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Van Buren Flywheelers 64958 M-43 Highway Bangor, Michigan

Taken from The History of Calhoun County, Michigan 1830
to 1877

Although we don’t know the publication date of this article,
it appears to be circa 1878.

There is nothing more indicative of the prosperity of a place
than its manufacturing interests; and basing the present activity
and the prospective future development of Battle Creek, Michigan,
as a manufacturing centre, upon its natural advantages and
eligibility, and upon the enterprise of its citizens, very
promising results are manifest. The most prominent establishment in
the city is that of Nichols, Shepard & Company, the proprietors
of the ‘Vibrator’ thrashing machine works. It is generally
appreciated by the farmer that the thrashing machine is one of the
most important articles of farm-machinery that the inventive talent
of the age has produced. Its province and distinctive field is to
secure to the farmer and grain-grower the net results of many
months of patient toil. Hence the manufacture of this essential
adjunct of agricultural industry, and that too on a scale
proportionately unsurpassed in the country, is an honor of which
Battle Creek feels justly proud. The nucleus around which this
extensive establishment has developed was a comparatively small
works located in West Canal Street, originated by Messrs. Nichols
and Shepard in 1848. A remarkable feature connected with its growth
and progress is the fact that it has been continuous for
twenty-nine years, there having been no change in the firm nor no
essential alteration in the class of manufacturers, except so far
as the advancement in mechanical science demanded.

An extended visit to the establishment of Messrs. Nichols,
Shepard & Company for the purpose of writing a description of
their works, enables us to submit to our readers and their
posterity the subjoined account:

As above stated, the works were originated by the present senior
members of the company in West Canal Street in 1848. There they
flourished until 1869, when they erected their present works, which
are located at the junction of the M.C. and C. and L.H. Railroads.
We first called at the office, which is a substantial building, as
nearly fire-proof in its construction as possible. It is forty feet
square, and, like the other buildings, is of brick. In it are the
main office, located on the first floor, and several other rooms
necessary for the transaction of the official business of the
establishment. It is furnished with a fire-proof vault, in which
are the safes, wherein are kept the books and other valuables of
the company. Here several clerks are employed, and an admirable
business system is observable in every department.

The building first reached after leaving the office is the
foundry, which is one hundred and twenty feet in length and eighty
feet in width, with walls eighteen feet high, surmounted with an
elevated roof, which is supplied with windows, so that the workmen
are supplied with a plentitude of light and air not generally the
case in similar establishments. Into the foundry is brought the
pig-iron, which is there cast into the different parts necessary
for the iron-work on the machines.

To the left of the office, and next on our way from the foundry,
is a large T-shaped structure, which contains several departments.
Its entire length is three hundred and fourteen feet, and its width
fifty feet. First in this comes the iron machine-shop, into which
the rough castings are brought from the foundry, and by means of a
great variety of the latest improved machinery are prepared for
their intended use. It is no exaggeration to state, relative to the
multitudinous array of machinery found in this building, that it is
equal to that of any manufacturing establishment in this state, and
excelled by few, if any, similar institutions in the Union.
Adjoining the above, and divided from it by a brick wall and
connected by iron doors, is the wood machine shop, where the
immense quantity of lumber two million feet being used annually in
the manufacture of the ‘Vibrator’ is taken in the rough as
it comes from the Michigan lumber regions, and is here converted in
the necessary sizes, shapes, and degree of finish requisite for the
parts of the thrasher for which it is to be used. This room is
furnished with every conceivable machine for the careful
preparation of lumber for plain or ornamental work. Here are
planers, matchers, tenoners, mortisers, and other apparatus, with
all the modern adjuncts of improvement and extra facilities for
rapid and perfect work. In the wheel-room alone two men are enabled
to turn out forty or more wagon-wheels per diem. Adjacent to this
is the belting department, where the large amount of belting
required for the machines is manufactured from the raw

In the engine-room, which is near the room last described, can
be seen the motive-power which runs the machinery of the
establishment. The engine is of one hundred and ten horsepower, and
was manufactured by C.H. Brown & Company, of Fitchburg,
Massachusetts, and is certainly an admirable piece of mechanical
workmanship, and without a superior in the northwest.

