will relate one, about a 1941 Case LA, serial #4510925, owned by Patrick Rubenzer, Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. The original owner of this tractor was Patrick's grandfather, Conrad (Cooney) Geottl, and Patrick had operated this tractor when he was quite young and stayed at his grandpa's place. His grandpa and my father were lifelong friends and neighbors, as well as competitors in the threshing run days. This tractor had been used primarily for belt work and Mr. Geottl always took excellent care of it, as he was a dedicated internal combustion engine man. My father was just as dedicated to steam engines. Both men did a good deal of threshing, corn husking, saw milling, etc. in the same part of the country around what is known as Little Dry wood. I can recall the two men holding discussions regarding the merits of the two power sources. At that time I was running my father's 23-90 Baker Uniflow engine, so I was interested in what they were talking about. Neither of them was ever able to change the other's mind! It seems that Patrick had asked his grandpa to let him have the tractor when and if it was ever disposed. But when Cooney passed away, the tractor was acquired by one of his sons. (I knew all of these people quite well.) Patrick continued his efforts to acquire the tractor to no avail, and the day came when it passed out of the Geottl family hands. The name of the purchaser was lost and that seemed to be that.
The 65 HP J.I. Case engine, serial number 33373, built in 1916, and owned by Gary Schacht of Stanley, Wisconsin. Shown
This is 65 HP Case engine #33389, built in 1916 and owned by David Brazeau of Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Note that the engines are 16 numbers apart, so likely were built at nearly the same time, possibly the same week!
Some twelve years after the tractor was 'lost,' Patrick was headed home on a road in northern Wisconsin when he spotted a tractor parked in a field alongside the road. He stopped to look it over, and as he had known his grandpa's tractor well, he felt that this one could be what he was looking for. He talked with the owner, who was reluctant to talk business, but when they did compare serial numbers and it was the tractor his grandpa had owned, and Patrick told the owner the story, he was able to purchase it and restore it. During the restoration the engine required no mechanical work of any kind. I could hardly believe it when Patrick turned on the ignition, gave the crank a single pull and the engine started. As long as the tractor was running, Patrick offered to let me drive it; I 'chickened out,' but did take a ride with him. I was afraid I might do something to injure his pride and joy if I drove it. Patrick, you are to be commended for doing a beautiful job on this tractor.
It is now time for apologizing somewhere I must have mislaid some notes, and among these were those pertaining to the people who were so good to me by allowing me to go through the material they had regarding my Uncle Charles Keller's Machine Shop in Bloomer, Wisconsin in the early 1900s.
They built the line of Keller gas engines for a number of years, and also performed lots of repair jobs on steam traction engines, stationary steam engines, boilers, etc. I have a very old postcard with a picture of the shop with a long line of traction engines outside the shop awaiting repair. Mr. Keller later moved to Eau Claire, Wisconsin and operated the Keller Tool and Machine Works at 601 Jefferson Street in Eau Claire. My older brothers, Richard and Jack, both worked in that shop, Richard from around 1928 or so until he bought the shop in 1952 and retired from there in 1977. Jack only stayed three years or so, then went to California for good. I worked there from early 1936 to September 1938, when I joined the Navy. I worked there off and on over the years, but no more than a couple of years all told.
In addition to what I've written before, I want to tell all the readers that there was something for almost anyone at the show. Threshing, saw milling, shingle making, Baker fan, tractor pulls, etc. The club members did a fine job of organizing and running the show. There was plenty of excellent food available.
I thank all those who gave of their time to talk with me, explain many items, tell stories, show me pictures and articles, especially those regarding the Keller Tool & Machine Works. A good deal of this information was new to me, and I had worked in the place!
Watch for the announcement of the 1993 show, which takes place the second weekend of August each year, I believe. Attend and enjoy!