The Early Farm Days Show
Black smoke from a 1924 Fairbanks-Morse rose and mixed with the
early morning mountain mist. And as the eight ton, 60 HP engine
warmed and its smoke turned gray, a horn on the compressor used to
start it blasted, announcing the opening of the 9th Annual Early
Farm Days Antique Engine and Tractor Show in Franklin, N.C.
Over 90 exhibitors from four southern states displayed their
equipment during the weekend of July 20-21, 2001, with parts for
sale, metal barnyard sculptures, handmade knives, toys of
yesteryear, Model Ts, tractors, antique farm equipment and, of
course, engines. Collectors and exhibitors of old engines always
have stories to tell about their finds and their restoration work.
But perhaps more importantly, as they show their engines these
collectors also share with attendees a piece of America’s
history, a piece of history that is salvaged along with the rusty
iron they reclaim.
The 1924 F-M, owned by club member Wayne English, was used to
gin cotton in South Carolina during the 1920s and 1930s. In a booth
near the Fairbanks, club member Thelma Holland displayed a 1918-19
Maytag fruit jar engine that originally saw duty running a washing
machine. Stories have it that Maytag recalled these engines after
fires started when glass jars broke and gasoline spilled in
kitchens with wood cook stoves. As a result, very few of these
engines remain in existence.
Norman Durham of South Carolina showed a 1904, 4 HP vertical
F-M, an engine originally consigned to a Southern plantation where
it ran a belt-driven water pump and performed other chores. Another
South Carolinian, Earnest Durham, showed a 3 HP F-M water pump,
which from the late 1920s into the 1930s pumped water into a tank
that fed five or six houses in a rural mountain community. The
F-M’s history was passed on to Durham by a man who grew up in
that same community and who, as a boy, was in charge of running the
pump before and after school. The pump was sold during the show,
and in the selling its history passed on to another collector.
Another story could be found in the 1939 Novo a Georgia
exhibitor brought to the show, an engine originally used by
Standard Oil to pump fuel at a fuel station in the Northwest. A 20
HP Pattin Brothers engine, believed to date around 1920, was also
on display. This engine was used to pump oil in West Virginia.
Along with a Novo Jr. and a Hercules gas engine, some
engines’ histories remained untold. These included a 1914, 12
HP International Harvester owned by the Birds from Waynesville,
N.C., as well as a 1/2 HP Maytag Rider-Ericson water pump displayed
by a Florida collector. In addition, an exhibitor from Georgia
displayed a 1937, 3 HP John Deere; a 1928, 1-1/2 HP John Deere
Model E; a 1928 McCormick-Deering Type M; a 1923, 1-1/2 HP
McCormick-Deering Model M; and a 1943 F-M Model Z.
A 3 HP Fairbanks-Morse pump rig. in the 1920s and 1930s this
engine provided water for a small community in South Carolina.
A 20 HP Pattin Brothers oil field engine, believed to date from
around 1920 The Pattin Brothers Co., Marietta, Ohio, specialized in
oil field engines.
Demonstrations by club members gave spectators opportunities for
first-hand glimpses into early farm life and the important role
these engines played. The Nolen family threshed wheat with a Case
threshing machine (a reminder of the early part of the 20th century
when owners of threshing machines traveled to rural farms to thresh
wheat for farmers who could not afford their own equipment), and
hay was baled with a belt-driven hay baler powered by a 1911, 8 HP
Sparta Economy owned by Wayne English. Opposite this hay baling
exhibit, Bill Sellers and his great-nephew presented a miniature
baling demonstration, children and adults watching as a Nelson
Brothers engine produced tiny hay bales.
As I watched the hay baling exhibits, two themes came to mind –
contrast and continuation. I thought about the contrast of
today’s lifestyle to that of the early 1900s. The show is
located just off U.S. Highway 441, about one mile out of Franklin,
and as I left the busy four-lane highway, with its rows and rows of
fast food restaurants, and entered the show grounds, the pace of
life slowed. I found myself transported to bygone days as I looked
at the antique engines and listened to their stories. I thought
about the lives of past generations compared to my life – and the
life of future generations.
These rescued engines provide a continuation of history between
the generations. Even though the individual histories of some
engines are unknown, just their existence speaks for the hard work
and life on early farms. If future generations realize the
importance of these engines – and their stories – the preservation
of a piece of America’s history will be assured for generations
The Early Farm Days Antique Engine and Tractor Show is held the
third weekend in July. The next show will be July 19-21, 2002.
Everyone is welcome to come enjoy the show, which is held at the
Macon County Fairgrounds on U.S. Highway 441 South, Franklin, N.C.
Call, Frank Finch at (828) 524-5373 or Ed Nolen at (828) 524-4055
for more information.
Contact engine enthusiast Wanda Willis at: P.O. Box 447,
Franklin, NC 28744.
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