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 to come.
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.