Farm Collector

Eaton Was Home of Steam Engine Works Company

Sent to us by Jeff C. Forward, Crow Hill Road, Box 130a
Bouckville, New York 13310 Reprinted with permission from author
and the Mid-York Weekly, Clinton, New York.

The Wood, Taber, and Morse Steam Engine Works, has been of great
interest to my husband, Rob, and me since shortly after we moved to
Eaton in 1983. We moved into the Allen N. Wood home, which was
built in 1878 at a cost of $3,700. The average home at that time
cost $1,800. We wanted to find out everything we could about the
Wood family and their business, which was very prosperous in the
second half of the 19th Century.

We had a very interesting experience in meeting the great
granddaughter of Allen N. Wood. While away on business in
Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Rob was engaged in conversation with a
person who had attended Morrisville College. When another person
caught his description of our house in Eaton, she came rushing over
to him. As it turned out after a little discussion, she was indeed
the great granddaughter of the man who had our house built.
Needless to say, we were very excited about this. The great
granddaughter lives in Sauquoit and has given us a lot of
information on the family as well as the Steam Engine Works.
Herewith is a short summary of the history we have learned.

Allen N. Wood originally was in business with his uncle Enos
Wood. They made and repaired machinery for cotton and woolen
factories. They first started in 1830 when Allen was 21 years old.
The business relocated to Pierceville and in 1848 moved back to
Eaton. In 1852, they began to manufacture portable steam engines,
which became Allen Wood’s specialty for the rest of his life.
The business moved to Utica in 1857, but early in 1859, Allen sold
his interest and returned to Eaton.

He went into partnership with Walter Morse, business manager,
and Loyal Clark Taber, engineer. Wood was a machinist, but from
this point on became the marketer and traveled all over the
country. The Wood, Taber & Morse Steam Engine Works only made
stationary engines for running machinery at first. Later, they
added the portable steam engines, which were pulled by horses. In
1880, the business began developing the first four-wheel drive
traction engine which was the model that made them famous.

A January 12, 1885 excerpt from the Democrats Union reported
that the business tested their new traction engine on the streets
and up the hill. Just to be sure it passed the test, they stopped
it halfway up the hill and then started it again. It started up
with ease and passed the test.

In a September 23, 1885 article, the Rubicon (its official name)
traction engine was billed as one of the most attractive exhibits
at the annual Industrial Exposition in Toronto. The engine also won
the gold medal at the Provincial Show in London. There is only one
Rubicon traction known to exist and it resides in the Henry Ford
Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, for the world to see.

The Steam Engine Works employed 50 men, some of whom worked
there for 20 years. The men were able to produce three engines a
week, which sold for $800 each.

Ironically, the production of the portable steam and traction
engines led to the Hamlet of Eaton’s demise. The steam engines
made it possible for industrial plants to move away from sources of
water power. In the 1880s, Eaton was a mill town which relied on
the water source. After these engines were produced, it was no
longer necessary to be near water and the businesses that were in
Eaton could move to the larger cities closer to their major
customers.

In 1890, both Allen W. Wood and Loyal C. Taber passed away.
Walter Morse elected to not keep the production of engines going.
He did keep a parts supply shop open for a time.

Note: M. E. Messere (‘Back Street Mary’),
Eaton’s Historian says steam engines sold for between $150 to
$1,200 or more$800 would be an average. She also doubts that Eaton
Engine works closed and re-openedit was probably open continually
as the Utica Works started and became Wood and Mann, but records
are scarce.

  • Published on Jan 1, 1998
© Copyright 2022. All Rights Reserved - Ogden Publications, Inc.