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The Rinehardt/Christian/Boehne Allis Chalmers Model E Tractor
by Brian Wayne Wells
(As published in the March/April 2007 issue of
Belt Pulley Magazine)
Minnesota’s Henderson Township is located in the southeast corner of Sibley County, of the state of Minnesota. The Minnesota River flows along the eastern edge of the township. The River’s meandering course forms the political boundary between Henderson Township and Tyrone Township, which is located in neighboring LeSueur County. To the south of Henderson Township is Lake Prairie Township in Nicollet, County which is also adjacent to the Minnesota River. Across the Minnesota River from Lake Prairie Township was Sharon Township another LeSueur County township that lay south of Tyrone Township. Much of land area of these four townships is included in the southern hardwood forest on the state of Minnesota. As such this area became the home of a considerable, if small scale, hardwood industry. For decades settlers and farmers have felled the hardwood trees and sawn the logs into lumber to build their homes and barns. Many local farmers obtained a small circular saw mill rig with the intent of supplementing their farm incomes with wintertime income sawing lumber for their neighbors.
In the early 1930s, during what became known as the Great Depression, farmers in the Minnesota River Valley were merely trying to hang onto their farms and were not really worried about constructing buildings on their farm site. However, as the economy recovered and things started to get back to normal in the mid and late 1930s, farmers began again to think of improving their farming operations by adding additional structures and renovating the structures they already had. Six (6) miles southwest of the village of Henderson, Minnesota (1930 pop. 672), lived Rudolph and Ernestine (Doerr) Adams. Rudolph (nicknamed Rudy) and Ernestine lived in the house in the country with their newborn (May 23, 1936) son, Donald Rudolph. However, they did not farm the land directly. Instead Rudy and his older brother, George H. Adams worked together to make their living from threshing the small grain in the neighborhood during the summer months and sawing logs and making lumber for their neighbors in the wintertime. For threshing in the summer Rudy and George owned a Woods Brothers thresher with a 36 inch cylinder and a 58 inch separating table. Like most threshers of the time, the thresher had a “self-feeder” with a band cutter and with a “double wing” extension fitted onto the self-feeder. The self feeding mechanism had the capability of cutting the twine string around each bundle of grain and feeding the bundles automatically to the cylinder. Previously, a crew member had been required to stand on a platform at the front of the thresher and cut the twine on each bundle of grain and “hand feed” the bundle into the thresher by hand. The “double wing” extension of the self-feeder allowed two elevators attached to the self-feeder to be swung around and extended out at a 90º angle to the thresher on each side of the thresher. The double-wing self feeder was designed for “stack threshing.” As opposed to “shocking” their bundles of small grain in the grain field in “shocks” made up of seven to nine bundles each, some farmers of the neighborhood preferred to store their grain bundles in specially designed stacks built from the bundles. Carefully, constructed, a stack of bundles could be designed to shed rain water and keep the bundles perfectly dry until threshing day. These stacks were cylindrical and slightly conical in shape and were about 30 feet in diameter. On threshing day, the thresher would be pulled up to a location between two stacks on a farm. Then the wings of the self-feeder would be swung out and positioned to located over the center of the stacks of bundles on either side of the thresher. Crew members then needed only to stand on top of the stack and load the bundles of the stack onto the elevator wing with pitch forks.
To power and transport the thresher around the neighborhood, Rudy and George owned a 60 hp. (horsepower) J.I. Case Company traction steam engine. Helping the Adams Brothers with his threshing and saw mill business was a neighbor– Henry W. (Hank) Reinhardt. Hank and Irene (Delzer) Reinhardt rented 160 acre farm in Henderson Township. There they lived and worked with their son, Victor. Hank worked the land during the summer on his diversified farming operation. During July and August each year he would travel around the neighborhood following Rudy Adams and the thresher to help with the neighborhood threshing. Since the time when his son, Victor, became old enough to drive a team of horses, Hank would take Victor along as part of the threshing crew. Victor had the job of driving a team pulling a water wagon. He would hand-pump the 500-gallon tank on the water wagon full of water from whatever water source happened to exist on the particular farm where they were threshing. Then he would drive the team pulling the full tank of water to the grain field where the steam engine was at work. Then he would, again, hand-pump the water out of the tank on the water wagon into the 260 gallon “on board” water tanks located on the steam engine itself. Once that tank was full, the water intake hoses from the steam engine would be dropped into the opening in the top of the tank on the water wagon. For a while, Victor would have be able to take a rest while the steam engine drew all the water it needed directly from the water wagon. Once the water in the water wagon was all gone, the intake hoses were withdrawn from the water wagon and the steam engine went back to drawing its water from the on-board water tank. It was up to Victor to hurry off to fill the water wagon again and return before all the 260 gallons of water in the on-board water tank was used up. Victor was kept busy all day working on the water wagon just to assure that the steam engine always had water available for the boiler.