16 hp. Russell steam threshing engine doing barn threshing, September 1906. LeRoy Blaker, age 17, standing at extreme left.16 hp. Russell steam threshing engine doing barn threshing, September 1906. LeRoy Blaker, age 17, standing at extreme left.
Alvordton, Ohio 43501.
As I was born on a farm near Minden, Nebraska, in the late 1880's, I will relate some of the most interesting incidents. Minden is located 130 miles west of Lincoln on U. S. Highway Route 6, and is the county seat of Kearney County.
My Grandfather, Samuel W. Blaker, and family moved there in 1883, or the year the B. & M. railroad was built. The State gave the railroad every other section of land for 20 miles back to get the railroad built and settlers in to settle there. Grandfather bought 160 acres of the railroad for $8.00 per acre. He was a Quaker from the Quaker settlement near Doylestown, Pennsylvania.
About my first remembrance of a threshing engine was a J. I. Case center crank engine that had poor drive wheels with loose spokes. I remember hearing farmers say they were afraid the wheels would collapse and cause an accident.
In the Summer of 1899, my oldest brother and our father had been to Minden to do their weekly shopping, and on the way home saw a threshing outfit working. Brother Will said the straw carrier was round and the straw was going out of it at a fast rate. Well, that proved to be a blower on the thresher.
Due to drought and grasshoppers, my parents and family moved to Calhoun county, Iowa, in 1900. They bought a 120 acre farm just five miles south of Rockwell City. Some of this land was natural prairie that had never been plowed. In that black soil, the plowman had to keep his plow bright or it would not slide off the moldboard of the plow.
1902 was a wet year for harvesting grain, and threshing outfits had a hard time moving on the black dirt roads. The season was so wet we had a field of oats we could not get a grain binder in to harvest them.
Our thresher - a Mr. Clark - had a new Avery hand feed thresher with a Sattley swinging stacker, and a 13 hp. Nichols & Shepard engine. I well remember hearing the click of the valves in the cross-head boiler feed pump when the engine was working. That outfit pulled into a neighbor's yard on a Saturday evening to be ready for threshing on Monday morning. The engineer steamed it up on Monday morning, and when he warmed up the engine, it started to run away. After several trys and no better, they dismantled the governor and found the valve missing - someone had stolen it in the night-time because they did not get the job. Well, all of us had surmised who it was. A new valve was telegraphed for and the outfit was ready for work in a couple of days.
That year a new cylinder corn sheller came to the neighborhood to replace the old six hole spring sheller. It was bought by the Rhodenius Brothers, and they ran it with a Russel Compound engine. That year, I also remember seeing a new Winnesheik engine as they were called in Iowa. They were sold by the Cascaden-Vaughan Co., of Waterloo, Iowa, and built by the Leader Machinery Co., at Marion, Ohio.
Due to my father's ill health, he sold that farm and equipment and we moved to near Hudson, Michigan, in March, 1903. My father passed away in 1904. My mother re-married in 1906, and my step-father lived about 15 miles south, or two miles over into Ohio which is near my present home.
About that time - 1906, I bought a 2 hp. vertical boiler and steam engine built by Chas. P. Willard & Co. of Chicago, I11. I could steam it up on a bushel of corn cobs for fuel.
My step-father had the largest barn in the country built from native hardwood in the early 1880's. It was 45 ft. wide, 105 ft. long, and 21 feet from stone foundation to eaves. It had a double barn floor with room enough for a team and wagon to turn around inside. That barn was an impressive sight as it was painted red and striped in white, with two ventilating cupolas on top. Am sorry to say that nice barn with all its contents - farm machinery and 100 tons of hay - burned to the ground on October 16, 1906. About the turn of the century, Northwestern Ohio was noted for its fire-bug gangs. If the owner had lots of insurance, they would set fire to your buildings, for pay, and lots of buildings were burned for spite. My step-father was not implicated in anyway whatsoever, as it was a great loss to him.
In those days, most bundle grain was stored in barns and threshed in late Summer, and the grain in that barn was threshed about a month before the barn burned. The threshing outfit consisted of a 16 hp. Russell steam engine, with steel smoke-box, and Buffalo-Pitts Niagara-Second grain thresher. That threshing outfit was owned by Jacoby & Mephan of Alvordton, Ohio.