Farm Collector

The Engine Wasn’t There!

1961 West Side Drive, Rochester 24, New York

Back in 1899 in the days of wind, water, muscle, and steam
power, an engine was humming merrily along with a wrench tied to
the safety valve, so some say, and the threshing was proceeding at
a lively clip on a farm near the sleepy little town of Hamilton,
New York. The day was a pleasant one and Dan Stokes, owner of the
rig, surveyed the scene with satisfaction as he sauntered over to a
position beside the engine to replenish the water.

He reached for the injector valve handle but — the engine
wasn’t there. He looked up through the cloud of steam to see
the engine going end over end over the barn spewing steam and fire.
The front wheels dropped off, crashed through the roof of the barn
and injured two men. The remainder of the engine continued on and
in landing plowed a big furrow and partly buried itself in the
ground on the other side of the barn out by the road, its crown
sheet another victim of low water.

The two injured men were taken out of the barn before it, the
equipment and the grain burned to the ground. One of the men (name
forgotten) recovered. The other, a Mr. Leonard White, a
neighborhood friend of my mother’s people, died that night. No
harm was done to the owner standing beside the engine as it was
being catapulted up, other than to knock his hat off in

With his wrecked engine on the wrong side of the barn, two men
injured and the barn and equipment in flames, hatless old Dan
summed up the situation with an utterance that has endured as a
local classic, ‘G-d, never saw it do THAT b’fore’.

My father in company of his parents went over to view the ruins
and, being a young engine operator, he was interested in two things
there, the engine and a young lady in company of her parents. The
young lady was mostly interested in the young man and so here am I
to write this story.

  • Published on Sep 1, 1960
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