Sweet Sixteen The Story of Old Betsy

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Leyland Creed from Indiana blocks the wheel while Bob Johnson lines up the 22 HP Keck Gonnerman engine.
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Photo, Bob Valentine, Monticello, II. checks a log on the 1889 Gaar Scott sawmill with overhead blade.
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Left to right: Dean Cole, Harvey Hatchel,John Helm, Leonard Jackson, and Russell Helm stand in front of Dean Cole's 20 HP Minnie.
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L to R: Rick Nolan George Carney, Fred Nolan in front of 30-60 Pioneer tractor before being transported to the Festival
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Don Brooks, Kansas, operates the 20 HP Canadian Reeves pulling the heavy six bottom Reeves traction plow.
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Photo checking the water supply on his 18 HP return flue Huber is Mart Coslet of Murdock, II.

RR #2, Box 178 Arcola, Illinois 61910

A small, almost deserted town in Southern Illinois and a small
steam engine still belted up to an old sawmill immediately caught
our attention as my family and I were returning home from the
Pinckneyville Steam Show a little over a year ago. We parked our
car and waded through the weeds to where a 16 HP Port Huron engine
sat. It had been there many years, for the wheels had sunken down
in the mud, trees were growing up and around the engine, iron was
piled everywhere in and around the engine, and the bees had made
their home in the engine and let us know when we got too close.

Mr. Roy Schurr, proud past owner, standing beside his 16 HP Port
Huron, which had sat in same place for 42 years. Note unusual
20′ wide rear drivers. More Festival photos.

The engine was different than any I had seen before. It had a
custom factory railroad type cab called a ‘Loco Cab’ which
had actually protected and preserved the engine from the weather. I
was delighted with this little engine that looked more like a
model. My husband then said what I hated to hear’It’s a
lapseam.’ Now you would have to be aware of the problems of
owning a lap-seam engine in Illinois to understand the problems,
one of which is inspection of the engine by the State. One could
never expect to get more than 100 lbs. pressure no matter how good
the boiler was. We realized we could not plow with this engine, but
there would be plenty of other things this little ‘Sweet
Sixteen’ could do. So with that thought in mind we set out to
find the owner. We found out that it was now owned by three
brothers. Their father had passed away years before. A brother had
fought in WW II and had lost his life in that war. The father had
left the engine belted to the sawmill since 1945. His interest was
there no longer, and the little engine sat. The engine had been
named ‘Old Betsy’ by the threshing crew and the town and
had since become a landmark. A neighbor we talked to said he would
sure miss seeing the little engine if anyone bought it, because it
had been been sitting there as long as he could remember. Well, to
make a long story short, we came back after the bees had hibernated
in order to thoroughly inspect the engine. We found the boiler was
a good one and after finding some of the parts of the engine in the
lot, we made an offer which was acceptable to the remaining

Several weeks later, we returned with a low-boy, a Kubota, and
our good friend, Russ Cade of Monticello, Illinois. Russ was armed
with a torch in case it was needed and immediately jacked up the
wheels, freeing the wheels so they would turn and freeing the gears
so they would turn. The trees were then cut down and we were ready
to load. The engine had been protected by a pan over the okestack,
weighted down by a brick. No, the pan did not go with the engine.
It must stay. The Port Huron arrived in Arcola just in time for the
bees to come out. We made sure the heirs and the neighbors knew
where the little engine was going and to welcome them to visit us
at the Douglas County Historical Steam Festival, always on Labor
Day Weekend!

We are still at war with the bees but cannot wait to completely
restore this little engine. Make a note on your calendar now to
visit ‘Old Betsy’ at Arcola on Labor Day Weekend!

Farm Collector Magazine
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Dedicated to the Preservation of Vintage Farm Equipment