My Life as a Machine Man

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This picture was taken at the farm of George Snyder while threshing there. The man at the tractor with the light shirt is Mr. Snyder and the other is myself. This is the 27-42 Minneapolis tractor and Frick thresher mentioned in the article.
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Another scene of yesteryear taken near Thorn town, Indiana.
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An N & S engine owned by Gary W. Yeager, Lewistown, Montana. Mr. Yeager is at the left. Mike Tyler is on the right. Note the steam boat whistle which came off an early Mississippi Boat.
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Threshing outfit which consists of 80 hp. Case 1913 and a Huber Western Special 1916. Frank and his brother pictured they ran the outfit for 20 years.
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This Port Huron engine was purchased by a group of 12 farmers near Granville, Illinois in the spring of 1921. The operator in the picture was me, John Konneck, a stockholder in the company. We used this engine for 13 years to pull a Red River Special sepa
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Threshing scene in 1914. Outfit consists of a 16 hp. Advance engine, 36x58Aultman separator with feeder, and weigher and stacker. Owned by O. W. Bowen.
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Dan Zehr

Route 1, Everett, Pennsylvania

IT ALL STARTED BACK in 1904, my father bought a portable steam
engine made by the Russell Mfg. Co. It was a second-hand engine and
thresher. It was a 6 hp. engine and the threshing machine was a
Russell with 24′ cylinder, hand feed and strait drag stacker
and they measured the grain with half-bushel measures. I was too
young to help much, but I was very interested in that out fit and
having no water tank they had to carry water or haul it in barrels
on an old Plank sled.

Often times I would help carry water in buckets to keep the
engine running. He used that outfit for two years and later got an
8 hp. Frick traction and then my part came. My father took me along
to fire the engine. I was then 10 years old but I had learned
enough to do my work. As I could not move the engine on the road or
put it in the belt my father did that and we would thresh right
along, my father feeding the machine and about every hour for the
first week, he would come out from the barn to see that I was doing
my work. I knew I had better try to do right, if I wanted to feel
good. We used that engine with the Russell machine several years
and later bought a 24×38 Peerless Class E machine which was a good
machine. It had hand-feed and seining drag stacker which was a big
improvement to the old strait stacker, but that brought more
trouble. The 8 hp. Frick was too small and he later got a 12 hp

By that time I was about 13 or 14 years old and had enough
experience to take the engine and machine on the road and from that
time on, I did all the moving and belting up and by that time we
had a water tank too so it went pretty good. We did a lot of
threshing and used that outfit until 1910. At that time we bought a
16 hp. 8×10 engine, Frick, and we went to Waynesboro to drive it
home. My father went by train, but I rode a bicycle, the distance
being 65 miles. I was nearly worn out when I got to Waynesboro and
the next evening we started home with the new engine. We left
Waynesboro Wednesday evening and drove night and day getting home
Sunday morning at 4 o’clock. Then we used the 16 hp. the 24×38
Peerless a couple years and our territory began to get larger and
we got a Peerless 30×46 machine with wind stacker and bagger but it
still had hand-feed and we used it for two years and bought a
Garden City feeder which was a wonderful thing at that time. But my
father sold that outfit in 1919 and quit threshing as his health
was failing and the following year I bought a 30×46 Peerless
machine and a 20 hp. Peerless Engine a N. 1. model which was a very
nice outfit and I did a lot of work with it, threshing and
sawmilling. I used that outfit until 1928 when the Gas tractor
began to crowd me out. I saw if I wanted to continue threshing, I
would have to do something else, so I bought a 12-20 Oil Pull and
28′ Case machine which did not prove very satisfactory, as I
did not have power enough so I only run that two years and I got
another 24-38 Peerless and a 20-40 Townsend tractor which was very
good. But later I got a 28×46 Red River separator which made me a
very nice outfit. During these years f have had a very hard life as
sometimes if I had a breakdown, I would work at night repairing, so
I could start the next morning. 1 used the Townsend and Red River
until 1940 and I bought a 28×47 Frick Steel Thresher, fully
equipped and a 27-42 Minneapolis tractor which I like very much.
When I belt that tractor to the machine or sawmill, I know I can
work, as it has lots of power and is reliable. Besides the above
outfit, I also have a New Holland baler and a Model Z Minneapolis
tractor which I like very much. If I have a job to do that I can do
with the little Minneapolis, I use it such as hulling clove or
tilling silos. So you can see I have grown up with the different
kinds of machines as they came into use and I think I have gone as
far as I intend to go to keep after machinery as my outfit looks
and runs like new and I try to keep it that way. I think it will
last me but I have been lost without the old steam traction engine
which I think all old steam engine fans like myself will have to
admit they are. I have been enjoying myself at Arthur Young’s
old time Reunion which I think is a very good thing. I wish there
were more reunions like them.

I enjoy meeting old friends that know what grease and coal smoke
smells like. Will say I miss the old steamer, but I am getting
along with Gas tractors very well and have a nice threshing run in
this section. I have a very fine bunch of farmers to thresh for.
They all pay good and I can depend on them and that means a lot at
this time. I do not know how long I am going to keep on threshing
yet, but I guess if a person does no know anything else, he will
keep on doing what he knows.


Dan S. Zehr, 71, Pontiac route 1, founder’ of the annual
Threshermen’s Reunion, died of a heart attack at 3 a. m. today
(August 18, 1959) at St. James hospital. He became ill about 6:30
p. m. yesterday as he was returning from the Illinois State Fair at
Springfield, where he has been serving as superintendent of

Headed Thresher Group

Mr. Zehr was president of the Illinois Brotherhood of
Threshermen and originator of the Central States Steam Engine and
Thresher’s Association. For 12 years he had been superintendent
of machinery at the State Fair.

He was a member of the Methodist Church and served as lay leader
and was founder of the Methodist Men’s Club of Pontiac.

Mr. Zehr wag a 32nd degree Mason and a Blue Lodge member at
Pontiac and a member of the Consistory of Bloomington.

At the time of his death he was serving his third term as
trustee of the Methodist Hospital board at Peoria He played mello
phone in the Pontiac Municipal Band.

Dan S. Zehr was born Sept. 15, 1887 at Princeville, a son of
Daniel W. and Katherine (Streit matter) Zehr. He was educated in
Fairbury and Morton Schools and came to Pontiac in 1935. He had
operated Zehr’s Implement Store here since 1935.

He was married to Nellie Yates on Aug. 16, 1911 in Peoria

He is survived by his wife; one daughter, Mrs. Elizabeth Jensen,
Chenoa; two sons, Dan S. Zehr, Pontiac, and Warren Y. Zehr, Peoria;
two sisters Mrs. Rose Rosenthal, East Peoria, and Mrs. Emma Smith,
Mackinaw, and six grandchildren.

That sums up a life as we see it on Earth. However, there is
more to be said. Dan was a Churchman. He loved the Church. He knew
his Lord. We must say he was an organizer. Our Pontiac Reunion owes
us berth to Dan. He loved to associate with people and was a good
conversationalist. The humorous streak in his makeup made him
pleasant to be around.

To say we will miss him is to be mild in our expression. His
life will live on and we shall cherish his memory. Elmer.

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