Reminiscences of a half century of the rise and progress of

Mechanical Agricultural Appliances within the state of california


| January/February 1959



(As set down by the late William Peterson, who died at his; Oakland, California, home in 1933 at 85; manuscript in pencil and signed by Mr. Peterson in 1929, four years before his death; loaned by his daughter, Miss Mattie Peterson of Fresno)

AFTER THE CATTLE and sheep raising period came a wheat and barley period. Miles of wheat and barley fields extending from Bakersfield to Red Bluff in the San Joaquin and Sacramento Valleys and in the lesser valleys.

The advent of this writer into the state occurred on January 1, 1878 from Illinois. (Born in Scotland and coming to this country at 17.Ed.) After a short stop in Virginia City, arriving in Sacramento on my way to Fresno. In the former city a calliope on board a steam boat named the 'General', 'Colonel', or 'Captain' Whip-pie was playing 'The Girl I Left Behind Me.' Wheat grew 10 inches high behind the planks that formed the wharf. I thought the music and the wheat a good combination to start in a state with. All prosperity starts at the plow.

At Fresno we had to add a scraper. William Armstrong, superintendent of the Convirginia (?) and California Panning (?) Mills (the man who handled most of the gold that came out of Mount Davidson, Nevada) bought 60 acres in Central Colony, Fresno. My share was one third. It's a far cry from the engineer to the old fashioned dirt scraper. Yet the scraper made Fresno. A team of mules, a plow, a scraper. Housing was negligible. Men and sows preferred to sleep out of doors, but the aforementioned improvements were imperative to achieve a home. To dump the old fashioned scraper you had to flop it over up-side-down. I got tired of that. To prevent it from going clear over, I fixed two pieces of wood at right angles to the bottom of the scraper so it would only tip half way. This worked all right as long as they lasted. Taking the scraper to have it fixed to James Porteous, a wheel right, and to a blacksmith named Ramusin. They fixed it and 'Jimmy' made improvements and got a patent on it; filled the United States with Fresno scapers. He well deserved the millions or remuneration he got. He invented and manufactured many of the vineyard implements, the revolving harrow, etc.

The wheat era of California called for a great number of implements, plows, harrows, seeders, headers, threshers, cleaners, etc. I think Matteson ? Williamson of Stockton war; among the first plow makers (Stockton Gang Plow). Baker ? Hamilton at Benicia, made plows for stiff clay land. Dan Best was the cleaner man. An Englishman near Tracey imported a steam plow about 1879an immense affair. Two large steam traction engines to be stationed at each end of the field, a cable attached to a V-shaped frame adapted to haul between stationary engines a gang of right-hand plows balanced over an axle having two wheels having the same identical mechanism for steering the plows that is now used on every automobile and truck in the motor world. These steam traction engines had the differential that is now used on all autos and trucks. It is trite to say that the differential was patented in 1842 and the steering gear in 1851.

Le Noir invented and patented the four cycle gas engine in 1843. This writer copies from a book borrowed from J. H. Budd, one time governor of the state, the book by Le Noir in French and English. The author exhausted the whole subject of gas and gasoline for motive power. He stressed the all-important need of compressing the mixture of air and gas before ignition. Indeed, that was HIS discovery and invention; the higher the compression prior to ignition, the greater the explosive force upon the piston, hence, the Diesel.