Legacy of Giving!

By Staff
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Ira E. Lawton in his blacksmith and buggy shop.
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This is the Springfield as we got it in 1995.
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Left: the blacksmith shop where the Springfield engine was used; right, the Lawton home.
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The Springfield in the first stages of restoration.
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Robert Lawton, grandson of the original owner, left, with present owner Jay Clark.

308 Center Avenue, North Charleroi, Pennsylvania 15022

When looking at an antique gas engine, most people see just
that, an engine. But not so for Jay Clark of North Charleroi,
Pennsylvania. When Jay and his wife, Sis Clark, look at one of
their many exhibits they take to steam shows and antique shows,
they see an entire legacy of friendship, caring, and generosity.
The engine that brings this to mind is an 1896 Springfield six
horsepower engine.

To start at the beginning you would have to go to West
Middletown, Pennsylvania, where Ira E. Lawton ran a forge and
blacksmith shop. He originally purchased the engine new to run his
blacksmith shop. He was the largest buggy-maker in western
Pennsylvania. There the engine stayed long after the blacksmith
shop closed. When his daughter, a teacher of many years in the
Chartiers Houston School District, passed away and the estate was
being settled, her nephew gave the engine to Thomas L. Weaver of
Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, knowing he was involved with several
organizations that restore and preserve antique equipment. He and
three of his children had been students of Miss Lawton’s. Fran
Smith of Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, hauled the engine to
Weaver’s, where it was stored in pieces for several years.

Then Thomas L. Weaver gave the engine to Jay Clark, with the
stipulation that he restore it. Jay took the challenge to heart and
immediately started restoration. He had restored many pieces before
but shortly discovered just how special this engine was. Seeing
pictures of the engine, Norman Colbey of Claysville, Pennsylvania,
was able to identify it as a rare Springfield engine. This is the
oldest of just 34 known Springfield engines left.

While restoration progressed, Jay ran into the generosity of the
people wanting to be a part of this rare and unique engine.
Donations started to come: bolts donated by Dave Vincenty, of
Canonsburg; a belt for the governor donated by Clark Colby of
Irwin, Pennsylvania; new gas tank, an exact replica, offered by
Dale Minor of Fairfield, Ohio; a cart for the engine built by Ron
Westfall of Washington, Pennsylvania; wheels from Jim Lacy of
Centerville, Pennsylvania; the trailer originally used to haul it
to Tom Weaver’s was donated by Tom; and the engine was put
together in New Carlisle, Ohio, by Junior Christian, Chester
Luckenbaugh and Pee Wee Luckenbaugh.

The restoration took 1? years to complete. Original books and
manuals for the engine were given to Jay by Norman Anderson,
Canfield, Ohio, and the brass (a solid piece of brass 12′ x
6′ x 4′) was donated by an anonymous donor. When seeing the
engine being painted, Bruce Eggleston of New Carlisle volunteered
and did the pinstriping.

Left to right: sitting, Tom Weaver and C. E. Christian;
standing, Chester Luckenbaugh, Sr., Jay Clark, Sr., Chester
Luckenbaugh, Jr.

Left to right: Chester Luckenbaugh Sr., C. E. Christian, Chester
Luckenbaugh, Jr., Jay Clark Sr. at the first showing of the
Springfield engine.

This unique engine built by Springfield Gas Engine Company in
Dayton, Ohio, has many of the features we think of as modern. The
overhead cam and fuel injection mechanisms are both original on
this 1896 engine, but the biggest asset the engine has is its
legacy of generosity. Many just want to be a small part of this
story which has just one more chapter to date.

On visiting this area from New Castle, Pennsylvania, Robert
Lawton, the grandson of the original owner, visited the National
Pike Steam, Gas and Horse Association’s fairgrounds near
Brownsville, Pennsylvania, to take a look at the engine that spent
so many years in his grandfather’s shop. And as everyone else
who came in contact with this special engine, Robert Lawton too was
touched, and sent pictures to Jay of his grandfather, Ira E.
Lawton, and the shop where the legacy started.

Today, the engine runs as smoothly as when it was first built
and waits patiently for its next chapter to be written.

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