The Silver Creek Museum hosts the Stover engine shipping records, a valuable resource for engine collectors
The Silver Creek Museum in Freeport, Ill., protects the Stover engine records. The building was originally the Stephenson County Poor Farm.
The Stephenson County Antique Engine Club was started in 1970 and, like most engine and tractor clubs, was made up of folks interested in early farm equipment. Because Stover was the largest local manufacturer of farm equipment and other products, the club made their logo “Home of the Stover Line.” Over the years the club has expanded and now has a full-size steam railroad (Silver Creek & Stephenson Railroad), a 130-ton Cooper Corliss stationary steam engine with a 25-foot flywheel, a large museum (Silver Creek Museum), a sawmill, and several buildings to hold their equipment. So what does this mean to the Stover collector? It means the museum holds and shares the original Stover shipping and manufacturing records for more than 277,000 engines. So you can contact me, and I go to the museum to find the birth certificate for your Stover engine if you have a good serial number.
The shipping records became available back in the early ‘60s. The late Lester Roos would look your engine up if you sent him a SASE. I was surprised at how many people don’t know what that means – self-addressed stamped envelope. How could they know? Now most of the requests come in by email. After Lester there was the late Chris Johnson, then the not-late Curt Andree and now yours truly. Sometimes Lester or Chris would scratch a name and city right in the record books when they looked one up, but there was no formal way to record the engines that were being documented.
When I took the job over from Curt, I wondered if there would be a good way to start a Stover registry so we could see where the known engines were and what type of Stover engine they were. Now, my wife is not an engine person. In fact, instead of getting excited when I buy an engine she gets the opposite (if you know what I mean). But bless her heart, when I mumbled something about how to keep track of all this information she said, “I’ll make you a spreadsheet on the computer.” And she did and Gas Engine Magazine hosts the Stover registry for all the world to see — that is, if you have access to a computer.
The records never leave the Silver Creek Museum and are stored in an upgraded fire-resistant records room with other valuable documents. We still have a humidity problem in the summer, but we are working on this issue. Generally, donations are going toward digitally recording the records. We now have a document scanner, but we still need a computer with the appropriate program and a disc recorder. All but the earliest records are in large books with 20 engines per page. Each page needs to be scanned and organized. Let’s see, at 277,000 engines that’s – well you see the work involved.
The collector inquires by phone, email or letter, and sometimes by word of mouth. Email works best, but sometimes I don’t even get a name, let alone a location, so a reply is necessary so the registry can be complete. No personal information is published.
The information is recorded in a notebook, and when there are a number of requests, or when I have the time, I go to the museum.
The books are heavy so I try to go through the requests in numerical order so I don’t have to get a particular book out more than once per visit. The information is written in the notebook. Sometimes the numbers are wrong or don’t make sense so I look for similar-looking numbers or contact the collector to have them double-check the number. Then the information is sent to the collector.
The information is also recorded on the spreadsheet. There are two spreadsheets: one for the registry and one with personal contact information on it. If the collector sends a donation, I try to thank him and record the amount on the personal spreadsheet.
A few times a year I send the registry spreadsheet to Beth Beavers, and she updates the Stover registry on the Gas Engine Magazine website. Please remember that the engines on the registry are engines that are documented as still existing in some form or another.
The reason I’ve gone into detail on the Stover engine records is because many of you have inquired about how the system works. If you’d like for me to search for your Stover engine please contact me at the address below.
Until next time, keep your plugs dry and your igniters oiled.
Contact Joe Maurer at 797 S. Silberman Rd., Pearl City, IL 61062 • (815) 443-2223 • firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information: The Stephenson County Antique Engine Club and Silver Creek Museum, 2954 S. Walnut Rd., Freeport, IL 61032; (815) 235-2198