Story by Joe Maurer, photos by Ron Martin
Within half a century, Stover Engine Works manufactured more than 277,000 engines. That abundance of engines means a couple things. First, there are many people in engine land who have affection for, or at least an interest in, Stover engines. Second, because of the number of engines still out there, it seems appropriate to discuss these engines, the engine owners and events as they relate to Stover. What better format for this discussion than Gas Engine Magazine? Since we're not sure where we're going here, we'll use reader response to establish the direction of this department.
We will occasionally reference the Stephenson County Antique Engine Club, of which I'm a member, because it calls Freeport, Ill., home just as Stover did; hence the club's motto, "The Home of the Stover Line." Also, the club has a very valuable commodity relative to Stover engines - records. Currently, we have the shipping records from serial number 500 through the end of engine production. These records tell, by serial number, the date and to whom an engine was shipped. That's pretty nice to know. C.H. Wendell has manufacturing records, which he is donating to our club. These records will be very valuable as a cross reference to the shipping records. Also, we have build sheets for engines customized by Stover and sent to other companies. These records start in 1928 and list approximately 200 companies to which Stover sold modified engines. Information from the shipping records has been available for about 40 years.
In the past, members of the club volunteered to send information to inquiries about specific engine serial numbers. We will continue this service with myself as the contact. We will ask for a voluntary donation to help offset preservation costs, to put a steel door on our fireproof storage room (it currently has a wooden one) and to electronically back up the paper records.
What actually happened during the Stover Reunion in July of 2006? Well, you've read articles in GEM covering some of the engines, but beyond that, not much has been reported. The reunion was a great success even though Freeport suffered a record heat wave. Participants came from 16 states and two foreign countries.
Engine folks came from across the country hauling some really large engines thousands of miles. Celebrities included our banquet speakers, C.H. "Chuck" Wendel and Ron Wiley from Australia. Chuck was also available in gasoline alley to sign books. We really appreciated his fortitude, signing books in the heat. Richard Backus and Erin Shipps represented GEM. Richard donated free issues of GEM with articles relating to Stover.
Almost every type of Stover engine was represented, with the exception of the elusive 19th century sideshaft Stover. But what a group of Stovers there were! A total of 125 Stover engines were registered, ranging from the oldest known to some of the last made. There was also a display of other Stover products and original catalogs. The Friday night banquet was well attended with 97 folks present. Ron spoke on the variations of Stover engines sold in Australia and Chuck gave a philosophical dissertation that left us chuckling.
Saturday was hot and bright but that didn't dampen enthusiasm. The huge display of Stover engines were running as everyone enjoyed the company of fellow engine nuts and their tolerant spouses. Late Saturday afternoon, two busloads of 91 enthusiasts toured Freeport. The tour included a stop at the 1878 factory on the Pecatonica River, a walking tour of the large 1901 factory complex and a stop at D.C. Stover's gravesite. Stover's monument is the highest in the city cemetery.
Sunday dawned hot and bright. Goodbyes were exchanged throughout the day as people loaded up and headed out. Most of the Stovers were gone by sundown. The reunion took a lot of preparation and hard work, and it was all worth it in the end.
The Stover committee and the Stephenson County Antique Engine Club would like to offer a special thanks to all the friends who brought engines and participated in our celebration. The reunion could not have been a success without you!
In the future, we'll cover subjects dealing with D.C. Stover, his engines and Stover products. We'll do what we can with technical questions but we don't want to forget the people side of the hobby. Some results of serial number searches may be included as points of interest.
Until next time, keep your plugs clean and your igniters oiled.
Contact Joe Maurer at 797 S. Silberman Rd., Pearl City, IL 61602 • (815) 443-2223 • firstname.lastname@example.org