5 HP Stover Engine and the Case of Dynamite

Stover Stuff: A very original horizontal tank-cooled 5 HP Stover engine rescued from a case of dynamite

5 HP Stover engine

This 5 HP Stover engine faced destruction by a case of dynamite on the Fred Kelley farm, but was saved before the Kelley estate sale. 

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The Stover engine auction

I got a call from a friend wanting information on an early Stover tank-cooled engine. Since he doesn’t collect engines, I was a little curious about his request. It was simple: He worked for an auction company, they had this engine on an upcoming estate sale, and he wanted all the information he could get for the sale bill.

The auction was on the Fred Kelley Centennial Farm south of Franklin Grove, Ill. The Kelleys obviously never got rid of anything because there was something there for everyone. Cars, trucks, tractors, furniture, dishes; you name it, and it was up for auction. Old original merchandise filled the cattle and house yards and many hayracks.

I went to the sale in an effort to buy the 5 HP Stover engine and maybe get a story. Didn’t get the engine, but I got a good story.

Case of dynamite vs. the barn

Driving up to the location of the sale, one immediately noticed that the barn and some adjacent buildings had recently burned down, and some of the old iron equipment and a few of the trees looked darned scorched. It wasn’t hard to get the story from one of the sale volunteers. While helping move machinery and sale items out of the barn, someone noticed an old case of dynamite in the back corner of the barn.

Now you and I would have probably kept on getting the stuff out of the barn while steering clear of the dynamite. Not so. Long story short, one of the volunteers was on the local fire department and he got in touch with a bomb squad or some such official organization and that put the brakes on everything. No one could go in the barn and nothing else could be taken out.

The decision was made to burn the barn down to prevent the dynamite from blowing somebody to pieces. You would think while the barn was burning, a beam or something could have fallen on the dynamite, which might have actually set it off. But what do I know?

So, the barn was burned and the springhouse and some other buildings went with it. The Stover engine had been in the springhouse, but luckily had been removed before the bomb squad got there.

1907 5 HP Stover engine

I know this column is called “Stover Stuff,” but sometimes you just have to lead up to the Stover part. And when you throw dynamite in the title, it makes the story that much better.

The engine was a very original horizontal tank-cooled Stover mounted on a vintage truck. I like this type of “barn fresh” engine, and it had the bonus of some good history. The Stover records tell us the engine was shipped to H.W. Sunday of Franklin Grove on March 27, 1907. It’s listed as a type DO 5 HP with a half base. The Sunday family had a large farming operation north of Franklin Grove. Some of the locals recalled the farm in an area known as “Sunday’s Bridge.” Stover normally sold his engines through dealers, but if the customer was large enough, he would sell directly to the farmer.

I would be bidding on the engine, but not for long.

The sale

Not wanting to write any checks, I brought all the cash I had on hand and thought I had a pretty good shot at getting the engine. That is, until Larry Hackbarth of Milledgeville, Ill., showed up. Larry has some fine engines, including a nice original 6 HP Stover horizontal tank-cooled portable. The engines would make great bookends. When it comes to buying engines, Larry gets very serious. And Larry got serious, as the photos in the Image Gallery show. At least I’ll still see the engine from time to time.

Until next time, keep your plugs dry and igniters oiled.

Contact Joe Maurer at 797 S. Silberman Rd., Pearl City, IL 61062 • (815) 443-2223 • toadhill@aeroinc.net