Unforgettable Legacy

Samson gas engine

Courtesy of Garland K. Goesvh, Box 432, Hughson, California 95326.

Garland K. Goesvh

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Box 432, Hughson California 95326

It was about 4:00 o'clock in the afternoon one day last fall when I drove into the ranch yard at Sonora, California. The ranch belonged to Charlie Hess, a long time resident of Tuolumne County. Charlie was down by the barn and gas pump getting his pick-up and chain saw fueled up so he could cut a load of wood before dark.

I drove down to the barn, parked; got out and introduced myself to Charlie. He finally got his dogs settled down and asked me again who I was. Charlie was in his mid-seventies and had lived around Sonora for most, if not all, his life. Sonora is located in the heart of the Mother Lode Country with countless mines operating in Tuolumne County in the Gold Rush days. There are still a good number of people mining for gold both on a part time and full time basis throughout the Mother Lode.

After a little small talk I told Charlie I came out to talk to an old timer to see if he knew of any 'one lungers' in the country. His remark was, 'I might, why' What do you want with one?' I told him I wanted to restore one and put it back to its original condition or as near to it as possible, complete with original color paint job. Charlie reckoned he had one and if I wanted to go with him to cut some wood he would show me an engine. He drove out west of the house three miles towards the back of the ranch, where the engine sat on a stamp mill, at an old gold mine. Turned out to be an 8 hp. Samson made in Stockton, California.

Charlie said the engine originally ran belted to a pump near a town called Chinese Camp not too far away. It was later moved to the stamp mill and crushed ore for the gold mine. As near as he could remember it had been around thirty-eight years since the engine last ran.

Since that time I have spent some time researching the Samson Iron Works and will write another article on that subject later. I have some pictures that were taken when the Samson Iron works was in production. I will send along copies for publication. I have talked to two employees, but they are so old now they don't remember too accurately about those days. John Kroyer, the founder of the works, had a son, an only child who married and later divorced. The son is no longer living, but the girl he divorced remarried and is living in Santa Cruz, California. I want to talk to her before I write my article.

Picture shows engine and stamp mill. Ore was dumped in the top, ran through the crusher and then processed for gold. Notice old ore car lying in lower right hand corner.

The engine is complete except for the ignition system and one needle valve for the carburetor. Notice the engine has two spark plugs. It is the Samson gas engine, 8 hp., 280 RPM, No. N1310. Flywheels are 42' diameter w/3' face.

In regard to the letter in your column from James L. Bochantin in the July-August issue - I too, agree with him in comparing the two engines. The Maynard was made by Nelson Bros., but if you look close you will notice the bases do not match. The Little Jumbo Engine made by the same company does match except for the hoppers. Here is a picture of a Jumbo.

Now, what I need help with is the trade name Nelson Bros, would have given the engine pictured in Vol. 4 No. 3, Page 24 and possibly the year made. What special jobs were the engines designed for? The magneto and oiler were added after purchase. It was originally battery ignition. I appreciate Mr. Bochantin's interest in the engine. I have received several letters but have not come up with the information I am looking for.

The ramp for dumping the ore cars has since fallen down, however; you can see here how the gold ore was delivered to the top of the crusher. The mine shaft is to the left of this picture.

Charlie and I finished cutting a pickup load of wood and got back to the house just about dark. I found out one thing about working with Charlie. He could work the daylights out of most twenty-year olds that are around today despite his age.

On the way back to the house we did quite a bit of serious bargaining and a whole lot of spoofing about the worth of that old Samson. By the time we got back, however, we had reached an agreement, and I was to come after the engine the following Sunday. My thirteen-year old son, David, and I went up Friday after school and photographed the engine as it sat. After that we helped Charlie cut another load of wood.

We got the engine moved down without any trouble, but as yet I don't have it running. I also have a 6 hp. Samson, and a 2? hp. vertical Samson. I haven't talked to anyone yet who is aware Samson built a one cylinder vertical. Samson did build a three cylinder and four cylinder vertical, up to 150 hp.

I was looking forward to bringing Charlie down to hear the engine run again, but between Christmas and New Years Charlie was killed by a tree limb while cutting wood. This deeply saddened me to hear this. They don't make men like Charlie Hess any more, and there are all too few of them left; however, I do feel that both my son's and my life are richer for having had the opportunity to meet a man of his stature.