Farm Machinery Homesteading Stories From Frank Ott Sr.

Frank Ott Sr. talks about his history of using farm machinery and homesteading stories with readers of Gas Engine Magazine.


| March/April 1966



Line up of tractors

Photo courtesy of R. F. Somerville, British Columbia, Canada.

R. F. SOMERVILLE

Frank Ott Sr. shares his homesteading stories in Oregon. 

Received my first copy of Gas Engine Magazine and it sure meets my approval as it is right up my alley. Although I had a few tussels with steam power back in Wisconsin where I was born, Oct. 29, 1874, and a few in Oregon, where I moved to in 1890 (Portland) with my parents. Such as helping on steam powered threshing rigs, firing boiler and running stationary engine in a brewery in Uniontown, Washington in the middle '90's. I also spent some time with Nick Stiener running a portable steam powered wood saw in Portland, Ore. In them days most homes in Portland used wood for cooking and heating. It was piled on the curb in 4 foot lengths to season out and in the fall and winter we, and several other rigs, were busy every day sawing it into 12 to 16 inch lengths.

But more about my homesteading stories. I guess what got me started with gas engines was when I got my first piece of land. I built a snug 10 by 16 cabin and a 10 by 16 chicken house and a 30 by 50 barn. As I had no water on the place, I had to haul my water in barrels on a sled, so the next thing, I thought, was dig a well.

There lived an old guy in the neighborhood who claimed to be a whiz at witching wells and his fees were very reasonable (1 qt. of Mona-gram). I engaged him. After about 2 hours of walking around with a forked willow stick, and with a mysterious and professional air, he says: 'right here, young feller, you will get plenty of water at 50 feet. So I goes to Portland (12 miles) and buys 50 feet of 3/4 inch rope. Then I starts digging (4 feet in diameter) and when I get down about 8 feet I set up my windlass, get my brother, Ed, to help whenever he has time to spare. Of course, when we get down to the end of our 50 foot rope that old hole is still dry as an old bone. Back to town for 100 feet of rope, also around to implement dealers looking at windmills and pumps, as I figure if that old well is going to be over 50 feet deep, it needs more than a rope and bucket to get water out.

35 HP Waterloo Boy new in March of 1913 with a 27 foot Aultman-Taylor Separator. Picture taken in outskirts of Portland, Oregon as he was bringing home new separator in June1913.

Right then is when it started. (Fall of 1901) Fairbanks Mose and Co. had one of those newfangled 2 HP Jack of all Trades pump engines on display. The salesman started it up and boy, did it run nice. Of course they had the exhaust pipe run outside about a foot thick brick wall, so I did not know it sounded like a 22 cal. rifle everytime it hit.