Neighbor and employee of the Pickett family as told to J. W.
(Lon Pickett owner, 1924 new)
Lon Pickett was an eccentric bachelor who owned many engines.
His favorites were Keck, Baker and Rumely. He had known
Advance-Rumely to have built at least one 35 hp. plowing engine in
the fall of 1922. However, he was unsuccessful in persuading them
to build an identical engine for him. Keck-Gonnerman had a new 28
or 30 hp. on hand; but it was too light for Mr. Pickett’s
After contacting all builders of large engines and availability
of supply, he decided on a Reeves already built. It did not suit
him exactly, so it was reshipped to Indianapolis (Sinker-Davis
Works) and the following alterations were made:
The eccentrics were moved inside and a radial or Baker type
reverse motion was installed. The crankshaft was cut on the left
side and an eccentric water pump was mounted where the left hand
flywheel could have been used.
This engine was so heavy, we had 4 inch thick by 12 inch wide
planks carried on water tanks for crossing culverts and bridges.
You just couldn’t get around without them and even then we had
One evening in 1924, Mr. Pickett started home with the rig after
a disagreement with his customers over the havoc wrought by the No.
8091. He crossed the Cloverleaf Division of the Nickel Plate
Railroad near his home. He got a little crosswise of the track and
it finally took a Huber 20 hp. and a Baker 30 hp. and all night to
get her off the track. I do not recall what it cost Mr. Pickett for
track repair and delay of trains. That big Reeves engine cost a
pretty penny for him not to get any real returns from it.
That was the only threshing it ever did to my knowledge. 1 had
heard a large operator named Ortman, whose family still runs a
large well drilling outlay, had gotten this engine from the estate.
You know, that outfit stood in the shed just east of Greentown for
about ten years.
Now this Reeves engine had some special things on it. Lon
didn’t like a Reeves anyway, but some of his objections were
overcome in this particular engine. He had said it (the No. 8091)
was the last big D.C. simple built by Emerson Brantingham. Lonnie
had bought several engines and experience taught him the bolted
brackets on boilers were not sound design. He had a 30 hp.
‘Canadian type’ Baker which taught him part of this lesson.
The No. 8091 had two individual center crank engines. He said this
was sound design, and wing sheeted throughout. The intermediate
gear was mounted similar to a Rumely and you wondered if Rumely
built it or was copied.
You know, Lon used to go west and follow the wheat harvest, and
when finished he would sell the rig at the end of the run. I guess
he intended to do that with the No. 8091, but of course his health
failed and he died in 1932.
NOTE: by James W. Chandler, 54 Taylor Street, Frankfort,
Indiana. The Saga of Reeves No. 8091 should be settled with this
note. The writer first saw her standing in a shed beside a 44′
x 68′ Gaar-Scott separator in 1932. A friend of the family had
told us of the engine being for sale, and he made arrangements for
us with the ‘executor’ for us to see it. The No. 8091 was
about the biggest thing I ever saw. It was decided not to buy it
because of its great weight over 26 tons.
In the spring of 1938, Ed Ortman (whom 1 knew) acquired her and
threshed with her a day or two. He had a large Advance-Rumely d.c.
and it was rather roadworthy for its size. I passed the Ortman
place and there stood the No. 8091 with a full head of steam and no
place to go. The tile ditches and culverts would not support her,
so they ran her home.
That fall, Patty Voohees, a large sawmill and gravel operator,
got hold of her. She stripped gravel pits at Galveston, 7 miles
northwest of Kokomo, for a year. The heavy valves were too much for
the reverse motion, which was proven to be a Keck-Gonnerman.
The mechanism laid under a bunk-house at Makomis Brothers until
after World War II. In 1939, the Makomis family used her in a
sawmill, and there, she was stripped of her spacious platform and
coal bunker. She also had another innovation. Her cylinders were
removed and equipped with the new pistons 8′ and her cylinders
rebored from 8′ to 8′. This made her 8′ x 14′ bore
and stroke respectively. The Sinker-Davis tags were on her at the
time of the fire. She was equipped with a Gentry reverse gear
similar to a Baker or Butter-field and Baker type piston valves
The No. 8091 spent another year with the Makomis boys and then
was sold to Huffman of Walton, Indiana. To trace her path is like
unto the battle of the Bismarck (German Gunship, World War II.) She
started 12 miles east of Kokomo, Indiana, to 3 miles west of
Kokomo, then 5 miles south of Galveston, then 7 miles northwest of
Walton, Indiana, 12 miles from Kokomo. (Never far from Kokomo.) Her
travels were less than 50 miles. She showed absolutely no wear.
This is one of the few Reeves I ever saw with both Canadian Crown
and ASME badge plate above fire door.
This boiler was identical to the 40 hp. Compound except the
smoke box was shorter.
No way, am I intending to belittle anyone or hand out guarded
insults with this comment. But, when we first ran this picture of
the No. 8091 back in the fifties, we had at least one letter from
every grain producing state in the union and a couple from Canada.
Each and everyone had seen the No. 8091 in or near his area.
We had at least two phone calls from Illinois, which we went to
see. There was a 25 hp. very much like the No. 8091, whose number
was 8129. This led us to believe there were other units of the same
type as No. 8091. The Big Reeves, as rebuilt, was the most powerful
engine I ever saw. There is no doubt that a similarity exists
between the Reeves No. 8091 and a 18 hp. Keck Gonnerman in
appearance, engines only. But, the remarkable difference is the
size and style of casting, and the clutch.
The Reeves was two center crank engines of almost identical
design. The Keck-Gonnerman was the same as two single cylinder
engines, one right hand, the other left hand. The cross head guides
were the open end type, while the Reeves was the closed design. The
cylinders were EB design.
The Reeves had about twice the distance between piston centers
as the Keck crank throws. That was why her cylinders were so wide
apart. I do not know who made the patterns for either the Keck or
Reeves engine beds. I had asked Mr. Matthews or Reeves Historical
Society, with no luck. They well may have been made by the same
person or company. In any event, it is a shame the Reeves No. 8091
was not sold in an area where she could roam at will.
This material has been examined by Mr. Gene Pickett, next
surviving relative of Lon Pickett and he adds that, ‘the big
Gaar-Scott separator was burned and junked when no buyer was found
Mr. Morris Rush, only known living operator of No. 8091, concurs
both the above accounts. Affidavits obtained by self-addressed,
stamped envelope, plus fees.
The late LeRoy Faucette, factory representative for
Keck-Gonnerman, had told me on occasions that the engines of Reeves
No. 8091 was not a Keck-Gonnerman which he gave me his reasons for
this belief would take more space than we have here.