A Victor Restored

| December/January 1997

3744 Barron Memphis, Tennessee 38111

The Burford family of Memphis, Tennessee father Albert and sons Chris, Kevin, and Keithare long-time collectors and restorers of antique flywheel engines. Their passion for this hobby is why one summer day, when Albert saw an old, rusty engine sitting by the side of the road, he wanted a second look. He talked to the owner, Mr. A. S. Pat Hamner, and his sister, Ms. Essie Anthony. They both had long hoped to see the engine run again. They agreed to let him and his sons take and restore it to former glory. The Burfords' research revealed that the engine is a twelve horsepower International Harvester Victor, serial number NA 188. According to the International Harvester History Book, it is the first kerosene, throttle governed Victor of 1914. Mr. Hamner's and Ms. Anthony's father, Albert Ross Hamner, bought the engine sometime before he married in 1923. It is believed he bought it new, though the exact purchase date is not known. He and his wife owned and operated a general mercantile store and grist mill in Pisgah, a small town in Tennessee. The engine was used to run the grist mill. In 1925, he moved the grist mill one and one-half miles down the road, where it became a very successful business.

Ms. Essie remembers the care and devotion her father showed for the engine when she was a child. 'Mill Day' was every Saturday. Before the engine was ever started it was gone over with oil. He was sure it always had the right amount of oil in it, and it was always Gulf State (that was the best in his opinion). Water for cooling always had to be just right.

People came from all around with their corn to have it ground into meal. It was measured in a one-half bushel metal container, then a measure of one-twelfth of a bushel was taken out for the grinding. A fine, white dust settled on everything in the mill house, and Mr. Hamner's hat was always white because of it.

The mill house was shut down in 1935 because of Mr. Hamner's failing health, and it burned down in 1961. The engine was then moved across the road to sit in front of the family home. In April of 1992, Albert, Kevin and Keith Burford and a family friend, David Billingsly, retrieved it from the earth in which it had become embedded over the years.

The Burford men logged approximately 632 hours on the Victor over the next two years. With a little help from fellow flywheelers, they had several parts machined. Parts were then assembled, the engine mounted on a trailer, and painted to complete the restoration. The Victor now makes regular stops at mid-south engine shows. Members of Ms. Essie's family, including her mother (Mrs. Ollie Hamner, Seward), saw the restored engine at the 1994 Mid-South Flywheelers Show held at the Agricenter International in Memphis. It brought back a flood of memories to the family. They had dreamed for years of seeing the engine run again, but never thought it would happen. However, thanks to the Burford men a piece of history has been brought back to life and the family's dream has come true.

Debbie Dean
2/23/2013 2:15:26 PM

I need to correct the post i previously wrote. the Burford family restored the engine that ran the grist mill my great grandfather had. thanks again to the Burford family.

Debbie Dean
2/19/2013 12:22:08 PM

thanks for posting this article. I am Albert Hamners daughter and found the tapes in his belongings. He passed away Nov 2012. I had no one to answer any questions about the grist mill and this article helped fill in the blanks. the tapes were not narrated so we didn't know exactly what was going on and where they got the grist mill. we had heard some stories but never really knew anything about the restoration. thanks to the Buford family to get Miss Essie back running. Deborah Dean


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