Me and the 24-75 hp. Port Huron sawmill engine I have owned fifty years. Photo was in April, 1970.
I had a lot of fun and useful work with my 2 hp. vertical steam engine, and I bought a new Dutton 3 hp. vertical boiler for it in 1913, and used it to run a buzz-saw, large wood turning lathe, feed grinder, and corn sheller.
My first experience running a steam traction engine came in the Fall of 1916. I was helping a neighbor fill silo and was hauling bundles of corn for the silo filler. The owner of the engine said he had to go to town to get some 'cylinder oil', and left the engine in charge of the water boy. The engineer got tanked up on his 'cylinder oil' and did not return. The water boy told me to tie my horses and help him with the engine. Of course that pleased me as the engine was a new 19 hp. Port Huron 'Longfellow' the year previous. I stayed with it and ran it on other silo filling jobs that season.
Well, the steam bug had gotten in my system and I bought a 10 hp. Nichols & Shepard steam traction engine the following March. Then in July 1917, I bought a 16 hp. D. June & Co. engine made at Fremont, Ohio, to start my threshing career. I needed some engine parts so wrote to Fremont for them, and got a reply from Wood Bros, of Des Moines, Iowa. They wrote they bought D. June & Co. out in 1907. Early Wood Bros. engines used the same smoke-box door and curved spoke flywheels patterns as the D. June had.
That Fall (1791) a group of 19 of us farmers bought a large type 'A' Inter national silo filler and I ran it for them for many years afterward.
The next March - 1918, I traded that D. June engine for a used 16 hp. Port Huron engine with 20' wide drive wheels. I still have the good boiler from that engine, although I have traded it off and bought it back three different times.
That Summer - 1918, a fellow thresherman was about to lose his four year old 19 hp. 'Longfellow' and wanted to trade for my 16 hp. Port Huron. He said he would trade with me for 300 dollars. We both were threshing about three miles apart and traded engines in the middle of the road the next morning. When I saw Albert Hoxie - the Port Huron Agent - a few days later, he told me I made a thousand dollars in that deal. Mr. Hoxie sold more Port Huron steam threshing outfits in the three South-Eastern counties of Lower Michigan than all other makes combined.
Many years ago, a friend of mine was riding on a train that was taking salesmen to a machinery convention. He overheard one of them ask another who sold the most threshing machinery in this part of the country. The other replied 'Old Albert Hoxie at Adrian, Mich., the poorest damned line of machinery made.' Well that tickled us Port Huron boosters.
In 1919 I tended my own '33-54' Rusher grain thresher and set that thresher 146 times for 116 different farmers. Bob Carl was one of my engineers and was with me 21 years. On March 11, 1920, I bought another used complete steam threshing outfit of the Advance-Rumely Co., consisting of a 24-75 hp. Port Huron Longfellow and a 36-58' Grey-Hound grain thresher. The engine was bought new in 1917 by Snyder Bros, of Ann Arbor, Mich., for road work, as they were road contractors. When I got it the gear pinions and intermediate gear were worn out and I replaced them and put a good jacket on the boiler. Besides about 150 days of road work when it was new, it has furnished the power to thresh over one million bushels of grain, fill 200 silos run a husker-shredder a few years, did some clover hulling, and sawed nearly four million feet of native lumber. It has been used every year since I got it (over 50 years ago) and if someone had asked me then how long I would expect to own it, I probably would have said -maybe 25 years. This engine has an Ohio Std. code boiler and looks better than it did when I bought it.
In 1922 I bought another used steam threshing outfit consisting of the 16 hp. Port Huron engine I traded off in the middle of the road in 1918, and another 33-54' Port Huron 'Rusher' thresher. In 1924 all three of my Port Huron threshers were equipped with Garden City feeders, Carpenter and Hansman steering tongues, Buller couplers, and one of them was equipped with the Wild Cat Agitator.
The year 1928 saw me with my first gas threshing outfit, a new 15-30 Mc-Cormick-Deering gear drive tractor, and a 28-46 McCormick-Deering grain thresher. The tractor outfit did not do quite as good work as the steam outfits, but was nicer to care for and get around with.
That made me four complete threshing outfits in the field that year. I had good help and appreciated them and they liked me as owner and boss.
Now a few of my corn husker-shredder experiences. In the Fall of 1917, I ran a two roll Rosenthall husker-shredder that belonged to a neighbor with my 10 hp. Nichols & Shepard engine for the season. That machine would husk 60 bushels of ear corn per hour in good corn and the engine used a 15 barrel tank of water each day.
The next year - 1918, I used my 19-65 hp. Port Huron engine to run a new McCormick 8 roll Husker-shredder for the season but it was owned by another neighbor. We were out 23 days and the new automatic crankpin grease cup oiler on the engine was run the entire time, with only one filling of less then two ounces of cup grease. I well remember Armistice Day that year when we were working and got the good news.
For the husking season of 1919, I bought a nearly new Rosenthal Big 4 crowding it too much, we broke the steel compound gear that ran a pair of rolls that were 8 ft. 4' long, and weighed 1100 lbs. each. It took a week to get repairs from Milwaukee before we could run again. The next year - 1920, I sold that machine to a group of farmers near me and bought a very good 12 roll Advance husker-shredder from Milt Huff in Medina township in Lenawee County, Michigan. Milt had a 15-30 model F Oil-Pull and had been bragging to me that he could outpull my 19 hp. Port Huron steamer. Well, I ran my steamer the 11 miles to get the 12 roll husker-shredder and when I got there, I asked Milt to belt up against my steamer. He said he had trouble starting it. I told him to get his drive belt and my engine would start his and I would let his engine run my engine in reverse before I would give it steam. He refused to do this and that ended his bragging.
I can say most of the farm wives fed my crew very good, but my men did get in a shabby place once in a while and in November 1922 the farmers help would go home for supper, but it was customary for the machine crew to stay for supper. I had four men with my machine as that big 12 roll Advance husker-shredder took two men to feed it. At this particular farm, the day's work was done and my crew had to break ice in a tub outdoors to wash up for the meal. My men went inside and sat down to the table and started to eat. The farmer's children had the whooping cough, and were seated at the table beside my crew. My engineer - Ray Harris - had just filled his plate when the girl sitting next to him had to cough and turned her head towards Ray's plate. Well, you can guess what happened - Ray held his plate up and exclaimed 'J----s look at that.' Well, the crew got up and went home for supper. That 12 roll Advance shredder would husk 250 bushels of ear corn per hour under favorable conditions.
In the Fall of 1924, I traded that 12 roll Advance for a new 8 roll Advance-Rumely husker-shredder that was the best husker-shredder that ever came to this country. After 12 years use, I sold it to Ranty Bowers of Romulus, Michigan. At that time Mr. Bowers told me he sold one-half section of land to Wayne County, Michigan, for 275 thousand dollars for their new airport which is located Southwest of Detroit.
I have owned four Birdsell clover hullers in my time, and still have a very good late No. 9 Allis-Chalmers built with 6' wide wooden wheels, the only No. 9 that usually had steel wheels. Clover hulling paid good as clover seed was as good as gold. Many afternoons we were able to hull 40 or more bushels at one dollar and fifty cents per bushel.
My last threshing with steam was in 1945. I have owned a grain combine since 1951 and like it real well. Surely 'Time Marches On.'