STEAM DOINGS ON THE WEST COAST

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Picture from an advertisement of the elder Best Daniel
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The Ground Hog thresher in operation at Mt. Pleasant Reunion in 1951. It was really threshing with two men turning the crank... Photo by Mrs. Webster 5555Mooney, Nortonville, Kansas.
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Two big fellows ready forth fireman. Western Development Museum, North Battleford, Canada.
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Western Development Museum's outdoor storage yard at Saskatoon, Christmas Day, 1948.
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2hp steam traction that Mr. Frank Riese of Monticello, Wis., bull; for his son Edward. He drives it around the neighborhood. It has an Advance type of re-verse and runs about three miles per hour and burns coal or wood

Announcing his deal with Marquis de Lafayette  Remington
(son of the sheriff of Carthage, III., at the time of the mob
slaying of the Mocrmon leaders who were in   jail there
at the time), to build under Remington patent rights this steam
traction engine to power the Best combined; harvesters.

(From collection of F. Hal Higgins)

I went over to the funeral of C. L.. Host, Chairman of the Hoard
of the Catterpillar Tractor Co., and the man who unhitched more
oxen and mules in the western woods and ranches than any other man.
I rate him No. 1 tractor man of the world in its 184 years
development wince Col. Cugnot’s 1769 steam job. Best was 73. HP
was born at Albany, Oregon, where his father, Daniel Best, was a
pattern maker at the Cherry Iron Works for a few years after he
began building grain cleaners at Marysville in 71. I stopped in at
Slate’s ranch just south of Albany one day in 1944 and got old
Nathaniel Slate, then 92, to check his memory and records on the
Rests when they were at Albany.

‘Dan Best was a, pattern maker and a good one,’ said
Clate. ‘I had him help mo get up a combine in 1882. That was
when we found out it would take a field full of horses and mules to
pull it and began talking steam traction engines. Young Leo Best
was out to the ranch with his father a time or two. He must have
been 6 or 8 at that time.’

The Bests went back to California in 1885 and began
building’ their grain cleaners, combines and steam traction
engines for the whole, grain ranching job. Don knew Remington
(Marquis de ‘Lafayette who ha 1 a shop up the road at Woodburn,
of course. Remington took a boiler and made a steam tractor in
’85, and three years later built a bigger

one he named Rough and Ready and took it down to San Leandro for
demonstrations at the Best plant. They worked out a deal that sold
Best the right to build under Remington patents for the entire
Pacific coast. Remington told his steam tractor story in a full
page in the Pacific Rural Press, illustrated with portrait of
himself and 3 column cut of the Best built Remington pulling a Best
combine.

Clarence Leo Best grew up in the steam tractor industry,
starting in his father’s factory as soon as he was through high
school and a few terms in a San Francisco engineering college. I
met him first in 1927 when 1 came out from Chicago to join the
Caterpillar advertising staff as news editor. Hence, I have had a.
nodding acquaintance with him ever since and was granted an
interview to go over some old Best catalogs and settle, some
questions on pioneering Best tractor history, only five or six
years ago. ‘C. L.’he never cared for the Clarence Leo
handle given him by fond parents always wore a hat in the office. I
caught him in a reminiscent mood that afternoon. He went over a
1906 Best catalog carefully, pointing out drawings he had made for
this catalog after he had gone into ‘Dad’s’ factory on
completion of his engineering course across the Bay. He chuckled as
he recounted how he had delivered, demonstrated and closed a deal
for one of the Best 110 h.p. steam logging tractors. ‘This
young fellow had bought the outfit without letting his father know
that he was breaking away from the safe and sure oxen and horses.
Ho, when 1 landed at the mill, way up in the shadow of Mt. Shasta
in northern California, the old man called his son into his office
and preceded to give him a bad half hour as he, called him all the
kinds of d. f. a lifetime of frontier logging had taught him. The
son came around to me and tried to cancel the order. I did a lot of
thinking that night without any real sleep as I figured out what to
do the next morning. Here 1 was out to prove to Dad that 1 could
sell his tractors. I was plenty fresh and cocky. But I had a lot of
Dad’s steel, labor and capital tied up in this deal with 400
miles between factory and me. Right after breakfast 1 fired up the
bright new Best 110, hitched on the special Best logging trucks and
started driving in circles from mill pond to the woods and back. No
one was loading and unloading, just going through the motions of
filling my part of the contract. That went on for three hours when
the buyer came out and OK-ed the deal. You can imagine how I was
stepping when I got back to the factory and reported to Dad with a
signed check.

