The Story of a Large Engine and an Iron-Man

| September/October 1972

15700 Santini Road, Burtonsville, Maryland 20730.

This is the story of an Aultman-Taylor traction engine built in 1912, serial No. 8306. It is a 20 hp. with a bore and stroke of 9' x 11', built to carry 130 lb. boiler pressure. This engine was built by the Aultman-Taylor Machinery Co. of Mansfield, Ohio, during the winter of 1911-1912. Mr. Joseph D. Miller went to the factory to inspect the erection of the outfit while it was being built, as there were some special items on it which was not standard. A special size thresher was also built to go with it, a 32 x 56, instead of the standard 32 x 50. It is impossible to tell when he was gone to Mansfield, from his home at White Oak (no plural, please), Silver Spring, Md., as the original papers have been lost.

Mr. Miller, who was a highly skilled operator and repairman of all types of equipment, is supposed to have paid cash at the factory for the engine and thresher. This was probably done by borrowing the money on a note drawn on a local bank, as this was the local custom here in this area. It probably was in the neighborhood of $2,500 to $3,000 dollars, which was a lot of money in those days.

Mr. Miller was a well-to-do person in the community, and was known to one and all as just 'Joe', even his own family friends, fellow-workers, bankers, neighbors, children and grandchildren. Joe made his living with one hand as he had lost his right hand in a corn shredder at the age of 20. He had an hammer made with a hollow wooden handle which was tied onto his wrist with leather thongs, and later a piece of belt with a buckle. He was truly an Iron-Man and it was a pleasure to have known him. He was born in 1877 and worked with machinery until his health failed in 1949, and passed away in 1957. It was necessary for his children to knit him special mittens with round ends so they would not pucker up on the ends, and put elastic bands in them to keep them on. On one occasion he worked most of the day on a well pump in. a well pit and you can guess the surprise of the pump owner when he discovered Joe had been working alone with only one hand.

It was traditional that as he left the yard to start his threshing runs, he would blow the whistle and people on farms 5 to 8 miles away would know that Joe was on the way, and they could start to get ready for him. Many times the trips meant detours of 5 or 6 miles to avoid weak bridges, so the engine was equipped with an extra water tank as some of his runs between jobs was also 5-8 miles between water stops. The close maneuvering in some locations would not allow the use of a four-wheel water tank or a tender. The thresher and baler were enough to have to handle in a tight barn yard, especially with one hand. I might add that most of our threshing was done out of the barn loft.

He invented and installed a special straw rack and connected the blower so it ran very slowly and blew out only the chaff, and only clean straw fell on the feeder table or the baler, as they threshed in one operation. He was assisted in this by Mr. Walter 'Stump' Miller, who also ran the engine on some of its threshing runs.