Farm Collector

LETTER

By Staff

Louis H. Fork writes…….

I have always been interested in steam engines and threshing. I
started threshing in the summer of 1906 and have been at it ever
since so you see I have in 50 seasons. Of course, the last 5
seasons I didn’t do too much threshing for most of the farmers
started to combine their grain. But I still thresh my wheat at home
and am enclosing a picture taken in 1956 where we are threshing
with a 2175 Baker Uniflow. My son, Raymond, bought this engine in
1955 and restored it to its original paint job. This engine is an
exact duplicate of the 2175 Uniflow that I bought new in 1920. The
number on my engine was 1570 and the number on his engine is
1564.

My first threshing experience was running a double cylinder
Frick reverse Buffalo Pitts, 18 HP and Port Huron thresher. I was
working for the man I made my home with.

In 1910 he bought a complete Baker 18 HP plain slide valve
engine and a 33 x 56 wood separator which I ran for him until 1913.
He bought another Baker 18 HP and a 30 x 50 Baker wood separator
which he ran until 1913 when I bought the newest rig with Birdsell
Huller. He sold the other rig out of the neighborhood so I had a
nice big territory to work in.

In 1918 I bought a No. 9 Birdsell Huller which has done a lot of
hulling. I used it to hull my seed last season.

In 1920 I bought a complete new 2175 Baker Uniflow engine and a
33 x 56 Baker separator which I ran until 1930. Then I traded my
steam engine for a 28 x 50 Hart Paar tractor which I still have and
use and I traded the separator for a new 33 x 56 all steel Baker
separator which I still have and use. I used to get the American
Threshermans Magazine and I’m sorry I didn’t save the
issues. It surely was a good magazine for the thresher.

On the picture, my son is standing by the wheel and I am on the
separator facing the engine.

We expect to thresh with steam this year. I attended 4 threshers
reunions last year and I surely get a kick out of it. I am 76 years
old now and if I had my life to live over again would like to run
threshing rigs.

Louis H. Fork, Gibsonburg, Ohio

Jesse H. Shoemaker writes…..

It is time to send in a couple coals or miss the Album and get
clinkers in my grates and soot in the flues, to here goes the pop
valve and let off some steam.

I was a thresher man down on the Wabash at Mt. Carmel, Illinois.
Me and the late Elbern Wood, who has passed to the great Beyond,
owned six steamers, six separators, 3 saw mills, 3 bean and pea
hullers; all Kecks – Gonnermans; and think they were one of the
best. Every time I look at that 1788 Keck in the Album I think of
my last Keck, No. 1744. I have run a wide number of different makes
of engines but a Keck-Baker and Minnie were my picks.

We did most of our threshing from Mt. Carmel, south to New
Horminey, Indiana. Mr. Wood was a very good partner. Nothing ever
seemed to excite him. We were moving an engine from Indiana to
Illinois one time and one of us had snapped the clutch over center
and then backed it off a few notches so the collar and yoke would
not rub and have to be oiled. Well, this worked fine until we got
to the ferry boat across the Wabash River. The banks were
corrugated with concrete and when Mr. Wood started down the bank
the clutch came out. The farther and faster he pulled the reverse
over center, and what a racket all that iron going down towards
that boat, hit the boat, under went the end of it on to the center
and toward the other end which was some 80 or so feet from the
bank. Just as the front wheels were some 2 or 3 feet from the boat
end he slammed the clutch in and the engine stopped and began to
back up on the boat. Well, we fished the boat crew out of the
Wabash for they had gotten scared and jumped in rather than be on a
sinking boat. All had a good ‘ha, ha.’ Someone asked Mr.
Wood what he was thinking when the engine was running off. He said
he didn’t have time to think, he was trying to stop the thing.
Very cool.

One time we pulled into a barn driveway and Mr. Wood was on top
of the separator. He hopped over on to the loft, went right through
into a manger full of boxes, barrels and what have you. I ran in to
find out if he was hurt, expecting to find him badly hurt. He
proceeded to look himself over and finally said no but was skinned
from A to Z. Haven’t looked yet but feel like Z might be
skinned too.

We had lots of fun as well as lots of hard work. I still would
like to hear a Keck Single bark at damp straw a while.

Jesse H. Shoemaker, Rt. 1, Kankakee, Inninois

George Massey Gum writes……

As there was, and is being, so much interest shown in the ad of
Mr. Lee Graves in a recent issue, page 28, I am forced to tell you
that I am the one who got the engine, and I feel quite gratified to
Mr. Graves for letting me have it. After I had bought it I was so
excited that I could not sleep that night, though my wife did not
quite share my enthusiasm. I think she will come around.

