The early days of breaking prairie in Brown County, South
Dakota, in 1907. Mr. L. S. Abbott, who owned the outfit said,
‘I ran this outfit for six years and busted prairie sod of
about 3400 acres in South Dakota. The ten plows gave it a load but
I never stripped a gear. I usually started a breaking April 20th
and worked until July 4th. Then threshed the season. I was brought
up around a threshing machine as my Father, I think, owned the
first steam engine in Brown County back sometime in the 80’s. I
can yet picture in my mind – a little chunk of iron with a large
flywheel painted red and using a link chain for the drive on the
engine.’ (This was written January 7th, 1957, and Mr. Abbott
was then 78 years of age.)
The Steamer was purchased new from the American-LaFrance
Company, Elmira, New York, in 1903 – used at nearly all fires until
1925 when it was held in reserve as the Borough purchased a gas
rotary pump engine. It is still used in nearly every parade, drawn
by horses, and in the pumping contests that follow will still throw
a stream well over 200 feet.
I snapped this picture just after a spring shower when it was
very wet and think it is a good shot of an old steamer.
Plenty of folks have tried to buy the old-timer and some have
wanted to put it in museums but the Company says ‘no’ to
all offers. It is still in wonderful condition and any person going
through Chambersburg can see it in its old ‘stall’ at the
fire house on Broad Street, Chambersburg.
This is my nice Nichols and Shepard 16-60 steam engine, No.
13803. I bought this engine 5 years ago and overhauled it just the
way I wanted it. I like it this way. I use it for sawing logs and
for all kinds of parades. This engine is the only one in our
county. Of all the steamers I had in my long threshing years, I
like this the best! I operated 14 different steamers: Minneapolis
mostly; also Case, Northwest, Baker, Huber, Buffalo-Pitts and
Peerless. I started threshing in 1900 and threshed till 1953. This
was the last year with steam. In 1955 I sold my steamer (a 20 hp
Minneapolis, new in 1924) for $750. I thought this was a big price.
But 2 years without a steamer was enough – I wanted to buy it back
again. I offered him $1000 for the same engine and he thought that
was a joke! He asked $1400 for it, so I looked around for some time
till I found this Nichols and Shepard for $1050.