Crowell Manufacturing

Looking at the history of Greencastle engines and Crowell Mfg.

| January-February, 2006

Editor's note: Regular contributor Mike Rohrer, Smithburg, Md., recently sent us some photographs of the old manufacturing facilities of Crowell Mfg. Co., Greencastle, Pa. Amazingly, the original buildings still stand. 

Looking at Mike's photos jogged a memory of Greencastle no. 159, the only known surviving steam traction engine produced by Crowell. The engine's history is known, having passed through four owners before being purchased by Bill Waters in 1961. Bill restored the engine, and wrote about his efforts and the known history of Crowell Mfg. in the November/December 1966 Iron-Men Album. His article is reprinted here, followed by Mike's photographs of Crowell Mfg. as it appears today. Willis Able bought the engine from Bill in 1998. 

The Greencastle line of machinery was built by the Crowell Mfg. Co. of Greencastle, Pa., located about 8 miles from Waynesboro, the home of Frick and Geiser. The company was founded sometime in the 1800s by a Mr. Crowell, who was joined by a Mr. Henry B. Larzelere, either as a partner or as machinist and designer.

We have been unable to find out how many Greencastle engines were built. The Greencastle Chamber of Commerce thought only a couple were built along with 13 threshers. Twelve of the threshers were returned to the factory because of imperfections with only one being paid for. This one was burned in a barn fire, and insurance paid for it.

My guess is that there were about 12 traction engines built, judging from old timers who remember hearing of such engines. Crowell Mfg. Co. also built the Greencastle grain drill, which I believe was their specialty. Farm Implement News Buyers Guide of 1890 lists the company as building threshers, portable sawmills and portable engines.

The Crowell Co. went into receivership in the late 1890s under the reign of the Rahauser Family. The Geiser Mfg. Co. of Waynesboro bought the plant about 1901, using it to build gas engines, tractors, etc. The buildings are still standing and you can see Emerson-Brantingham painted on the west side of the main building. E-B gained control of the Geiser Co. about 1913.
Mr. Larzelere was a mechanical engineer born in Willow Grove, Pa. Mr. Larzelere moved to Greencastle in 1882, probably from Doylestown, Pa. In about 1887 he moved to Muncy, Pa., and with the help of Mr. Brocious started the Muncy Traction Engine Company. The Muncy engine was an exact copy of the Greencastle engine, judging from pictures. The Muncy Co. was apparently unsuccessful. Mr. Larzelere spent his later years with the A. B. Farquhar Co. of York, Pa., selling and installing sawmill outfits.
Three patents were issued to Mr. Henry B. Larzelere relating to steam engines. Patent  no. 299,484, dated May 27, 1884, and no. 300,270, dated June 10, 1884, were on steam portable engines. Patent no. 300,271, dated June 10, 1884, was on a boiler leveling device. It was a sort of jack screw built into the kingpost of the engine, raising and lowering the front of the engine by a crank as necessary for leveling the engine while in the belt. These patents were assigned to the Crowell Mfg. Co.


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