Farm Collector


135 W. Dinehart Avenue, Elkhart, Indiana 46514.

Sometime ago Mr. Robert Ehret of Route 5, Goshen, Indiana, who
is interested in, and has some old steam and gas engines, gave me a
copy of your November-December 1971 issues of your Iron-Men Album
Magazine to read. He knew I was interested in old engines since my
early life was in the era of the development of steam and gas
engines, as well as many other mechanical labor saving machines.
Enclosed is the picture of an old engine and the story which should
be of interest to your readers.

First, going back to your magazine which I read with interest,
you mention events at White Pigeon and other areas near where I was
born and raised. There are quite a string of small prairies in this
area starting north of Pigeon and Sturgis Prairie in Southern
Michigan, then Northern Indiana running southeast. Next is Lima
Prairie, Pretty Prairie, English Prairie and last, Brushy Prairie.
These prairies are not large and extend probably 25 miles in
length. They were very productive in corn, wheat and oats which
farmers raised. They also bought much stock such as cattle, sheep
and hogs to feed during the winter months. This used up most of
their grain. Work was mostly done by hand and horsepower at that
time. Corn was cut by hand and placed into shocks. After it was dry
it was husked by hand and put into corncribs. The fodder was used
for feed and bedding of stock. The grain binders had just been
developed and put into use and were drawn by horses. After it was
cut and bundled the bundles were put into shocks for drying. After
they were dry, they were hauled by wagon with hayracks to the barn
or put into stacks until the threshing rig got around to thresh it
out. There were many stack yards with 4 to 6 wheat stacks. The
straw was put into stacks in the barnyard and used to bed the

This goes back to Pretty Prairies near Lima (now Howe, Indiana)
to 1887 where I was born and grew up until 1900 when we moved to
Elkhart, Indiana.

My father, Jacob Mast, was a farmer and had a small blacksmith
shop where he sharpened plowshares and did other blacksmith shop
work for the farmers. He was rather a ‘jack of all trades’
which was almost necessary in those days. He was in partnership
with Isaac

Lehmer, who was a farmer and had a small sawmill. The
partnership was a small threshing rig consisting of a portable
engine and a machine with a cylinder and spikes to thresh out
grain. The engine was conveyed about with horses and after the
grain was threshed out it was separated by hand, using large wooden
forks to shake it out. Later they worked out their first separator
using mechanical shakers and a blower. Mr. Lehrner was quite a
genius and worked out and developed quite a few labor saving
devices. First, was a picket fence weaving machine. This fence
consisted of four strands of wire, two at the top and two at the
bottom, which were twisted and a wooden picket inserted between
twists. This machine twisted the wires by turning a crank ready to
insert another picket, etc. Later, Lehman and Mast took their old
horse drawn engine and converted it into a traction engine whereby
it was driven by its own steam power. As you will see in the
picture this was done by belt pulleys and gears, with the first
friction clutch ever used which Lehmer and Mast developed and put
into the large pulley. The drive wheels were widened as shown with
lugs for traction. This was done in Father’s blacksmith shop.
This engine was used by them a few years and abandoned after new
and better engines were made. I saw this old engine setting in the
barnyard many times. About the year of 1898, two engine companies,
Nichols and Shephard Company of Kalamazoo, Michigan and the Rumely
Company of LaPorte, Indiana got into a lawsuit on patent rights on
a friction clutch. Finding out about this old engine of Lehmers and
Masts, with its friction clutch, the old engine was bought for
$1200. It was reconditioned and taken to LaPorte, Indiana to prove
in court that a clutch similar to theirs had been developed and put
into practical use prior to theirs. The picture was taken on the
loading dock of the Rumely Company with Mr. Lehmer with cap and
beard, and officials of the two companies.

Gasoline engines were also being developed at this time. Mr.
Lehmer worked out and made a one-cylinder gasoline engine. He
mounted it on a frame on three bicycle wheels, using a bicycle
chain and sprockets whereby the machine was driven down the gravel
road on Pretty Prairie, as I saw it being done. The rocker arm and
shop work were done in Father’s blacksmith shop. A few years
later, Mr. Haines of Kokomo, Indiana came out with the first
horseless carriage as they were called then. Father then later
acquired a 10 horse upright boiler engine and thresher which was
used mostly to shell corn and shred fodder. When I was 11 or 12
years old, Father used to take me along to fire and tend this
engine. In 1900 it was brought to Elkhart, Indiana where we

There was lots of grain threshing on Pretty Prairie at this time
and Uncle Daniel Plank had acquired a good up-to-date threshing rig
and did threshing for most of the community. At first the separator
had a straw carrier and was hand fed. Later the straw blower and
self-feeder came into being. At 13 years of age I went back to
Pretty Prairie working for Uncle Dan on his father’s farm (C.
J. Plank). There were interesting days with the incoming of much
farm machinery. The grain binder, manure spreader, corn binder, hay
loader and many other new and improved machines made farm work much
easier. The gas engine was soon developed, then the automobile
which changed our way of life completely.

The ‘good old days’ as they are sometimes called were
very important days. There was little education, but people had
vision and energy. They worked hard and were self-sustaining. They
didn’t have too many comforts of life and money, but were
content and happy helping each other in their work. They were not
confronted with the many complications of today which we in our
modern way of life have, and are creating.

  • Published on Jan 1, 1973
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