3196 MacArthur Road, Decatur, Illinois 62526
I am not an old thresherman but a middle-aged ex farm boy. I hope my story will be interesting to you.
I was born in Southern Illinois in my Grandfather's old farm house. The farm was about five miles to the nearest town and all roads were unimproved dirt roads.
Horsedrawn wagons loaded wsith hand-hewn railroad ties often passed the farm, the horses straining to pull the heavy loads which sank deep into the clay mud. These roads turned to dust in the dry summer months and every plant and fence post was coated with the gray dust.
My Father, a country school teacher and farmer, always had a few acres of meadow grass which often went to seed and was of a reddish color and called red top. In the late summer months this grass was cut with a mowing machine, raked into windrows with a sulky rake. Men came along with pitch forks and stacked this hay into small piles about five feet across and about five feet high. I do not recall all the details of the contraption my Father had rigged up to haul this hay but here is what I do remember. A 2 inch pole and about 10 feet in length was poked under the pile of hay, a rope attached to one end thrown over the top and drawn tightly. A single tree was chained to one end of pole and an old plug horse was hitched to this. This is where I came in. I rode the old plug back and forth to the main stack where men were building a large stack of hay. The stack of hay was shaped to turn rain and allowed to cure for a few weeks.
Word came that the threshing machine would soon come to the neighborhood and I watched for it with all the suspense a seven year old boy could stand. I soon saw the black smoke at a nearby farm and soon it came to the Chandler place, only a half mile distant. My Father assured me that our place would be next. But alas, the country school had started and I was at school the day the rig pulled in.
ALTHOUGH I did not get to see very much of the men running the machinery I do remember that besides the engineer and separator man, there were two men who were on the stack and pitched the hay in. The red top seed was very small and ran into heavy cotton sacks and tied shut. The threshed hay was blown into a pile and later used for livestock feed. The big steam engine soon blew its whistle and departed, leaving a pile of cinders in the meadow. Meanwhile, a man came to the farm and poked a few holes in the bags of seed to get the samples. The samples determined the price he would pay for the seed. This area of the state was a small section of the country where the red topped grass would produce seed. It was later sold to seed companies for resale as lawn seed.
The date was about 1928. My Father grew discouraged as the land was poor and produced mostly nubbins. He soon moved North to Central Illinois. This was corn, oats, wheat and clover country. He rented a 90 acre farm and paid 90 dollars privilege rent for use of the farm buildings and 20 acres of permanent pasture. He split the crops 50-50 with the landlord. My Father had 5 horses but no tractor. He put an old end-gate seeder on a box wagon and seeded with oats, 27 acres of corn stubble. He hired a man who owned an F-20 to then disc the ground. The oats came up and did well. A threshing ring was formed in the neighborhood. My Father joined the ring and ran a bundle wagon at various farms.
I do not recall the name of the engine. The engineer was a gentleman by the name of Mr. Hardin from Owaneco, Ill.. The big engine was too heavy to come in over the small iron bridge near the house, so it had to come over a concrete bridge one half mile north of the farm. It came along the side of a corn field and into our north pasture. The big cleats on the wheels left marks that were visible for several years. Up the little hill it puffed and into the barn lot.
The engine made a wide circle unhooked and ended up facing the North. I was appointed water boy for the engineer and others working in the barn lot. A neighbor boy with a pony and cart supplied water to the men working in the field. I was fascinated by the big steam engine. I stood behind it, water jug in hand and this is where I first got the steam bug. I was jarred back to reality by someone hollering for some water. But soon I returned to my position behind the engine and wondered if I could ever run one of these engines.
This was the last of the big rigs in this area. There were a few small gasoline driven separators up into the middle 30's. I recall seeing one big steam engine go through over on the west road about 1935 but all soon disappeared during WW II. After I came home from the service I still had the steam bug in me. I later got the steam engine fever and an engine of my own but that is another story.
Oat threshing scene taken at the Andrew W. Byler farm, R.R. #2, Dover, Delaware. The engine is a 9 x 10 Frick, 60 H.P., 1925, Serial No. 25668, and is owned in partnership by Mr. Andrew W. Byler and Mr. Hermen Stutzman. The threshing machine is a J.I. Case, 24 in. cylinder. The year of manufacture is unknown. Mr. Byler is owner of the threshing machine. This threshing event took place on 28 July 1973.
Standing beside the wheel of the Frick engine is my dad, Mr. W. Newton Young. He has a real love for steam engines and came near close to buying this very engine that is pictured here. When he came across this engine in Frederica, Delaware it was all grown up with weeds and was sitting in amongst a lot of junk. Dad decided at the time not to purchase this engine so he and I told our good friend, Mr. Andy Byler about this engine and so Mr. Byler and his son-in-law Mr. Stutzman purchased it. Dad and I were both happy that this nice Frick was purchased and taken to a place where we know it will be taken care of.
When I was growing up, dad would often tell me about the times he was around the steam traction engine when they would thresh on the farm where dad, as a young boy, and his family lived in Genoa, N.Y. Then he also would tell me about his business acquaintance and friend, the former Arthur S. Young of Kinzers, Pa. and of the steam engines he collected and the museum he founded. Well, in August of 1960 Dad took our family to the Rough and Tumble Museum and there I saw a traction engine for the very first time. So as the years rolled by my interest in steam engines increased so that now I own one and have engineered one for a threshing operation. Dad enjoyed himself at this threshing and he is looking forward to operating my Frick.