Jim Gerow


| January/February 1998



Steam engine

10845 E. Adams Road Beaverton, Michigan 48612

Mose Gerow lived three miles north of Clare, Michigan, at what is now the junction of old US-27 and Beaverton Road. A large pine tree stump in front of the log house was said to have been the largest tree in this area. It was over seven feet across the stump. Mose was a foreman at a lumber camp. Jim, Moses son, was a young barefoot boy in the summer of about 1891. Three miles east of where they lived, at what is now the corner of Rogers and Beaverton Road, Jim saw a 16 horse hitch hauling a little four-wheel drive Brooks steam locomotive on a large steel wheeled wagon. They were coming from the south. The turn east was too sharp. So they tore down the rail fence on the southeast corner, made the turn, and put the fence back in place. The little logging engine was on its way to Section 35, Arthur Township, where I now live. A track was laid from the east side of Section 34 across 35 and 36 to the backwater of a logging dam at the Clare/Gladwin County line on the middle branch of the Tobacco. This little rail track was only around two miles long. Very little grading was done for the track. With all of these crooks and turns on up and down grades, probably no more than two or three log cars were pulled at any time. It was used for around three years, then hauled back to Clare the way it was hauled in. The fact that it was considered worthwhile to build this little railroad to move logs seemed unrealistic for such a small area. It can only stagger a person's imagination as to the amount of good timber that was logged off. We still occasionally find one of the little handmade rail spikes in the fields.

This picture is Jim Gerow sawing lumber with the last steam engine he owned in the fall of 1955 north of Loomis, Michigan. Jim saw the engine out back of the Ford Sales at Houghton Lake on his way home from deer hunting in the fall of 1953.

He told me about seeing the engine and we went to look at it and I bought it. This old Port Huron has the same size boiler as a 24 except it is shorter. The boiler had been used for hot water heat in Ford Sales and Service until the fall of 1953. Before that, the engine was used to run a stone crusher somewhere north of Houghton Lake. There was stone damage to the front of the engine to prove it. The engine number plate on the smoke box door was broken off and gone. A brass plate on the smoke box indicated the engine had gone back to Port Huron for a factory rebuild. I sold the engine to Jim after buying it. Jim sawed lumber with it for several years, then sold the engine. The new owner from Saginaw bought the steam engine to heat his greenhouse. The engine back in the left side of the picture is a Port Huron-19 7594.

One of Jim Gerow's lifelong friends was Joe McFarlane. Joe's father owned a sawmill and Joe learned to fire the boiler when he was a young boy. In the 1890s it was not easy to find someone who knew how to operate a steam engine. Joe was hired when he was a teenager, around 16 years old, to run an Advance steam traction engine used for the threshing run in the Dover and Eagle area.

Joe got a patent on a sawmill carriage block. He did a lot of traveling around to mills, selling and installing his mill block. He always took his anvil and hammer with him to hammer mill saws, and he was still hammering saws when he was over eighty years old at Falmouth, where he lived in later years.