12109 Mennonite Church Road Tremont, Illinois 61568
Two years ago, I started a project through our local threshing
club to record the history of the various threshing runs which once
crisscrossed Tazewell County. Many are still well remembered in the
area; some are only remembered by the name of the fellow who owned
the engine, nothing more. Others are forgotten and lost
But much precious information has been preserved. I strongly
recommend that each club start a similar project. Appoint a club
historian to organize material as it comes in. Time is not on our
side! Let’s save as much of this fascinating history as we can.
Get busy and good luck!
The first of this series is a well-known thresherman who made
the runs for over four decades, ‘Heine’ Straub.
Henry ‘Heine’ Straub was born in 1892, the son of a
thresherman who made his living with a horsepower thresher. Heine
was just 14 when he went to work for John Garlish as a water boy,
and cut his teeth on various other odd jobs.
Later he went to work with Adam Forn off to Whiteside County
wheat was much later there and Adam shipped his rig by train to
take advantage of the work available.
He bought his first engine from John Garlish at age 18 and was
flung into the business full bore. Heine’s first rig was an
Avery 20 horse under-mounted steam engine and Avery Yellow Fellow
He began what was to become an almost legendary run around the
Tremont/Green Valley area. As one old timer commented, ‘Heine
threshed for everybody!’ From 1916 until well into World War
II, neighbors would become familiar with the various rigs Heine
nursed along into a productive run. ‘He had more luck with
machinery,’ commented one fellow. ‘He got away with stuff
nobody else could have. Baling wire all over the place!’
Heine tinkering with the Avery 25-50 tractor. This is the
tractor which was accidentally put into gear while threshing.
Heine was always the engineer and hired the separator-man with a
boy to help fire or run errands. Dates are fuzzy as memories dim,
but it seems likely that during the lush World War I years, with
prices high from food demand, that Heine purchased a Geiser
Peerless steam engine, about 20 HP. Heine received a lot of good
natured ribbing from the crew because he always started each day in
a crisp, clean set of clothes. Many of the crew obviously let a few
days slide between changes but Heine always started the day fresh!
Such became his trademark.
While threshing with steam, the farmers furnished the coal or
wood, but once Heine switched to gas tractor power, he provided the
In 1930 he married Annie Straub, who at this date still resides
in their original home. She remembers, ‘We always had a big
fuel bill from Tremont Oil Company (still in business today). It
was a man-killing job no money in it; you put all your money into
repairs. Then you needed a new rig, and that took all your money
for another 10 to 12 years! But Heine loved it, and he was well
respected in the area!’
In the mid-1920s Heine went into partnership with Louis Hundt of
rural Pekin. This run worked an Aultman-Taylor steam engine and
Gaar Scott separator. Jack Fischer fired the engine while Louis
tended the thresher. About 1928 the steam engine wore out and Louis
bought an Allis-Chalmers E tractor and went on his own run. Heine
purchased a 30-60 Ault-man-Taylor tractor and a large, probably
36-inch Nichols and Shepard Red River Special separator. Sometime
in the ’30s Heine restored an Avery 25-50 kerosene tractor with
the tubular radiator and seems to have used this to the bitter end,
with the Nichols separator.
Heine ran a corn shelling operation in the winter, and was a
familiar sight traveling the dusty roads of southern Tazewell
County. The word ‘baling wire’ is used more than once in
describing this rig, but Heine with his mechanical aptitude kept
her going and always got the job done.
Henry ‘Heine’ Straub with under-mount Avery steam
engine. Can anyone tell what HP this engine is? Separator is a
Yellow Fellow Avery.
Otto Weyhrich of Pekin recalled an incident while threshing with
the Avery tractor. Otto was a young man filling the job of
‘water monkey’ on the rig when the separator-man, known to
the crew as ’52,’ bellowed to stop the engine, something
was wrong. Heine had moved a few steps away, and Otto, having seen
Heine operate the engine, pushed hard on the clutch lever. Unknown
to Otto, the clutch stopped the engine in the ‘halfway’
position. Further on and it put the drive wheels into gear! The
engine lurched forward in the belt possible disaster! Luckily Heine
sprinted to the platform in time to keep the drive belt from
tangling and worse.
Heine was a big man, all of 6 feet tall, and later was said to
have a girth matched only by his heart and his love of threshing.
When he passed away at the age of 79 in 1971, the people turned out
in droves to pay tribute to this man who had done so much to help
lift the mortgages on their farms.
Henry ‘Heine’ Straub with Geiser Peerless steam traction
engine. Can anyone tell the model and/or horsepower of this