1060 Chestnut Road, Ann Arbor, Michigan
He was born in 1857 and, when he died in 1946, was just short of
90 years of age. He farmed a substantial acreage and owned and
operated Threshing machinery in a community of good farmland about
24 miles west of Toledo, just south of the Michigan State line.
This community was about 8 miles northwest of Swanton, Ohio, where
the A. D. Baker Factory was located. My father was a friend of Mr.
A. D. Baker, and a loyal user and booster of Baker Traction
My father operated Threshing machinery for a period of over 50
years, startingin the year 1884 when he bought John Baldwin’s
one-half interest in the Luke-Baldwin ‘Horse Power’ Driven
Threshing Outfit. He and John Luke were in business for 2 years at
which time his brother, Daniel Habel, bought Mr. Luke’s
interest. The Habel brothers operated their machinery in
partnership for 18 years until 1904 when Daniel Habel sold his
interest to his next door neighbor, Dallas Cook.
The Habel-Cook partnership was dissolved in 1907 when my father
bought out Mr. Cook’s interest. From that date, until he quit
threshing in 1938, he was the sole owner of his Outfit with the
exception of 2 years in the early 20’s when he was in
partnership with Arthur (Teed) Perkins. One factor that influenced
the purchase of Mr. Cook’s interest was the fact that my two
older brothers, Clarence and Philip, were now old enough to help
operate the machinery. They had worked with the Outfit from the
time they were real young boys. Clarence as the Water Hauler and
Philip as a Hand Feeder. Philip prided himself as a fast, steady
Feeder, and wore a heavy re-inforced leather glove on his right
hand so that in his eagerness to keep the cylinder full his hand
would not be cut by the band cutter.
I, who was 10 years younger than Philip, started as Water Hauler
when I was 12 years old, graduating in time to Engine Man and then
Separator Tender. My younger brother, Carl, also started as Water
Hauler (or Water Monk, as we called him) at an early age,
graduating in time to Engine Man. When he was Engine Man he, in the
interest of fuel economy, tried to hold his steam pressure to a
variation not greater than 5 lbs.
My father, over the years, worked as both Engine Man and
Separator Tender. My brothers, Clarence and Philip, also did both.
Other men in the community who worked as Separator Tenders for my
father were John Schug, Grant Fleming, Simon Krieger, Purdy Cole,
Dan Griesinger and Frank Fleming.
As mentioned above the original Outfit was ‘Horse Power’
Driven and the Separator was, I believe, a Leader with of course
Hand Feed and Straw Carrier. The first Steam Engine was a Horse
Drawn Russell which was later replaced with a Self-Propelled
Russell. The Leader Separator was replaced by a Russell with Swing
Straw Carrier, which I understand was quite an innovation in those
days. The first Clover Huller was a Birdsell. The date of my first
personal memory of the Outfit was approximately 1904. At that time
it consisted of a Russell Engine, Frick Separator with Hand Feed
and Wind Stacker and Hand Feed Birdsell Huller with Straw Carrier.
It is of interest to note that with the advent of the Wind Stacker
some of our neighbors refused to have my father thresh for them
claiming that the Wind Stacker made it impossible to get all of the
grain out of the straw.
The machinery above was followed in turn by 16 horse power and
then 18 horse power Baker Engines, Advance, Advance-Rumely and
Aultman Taylor Separators, and a Rumely Clover Huller. My father
never owned Ensilage Cutters or Saw Mills, but teamed up with James
O’Neal and Arthur Perkins for many years in sawing lumber, and
with Arthur Perkins in cutting ensilage.
Some interesting side-lights recalled are-
The time when the governor belt broke on the last Russell engine
(with the engine man down talking to the huller tender) and, as a
result, the old Birdsell Huller ran so fast that its insides
literally flew to pieces.
The summer that the heat blasted the Alsike Clover so that there
was little seed, and we would hull all day and get maybe only 2
bushels of clover seed for our work.
The time that Jesse Baldwin (grandson of the original partner)
risked his life by reaching over the band knives from the top of
the Separator to grab a pitch fork (that had slipped out of the
hands of one of the pitchers and was stuck in a bundle on’ the
feeder), to keep it from going in and breaking up the cylinder.
The summer when I was 10 years old and the pump on the Water
Wagon did not work, with the result that the Water Hauler
(brother-in-law Frank Krieger) and I pail-dipped water to fill the
tank all season long. (My father was quite conservative when it
came to spending money, and did not buy us a new pump. He thought
we could fix the old one.)
The regularly recurring experience of getting stuck on the sand
hill in front of my grandmother’s home, and using fence rails
from her fence to place under the drivers so we could get out. (She
did not approve of this.)
Dan Greisinger’s story of how, when he worked as an Engine
Man for Charles Drumn, he solved a work problem. It seems the
farmer delivered a load of fence rails to the engine along with a
hand buck saw with the idea that Dan would saw the wood to length
and use it for fuel. Dan placed the long rails directly in the fire
box with the result that the fire door was left open and the steam
pressure soon was gone. When the farmer came to inquire the cause
of the shut-down Dan told him the wood was a little too long.
Moving the Outfit at night over narrow country roads and bridges
with only a lantern hung on the front end of the engine for light,
and guessing in the dark at steam pressures and water levels.
During the early years my father and his partners did not have
much competition, and with many of the farmers storing the bundled
grain in stacks and barns before threshing, the season or
‘run’ was quite long; however, as time went on, a number of
other men bought and operated Threshing Outfits in our general
area. Among the early operators were T. M. Cazie, Ed Hallet, Frank
Knapp, Champion and Ottgen, Ed Gifford and Perkins, Sr., followed
in turn by Chas. Drumn, Brooks Batdorf, James Batdorf, Teed
Perkins, Fred Welch, Chet Wilbur and Joe Mossing. Late comers were
the Baldwin Brothers, the Still will Brothers and Claude
With the advent of gasoline tractors the small community
Threshing Machines finally supplanted the custom Threshers with
their big Steam Outfits. My brother-in-law, W. F. Smith was a
partner in one of these community Associations. Finally, the
Combines supplanted community Threshing Outfits.