Iron Man Of The Month

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ALL BUCKEYE Born in Ohio, threshed and farmed in Ohio, engine made in Ohio. Iron-Man Hugh Hartzell of northeast Union City, Ohio-Indiana territory, on his 21-75 Baker counter-flow Engine at Darke County Steam Threshers, Greenville, Ohio. White shirt, n
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ALL THAT SMOKE AND NO PLACE TO GO?-Hugh Hartzell doesn't dress like the dirty-overalled steam engineer, but he's up there on the swaying deck as much as anyone. And he keeps that Baker as clean as the white shirt he's wearing. Rumor has it that, although


He’s the typical American thresher man. And to hear him
laugh and blow the whistle on his counter-flow Baker, you know
he’s enjoyed every minute of it, come good times or hard times
down on the farm.

Whether it’s helping out at the Darke County ‘Steam
Thrashers’ at Greenville, Ohio, each summer, as one of the
organization’s directors, pulling on the big Baker Fan or
taking his place in the annual parade on the reunion grounds or at
various civic organization she’s always the one that can be
counted on with the old 21-75 to help fill the gap. And wherever
you may be standing, should he happen to know you, you’ll
suddenly become the object of all eyes. For Hugh Hartzell will give
you a generous toot, a hearty wave of the hand and call out your
name as he rumbles by on the swaying deck of OF Baker from wherever
it happens to be in the passing parade.

He’s a big man is Hugh Hartzell wears his overalls well, as
a farmer should. No scrawny, horny-handed type of thresher man he,
with baggy trousers, wrinkled shirt or sagging, oil-soaked gall
uses like we too often are prone to visualize the average steam
thresher man. Even in sports clothes which he often switches to,
the white shirt, the neatly pressed pants, the natty straw hat and
long fresh cigar clamped firmly between his teeth all let you know
he’s the farmer and steam thresher man who wouldn’t trade a
day of it for the highest office in the land-including the
Presidency. His executive suite is the swaying deck of a Baker
Engine, his business house, over which he rules as undisputed
captain of industry, is the typical red barn and he wouldn’t
swap a minute of it for the thrones of Popes, potentates or kings.
Everything about him is typically Buckeye born in Ohio, runs a
steam engine made in Ohio and has lived, farmed and threshed all
his days in Ohio. What greater honors could anyone boast of.
(Except for his sins of slippin’ off to Canada or Florida to do
his fishin’.)

‘If I had my life to live over, I wouldn’t change a bit
of it,’ says Hartzell who loved the challenges of bad times as
well as the affluence of the prosperous years.

Born in Richland Township, near the little village of Beamsville
(some call it Beamtown), in Darke County, western Ohio, Hugh
Hartzell helped his Dad farm till he was twenty-one.

‘Dad lived eighty rods back from the road,’ says Hugh.
‘When I started farming on my own, I just rented forty-eight
acres out by the road, married Gladys, and from then on we were on
our own.’

‘I started farming and threshing back in ’27. We were
three years on that forty-eight acres. Then we moved over by the
village of Coletown, northwest of Greenville, just a few miles
away,’ explains Hartzell, thumbing back through the pages of
his memory. ‘I rented eighty acres for two years, then moved
over by Elroy, (a few miles farther north), where I farmed twenty
acres, five of tobacco, and started threshing on my own with a half
interest in partnership with Willard Hart. ‘

After three years the partnership was dissolved and Hugh
Hartzell began straight farming which he continued to do till the
coming of the threshing shows.

‘I kept my old 18-horsepower Advance Engine at that time,
which I had used for threshing, and used it for five years steaming
tobacco bedsthen I junked it,’ pines he. ‘I’ve been
sorry ever since I didn’t hang onto it. ‘

It was thirteen years ago that Hugh Hartzell began going to a
shindig called ‘The Darke County Steam Threshers’, out at
the old Harve Estey woods, east of Greenville, Ohio. Here it was
that he began re-living the good old days, helping with the steam
threshing and saw-milling, and envying Uncle Charlie Ditmer who
commandeered the growing show from the deck of his 12-Horse
Advance. So much did Hugh Hartzell’s conscience cringe at
having junked his old Advance Engine that he did the next best
thinghe up and bought himself a twenty-one, seventy-five Baker
counter-flow two years later just to get back into the swing of
things and ease the pangs of remorse.

