Harvest Time In Early Days
The thrashing of the grains by machine, horse power, steam, etc. The men that followed the thrasher. The women’s part. The early settlers of Mendon like other pioneers were confronted with the difficult problem of how to harvest and thrash their first crops of grain. With the united efforts of both men and women working in the field, together the work, through very laborious, was finally accomplished. The task continued thus from about the years __ to __ with very crude machinery. As we should bare in mind farm machinery was yet in its infancy and that which was brought by ox team with the first pioneers was by no means of the latest improved, even at that time.
Birds’ and Shumways’ had a reaper, following the hand cradle, about the year __ which was considered a marvel and wonder. It required a driver, a man to rake the swath off the platform and several men followed after to bind up the sheaves. About the same year the Andersens’ and Birds finally procured a thrasher known as the Chaffpiler. It would thrash the grain from the head, after which a hand powered fanning mill followed up to separate the chaff from the wheat. This machine was driven by a two-horse tread power. The fanning mill would be several weeks behind the Chaffpiler and sometimes it became necessary to run night shifts. The thrashing was accomplished by this crude method until 1865 when the Hills’ from Cottonwood brought a Pitts Thrasher and separator combined. This deposited the straw at the rear-end and the clean grain beneath. This was considered a wonderful machine. It was driven by drawn horsepower, which had to be unloaded and staked, solid to the ground and the eight head of horses went around in a circle.
The Birds’ also operated a Case machine in about the year 1865 which required a speed jack, which was driven from the power through a belt from the jack to a cylinder. The Bankheads’ from Wellsville also brought a machine to Mendon to assist with the thrashing.
The wire binder was introduced by the Birds. So marvelous was the machine that a demonstration of it was staged down below town on the Bird farm. The town people turned out to it, women and children included. However this machine became objectionable owing to the fact that bits of wire would lodge in the cattle’s stomach and cause premature deaths. This machinery took care of the harvest until 1870 when the Co-op brought in an improved thrasher built by the Nicholas & Shepherd Company, at Battle Creek, Michigan. This had a straw carrier and several other improvements over the previous machine. A mounted horse power was also used which was a vast improvement over the old Pitto down power. This machine and another Duffs Pitto purchased by Birds’ and Hills’ did the thrashing for years.
A twine binder of the Walter A. Wood make, was also introduced about this time. This was the last word in harvesting machinery and replaced the old wire binder completely.
About 1886 the Foresters, Willies and Andrew Sorensen purchased a J. J. Case Agitator Separator, with characteristics open elevator. This machine continued to operate for about twenty years. About a year after the same machine was purchased the Co-op bought the Advance separator. The Nicholas & Shepherd passed on to Robert Sweeten and Michael Murphy. The Advance was operated with horses, until about __ when it was thoroughly decided it was a horse killer as it was a very heavy draft machine. It had already become the property of Hyrum and Alexander Richards who bought a steamer in 1892 to replace the sore-shouldered horses. It was belted to the Advance one early autumn day down on the old Hyrum Richards place. Throngs of people turned out to see the harnessed steam, which so peacefully and quietly performed its task. The first engineer, George Sanders proudly demonstrated his perfect control over the untiring Iron Horse. They gazed upon it with amusement and suspicion by some, who predicted it would blow up and they kept their distance. But it continued to keep the wheels of the old Advance rolling regardless of the crowding and trying to stall.
So marvelous was the ingenuity of mechanical skill. “Who dare to say that “He” the molder of our day, does not reveal to man in this our Later-day.”
The Advance passed on in a few years and was replaced by the Massilion Cyclone separator, built by the Russell & Company, at Massilion, Ohio. The same make as the steam engine. The Massilion passed on to a new company that was formed, known as the Plantation Company, which included William Barrett, John Ladle, James Hancock, Abraham Sorensen and John Walker. They repurchased the steamer and bought a new case separator. This same engine had long since been christened “Old Betsy,” after a famous pulling horse of an early settler. Other separator run on it, have endured for a while and passed on, but the little steamer still survives and runs smoothly after forty years of faithful service.
About 1890 Mormon Bird, Samuel Sorensen, Joseph N. Sorensen, Carl Danielson and John Westover purchased a Case Separator and Woodbury horse power. Amos Hardman and Thomas Baker later became shareholders. This operated for many years and finally came to a sad ending by a smut explosion on Thomas Muir’s farm.
About 1900, Jacob Sorensen, W. I. Sorensen, James Hill and Joseph Shelton purchased an Aultman Taylor Dixie Separator, which was operated for many years. Known as the “Yellow Jacket,” this too came to a sad ending in a smut explosion. Among those who followed the thrasher year after year were: Harlow Bassett, Charles Cope, George Sanders, Lewis Bird, Hamilton Baker and many others. Most of these as well as the owners mentioned have passed on like old faithful machinery. A matter of history, but those good old days always recall pleasant memories never to be forgotten. The fact that men used to get their board where they thrashed, the women became rivals and tried to out do each other in cooking for them, as they were a hungry lot of men. This made it most interesting and there is where the women played a great part in helping the harvesters and thrashers.
“We were socially united in those days and made our work a pleasure, exchanging labor and enjoying each others hospitality. With the improved harvesting methods of today, with combines and gas, they have deprived us of that most glorious part we had mingling together as one large family.”