An Early Stover Engine Found in New Zealand

By Staff
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This 6 HP Stover, s/n 1658, is showing the 60 years it's spent unprotected from the New Zealand weather.
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Author Ron Wiley is helping return this piece of Stover engine history to its former glory with a complete restoration.

In 2004, I was told about a very early 6 HP Stover engine that resides at Kuriheka near Oamaru on South Island, New Zealand. I wrote an article about this horizontal engine at that time but was unable to get pictures of it so I had to use ones of a horizontal engine 1907 5 HP Stover Type DO on a transport that was similar to the New Zealand engine.

Alex Storrie was a blacksmith who started his business making farm implements in the 1890s in Invercargill at the bottom of South Island. He is said to have been an agent for Stover so I now wonder how many Stover engines were sent to him. The Stover engine was supplied to a Colonel Nichols around six months after Stover brought out their new range of engines. The engine is still on this property that is run by the Nichols family. It is now 107 years old and has sat outside for the last 60 years.

Richard Kees, Christchurch, NZ, brought this engine to my attention and in June 2004 he relayed information that the whole operation is in a trust that is controlled by Robin C. Nichols. There was infighting between Robin and his nephew, Tim, and they do not talk to one another. Richard went on to say that attempts to phone the uncle had failed to date. All I can assume is that at present Tim or Robin Nichols has gained control of the trust.

One evening in June 2010 I had a phone call from Tony Williams in New Zealand. I was told he had spoken to Robin, who I assume is the grandson or great-grandson of the colonel, about restoring the Stover several years ago but nothing happened. Then recently, Robin came and asked Tony to restore the engine.

Early Stover history

Daniel C. Stover was born on May 8, 1840 at Greencastle, PA. He started a manufacturing business in 1862, most likely making machinery for local farmers. He moved to Freeport, IL, in 1866 and by 1872 was listed as a manufacturer of agricultural implements. The Stover Mfg. Co. was formed in 1879 and was incorporated in 1882. By 1887 the Stover Mfg. Co. had become the largest manufacturer of windmills in the world.

The Stover Engine Works was established in 1893; in the 1904, 1905 and 1911 catalogs it is stated that the company started producing engines in 1895. The 1911 catalog states it is the 16th so the first catalog was issued in 1896.

Little is known about the early years except that Stover produced horizontal sideshaft engines. It is said that very few advertisements appeared before 1900. In 1902 a new range of horizontal and vertical engines replaced the sideshaft engine.

Dating the engine

Using the Stover shipping records to date this engine was more difficult than expected and involved a close reading of the ledger.

On the back page of Power in the Past, Volume 3 by C. H. Wendel is a list compiled by Lester Roos in 1973. It gives the last serial number for each year from 1903 to Feb. 20, 1942, when Stover closed. The last Stover engine produced has the serial number 277558.  

The 1903 ledger starts with s/n 1647, shipped on March 10, 1903; the last number for that year is 2256. Wendel makes the comment that the task of compiling the list was extremely difficult because of overlapping between the production and shipping dates. He goes on to say, “No serial numbers are available for engines built prior to March 10, 1903. All that is known is the fact that up to this time, Stover had built 1,646 engines.”

I was corresponding with Curt Andre of the Stephenson County Antique Engine Club in Freeport, IL, and he told me Lester Roos offered the engine records to a Chris Johnson before he died, but Chris only took the shipping records because he didn’t have room for everything. Chris used the records to provide individual engine information to collectors for the price of a stamp.

Chris was an inspector in the area where engines were tested and it would seem that he started to work for Stover some time in the 1920s. He stayed with the company until February 1942 when the plant was shut down and sold. After Lester died, Wendel somehow ended up with the manufacturing records. The shipping records now reside with the Stephenson County Antique Engine Club, where Joe Maurer is the current custodian.

Pages one and two were missing from the first Stover shipping ledger and the first serial number on page three is 535, which was an engine sold to Dorman & Co. of Freeport – a horizontal 6 HP on a transport. Pages one and two were subsequently found in the middle of the ledger while looking for information about a later engine. There is no information on page one, and page two starts at serial number 501. The ledger has 34 entries on each page.

