Cecil Craun: Third Generation Thresherman and Sawyer

Oliver 99 Tractor

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Rt. 2, Box 7l6 Bridgewater, Virginia 22812

This article is written to help younger generations understand a segment of how farming was done over a one hundred year period and to let the older fellows reminisce a bit.

Third generation thresherman and sawyer Cecil Craun grew up on a farm fronting the old Valley Pike (U.S. 11) in Augusta County close to Mt. Sidney, Virginia. His paternal grandfather did threshing and sawmill work in the community and owned a barrel head mill. His father threshed, sawed, and baled hay. Cecil's mother's family were also machine operators.

Over the years Cecil's father operated one Geiser, one Frick, two Case, and two Red River Special machines. These were powered with a Case 34-54 steam engine and later with a 28-50 Hart-Parr. The largest amount threshed in any one day was 2,300 bushels; the largest amount threshed in any one week was 9,600 bushels. In his best year, he threshed 94,000 bushels total. The crew generating these impressive totals consisted of six in the mow, three on the straw rick, and three bagging grain.

At thirteen years of age, Cecil hauled water for the steam engine with a Model T Ford truck. He would get water from the spring nearest the farm where the threshing was done.

Father and son threshed wheat in the same barn for the same farmer for 43 consecutive years. Some of the best yields per acre on this farm during these years were 49 bushels of wheat and 100 bushels of oats. The Crauns served a large community that extended from Mt. Crawford to Staunton and Seawright Springs to New Hope, Virginia.

Through the years of Cecil's operation he has owned two Red River Specials, one Frick, one Oliver 33, and one Gleaner combine. His tractors have included a 28-50 Hart-Parr, and Oliver 99 (overhauled four times), an Oliver 70 Hart-Parr, an Oliver 77, and an Oliver 55.

During the winter months Cecil baled many mows of hay with a stationary baler. This hay was sold and loaded out on railroad cars. He also did custom sawmilling as time permitted.

Recently a farmer told me an incident he remembered about Cecil. As a boy he was pitching sheaves in a wheat mow while another man was feeding the machine, evidently a little faster and more carelessly than Cecil thought was proper. Cecil was leaning against the tractor with an ear tuned to the threshing machine. He walked into the barn and stared up at the men in the mow for a moment. He then turned and slowly walked back to the Oliver 99 and pulled the throttle open one more notch. Not a word was spoken, but everyone knew the question was settled.

Cecil enjoys helping anyone who. has problems with steam engines, tractors, threshing machines, or sawmills. Several years ago Cecil set up a small sawmill in his backyard where he can get his 99 out and saw a log or two and relive some days gone by.

I have known Cecil for 25 years and would like for all of us to share in the tribute to him for the many years of service that he gave his community.