A Kansas Family’s Baker Engine

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Baker No. 890; picture taken October 10, 1916. Granddad John Sevart on engine, Great-Granddad J. E. Sevart at front wheel of separator.
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Picture of engine no. 890 taken in 1962(7), in the backyard in Girard.
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October 5, 1982, engine no. 890 at the Fort Scott, Kansas, show. Francis Sevart and grandson Levi Swartz.

A few years ago I sent in some pictures of my great-granddad’s (J. E. Sevart) Advance and 16 HP Baker engine number 890 that he bought new in May 1912 in rural St. Paul, Kansas.

This time I’ve written some history for you about the Baker from stories I remember hearing from relatives.

Dad told me once that Great-Granddad went out to the Wichita Threshermen’s Convention, liked how the Baker performed, and ordered a 16 HP with 20″ wide rear wheels.

The first story I know of begins about 1927 or 1928 when apparently Great-Granddad didn’t need the engine any more (maybe old age). He wanted to give it to my granddad, J.C. Sevart, but J.C. wouldn’t take it as he thought that the other brothers would be jealous. Instead, he sold it to a Jim McCardy. (This is another story.)

Jim McCardy spent most of his life drunk, as I’m told. He liked to (as today’s kids would say) pop the clutch and pull wheelies.

One time when Jim was threshing, an uncle of mine told him that the old engine was knocking and Jim said to let it knock as long as it’s knocking out the dollars. One time he ran the belt off on the inside of the flywheel (guess that’s why the clutch arms are welded and the flywheel hub is smashed from a sledge hammer).

One time Jim ran into a post somewhere and broke the front door so a used Reeves door was used.

One time when Dad was a boy he saw Jim stretched out across a truck seat, doors open, his head hanging off the seat, mouth open, flys going in and out, and Dad (Francis Sevart) ran back to the thrashing machine with great alarm proclaiming to the men that Jim McCardy had died. They just kept working and said that they would put Jim in the back of the truck and drop him off in front of the undertaker when they went into town at the end of the day. Dad thought the men should have shown more concern for Jim, but they knew that Jim was only dead drunk.

Well, between 1932 and 1934 Granddad bought the Baker back from Jim McCardy to pull a sawmill, as the car engine he was trying to use did not have enough power. I think this might have happened in the ’40s; the piston broke and he was gone for a day to a foundry and machine shop to have another one made (it was solid) and now today there is an oversized aluminum piston to take its place. After Granddad thought that the Baker was worn out (which it was), he parked it. He must have thought of all the things he could make out of the platform irons and took everything off. When he needed bolts he would take them out of the lugs. (Dad later found the missing lugs and put them back on.)

After the Baker, Granddad bought a used 1919 19-65 HP Port Huron to continue saw milling and thrashing until I don’t know when. The Port Huron is still around today. After Granddad died in 1960, Dad brought the Baker from the farm to his home located in the middle of Girard in 1961. In about three or four years the engine was moved to Fort Scott and was crudely and quickly rebuilt just enough to make it run. It was run at the Pioneer Harvest Fiesta Show from 1966 to 1984 when the crankpin became loose in the crank disk. The engine was hauled home in 1988 and, since then, a little at a time most everything has been rebuilt and remade. Two years ago I got a new set of water tank castings and knew I’d no longer need the platform and tanks that were made in the ’60s. Now I have a new one, like it’s supposed to be, thanks to Harold Fry of Hartford, Michigan. I also want to thank W. T. Kuhlman of Ottawa, Ohio; Casey and Kim Besecker of Arcanum, Ohio; Louis Carson of Swanton, Ohio; Mark Sheldon-Kenny Huber family of Connerville, Indiana. Since I’ve gotten to know these men, I have been to a few shows back east to see their Bakers and others, as there are no other Bakers in my area to help me in this restoration.

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