History of THRESHING In Freeborn County

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

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

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

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