Homesteader Memories of Early Steam Engines and Gas Tractors

Alfred Eichler Pigeon shares his memories and expresses his fondness of early steam engines and gas tractors.


| November/December 1966



The tractor

Photo courtesy of Alfred Eichler, Pigeon, Michigan.

PHOTO: ALFRED EICHLER

A homesteader talks about the early steam engines and gas tractors. 

I was born in a log house on a farm 3 miles northeast of Pigeon, Mich, on Oct. 2nd, 1895. I was the second youngest of a family of 6, 3 girls and 3 boys. There were many horses used in those days (in fact all the work on the land was done with them) and my father raised them. He was accidentally struck down and trampled by one and he only lived about two hours after the accident in April of 1900. The only thing I distinctly remember about him was when he was lying on the couch and he said "Good bye Alfred." I sincerely hope to meet him again where God himself will wipe away our tears and there will be no need of 'good byes'. I like those lines from John Greenleaf Whittier's poem "Snowbound".  "Since He who knows our need is just, that somehow, somewhere, meet we must."

My youngest brother was only 11 days old at the time. Later we were told that the funeral procession was over a mile long (horse drawn vehicles, of course) and it eased our sorrow and raised our pride just a little to know that he was so highly respected. I was too young to grieve very long, but what a shock it must have been to my dear mother.

Now a little bit of family history; my parents came from Ontario, Canada, some time in the 1880's and settled on the farm where I was born (120 acres). The large brick house, built in 1898, and also large bank barn with straw shed attached, both sturdy buildings, still stand as originally built; house had furnace in basement and heat piped to every room at the time it was built.

My father had a small building about 10 foot by 12 foot for a blacksmith shop, he must have been handy as I could tell by the tools and equipment that were still there as I grew older: bellows, forge, vise, anvil together with all the rest. He had a double barn floor which made room for horse power. He and a friend, buddy and good neighbor, (I knew him well in later years) used this horse power with tumbling rod affair to turn off wood wheels (solid) and made a wagon. We used it on the farm to haul anything and everything when I was a grown man.

Well a little must have rubbed off on me, to say that I am enthused about early steam engines and gas tractors and especially saw mills is putting it mildly. When I was a little boy and heard or saw a steam rig coming, I would go to meet it walking along the fence, stumbling along the little crooked paths, between humps and ant hills and little drainage cuts that children had made when going to and from school day after day.