In the California Sacremento and San Jaquin valleys, generation
after generation of grain farmers have used Combines. Here is J. R.
Poundstone’s 1903 Best steam combine that replaced his
horse-drawn Holt of 1892 date… His grandsons, Marion and George,
with aid of Marion’s two sons, took off the 82nd grain crop
from the ranch in 1951 and 60 of these crops were combined.
Caterpillar Diesel tractors pull Harris combines the last few
crops. Picture from the collection of F. Hal Higgins

‘Some of those big 110 h.p. Hosts, each a little different,
as ordered by its buyer-as to length of boiler, face of wheel,
auxiliary steering engine over front wheel, etc., can be found in
the woods of northern California where they were sprinkled between
1888 up through the early 1900’s. The big ones like the
Phillips boys and Lloyd Burr have cornered stand 17 feet six inches
from ground to top of smoke stank, have 2-foot wheel rim face on
wheels 8 feet high, etc. We built the big wheels to get over rough
spots and stumps,’ explained C. L. Best That both Bests lived
up to their name is evident to anyone questioning logger,
freighter, miner, rancher who owned any of their products. Both
father and son knew their products and had supreme faith in them
because they knew their buyers and what they wanted in some thing
that would do their work and stand up to the job. Frank Cornell,
Cat Deere dealer at Salinas until he retired three years ago,
recounted to the writer his days with the Best factory as service
man and then branch manager at Los Angeles at the time of the pre
World War I tractor shows. ‘Every tractor being offered on the
Coast was there, but we in the Best camp knew of only two Holt, the
enemy, and Best. We would work all night to get our latest model
ready for the trials next day. CL was right at my elbow as I drove
the last and deepest stretch of gang plowing. I could smell the
clutch starting to burn and muttered, ‘We can’t do it
without burnin; out the clutch,’ I pleaded. ‘keep the
s.o.b. going!’ I heard in my ear above the engine. We made it
to the end, but the clutch was sure gone.’

A 12 hp C. Aultman Pheonix chain drive. North East of Hector,
Minn. It has been in the Johnson family since the early 1880’s.
Photo taken in 1950. (We are unable to give the name of the sender
as the name was not on the back of the picture and the
correspondence  got separated from it. Sorry)

Doc’ Wik from Minnesota Teaching History

You old steam fans who think you want to help the steam cause
will have your chance soon when Or. Reynolds M. Wik’s book,
‘Steam in American Agriculture’ comes off the University of
Pennsylvania Press. ‘Doc’ worked five years on this to get
his PhD degree from the University of Minnesota and win the
American Historical Society’s $1500 prize. His degree and work
got him his new post at Mills College, in Oakland, Calif., where he
has just arrived to teach History and Government Wik is a close
friend of Hans Anderson in the engineering department of
Minneapolis Moline Co., and also had fine cooperation from J. I.
Case’s advertising manager Wirt and Case Eagle Editor Durgin as
well as personal contacts with many high officials of the present
International Harvester, Frick, Ford, Cater pillar, Minneapolis
Moline top brass. Doc and wife dropped in on me one evening after
his arrival in California. His very Capable and loyal wife was a
librarian at the University of Minnesota. In spite of a very heavy
teaching program at this fashionable female institution of higher
learning, I managed to get Doc away one evening for the Tractor and
Implement Club dinner program in Berkeley. The club secretary has
promised to give Doc an evening about the time his book comes out
late this year or early next. There should be a strong rallying
round by all you steam fans as well as anybody historically minded
on mechanization to buy at least one copy and urge your local
library to do likewise. That may help get more of such literature
published.