When I received the Album I saw the ad the first thing. I
immediately dismissed it with the thought that I will not be able
to get that machine. Then an acquaintance saw the ad and got in
touch with me and urged me to see about it. This I dismissed, then
about hour later decided a telephone call could do no harm, which I
made. As a result of the call, I put on my cap and drove right over
there and by 2  P.M. had bought the machine.

Now my big problem is to get it on rubber, cleats I guess. If
anyone can give me any ideas I surely would appreciate it as we
just do not have any dirt roads here to drive it on.

George Massey Gum, Box 127, Frankford, Delaware

Alec McDowald writes……..

I was much interested in the article by Mr. Stueck in a recent
issue of the Album. Some of his records are good And as the late
‘Albin Barkley’ used to say, ‘that reminds me,’ in
1922 I was running a Case Outfit, 35 HP, Canadian Boiler and 40 x
60 Separator. We were threshing at Ed Eastman’s on a Saturday
evening, had just finished in the barnyard and then pulled across
the road into a field of very good oats. It was past 5 o’clock
when we got set up. We had 10 bundle racks, 2 spike pitchers in the
field and also at the machine. The crew came up to the engine and
informed me that we were quitting at 7 o’clock because it was
Saturday night and some of them would like to go into town.

The farm was rented so Eastman and the renter were supposed to
divide the grain. We had an old air cooled International truck and
three grain teams. When I shut down at 7 o’clock the tally
showed 2160 bushels of oats and they were dumped all over the yard.
Needless to say, if I could put in a couple of hours like that
again I would be glad to hang up my shovel. In ‘Soot in
flues’, ‘Anna Mae’ mentions the rigorous Pennsylvania
winters. During World War 11 a Company of negro soldiers were
training in north Pennsylvania. One of the soldiers was griping
about the winter. An old timer said, ‘Oh, it isn’t so
bad.’ When summer came the negro said, ‘Man does people
really live here when there isn’t a war on?’

Fifty-five years ago we had a number of Walter Wood Engines and
separators but have never seen a picture of a Woods in any thresher
man magazine.

Alec McDowald, Wilmont, South Dakota

Pat King writes………

Here is a picture of one of the last steam threshing rigs that I
ran. This picture was taken in 1916 and is a 20 HP Northwest Engine
and a 36-56 Nichols & Shepard Separator with Garden City feeder
and carpenter wings. The man on the separator is Charley
0’Conor, a man who has been synonymous with threshing in this
area for over half a century. If the steam threshing rig
contributed to the American way of life, then Charley O’Conor
was very instrumental in that contribution. He passed away a few
years ago at the age of 94.

I am wondering what happened to the two wheeled automatic engine
tender that used to be so prevalent during the era of steam
threshing. In fact an engine wasn’t considered complete unless
a two wheeled tender was attached.

I would like to make a suggestion for a lining up contest at the
thresher reunions. After the coupling pin is removed to see who
could belt the engine to the separator in the shortest time. I
would suggest that each contestant pay a nominal entry fee and the
proceeds or part of them go to furnish the prize money for the
winner. I would conduct the contest on a point basis. So many
points for speed in getting the machine rolling and so many points
for alignment with separator and also so many points for smoothness
of handling. It is difficult to handle an engine smoothly if the
throttle valve leaks, so the controls of the engines used in the
contests such as the friction clutch throttle valve and reverse
gear should be in good order. One may think they are quite adept at
feats of this kind, but usually someone comes along who is just a
little better. However, I would enjoy a contest of this kind very
much because after all, when one has operated steam engines for a
considerable length of time and is thoroughly familiar with them,
when he sees them steamed up and ready to go, he naturally becomes
Throttle Happy and it isn’t too interesting just standing
around watching someone else put the engines through their paces
without being afforded an opportunity to take a turn at it
also.

Mr. Pat King, Kenneth, Minnesota

George Quesseth writes…….

We are a member of the Western Steam Fiends Association which we
joined nine years ago, and as an old engineer we have gotten a lot
of pleasure out of our membership. A magazine like the Album is
quite important to us old ‘Fiends’.

I operated steam engines from the time I was 19 years old until
in the ’20’s. During those years I operated many different
makes and sizes. In the year 1912 my brother and I acquired a
Reeves machine which we used for both custom threshing and plowing.
We ran this machine for three years and then sold it. Of all the
engines I operated I like the Reeves and the 32110 Case the best. I
am enclosing a snapshot of my Reeves machine.

George Quesseth, 1040 N. Cottage, Salem, Oregon

  • Published on Jan 1, 1964
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