Third Generation of Steam

Excerpted from the May/June 1978 Iron-Men Album


| September/October 2004



It all began in the year of 1912 when my grandfather [first generation] purchased a new 18 HP single-cylinder, side-mounted Buffalo Pitts. He purchased a grain separator at the same time and began his threshing career, in and around Bagnell, Missouri. My father [second generation] said when they unloaded it off the flatcar there was a factory man with it to start them out on it.

This, not being a big wheat country, they would thresh about three months and build roads and run a sawmill the rest of the time. This was about par for the course for the next 15 years, at such time they purchased a 27-44 Twin City tractor which they threshed with until about 1937. My grandfather owned several engines during this time, but sold all but 'Old Buffalo' which he owned at his passing in 1939.

In the early 30s a friend of the family borrowed the engine and the sawmill to saw a tract of timber and in the process had a fatal heart attack while turning a log on the mill. The old outfit set for some years and one day my father said 'Let's go get Old Buffalo,' to my brother and I [third generation].

My brother and I cared for the engine while dad did the sawing. I don't know why, but either we had plenty of water and not much steam or was it the other way around? Well, I don't know if any of you ever fired with green sycamore slabs or not but dad being a very conservative sawyer; there wasn't much left but sap. By this time the war clouds were gathering and Uncle Sam said I Want You, and I was almost glad to go to get out of firing the engine.

My brother and I were gone from 1940 to 1947 and in the meantime dad had gotten an old car engine for the power unit for the mill. One day a junk dealer came along and offered dad $50 for her and dad said the man will give $50 for her and I don't guess we will have any further use for her and I said he will give $100 and lets keep the whistle, gauge, pop valve and babbitt out of the bearings.

In the spring of 1967, I heard of a number of engines at Columbia, Missouri, owned by H. H. Lawson. My brother and I went up and looked at them and a short time later I got this friend that got me to go to Mt. Pleasant to go with me and look at these engines. We made a trip or two and he bought a 22 HP single-cylinder Keck Gonnerman and I bought a 20 HP double-cylinder Keck Gonnerman.