Clarence Ross, the current owner of this Witte engine, tells how he heard an odd noise from the shop at the LaFleur place in 1912. He was passing by it on his way to school from his home on ‘Chair Shop Hill’.
Since the LaFleur boys were schoolmates of Clarence’s it didn’t take him long to determine the cause of the noise. Philip LaFleur, who was a carpenter, and who had been ‘boss carpenter’ when the chair shop was built, had installed a gasoline engine to power the machines in the carpentry shop. A fire-proof room had been built to house the engine.
Clarence purchased the property more than 35 years ago from the LaFleur estate, with the engine and shop included in the purchase.
The engine, a 4 HP Witte headless with battery ignition and a clutch pulley, originally powered the saws, planers, etc, plus a cider mill and a buzz saw through a line shaft. The buzz saw was outside the building and was run by a belt from the line shaft through the door of the engine room.
The cider mill and buzz saw remain, even though the machines have been removed over the years. The cider mill was built by LaFleur. The grinder was made by using a large hardwood dowel with #12 flat head wood screws for teeth, that meshed with screws in the edge of the opening in the hopper. A tamper, to push the apples onto the drum, ran from a jack-shaft which was powered from the main shaft.
The presses were the screw type, tightened by hand. A large wood bar was made to tighten the screws. Originally there were two presses. Only one remains.
Clarence made cider for years, but never the amount made by the original owner. Although the engine has not been run for several years, Clarence is confident that it would start at any time. And no, the engine is not for sale.