Photos by Raymond Chapman
The weekend of October 3 and 4 was one of those beautiful Texas
autumn days with the sun shining brightly and the oppressive heat
of the summer just a memory. In the peaceful, rural setting of
Speegleville, just west of Waco, Texas, about 6,000 members and
interested spectators attended the annual show of the Texas Early
Day Gas Engine and Tractor Association.
Many of the members of this sixteen year old organization rated
this meeting as the ‘best one yet’. One event made the 1987
gathering different from all the rest and caught everyone by
surprise. On Sunday afternoon, a wedding was conducted right there
on the show grounds.
As the crowd gathered around, Rev. James London joined Gina
Renee Smart of Houston and Stanley Cook of Highlands in matrimony.
After the couple was pronounced husband and wife the bride was led
away on the back of a mule as the crowd showered them with shelled
corn (no rice was available). Steam engine operators serenaded the
new couple with their whistles.
President Bradley Ware of Ding Dong, Texas and fellow officers
and volunteers spent countless hours in preparation to insure the
success of the event. All profits from the show go toward the
purchase of land, which the association hopes to have as a
permanent home for the annual event and possibly a museum to
display their antique equipment.
A wide range of antique tractors and equipment was displayed in
the field loaned to the association each year for this show. As
members and visitors strolled among the exhibits, many of the
crafts of our forefathers were being demonstrated by members who
donated their time and skills to educate the public. The art of
rope making was demonstrated by the Ferguson brothers, and Robert
Womack operated his stone grist mill and then used the corn meal to
make corn bread in a dutch oven. A syrup mill with mule power was
operated by Regan Ware and Judy Seawright. Other interesting
exhibits were bee hive building by J.M. Hucabee and silage cutting
by Lynn Spencer.
One of the most popular areas at the show was the five gallon
ice cream freezer operated by Cathy Landry and a lot of volunteers.
The hand cranked freezer was rigged to a 11/2 HP Monitor engine and
operated throughout the weekend to the delight of everyone.
To make sure that no one went away hungry a concession stand was
available to dispense beans and cornbread, sausage wrap-arounds,
cookies, and lots of iced tea. An information booth displayed
printed materials of interest to both members and guests. Also,
T-shirts, caps and buttons were sold to help raise funds for the
A parade was held each morning of the two day event. Over 60
entries, including five steam tractors and several antique trucks,
passed by the crowd as the announcer, Frank Carmichael, described
the wide array of antique tractors. Two human-powered bicycles from
the late 1800’s were entered by Tom Judson.
Throughout the weekend the crowd was entertained by
demonstrations of both small and large steam engines, threshers,
windmills, corn shellers, rock polishers, shredders, mills, tractor
races and a real Old West shootout by the Heart of Texas
Pistoleros. The weekend would not have been complete without the
host of interesting stories told by the ‘old timers’ of the
One of the lifetime members (and most respected member) of the
Texas Early Day Gas Engine and Tractor Association is 82 year old
Russell Allen Withrow, known affectionately as Grandpa. It was his
granddaughter who was married during the show and he had the honor
of giving away the bride. His ancestors came from England and
originally settled in West Virginia. At the early age of 14 he
began his association with steam engines as an apprentice engineer
on a stern wheel river boat in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1928 he
received his Chief Engineer’s license which enabled him to
operate any size steam ship in the water. During his steam ship
days he went around the world nine times.
After marrying his hometown sweetheart, Thelma, in 1931, he
settled down in Ripley, West Virginia, where he owned and operated
the oldest flour mill west of the Allegheny Mountains. The
foundation rock was dated 1737. He also owned three threshing
machines, a well-drilling machine, and two saw mills.
His love for steam engines and antique tractors is evident to
all the members of the Texas EDGE&TA. He has attended shows in
Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Indiana,
Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa, and all over Texas. He has attended every
show of the Texas association since 1973 in Meridian. His advice to
members of the club is, ‘Don’t throw anything
During the 1987 show, officers were elected for the next year.
Because of the outstanding job done by the present slate of
officers, they were all re-elected for the coming year. They are:
Bradley Ware, president; Curtis Johnson, vice president; and Laurie
Awards were given to those with outstanding entries. Bill Keene
won the Most Outstanding Antique engine award with a 2 HP IH
Famous. The Most Outstanding Antique Tractor award went to Ray and
Louis Miller for their 1916 Happy Farmer. A Nichols and Sheppard
steam engine owned by Everett Greer won the Outstanding Antique
Steam Engine award. Other plaques were presented for outstanding
displays, unique entries, authentic dress, demonstrations and
numerous outstanding tractors and engines. Appreciation awards were
also presented to several members of the association for their hard
work during the year.
The cooperation of all the members provided for the success of
this annual show as everyone pitched in and helped. Next year is
anticipated to be even better.
Submitted by Bradley B. Ware Buck Snort Resort, Rte. 3, Box
211, Killeen, Texas 76542