THE KITTEN ENGINES AND SEPARATORS


| September/October 1990



Mr. and Mrs. Florenz J. Kitten

The following history; is excerpted from an unpublished manuscript titled History of Town 3 S. Range 4 W. and Vicinity, written in 1951 by John H. Weber of Ferdinand, Indiana. The manuscript was sent to us by Jerry Kitten, Rt 2, Box 6, Slaton, Texas 79364

Mr. and Mrs. Florenz J. Kitten, Sr. on April 29,1902. Florenz J. Kitten Sr., born October 25, 1840 in Germany, died March 22, 1920 in Ferdinand, Indiana. His wife, Katherina Leigers Kitten was born June 1, 1850 and died May 6, 1829

Florenz J. Kitten, Sr., a son of Henry and Theresia Heeke Kitten, was born in Germany October 25, 1840. His father, who was a maker of wooden shoes, came with his family to Dubois County in 1850 and settled on a farm northwest of Ferdinand, Indiana, now owned by Fred Hoffman. Here Florenz grew up and received his education in the Indian Creek School, located on a farm now owned by Valentine Fleig. On the Kitten farm was one of the old time upright water powered saw mills. It was located on the Hunley Creek 100 feet south of the steel bridge, southwest of Steel Bridge Station on the Ferdinand Railroad. Florenz took a great deal of interest in the mill and sometimes operated it. He left the farm when he was 19 years of age and took up carpenter work, which he followed until 1868, when he married Miss Katherina Ligers. A son, Joseph F. Kitten, was born to them July 9, 1870. In 1868 he built a home for himself and his bride but he also built a machine shop in his home and began to make threshing machines. After several unsuccessful attempts to use wind power to run the house shop, a wire cable was stretched across Indiana Street to Peter Mueller's mill. From this steam operated flour mill the house shop was run with steam by remote control. The first Kitten separator was tried out on the Gerhard Auffart farm. This separator and the first portable Kitten engine was sold to Fidelius Jerger and Michael Egler, who used the Ferdinand-made machinery with much success.

As his business increased, he built a shop and then added to it from time to time until it took on the present form, size and importance. A foundry was built in connection with the main shop. In 1882, he commenced the manufacture of traction engines and in 1885 he had built three of them.

The Kitten machines were invented and manufactured especially for this community but were also successfully used in other states.

In 1882, John Ritter of Mariah Hill, George Smith and John Braunecker of St. Henry reported that they had threshed 112 crops with a Kitten separator. The average income per crop was $20 and a total income for the 1882 season was $2240.