Army Across River

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108 Garfield Avenue, Madison, New Jersey 07940

On Christmas night in 1776 Genera] George Washington lead his tatered army across the Delaware River at a point known as McKonkey's Ferry and Johnson's Ferry to attack Rail's Brigade of Hessians garrisoned in nearby Trenton. This daring maneuver was made possible by the famous Durham boats commandeered from Durham Forge and the pig iron trade between Easton and Philadelphia. These sturdy boats of 60 to 66 foot length overall and 8 foot beam were capable of carrying 15 tons of cargo and were, therefore, admirably suited to the task. Our history books tell us that the Colonials surprised the Hessians in a resounding victory before recrossing the river to return to base. The British from Princeton reinforced the town the following day in the seesaw battle for our national independence. A hardy band of history buffs from the Princeton area gather on Christmas day to reinact this scene to remind us of the hardships endured.

However, in the intervening years this beach-head has been secured beyond a doubt to the point where the newly organized Delaware Valley Old Time Power and Equipment Association felt that the Washington's Crossing State Park would make an excellent place for their first gas engine show September 23, 24, 1978. And so it did!

The Association held its organization meeting in September 1977 just one year ahead of their first show. Charles Runkle was elected President with Marvin Fleming as Vice President, Nancy Brokaw (Mrs. John) agreed to be Secretary and Charles Morrell looks after the Treasury. This group did such a good job that they got themselves elected to carry on and to plan the next show which is now scheduled for the same place and the same time this year.

It takes a lot of work to put together a show that will attract a large audience and attract exhibitors from both near and far as this one did. S. B. Voorhees, Sr., of Livingston, New York, was there with his American Sawmill Machinery Company wood splitter. This machine was built in Hackettstown, New Jersey, circa 1900. It was powered with a 4 horsepower Alamo Engine Company 1917 hopper cooled engine. John Brokaw set up his buzz saw rig to cut feed for the splitter. This made an interesting sequence of operations. The saw also doubled as the cut off rig for feed blocks to John's single mill operation.

Marvin and Elsie Fleming brought there extensive collection of machines and tools. Among the ten or so gas engines was an Ottawa drag saw that was in operation for demonstrations from time to time. There were early models of washing machines and a collection of hand implements. In fact, there was such an extensive collection that Marvin's brother, Romulus, was kept busy helping.

In the large machinery demonstrations, Joe Dunn was operating his 1936 Frick 22 x36 thresher equipped with a Heineke Model A crank feeder and a wind stacker. The latter attachment provided a straw stack that never did get very high with the children enjoying the excitement of jumping on the pile. This demonstration machine was powered with a 1925 Fordson tractor that provided more than adequate energy for the job. Grain sheeves were delivered by a classic stake body truck from the Mercer County owned and operated Phillips-Howell Living Historical Farm.

Before the advent of internal combustion engines on the farm scene the power supplied by draft animals was all there was. 'Hoop' Schiable from Upper Black Eddy, Pennsylvania, set up his four horse sweep. This machine was built by Ross in 1890-at least the gear train assembly was. The oak sweep arms looked of more recent vintage and perhaps were even shorter than the original. It was interesting to watch the process of breaking in a new horse to working on the sweep. At first, the drive shaft running to the corn grinder load was too high off the ground and it was worrysome to the horse. Later, when this was lowered, a routine was developed so that there was no hesitation.

We may think that these horse-powered machines are no longer in use, but that is not the case, entirely. One can still find these in operation in the orange groves along the Spanish Mediterranean coast. It is the power to run an irrigation water-wheel. The water table is within a few feet of the surface in the area round Castellion de la Plana. A wooden wheel of about fifteen foot diameter with gallon cans attached to the rim is set vertically over a shallow well with the cans just reaching the water. A donkey turns the wheel through a wooden bevel gear arrangement on the horizontal shaft from the sweep gears. Interestingly enough, the animal is blindfolded and yet never seems to stumble over the shaft. Their counterpart to our Roto-tiller for cultivating the groves is called a 'mechanico mula'- mechanical mule!

Washington's Crossing State Park is a very good place to hold such a show until they can get a permanent show ground of their own. It is a site that is often used for large group camping. Several of the exhibitors and visitors spent the beautiful weekend in their trailers and motor homes. The National Monument commemorating the historic crossing is just across the river in Pennsylvania. Replicas of the original Durham boats are on display and of course the famous painting of Washington and his men on that eventful Christmas is there in an audio visual presentation along with artifacts, memorabilia and other exhibits. Here also gourmet food at fine old tavern restaurants along the river can be enjoyed. All together one can make an interesting weekend of a visit to the area at the same time that this 126 member association puts on its next show.