Here is a sketch we received on an envelope from Michael Streff,
2766 Wasson, Cincinnati, OH 45209, who does humorous

The boiler-room, which is next adjoining, contains two boilers
of sixty-inch diameter and eighteen feet in length, with sixty-six
three-inch flues. These are from the well known works of John
Brennan, of Detroit, and are made of Lake Superior charcoal
boiler-plate iron, which is the best for the purpose in use. In
connection with this is the fuel-room, which is especially
noticeable from the fact that by a very ingenious arrangement it is
made the receptacle of the shavings and refuse from the wood
machine-shop, which are conveyed into it through a large tube, the
necessary force for the purpose being furnished by a fan kept in
constant motion by the same power which the fuel is used to create.
It may also be noted here that the entire establishment is heated
by steam furnished also by the boilers, and conveyed by pipes
throughout the different shops.

Among the accessories to and located not far from the iron
machine shop is a separate building erected for use as a blacksmith
shop, which is one hundred and sixteen by forty feet, and like all
the other buildings, is remarkably well lighted. The necessary
draught for the forges is furnished by machinery. The shop is also
supplied with improved shears and punches, the former being used
for cutting the material and the latter for punching the numerous
pieces of iron required in the construction of the machines.

Next comes the setting-up room, which is conveniently located,
and is one hundred and fifty by fifty feet. Here the various parts
of the machine are laid together, piece by piece, until the
powerful instrument, which is to accomplish the work of a thousand
flails, stands complete, a marvel of mechanical excellence and

The paint-shops are buildings one of which is one hundred and
ten by fifty feet, and the other eighty by forty feet where the
process of painting the machines is accomplished, after which they
are removed to the warehouse and storage-room, which is the largest
single structure on the grounds, being two hundred and fourteen
feet long and one hundred and seven wide, and four stories high.
This building has a capacity for storing eight hundred machines,
and when well filled presents a fine display of Battle Creek

The steam fire-engine house is quite a necessary institution. It
contains a complete Sils by rotary fire-engine, supplied with water
from an artesian well. It is connected with the engine proper of
the establishment during the day, and at night is usually kept
fired up, so that in a few seconds it can be utilized. On the
grounds are five hydrants, of two streams each, so that from ten to
twelve streams can be put in play very shortly in case of fire. The
engine-house is of brick, and has a galvanized-iron roof. All the
rest of the buildings have gravel roofs.

The grounds, including the buildings, lumber-yard (in which are
kept seven million feet of lumber), and depot, occupy ninety-seven
acres. The company has a private locomotive for the transfer of
freight, and, in fact, have every facility for the systematic and
perfect conduct of their mammoth business.

In 1869 the old firm of Nichols & Shepard was incorporated
under the title of ‘Nichols, Shepard & Company.’ The
first officers were: President, John Nichols; vice-president, H.H.
Taylor, of Chicago; Superintendent, David Shepard; Secretary and
Treasurer, E.C. Nichols. The present officers are: President, John
Nichols; Vice-President, David Shepard; Secretary and Treasurer,
E.C. Nichols.

The company has a capital and surplus of eight hundred and forty
thousand dollars, and employs two hundred and fifty hands, with an
annual payroll of one hundred and forty thousand dollars.

The development of so extensive an industry required vast
enterprise, great energy, and unremitting industry, coupled with
executive ability of no mean order. Those who are acquainted with
the management of the ‘Vibrator’ Thrashing Machine Company
require no assurances from us as to the possession, by its members,
of all the qualities above enumerated. A residence of thirty years
in Battle Creek, and a close identification during that period with
its material progress and industrial growth, insure a reputation as
enviable as it is well deserved. In every state in the Union, and
wherever the agriculturist plies his vocation successfully, the
‘Vibrator’ is used, and wherever used it stands
pre-eminently meritorious.

Farm Collector Magazine
Farm Collector Magazine
Dedicated to the Preservation of Vintage Farm Equipment