The first entry with a date is the last one on page four: serial number 602 that was sold to Jim Alexander in Nebraska, with a shipment date of 2/21/03. The shipment date on this entry is 18 days before engine number 1647.

The next entry with a date is serial number 650, which was a 1-1/2 HP pumper engine sold to F. L. Colby Co. of Crystal Lake, IL, on May 20, 1903. Then, serial number 658 was sold to Mike Redlinger of Freeport as a 1-1/2 HP plain (vertical) with a shipping date of Feb. 18, 1903. The next engine with a date is serial number 663, a 1-1/2 HP pumper sold to G.A. Black of Oasis, UT, on May 8, 1903.

So now, without much effort, I have found two entries with shipment dates that are earlier than March 10, 1903. The first question I have is why Lester didn’t find or comment on these two engines? On page four, serial number 602 is the only one to have an entry in column five. Page five has no dates in column five and page five has three dates in column five. So, you could say that the first four shipping dates stand out like a sore thumb.

On page 11 about half the entries are dated, and after the sixth entry on page 12 (s/n 846) all entries have a shipment date. Although the dates are hard to read, most shipping dates appear to be February 1903 on pages 12 and 13, although s/n 851 has a shipping date of Jan. 27, 1903.

Then, toward the bottom of page 13 starting with s/n 900, entries are made every other line. So, from page 14 onward there are only 17 engines instead of 34 engines listed on previous pages.

The following will give you an idea how the shipping dates are all over the place for the first 1,000 engines shipped to customers in the first half of 1903:

• s/n 602: with a shipping date of Feb. 21, 1903.

• s/n 974: 3 HP vertical; shipping date Feb 2, 1903.

• s/n 1647: shipping date March 10, 1903 (in Wendel’s book).

• s/n 1658: shipping date March 6, 1903, Alex Storrie (the New Zealand Stover)

• s/n 1670: shipping date Jan. 5, 1903.

• s/n 1676: shipping date July 13, 1903.

Engines were tested and given the next consecutive serial number regardless of type or horsepower. It is possible that some engines were put in the store and sold when a customer ordered a particular model. Seeing as more verticals were sold, it is possible that some engines sat in the back of the store for several months.

The engine

The New Zealand Stover, s/n 1658, is listed as a 6 HP horizontal engine with full base. It looks as if the subbase has been removed and the engine mounted on the transport; note the gas tank is mounted between the transport rails below the cylinder head. Looking at the engine, you will note there is an eccentric cam between the main bearing and the right-hand flywheel. Also, note there is a rod from the cam going to what looks to be a piston pump attached to the engine frame.

There appears to be a pipe from the pump going into the cylinder head below the exhaust. It looks as if there is another pipe taking water from the head to underneath the cylinder with hot water exiting the cylinder through a pipe on top. I assume screen-cooling was used with the tank mounted behind the engine but that is missing.

Water galleries between the head and cylinder do not look to have been used on this engine. From the information I have it looks that by 1905 there were water galleries between the head and cylinder. Most engines at that time were side-valve with a one-piece cylinder and head casting so it would seem unusual for Stover to use a detachable water-cooled head with overhead valves.

The pushrod operating the exhaust valve also trips the igniter and operates the fuel pump. The mechanism for the latter is different to that used on later engines. It would seem that refinements to the design of engines in 1904-05 were still used until the new “K” series engines came out in 1923-24.


The pictures with this article show the engine before restoration began and restoration is already underway. I hope in the future to show pictures of the restored engine and be able to explain the differences between this and later Stover engines.

Information for this article comes from C.H. Wendel’s Power in the Past, Volume 3, and the first Stover shipping ledger, currently in the care of the Stephenson County Antique Engine Club in Freeport.

My thanks to Tony Williams in New Zealand for supplying pictures and information about the engine.

Contact Ron Wiley at

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