But ever since, Hugh Hartzell has been more than making up for
that one bad decision he made in his lifejunking the old Advanceby
participating more and more in the activities of the Darke County
Steam Threshers, as well as contributing to other area reunions and
to various civic parades, programs and functions, all in the
interests of preserving agricultural history on the American

Serving on the board of directors of the Darke County Threshers
for eight years, a position he still holds to the present day, Hugh
Hartzell has taken his Baker Engine to the Miami Valley Threshers
for three years and to the Mansfield Steam Threshers when it was
held on the beautiful and picturesque Logan farm outside of
Mansfield, Ohio. In addition he has been contributing to the steam
segment of the big Tri-State Gas Engine and Tractor Shows at the
Portland, Ind., fairgrounds. Here it was that he has participated
with the annual cooking of apple butter by steam engine in copper
‘kittles’, with Uncle Charlie Ditmer and his inevitable
cigar presiding as ‘chief cook’ and head culinary artist in
the copper coil and vat dispensary.

‘I have had lots of fun with this Baker Engine,’ laughs
Hartzell. ‘It’s my only hobbyoh, outside of a little
fish-in’ down in Florida or up in Canada. We’ve even had
our own little shows on my farm, threshing grain and making apple
butter. We made apple butter once and had three hundred people
there. Could’ve sold a hundred gallons, but made only
thirty-six. Charlie Ditmer was chief cook always at these
functions, too.’

To Hugh Hartzell there are the memories of the many thresher
men’s dinners over which he’s stretched that long threshing
arm o’ his to get at the ‘vittles’.

‘YesI like fried chicken and mashed potatoes and gravy, and
I’ve eaten my share, you can betcha,’ says he. (And his
wife, Gladys, has had her share at rattling the pots ‘n pans,
frying chicken, making noodles, stirring gravy, hurrying to get it
all on the table in time.)

‘Never forget the second summer I farmed. Had lots of oats.
We threshed for three days. Gladys cooked six meals in those three
days.’ reminisces Hugh, (And from us, may no soul be ever so
crass as to overlook those feminine heroines of the skillet and
dishpan who kept vigilance over the hot wood ranges during the July
harvest seasons, getting in the grub, whipping up the
‘vittles’, peeling the ‘taters’ baking pies ‘n
cakes and wiping the silver and dishes to a spotless sheen to
appease the gnawing appetites of the men folk and keep ’em
happy. Alas, man would have perished long ago, were it not for

But life for the Hartzell’sHugh and Gladys was not always a
bowl of peaches and cream prosperity, high prices for crops and big
dinners down on the farm. Like most young couples, marital bliss
had its ups and downs for them too, right from the start. Marriage
brought the usual desire for freedom and independence from the
paternal household the longing to strike out into the world of
industry to seek one’s fortune or the futility of it.

‘After I got all the crops in, the Fall of ’26, I told
Dad I was going out and get a job,’ says Hugh. ‘I applied
at the Dayton Rubber Company, but they told me they were all filled
up. So I went to the National Cash Register and they hired me on. I
worked in the parts department, filling baskets of parts for the
fellows to assemble in the cash registers. But in February of
’27 I quit and went back to farming.’

‘We’ve seen rough times, but never regretted it a
minute, going back to the farm. The Big Depression came, but we
raised hogs, farmed and threshed,’ recalls Hugh. ‘Hogs sold
at two-cents a pound then. We raised six acres of tobacco, one ton
to the acre, and sold it for seven cents a pound. We milked our own
cows and separated the cream. Sold a ten-gallon can of cream to the
grocery store for only a dollar and a half.’

‘We sold eggs for seven cents a dozen,’ reminds Hartzell
of those not-so-good Old Days. ‘You could buy an awful good
milk cow for forty dollars.’

With hard work and an eye to the future, the Hugh Hartzells,
like the nation, began recoiling from the blows of the Big

‘In ’41 we bought our first farm one-hundred and
thirteen acres at sixty-four dollars an acre, just two miles north
of the old Hunchberger Corners Store, six miles northeast of Union
City,’ says Hugh. ‘We still live here today, and now have
two-hundred and forty acres.’

To Hugh Hartzell, the running of a steam engine at a thresher
men’s reunion need not be the grimy, dirty job it is often made
to be. Neatly attired throughout the working day, his immaculate
white-cuffed gloves present a cleaner throttle-hand reaching across
the table for the noon grub, when Gladys rings the bell for
dinnertime. An impressive, well-liked steam thresher man with
commandeering voice (well vocalized on hog-calling of yore)a man
with a grand sense of humor and impeccable Buckeye vernacularan
engine man who leaves his dirt outside and walks clean into the
kitchen what more could a farm wife desire of her hubby?

For all this and much more for the friendly handshakes and
calling our names out from your Baker as you pass by in the big
parade and for keeping the grand tradition of American farming
alive today we offer you Hugh Hartzella front seat in our vaunted
Hall of Iron-Man Fame. (And, who knows you may someday be eligible
for a fresh two-fer from the pocket of Uncle Charlie Ditmer as
recognition for highest award.)

Farm Collector Magazine
Farm Collector Magazine
Dedicated to the Preservation of Vintage Farm Equipment