Although only a boy of six years, I well remember threshing in
the early nineties. My work at that time was pushing the chaff from
the machine to a hole in the barn floor so it could fall into the
The machine that did a large amount of work in this neighborhood
was a small Chalfant thresher and two horse tread power. The first
one I remember was run by Jake Morris, a red wiskered man with
tobacco juice running out each side of his mouth. Jake’s horses
were very poor and he had to set his power steep to get power
enough to work with. I have seen one of his horses lay down and
come onto the floor; another one would come back onto the cross
bar, sit on it and refuse to walk, stopping the machine, of course.
As I said, his horses were very poor but by the end of the season
they would become fattened on the farmer’s corn.
With that rig, 150 bushels was a good days work. At four cents
per bushel, six dollars for a day’s work for two men, two
horses, sometimes three, and the machines besides.
One time Jake was threshing for us, we had three colored men
working for us. At dinner time the man helping Jake said, ‘Do
those black men eat at the table with the rest of us?’ Jake
said, ‘Come on and eat.’ He came without more talk. After
dinner as the men were walking to the barn, the man who was going
to refuse to eat with colored men, said, ‘Has anyone here some
chewing tobacco?’ One of the colored men reached in his dirty,
sweaty hip pocket and handed out a plug. The man who didn’t
care to eat with them took a generous chew. That was one incident I
will never forget. (All tobacco at that time was in plug)
That machine did not have a straw carrier the straw was dropped
about four feet behind the chaff that I had to remove. Sometimes I
would get a little lazy and the straw man would have to help.
The next rig I remember was the same make, made at Lenover,
Chester County. This man took pride in his team and the work he
did. His team was always in tip-top shape; although one was blind,
she was always ready to go.
In 1897 we had the largest crop of wheat ever raised at that
time, 40 bushels per acre. This rig started threshing one afternoon
at 3:30; at six they had 101 bushels in the bags. I was still chaff
boy but this machine had a straw carrier. At that time nearly all
grain was put in the barns. Each farmer would thresh enough for
seed and some to exchange for flour at the local mill.
By 1900 I had risen to band cutter, a fairly particular job at
that time. If you had more than one sheaf on the table at one time
it would get pushed onto the floor, as the feeder had to be very
careful and not choke the machine. You could tell by the hum of the
cylinder how fast to feed.
I started in 1904 with this last mentioned machine and a six
horsepower engine. Two years later to a ten horsepower gas engine
which ran that rig several years.
The last year horsepower was used around here was 1903.
May THE IRON-MEN ALBUM live as long as I have.