The following history of Branch 16 was written by James Haynie, one of the club's charter members. According to Kick Anderson, Jr., the current president of the club, there are now approximately 90 active members and the club has continued to grow and prosper.
In September 1971, after some deliberation as to spending the $4.00, I finally decided to take my wife (Beulah), my father (Gordon), and my mother (Nellie) to the steam engine show at its nearly new show ground, east of Republic, Missouri.
Being born in 1920, these mammoth machines were mostly retired before my time but I had helped to saw lumber with one, also my dad had told me stories of his days of having an upright on a wagon which he pulled his well drill with. This engine was retired after he crossed Big Sac river with the boiler still hot from finishing a well at Lick Skillet School. Half way across the river the wagon turned over and the hot boiler landed in the cold river and split wide open.
Anyway after looking over the steam engines and watching the threshing and lumber sawing, we started back to look in the tin sheds north of the saw mill. We stopped to look at the saws and etc. in the Springfield machinery shed. Just north of this shed sat a man in a chair. I recognized him as Mr. John Bery and beside him he had three gas engines. He was completely tired out from cranking on them but had only been able to get one of them started all day. You should have seen the grin on his face (he had a grin on his face as big as a wave on a slop bucket.) Boy was he proud of getting one started. It was a 3 H.P. Novo. It seemed to make no difference to John that he was the only man there with an engine running. (There were only a few other engines setting around and they had been left by their owners and seemed to be for display only.) John was having a one man show. Well about one hour later John had converted another person from manhood to boyhood and I swore to start looking for one for myself.
JOHN THE MAN* To know John and Pearl Bery was an experience in itself. They had a store in Ash Grove, Mo. and sold used stuff. Anything from used razor blades to Player Pianos. Pearl sold the dishes, clothes, kitchen pots and pans, books, furniture, etc. Toward the back of the store John had his chair by the stove. (Johns' knees were bad from his years of pole climbing for the R.E.A. so he had to sit down a lot). Behind the stove was Johns' part of the business. On tables and shelves were tools. You could buy a pair of pliers for five cents, a shovel for a quarter, a box of used nails for a dime, and for 50 cents probably the least worn thing he had, a R.E.A. crowbar. On the top shelf were his antique tools, full sets of wooden planes, sets of monkey wrenches, Model T wrenches, etc. These were higher priced and he loved to trade them.
In the back room of the store among the boxes of books, used clothes, used beds and mattresses, John had his work shop. This is where he worked on his engines and you can imagine Pearl's howls when he started one and filled the place with smoke. Imagine how it smelled with old shoes, musty books, used mattresses and gas engine smoke, but, nobody seemed to mind for John and Pearl had a smile and hello for everybody. They traveled a lot and he had a camper, of sorts, on the back of his pickup and they belonged to the Winnebago Club. They had been to Texas to a Winnebago meet and to Paris, Mo. to the gas engine show. He had taken dozens of slides. I didn't know there were that many old engines in the world. He said there were 125 engines, one of the largest shows in the U.S.A. The club at Paris belonged to a national group called The Early Days Gas Engine and Tractor Assn. Imagine a club of gas engine men all over the U. S. A. John said there was already 15 different clubs formed with over 2000 members.
A few weeks after the Republic show I went to John &. Pearls store looking for some paint and John asked if I had found a gas engine. I told him I had bought a 3 H.P. I.H.C. that had been in a fire and was in a very bad state. It was then that he said we should start a club in Ash Grove. There were two or three others interested. He'd found an old Fairfield Rinder engine, Johnny Richter had an Eclipse and Orvis Schnieder had a Lawson and he knew 2 brothers in Springfield who had about 20 engines (Jon and Joe Nichols) also his brother Joe Bery in Lamar, Mo. had 2 engines running and a Rock Island to restore.
I had never belonged to any kind of a club before but I told John I'd be interested. Then I never thought of what that statement could lead to. Boy was I dumb. Little did I realize it would lead to a passion almost equal to Love, Marriage and War. Well after a lot of phone calls and talking, John set the first meeting night for Sat. Nov. 23, 1971. Talk about a crazy bunch, there was 6' of snow on the ground and 4 below zero that night. Johns' wife made a big pot of coffee and Joes' wife brought about a bushel of homemade donuts. John had received the rules we had to go by to join the National and they were very simple. Everything was fine except we needed thirteen members to start a club. John read the rules and said he could find nothing saying women couldn't join so we put our wives down as members. Final count 12 members, one short. Did our feathers fall, we were stuck unless we could find one more member. John wasn't a man to give up easily. Back to the rules. There was nothing about a member having to own an engine. John and Pearl had a man who helped at the store who was about a peck short of a bushel and couldn't even sign his name. We forged his name on a card and passed the hat for his dues. Now we had 13 members. In our application went and on Dec. 17, 1971 we received our charter from Paul Marquardt, secretary of the National. Now we were a club.
We had a few meetings up to spring and in July at a meeting at our house, we had a big turn out and signed a group from Billings, Mo. (John and I had made several trips over to Billings to try and get them to join.) Branch 16 of the E. D. G. E. & T. Assn. was off and running. We voted to hold our meetings on the first Saturday night of each month. We would go to a different members house each month. We would have drinks and cookies with the host serving. What fun to show off our engines to the whole club and usually somebody brought a new engine they had found. John was a very good President. He kept everyone happy and the meeting going. For the next several years we followed this pattern. In these early meetings and first shows, we spent most of our time cranking and working on our engines. As the club grew we got more members who knew how to start and run them.
As the years have gone by we have lost several very good and fine members. Both John and Joe Bery are now passed on, also Mr. Netzer, Mr. Hayes, Mr. Lathrum - to name a few. I know there were others but I cannot remember their names.
In conclusion, I have had but one regret for the club. That is our lack of young members. I would like to see some program started to interest young men and women to carry on the shows and restoration of old farm equipment. If they do not, it will soon be a lost age.
Hoping you will overlook any mistakes I have made and anyone I have forgotten in this article.