Mr. Fred W. Schmidt, 1390 N. Albert St., St. Paul 13, Minnesota, sends us this interesting bit of history. It was taken from 'The Community Magazine' of St. Paul, Minnesota, and Fred got the permission from that magazine to use it in the IRON-MEN ALBUM MAGAZINE. We thank brother Fred very much Elmer
I LIVED ON A FARM north west of Freeborn village the first 16 years of my life; and of course, the first threshers I heard about were owned by men in that part of the county. Mr. Charles F. Leonard was one of the first of them and started with a horse power machine at least sixty years ago. He and Mr. George Scott owned and operated this machine from about 1875 to the year 1883, when Mr. Leonard left Freeborn and moved to North Dakota. While there, he continued to thresh and probably with a steam outfit. He returned to Freeborn in 1888 and a year or two later bought a steam rig in partnership with a neighbor, Willard Coon.
Later Mr. Masse Peterson purchased an interest in the machine, and with Mr. Leonard at the engine and Mr. Peterson at the machine, the outfit became in great demand each fall. The machine was hand fed and perhaps a twin sister to the Lenz and Eberhard machine used around Albert Lea at about the same time.
Leonard and Peterson also dug wells and were often called into the Kiester-Bricelyn territory for that purpose; and in as much as threshing machines of any kind were not too plentiful, they soon were being called there to thresh because a steam rig was quite an improvement over the horse powered machines.
Grain was always put into stacks at that time; and as the men also owned a clover huller, their work lasted until snowfall some years.
The engine was a J. I. Case, a return flue job and a straw burner. There were other steam outfits in the Kiester-Bricelyn territory and some of them were having trouble pulling up the hills that were found there. One day the machine was headed for one of those hills when a farmer came running across the field waving for them to stop. They were advised to turn around for he declared the engine could never make the hill top for the front wheels would be lifted off the ground when only part way to the top. Mr. Leonard only laughed and informed the man to watch them for a few minutes and see one go to the top without any trouble.
The Case machine made the pull to the top with ease. A glance at the picture of this early engine shows the drive wheels set clear back behind the boiler rather than part way under it as the others no doubt had been and in as much as most of the weight was in front of the drive wheels the front did not leave the ground when pulling up hills.
I remember Mr. Leonard because of the horses he drove rather than because of his threshing work. I said drove for his horses were driven and not herded down the road and the horses knew it and really stepped: out when he gave the word. He was an exacting driver and Leonard and Peterson were exacting threshers. They purchased a self feeder for the machine at one time only to later take it off for they felt they were doing a more perfect job feeding the machine by hand. Men were that way fifty years ago.
At about the same time, Mr. Leonard brought his Case steam engine into the territory southwest of Freeborn, a steam outfit was also brought in northwest of the village. This machine was owned by my father and his brother, Will, and the two Stensruds, Atton and Olaves. They were often referred to as the big four threshing crew for all of them were six foot tall except for father who missed it by about an inch. Anton and Olaves were both well over that height.
Father and Olaves had grown up as boy pals on adjoining farms and no doubt were most interested in purchasing the machine. It was a Russell engine and if the Russell Company built a threshing machine the machine was also of that make. It was purchased from the Tyrholm Company in New Richland. The engine father always declared to be the snappiest he had ever seen. The thresher was hand fed. Father had his first team of horses, Duke and Boney, and hauled the water. Olaves Stensrud and Will Seath took turns running the machine or feeding the same. Anton Stensrud was the engineer and the four of them made a very good crew. Those early machines did not have an automatic grain weigher and tally. The man that owned the grain being threshed was often given the job of measuring up the threshed grain and I can remember hearing this story. The grain poured out at the bottom of the machine into a couple half-bushel measures and the man doing the measuring would pick up one measure after another and shove it into a sort of trough and hit a trigger that moved the tally. The machine was threshing oats for James Hanson (Louis and Henry Hanson's father) and they were running good; in fact too good for Mr. Hanson was finding it impossible to keep up with the machine. The buckets were running over and he had oats on the ground all around him. The men that were holding the sacks jokingly asked him why he did not measure that also and he promptly replied he did not want them for they were wild oats. At that time, wild oats were as much of a weed as quack grass of today and it was expected that the wild oats would sooner or later drive the farmer off the. farm.
After three or four years with the machine, Olaves Stensrud was killed when his driving horse ran away and he was thrown out of the buggy. The remaining three continued to run the machine until in 1900, when Will Seath passed away. The machine was sold soon after that and the little Russell engine was later used in the Armstrong community.