10845 East Adams Road, Beaverton, Michigan 48612
George, the oldest of the boys, was running steam engines in the
late 1890s. One of the first men he worked for was Edgar Bennit.
The engine was a 12 HP Advance used to run a Deering corn shredder.
They were set and ready to shred corn on Thanksgiving Day. There
was about four inches of new, wet snow that morning. In those days
there were few, or no guards to keep hands out of where they should
not be. A number of boys and young men were gathered around the
back of the shredder by the husking rolls, picking corn stalks and
leaves off the husking rolls. George made a number of trips that
morning, from the engine to the back of the shredder, to warn them
to keep their hands away from the husking rolls. He would take a
stalk of corn and stick it into the rolls so they could see it zip
through, then he told them, ‘Your hand and arm could go through
just like that corn stalk.’ But, boys will be boys. When George
got back to the engines, they were back to the husking rolls.
The women in the house were fixing a Thanksgiving meal for the
men at noon. When it was about time to shut down for their noon
meal, suddenly there was screaming and yelling from the shredder to
shut down, George knew someone was caught in the husking rolls.
Going to the back of the shredder he expected to see the worst, but
the wet snow had saved the fellow. Only his thumb and first finger
were pulled into the rolls in his wet leather mitten. They had a
very hard time getting him out as the husking roller had cut
through the mitten and into his thumb and finger. A horse and buggy
was waiting to take him to the doctor.
This ruined their Thanksgiving dinner as well as the rest of the
About sixty years later, George was in Duggan’s Restaurant
in Harrison, when two couples came in to order a meal. One man had
a stub thumb and finger on one hand. George asked him if he lost
them in a corn shredder, and he said yes. He was the man who was
caught in the shredder that Thanksgiving Day!
One day, George was firing and running a Groton steam engine
while stack threshing. In the afternoon, he heard a ticking sound
from the engine that kept getting louder. After watching and
listening to the moving parts of the engine for a while, he
discovered the wrist pin was coming loose in the crank disk. George
told the owner of the engine that it should be shut down
immediately for repairs. The owner said, ‘No, it will take less
than two hours to finish this job, then we will fix it.’
The young man tending the water wagon was a tall slim fellow who
always acted like he hated to move. He had hauled a tank of water
to the engine and put the horses in the barn, then came back to the
tank wagon where he lay down on the ground and stretched out in the
shade of the tank. The hammering of the wrist pin kept getting
louder. Before the job was finished, the wrist pin pulled out, this
let the piston slam into both ends of the cylinder. The first swipe
of the loose pitman arm broke off the water glass fittings,
spraying the water wagon with steam and scalding water. George
said, ‘I found out the young guy under the water wagon could
move fast if he wanted to. He rolled out from under the wagon onto
his feet and went over the hill with the grace and speed of a young
The Groton engine now needed a lot more than a wrist pin. George
made a trip to Lansing to get a whole new cylinder, piston, and
valve unit for the engine. It was over a week before the engine was
George worked for a while at the Nichols & Shepard factory
in Battle Creek, Michigan.
I never heard of George running steam rigs after leaving the