This picture was taken in 1895, the first year I helped thresh.
I was 11 years old and carried water for the help. I am sitting on
the hind wheel of the engine. This is one of the first self-feeders
and wind stackers in our county. It was a 16 HP Compound Russell
Steam Engine and a 3658 Port Huron Thresher. My father is kneeling
with a checkered jacket on. I am sure none of these men are alive
now except the children and me.
When I was born my father made me a cradle out of an old Case
agitator separator he tore up. It did not have a self feeder,
weigher or wagon loader for the grain or just a straight webb
stacker. They would thresh awhile till the straw got filled up then
they had a horse on each end of a rope and would pull it away. I am
sure they had a 10 HP to run it.
I well remember the first steam engine Dad had. It was a center
crank Case Engine. I was 5 years old when he brought it home and it
had been used about 2 years. Dad had a big workshop on the farm so
he got it ready to steam up and when it was ready to run he got my
brother and I to sit on the running board and he would give us a
ride. So we got on it with our backs turned and our legs hanging
down. Dad was standing behind us. He started up and we went about
20 feet when the glass gauge busted. Dad jumped over us and ran
around to shut it off and it scared us so bad we ran in the shop
and hid under the bellows that ran the old style blacksmith forge.
When he got the gauge shut off he started to look for us. We were
so scared we didn’t even move so Dad went to the house and
asked Mother if she had seen us. She said no. So they came back to
the shop and began calling us and we came crawling out. But it
didn’t take long until we lost our fear of it.
When my father died in 1928 at Mahomet, Illinois I went back
there and after the services were over an old man came over where I
was and asked me if I was Jesse Barber. I told h i m I was and he
said he was Mr. Quinn and we visited about old times. I had not
seen him since 1905 and he asked me how old I was when I first ran
a steam engine. I said I was about 12 years old and he said I know
how old you were. He said he came over to our place to get Dad to
shell for him and I was running the engine and I was 9 years old.
It was a center crank Case steam engine.
When I was 14 years old Mother and Dad went to the State Fair
and this same man came to our house and wanted Dad to shell for
him. I told him Dad had gone to the State Fair and couldn’t
shell till he got hack. He said, ‘Why don’t you run
it?’ I told him he would have to see Dad, but finally decided
to do the work. I took the outfit and shelled his corn. I got a
fellow that used to help Dad to help me with the job and we had
The winter I was 15 years old our neighbor came and wanted Dad
to come and buzz some wood for him. Dad made a buzz saw on wheels
so I told him I could take the outfit and do it. The neighbor was
Len Rayman of Mahomet, Illinois. It was awfully icy and we had
about an inch of ice on the ground. We had some ice lugs we put on
the engine so it would not slip. When I got to his pasture there
was a hill to climb so they pulled the saw up and I started up the
hill and one lug broke off and the wheel started to spin. When I
got nearly to the top of the hill all the lugs broke off of that
wheel and it started to slide which was about 20 rods. I stayed
with it. I would reverse it and it would turn around, when I was
headed down I would reverse it again and it would turn around
again. Finally I got to the end of the slant and got stopped. I
went around the hill and did the job. There were some fellows
standing there watching me. They told me they thought I was going
to get hurt but I wasn’t scared until it was all over. I
didn’t ever do that again.
I would like to hear from anyone who knows me.