Gas Engines and Brotherly Love

How do you get two brothers to connect with each other? Gas engines, of course! That’s how it worked with the Churchill brothers.

| October/November 2016

  • Brad Churchill with the Churchill brothers’ circa-1914-1915 Keller 1-1/2 hp engine.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • Mark Churchill with the Churchill brothers’ circa-1915-1916 Modern Jr. 3 hp engine, a badged Bates & Edmonds Bull Pup.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • The Churchill brothers’ Modern Jr. 3 hp. Something of a mystery at first, it turned out to be a badged Bates & Edmonds Bull Pup.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • The brass tag on the Modern shows the engine line was sold by a number of different supply companies.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • A Bates & Edmonds 2-1/2 hp Bull Pup: There’s no question but that the Modern Jr. is a badged Bates & Edmonds. This engine and the Churchill brothers’ engine are within 600 serial numbers of each other.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • The circa-1914-1915 Keller 1-1/2 hp engine was likely built prior to Keller production moving from Bloomer to Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • The Keller belted up to a pump jack. Note how the gas tank is strapped to the water hopper.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • The Churchill brothers’ circa-1905 tank-cooled Stover 2 hp Type A vertical.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • Pulley side of engine clearly shows camshaft-mounted governor.
    Photo by Bill Vossler

Call it brotherly love, because when the Churchill brothers of Hager City, Wisconsin, were younger, they didn’t get along all that well, says younger brother Brad, 55. They grew up together on a dairy farm, and Mark, 63, says they both inherited their grandfather’s love of old iron.

“My grandpa used to collect steam engines,” Mark says, “and about my junior year in high school, my uncle had a John Deere engine that I wanted to buy, but he didn’t want to sell it. He said I could take it to ag class and repair it, but I said I’d rather buy one and keep it.”

This led to the first engine in Mark’s collection, a 2-1/2 hp Aerometer with a fluted hopper, which he bought in 1971. At that time, their grandpa was attending steam engine shows, and Mark would help. “That’s where I saw those small portable engines, and I started collecting them.”

Brad attended shows with Mark “before I discovered girls in high school,” he laughs. “He [Mark] gave me a 1-1/2 hp Lauson engine with the solid disk flywheel, and I got it up and running. So he got me started in gas engines.”



Soon they were attending shows and auctions together, and buying gasoline engines. Some individually, some jointly. “When both of us liked an engine, we each paid half, and owned the engine jointly,” Brad says. “For me, it meant paying less money,” Mark says, “but I still got the fun of working on it.” Today, they have 24 shared engines.

Brad lives in a rural area, and originally all the engines – Brad’s, Mark’s and those bought together – were stored in a shed there. Mark lived more than an hour away, so on weekends he drove to Hager City to work on the engines with Brad, staying overnight.