An Old Pump

By Staff

Route 3, Box 226-C, Madison, AL 35758

My story begins with an ad placed (all for free) in a
Farmer’s Bulletin for a flywheel type ‘one lunger’
engine. One of the responses led me to a small town approximately
200 miles from home. While trying to locate the person responding
to my ad, I stumbled on another lead about old engines. The person
who had originally owned and used the engine had passed away years
ago but a daughter still lived in the area. I located and
introduced myself to the husband of the deceased man’s
daughter. He seemed more than happy to show me around the old
plantation center and all the buildings associated with it. There
were several dilapidated workers’ shacks and a plantation store
which was now falling in. This had once been a bustling and busy
country crossroads community.

In one of the buildings, I saw an old grist mill covered with
dust and cobwebs. Old lumber had been stacked haphazardly partially
obscuring the power source for the mill. After further
investigation, I came upon the power source which was an old
McCormick-Deering, 4 cylinder skid type engine. Not being very
interested in old grist mills, we continued to roam through the
other buildings finally coming to the large cotton gin building.
All this time, we were trying to locate the old flywheel type
engine that had once been used on the plantation. Luck was not with
us, but as we entered the cotton gin engine room, I couldn’t
help but see the 35 horsepower Fairbanks Morse engine that powered
the gin machinery, only something was missing and it suddenly came
to me that the huge flywheel was not on the engine. Upon
questioning the owner, he told me this story!!

At one time several years prior to this, cast iron was selling
at a very good price and he had decided to cut the engine up for
removal to the scrap iron yard. The first thing done was to cut the
crankshaft in two and drop the flywheel off. Something came up that
delayed the cutting for several weeks. In the meantime, cast iron
prices started to drop and continued downward until it was deemed
unprofitable to continue. No more work had been done to remove and
sell the engine as scrap. Almost covered under trash and other
materials, I spotted the flywheel still lying where it had dropped
as the crankshaft had been cut in two. Near the wall, I saw
something that resembled a small flywheel. Looking closer in the
lint, trash and cobwebs, I saw an old Fairbanks Morse water pump
which had been used to take water from the spring branch behind the
gin and cool the big engine.

But what powered the pump? We still could not find the old gas
engine. After looking everywhere, we decided the old engine had
been done away with years earlier. After purchasing the old
Fairbanks Morse water pump and a couple of old grain
‘cradles’, I departed somewhat discouraged although I was
happy to have met and made another good friend.

Eight to ten months passed and thinking back, I wondered if he
still had the old grist mill. Within another month or so, My wife
and I were visiting kinfolks a few miles from this new friend’s
old plantation. I decided to call him to renew old friendships and
to see if he still had the grist mill. Yes, it was still sitting in
the same spot. Nothing had been touched or moved. He would be
interested in selling it and the old skid engine. The deal was
closed over the phone and I would be down with a trailer to pick it
up in a week or so.

Since I wasn’t really into restoring old 4 cylinder engines
and grist mills, the thrill of going after it wasn’t so great
but I had gotten it at such a bargain, I could afford to spend a
day’s time picking it up. I decided to haul the mill home on my
son’s day off. You guessed it! I could use the extra help
loading and unloading along with his company during the drive. It
turned out to be a beautiful but hot day. We arrived on time,
greeted the owner and started the job of loading. First there was
no door to skid the engine out. With hammer and crowbar, we removed
several planks from the old wall leaving just room enough to move
the engine out. This opening in the wall also provided more light
to get the job done. With chain hooked and skid planks positioned,
the tractor moved the engine a foot or so. As we moved the engine
further out, the old lumber, so haphazardly stacked, began to fall.
Suddenly, I saw it. Part of a flywheel was exposed when the lumber
fell. We could also see part of the engine only it was upside down.
I asked the owner what it was. His reply was ‘an old pump of
some type’. My heart began to beat faster and faster as we
moved the lumber to see more. Finally, we pulled it out, carefully,
and turned it right side up. Sure enough, we had found it or at
least one of the old gas engines originally used on the old
plantation. It was also for sale and I got it at a bargain too. It
turned out to be a complete engine. Magneto, oiler, carbeven the
crank guard was intact and all seemed to be in good shape. After
cleaning the nameplate, we found it to be a Fairbanks Morse 2 HP
type ‘Z’ with spoked flywheels. Although it was throttle
control and not hit and miss, we were still thrilled to have found
what we were looking for on the original visit. We completed the
loading and after bidding farewell to the owner, headed home. As
you have probably guessed by now, the drive home was much happier
and easier.

By the way, I never could make a deal for the engine from the
gentleman who responded to my ad in the Farmer’s Bulletin.

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