A Part of History Recorded by an Engine Enthusiast

4 HP Fuller & Johnson

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Bemidji, Minnesota

We thank Harpo Dexter, Editor of The Pioneer Newspaper from Bemidji, Minnesota for permission to reprint the following story and pictures on Jon Selzer, Guthrie, Minnesota 56451.

Left photo- Marvin Schrier of Cumberland, Iowa is preparing to start his New Idea engine. At center, is a nice collection of Russell Moss' of Hamilton, Missouri which includes his 1-3/4 HP Stickney and his CH & E engine. He has a nice collection and always brings some good engines along.  Right photo - some engines and a small model displayed by Larry Raid of Denmark, Iowa. All pictures taken at 1973 Eshelman's Show.

An important phase of the early days of rural Minnesota is being preserved by a young man near Guthrie through his assemblage of many old gasoline engines once used for farm operations in this area.

John Selzer, 22, has brought together over 30 engines dating from 1905 and is in the process of restoring them to operational status. On a level equal to that of restoration, Selzer is compiling historical data on each. Ranging from a 3-4 HP 'Handy-Andy' used on a water pump at the turn of the century to a 7,000 pound, HP International used for a sawmill operation, the engines and the record of their background result from considerable effort by Selzer in doing research, talking with farmers and attending auctions throughout the area.

'It's all part of our history here in northern Minnesota,' said Selzer. 'In fact, there old engines, in the operation of dairy farms and sawmills, have helped make much of our history. These were the sources of power before electricity.'

Selzer plans to have enough of the relics restored and in operation in the next two years to present a display at the county fair, some with demonstrations, such as a model sawmill, showing the actual work they performed. Each, he said, will be presented with the historical information he has compiled telling of the previous owners and locations and uses.

'Hopefully,' said Selzer, 'I'll be able to have such a display each year after that, adding to the kinds of engines I have and completing information on their background. For the rest of the year, I guess I'll just have a hobby-type museum in my home. I'm glad to show them to anyone. I want everyone to enjoy them.'

When repairs are necessary, many of the replacement parts are handmade. Sometimes, a modern part is modified to do the job. 'These engines are so simple,' said Selzer 'that they're easy to maintain.'

Selzer is both mechanic and historian, one moment talking enthusiastically about the lubrication method and the magneto system of a particular unit and the efficacy of its operation and the next moment describing in detail a way of life which existed fifty years before he was born. Raised on a farm himself, Selzer said that what he enjoys most about his hobby is 'meeting the people who used to use the old engines and hearing their history.'

When not involved with his engines or talking with oldtimers about them, Selzer can be found servicing more current models at Kenny's Standard here in Bermidji, where he is employed.