We thank Dennis Dimond, Managing Editor of Belvidere Daily Republican newspaper for permission to use the following story and picture.
Little did George Schmeling know that in 1914 when his father, August Schmeling, Sr. purchased his first gas engine that it would soon be one of his collectors items. Schmeling, R.R. 1, Caledonia, now has an interesting collection of restored antique farm machinery he has collected for several years.
'In 1914 my father purchased a gas engine that Fairbanks & Moores Light Plant used to supply electricity. It was used for pumping water to the stock, to saw wood (which supplied the fuel to heat the house) and to pump water into the house to run the washing machine. And, since this was the first gas engine in the area, my father and I along with some of the neighbors built a power line out from Caledonia which is still in use now.' Schmeling said.
Since then, Schmeling has collected 22 gas engines, three antique tractors and two thrashing machines. He restored most of the machinery back to its original color and condition because he wanted 'to display it at the Boone County Fair to show the younger generation how farming was done years ago.'
'I suggested displaying my collection to the fair board a few years ago and I have been doing it for the last five years.' reminisced Schmeling.
Even though Schmeling has great pride for his antiques he can't deny that they are antiques and that modern farming equipment has greatly helped the farmer in this day and age. 'Where it used to take two or three men in the past now one man can do the same job with the modern machinery--if he can afford it! Yet, the first of the farm machinery was simple and basic, but it certainly was an improvement from the horse, he said with a chuckle.
The antique farm machinery collector estimates that his old machinery has increased in value two-thirds of what it was when he first started collecting. Yet, he doesn't plan on selling any of his collection --they are strictly a hobby, not a business.
Does he have a hard time finding and restoring his antiques? Some of his old gas engines have come from as far as Canada, North Dakota, and Minnesota. And, he tries to repaint each to its original color and repair it to its original condition.
Schmeling has had 'callers' from as fas as California, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Southern Illinois visit him for the sole purpose of viewing his antique farm machinery collection. And he and his 'faithful companion' Zeb, a 125 pound German Shepherd dog as happy to unveil his unusual collection.
Schmeling restores all the machinery he collects.
However, Schmeling admits that he didn't find all his items single-handedly. Duane Richards, a member of Rock River Thrashery, helped him 'many years with my work. He is a wonderful fella, and is always willing to help. He has been an especially big help to me at the Boone County Fair.'
Why doesn't George Schmeling display his collection at other fairs and exhibitions? 'I'm connected with the Boone County Fair and I think we have a very nice fair and I'm all for anyone who works hard to help make it such a nice fair.'