THE IRON MEN in 1895

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R. Benjamin Hayes
Nicholas and Shepard outfit at work. Courtesy of R. Benjamin Hayes, Route 3, Homes, Michigan 49245

R. 3, Homer, Michigan

This story is about some of my father’s threshing machines.
He had a 16 hp Advance Engine with the strait lugs on the drive
wheels and a Rumely 34 x 54 Separator with web straw carrier and
hand feed and weigher and bagger one of the first to have a weigher
to weigh the grain around this part of the country.

As I was born May 10, 1891 I didn’t get a chance to work
much with that outfit.

My father’s first outfit was a 10 hp Nichols and Shepard
Traction Engine and a N & S Viberator Separator, hand feed and
straw carrier and the Old Talley box, for measuring the grain.

I have most of my father’s account books, as far back as
1890 where it referred to the threshing of grain at the price of
1-1/2 cents for oats and 2-1/2 cents for wheat and rye per

The prices for labor was from $1.00 to $1.50 per day and it
wasn’t just 8 hours – it was at least 10 hours and sometimes
longer when they had to move at night to the next job, maybe 4 or 5

Also it shows where he sawed long polies into stovewood with his
buzzsaw and 10 hp N & S Engine and (one man at $ 1.00 a day)
team and tank wagon for the big price of $.50 per hour or $5.00 for
10 hours work. Remember this was in the 1890’s not 1973.

Well I guess you old timers don’t care too much about the
Good Old Days some people tell about.

My father was Frederick B. Hayes born Feb. 2, 1859. He threshed
for about 25 years. He also had a Reeves sawmill with cast iron
husk and  Birdsell No. 1 clover huller and an Appleton 26 inch
cut silo filler and 80 acres of land with house and barn and a
little shop where he would shoe horses for his neighbors for only
50 cents for four shoes. He would go out in the spring and shear
sheep for 3 cents to 5 cents per head.

Well I started to go threshing when I was 13 years old. Dad
bought a new outfit that year, 1904 it was a 16 h.p. Reeves
Cross-Compound Engine and a 30 x 46 Nichols and Shepard, with
Feeder and Blower and weigher. Not very many had straw blowers, and
I was the kid to tend the blower. Dad said that’s a kid’s
job -just pull those ropes back and forth. One day I was sick and
couldn’t work. Well from there on they didn’t say any more
about that beings a kid’s job. The next year I was 14 and I had
learned a lot about operating the engine, so Dad said I could have
the engine to take care of, and I did. It was a very nice engine to
fire and operate. I had only one bad thing happen, I let the ashes
fill up under the grates and melted them down. They were Rocker
Grates -well, Dad didn’t fire me. This is a true story about
threshing oats fast for the size of the separator. The separator
man was Floyd Stanham and he and I liked to see how quick we could
set the machine and be threshing. Dad had a two-way level bolted on
the frame of the Separator, so we had to have it right, or

Well, we were about an hour late getting to this little jobs of
oats. They had all the loads, loaded. It was one of those years
when the oats didn’t get very tall, the bundles were about 18
inches long, but the oats were well headed and very heavy. As we
pulled in from the road I looked at my watch, it was about 8 rods
back to the field, and in just 1 hour and 18 minutes we were out in
the road again and the tally said 528 bushels.

Well about 1908 Dad traded his 16 hp Reeves for a 20 hp Reeves
Cross Compound. I will send some pictures of it, the next time if
this doesn’t end up in the waste-paper box.

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