425 Kristle Lane, Lake Charles, Louisiana 70611
Tucked away in the piney woods of south central Louisiana is an absolute showplace of old iron and various other nostalgia. Located off Highway 489 just east of LaCamp is the home of Sam Curruth. LaCamp can be found among the other small towns of Hicks, Leander, and Cora. I had visited with Sam several years earlier just after I had gotten interested in old engines. At that time I didn't own a single engine, and I was completely taken by his collection of over 40 engines, several tractors, implements, cars, and numerous other pieces of equipment.
Though I had seen him several times over the years at various shows, it wasn't until a recent show in Browley, Louisiana, that we had a real opportunity to renew our acquaintance. I asked him if I could come visit him again. I always get a two-week break from work at Christmas time, so we set a date for Monday, December 21.
I left my house about 7:30 that morning with my wife following in her car to one of her favorite breakfast spots. After breakfast I drove for about an hour and a half up through the county, arriving at Sam's place around 9:30. Though I now own a number of engines myself, I was just as anxious to begin our tour as the first time I visited.
Just in front of his house is a small shed containing a 1908, 8 horsepower International Famous. Sam bought this engine at an auction in Colfield, Missouri. It is in original condition. I had recalled his running this engine on my first visit. He brought it to the recent show I mentioned earlier and had it running. In fact, I recognized the engine and because of it, I located Sam at the show. We talked over the engine for a long time. I was really impressed at how slowly he could make it run.
Of all of his engines, I like this one the best. It has that unmistakable hit and miss sound, and will coast to a near stop before just making it over the top to hit again. It's a real attention-getter at any show. Picture number one is of this engine.
We made our way from there to one of his barns, where he had a number of engines stored. One of them was a Taylor vacuum engine. This engine was found at a nearby dairy. It has a single piston, but it is two different sizes. The smaller part of the piston, the front, is used for power, while the larger part, the rear, creates a vacuum that is used to milk cows. He told me he had never seen another engine like this one, and neither had I. In this same shed were about a dozen other engines, a tractor, a Meadows grist mill, and numerous other pieces of equipment.
Behind his house, under another shed, was his saw mill. It was powered by an old John Deere Model 50 tractor that had been retired just to power the mill. I had never had the opportunity to see such a saw mill close up, so he took the time to explain to me how it worked.
I should mention that Sam had other talents beside making old engines run. He is also what I would consider a master woodworker. Among his engines were some of his wood working tools. In his house are many examples of fine furniture that he has made. He is also a basket maker. He makes the baskets from scratch, cutting white oak trees from local woods, splitting the wood with a frow, and weaving the baskets into whatever design he chooses.
Continuing with the engines, we made our way to a small lean-to off one of his barns containing an 8 HP Fairbanks Bull Dog, a 3 HP Nelson Brothers Jumbo, a 6 HP John Deere, and a 16 inch stone burr grist mill. Down in this part of the country, 1? HP and 3 HP John Deeres are fairly common, but this was the only complete 6 HP John Deere I had ever seen. Neither had I ever seen an 8 HP Bull Dog. It was absolutely massive. It was obvious from the thickness of the castings that this engine was built to work. Sam was quick to point out that the Bull Dog was not a Fairbanks-Morse. Picture number two is of these engines and mill.
On we went to the next shed, where two of his engines were that I was waiting to see. I had seen them both at previous shows. One is a 1911, 15 HP Fairbanks-Morse Model N. This engine is huge, one of the biggest I have ever seen. It is match start, screen cooled, and is on its original truck with a 36-inch clutch pulley. The date stamped on the end of the crankshaft is December 28, 1911. Sam is only the second owner of this engine. It was originally purchased by J. H. Williams and shipped to Alexandria, Louisiana, by flatcar in 1912. From there it was pulled through the woods to Natchitoches, Louisiana, a feat in itself, where it was used to press cotton. Sam bought it and hauled it to his house by truck and trailer. Picture number three is of this engine. That's Sam standing by it.
The other engine is a 1914, 9 HP Economy that is belted to a 20-inch Meadows stone burr grist mill. The engine and mill are mounted on a trailer so that it can be easily brought to shows to demonstrate grinding corn. Sam is the third owner of this engine. It was originally bought by Dave Morrison from Sears-Roebuck in 1914. I had seen this engine and mill in operation at a local show about three years ago. I even bought a bag of cornmeal from Sam at that show. Picture number 4 is of this engine and mill.
There were many other engines too numerous to go into detail about in this article. Five and a half hours had passed in a flash, and it was time for me to head back home.
Between the tours of various engine sheds, Sam and I took time to sit and talk, drink coffee, and eat delicious blueberry cake. I learned from talking to him, that he, like so many other old iron enthusiasts I have met, is generous, considerate, and has a deep concern for preserving the past and passing it on to others. I also discovered that he had earned the respect of many other collectors and the generosity that has been shown to him, he is showing to others.
Though I had my checkbook with me, I vowed to myself that I would not ask him 'Is anything for sale?' And I didn't. But just as I was getting ready to leave, we were standing over a table where there was an IHC LB, a 1? HP John Deere E, a Fairbanks-Morse D, and a 2 HP Witte, when he said, 'I'll sell you this Witte for.....' and named a price. 'Sold,' I said. I felt honored that he was willing to sell one of his engines to me.
So, not only was I able to go home filled with pleasant memories, but I was also the new owner of a 2 HP Witte and I could say with pride, 'I got it from Sam Carruth.'