The Legacies of Marshall and Milton Reeves

| January 2006

If there was a more unusual pair of brothers in the tractor-manufacturing world than Marshall T. and Milton O. Reeves, they have been well hidden. Between them, the Columbus, Ind., pair invented a six-wheeled and an eight-wheeled automobile, wrote a booklet of directions on how to play the game of roque, founded and pastored a church, included sermons in Reeves & Co. agricultural products catalogs, donated half a million dollars to church missions, invented the variable transmission, had a well-known writer dedicate a work to the Reeves auto, worked side-by-side with factory hands, and, oh yes, manufactured Reeves steam traction engines, cars, buses, tractors and gas engines.

Youth No Hindrance

Marshall Reeves was still in his teens, plowing corn on his father's farm with the old conventional double shovel plow in 1869, when he was struck with an idea. As The Evening Republican newspaper of Columbus, Ind., reported, "The day being hot and the task not a pleasant one, the youth began thinking in terms of labor-saving machinery with the result that he devised a plow on which two double shovels were fastened, one a right-hand and the other a left. He was then able to plow a row of corn at one operation instead of merely a half row as he had done in the past."

Thus, the inventive genius of Marshall Reeves was unleashed. His father helped improve the device and in 1874 Marshall, his father and uncle Alfred B. Reeves formed Hoosier Boy Cultivator Co. They began manufacturing that childhood invention, the "Hoosier Boy Tongueless Corn Plow." In 1879 the name Reeves & Co. was taken, as Marshall had been busy inventing other Reeves items as well: threshers, straw stackers, separators, corn shellers and clover hullers ­- all under the Reeves name. During his lifetime, Marshall was credited for more than 50 patents.

Younger Brother

In the same year, the other half of the dynamic duo, Milton Reeves (13 years younger than Marshall) worked in a sawmill in Columbus. There he saw that workers could not control the speed of the pulleys used to power woodcutting saws. The high speeds caused wood to split and resulted in a great deal of profit-cutting waste. After some months of study and experimentation, he in-vented a variable-speed transmission to control how fast the saws cut. During his lifetime, Milton patented more than 100 different items. In September 1888, Milton, along with Marshall, M.M. Reeves and A.B. Reeves bought Edinburg Pulley Co., moved it to Columbus, and renamed it Reeves Pulley Co.

"The day being hot and the task not a pleasant one, the youth began thinking in terms of labor-saving machinery." - The Evening Republican newspaper of Columbus, Ind.

Reeves Gas Engines

Though it is unclear when Reeves Pulley Co. began manufacturing gas engines, it appears it might have been about 1911. In 1913, 1 HP and 2 HP engines were introduced "to replace the 1-1/2 HP size announced in 1911," according to C.H. Wendel in American Gasoline Engines Since 1872. Other sizes built included 3, 4, 6, 12 and 15 HP sizes.


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