An Old Pump

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Route 3, Box 226-C, Madison, AL 35758

My story begins with an ad placed (all for free) in a Farmer's Bulletin for a flywheel type 'one lunger' engine. One of the responses led me to a small town approximately 200 miles from home. While trying to locate the person responding to my ad, I stumbled on another lead about old engines. The person who had originally owned and used the engine had passed away years ago but a daughter still lived in the area. I located and introduced myself to the husband of the deceased man's daughter. He seemed more than happy to show me around the old plantation center and all the buildings associated with it. There were several dilapidated workers' shacks and a plantation store which was now falling in. This had once been a bustling and busy country crossroads community.

In one of the buildings, I saw an old grist mill covered with dust and cobwebs. Old lumber had been stacked haphazardly partially obscuring the power source for the mill. After further investigation, I came upon the power source which was an old McCormick-Deering, 4 cylinder skid type engine. Not being very interested in old grist mills, we continued to roam through the other buildings finally coming to the large cotton gin building. All this time, we were trying to locate the old flywheel type engine that had once been used on the plantation. Luck was not with us, but as we entered the cotton gin engine room, I couldn't help but see the 35 horsepower Fairbanks Morse engine that powered the gin machinery, only something was missing and it suddenly came to me that the huge flywheel was not on the engine. Upon questioning the owner, he told me this story!!

At one time several years prior to this, cast iron was selling at a very good price and he had decided to cut the engine up for removal to the scrap iron yard. The first thing done was to cut the crankshaft in two and drop the flywheel off. Something came up that delayed the cutting for several weeks. In the meantime, cast iron prices started to drop and continued downward until it was deemed unprofitable to continue. No more work had been done to remove and sell the engine as scrap. Almost covered under trash and other materials, I spotted the flywheel still lying where it had dropped as the crankshaft had been cut in two. Near the wall, I saw something that resembled a small flywheel. Looking closer in the lint, trash and cobwebs, I saw an old Fairbanks Morse water pump which had been used to take water from the spring branch behind the gin and cool the big engine.

But what powered the pump? We still could not find the old gas engine. After looking everywhere, we decided the old engine had been done away with years earlier. After purchasing the old Fairbanks Morse water pump and a couple of old grain 'cradles', I departed somewhat discouraged although I was happy to have met and made another good friend.

Eight to ten months passed and thinking back, I wondered if he still had the old grist mill. Within another month or so, My wife and I were visiting kinfolks a few miles from this new friend's old plantation. I decided to call him to renew old friendships and to see if he still had the grist mill. Yes, it was still sitting in the same spot. Nothing had been touched or moved. He would be interested in selling it and the old skid engine. The deal was closed over the phone and I would be down with a trailer to pick it up in a week or so.

Since I wasn't really into restoring old 4 cylinder engines and grist mills, the thrill of going after it wasn't so great but I had gotten it at such a bargain, I could afford to spend a day's time picking it up. I decided to haul the mill home on my son's day off. You guessed it! I could use the extra help loading and unloading along with his company during the drive. It turned out to be a beautiful but hot day. We arrived on time, greeted the owner and started the job of loading. First there was no door to skid the engine out. With hammer and crowbar, we removed several planks from the old wall leaving just room enough to move the engine out. This opening in the wall also provided more light to get the job done. With chain hooked and skid planks positioned, the tractor moved the engine a foot or so. As we moved the engine further out, the old lumber, so haphazardly stacked, began to fall. Suddenly, I saw it. Part of a flywheel was exposed when the lumber fell. We could also see part of the engine only it was upside down. I asked the owner what it was. His reply was 'an old pump of some type'. My heart began to beat faster and faster as we moved the lumber to see more. Finally, we pulled it out, carefully, and turned it right side up. Sure enough, we had found it or at least one of the old gas engines originally used on the old plantation. It was also for sale and I got it at a bargain too. It turned out to be a complete engine. Magneto, oiler, carbeven the crank guard was intact and all seemed to be in good shape. After cleaning the nameplate, we found it to be a Fairbanks Morse 2 HP type 'Z' with spoked flywheels. Although it was throttle control and not hit and miss, we were still thrilled to have found what we were looking for on the original visit. We completed the loading and after bidding farewell to the owner, headed home. As you have probably guessed by now, the drive home was much happier and easier.

By the way, I never could make a deal for the engine from the gentleman who responded to my ad in the Farmer's Bulletin.