Dr. Glenn Threshing Painting Restored

I got my second look at the Andrew Hill painting of the
world’s record threshing scene of 1875 when it was shown at the
Glenn county fair at Orland Calif., recently. 1 first saw it
hanging on the wall of a ranch house one might on a special trip
out west of Corning where a reader of California Farmer-reported it
after my story of the Glenn ranch with reproduction of the
engraving made by Pacific Rural Press in 1876 appeared about five
years ago. It was out on the old George Hoag ranch. Hoag was
Glenn’s super blacksmith who built all the wagons, headers,
etc., when they couldn’t buy such items big and rugged enough
to suit their demands. Cn threshers, each and every one of’ the
six or seven that Glenn Ranch operated to harvest their 55,000 to
66,000 acres of wheat. Case; Nichols, Shepard and Co., (1876 name);
Geiser; Pitts, and Gaar, Scott threshers were used after a lot of
working over in the shops of George Hoag. He added the Jackson
feeders on both sides and lengthened the cylinders to 48 inches,
say the records of the day. The biff boys of the steam straw-burner
thresher industry annually made California trips to have a look at
these frontier wheat growers who were never satisfied with what the
factories built and kept demanding bigger and better to equip their
men to compete against the world in wheat production. John Nichols
from Battle Creek, Mich., was there. Leonard Ames in his top hat
was on!, from Oswego, in 1876. Ransome. Sims and Head sent one of
the famous Ransome clan over to San Francisco from England to
introduce their strawburning portable engine with the Russian
(Schemiath) patent burner. But when it came to steam engines, it
was always Enright or Rite.

A scene just after the soft plug went out. This was not unusual
as we were using artesian water and going through heavy sod it
would pull over and out would go the plug. We overcome this by
taking a tip from the American Thersherman, by putting 1 quart of
cylinder oil in the boiler before starting in the morning. This
worked though a very bad practice. Morris Bowlinge, 1107 Jefferson
Street,Toledo. Ohio.

NOTE

(This picture should be read in conjunction with the picture of
the N and S 22 H.P. on page 12, Sept.-Oct., 1951 issue

The engine in this famous painting was the 18 h.p. Enright that
blew up three years afterwards, turning somersault into the big
threshing machine to destroy it while killing a couple of Chinamen
and an engineer. Rice got the call to replace the Enright, his
straw burner patent having won the court battles against Heald at
Vallejo, Brown Brothers at Salinas, Enright at San Jose, and Ames
as sold with return flue boilers by Baker and Hamilton after 1876,
according to Rice’s ads in Pacific Rural Press. This painting
is the only piece of such art showing the pioneer California ranch
methods. Mrs. Houghton, granddaughter of George Hoag, told me at
her ranch that her grandfather brought Hill up from San Francisco
for that harvest of 1875 to paint this scene. It is historically
accurate. He never would reveal to his wife what the painting cost,
but the artist was there all summer and seemed to appreciate the
ranch meals. ‘He looked hungry’, reported Mrs. Hoag. When I
saw the painting that night five years ago, it had a big hole torn
in one corner from an accident to it in one of the hockings it got
from a step son to Hoag. Seems he needed a little cash now and then
for liquid celebration and or poker sittings, and would sneak the
painting out and hock it for a sum some enterprising local shop
keeper knew Mrs. Hoag would readily redeem to replace the painting
on the ranch walls. That went on for some years until the death of
Mrs. Hoag. With the passing of the first and second generations of
the Hoags, the painting was’ forgotten, neglected and left on
the walls of the house till an Oregon cattleman bought land,
building and contents. Hence, the red tape and time required to
recover it by the Colusi Historical Society and its recent repair
and showings at the three local county fairs in Tehama, Colusa and
Glenn counties.

The kickers in a community are also the sitters, they have their
feet spread out for others to walk over, so that they are always in
the way

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