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Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT

Parker Soil Pulverizer
Parker Soil Pulverizer

Jim Butcher and Percherons drawing the Parker Pulverizer at Carriage Hill Farm.

Bring Back To Life the John P. Parker Pulverizer

by Ben Schulte of Columbus, IN
photographs by Jim Scherer

In May of this year Jim Butcher of Carriage Hill Farm, Huber Heights, Ohio put to use a “Parker-Built McColm Soil Pulverizer” as part of a horse drawn tillage demonstration. This particular pulverizer is an implement that was brought back into existence as part of my college capstone project at the University of Cincinnati College of Applied Science (formerly known as the Ohio Mechanics Institute). As a Mechanical Engineering Technology major there, I took on this unique project that entailed the recreation of a farm implement known as the “Parker Soil Pulverizer” for donation to the John P. Parker Society and Museum of Ripley, Ohio for display and for use in occasional demonstrations. However, I must back up a bit further here to provide you, the dedicated reader, a little of what is much deserved background.

Parker Soil Pulverizer

A Bit of History

John P. Parker was a slave who had worked in the foundry trade in Mobile, Alabama in the 1840’s. There he conceived of an idea for a new type of soil pulverizer or “clod smasher” having uniquely shaped feet and spike features on the wheels, but his shop foreman stole the idea and claimed it as his own. Later, after he had purchased his own freedom and ventured to Ripley, Ohio, he came into his own foundry and machine shop business making a variety of products. Staying busy with running a business during the day, he also worked tirelessly to help many slaves to cross the Ohio River from the banks along the Kentucky/Ohio border by cover of night, and continue on their journey along the Underground Railroad towards freedom. His story is an amazing journey, intriguing, and filled with excitement. A recount of his life can be found in the book His Promised Land and offers unique insight into the story of a stout individual’s amazing journey and participation in the Underground Railroad.

Parker’s venture manufactured a variety of products, including those agricultural in nature. The 1880’s saw the addition of a McColm’s patent pulverizer to his build and sale lists. This particular pulverizer exhibited cast wheels usually pictured in groups of eight on an axle and wooden frame pulled by two horses. These wheels looked to be approximately thirty inches in diameter or so and give the appearance of a “crowsfoot” type land roller with its offset blunt feet. Though not his patent, Parker laid his distinctive mark on this implement in casting features and craftsmanship. Whether this work rekindled his original ideas for the pulverizer he had brought to life in his scale model back in the 1840’s as a slave is unknown. However, a patent dated December 9th, 1892 was taken out for “new and useful improvements in soil pulverizers” as the Parker Soil Pulverizer. Advertisements now featured Parker Pulverizers with his patented design wheels, no longer those of Stephen McColm. Mr. Parker’s pulverizers, as well as other of his patented products like the Parker Tobacco Press (of the screw type) were manufactured well after his death in early 1900 and seemed to be quite popular in the surrounding area and elsewhere in the country.

Parker Soil Pulverizer

Cast Iron Lust or The Historical Preservationist’s Lament

Enter Charles Nuckolls of the John P. Parker Historical Society. He approached Dr. Maria Kreppel and others at the College of Applied Science inquiring about having students make models of Parker’s patented devices. Dave Conrad, a teacher at the college in turn approached myself and Dave Ramsey about taking on the project for elective credit including research guidance under Dr. Jason Krupar. I have had a love for old equipment, especially farm equipment, since I was little, probably having much to do with my Mother reading me a book entitled Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. Further intensifying my passion and interest was the time I spent on my Grandpa’s farm in Okeana, Ohio. My Grandpa, Joeseph Schulte, was still binding corn with a McCormick-Deering binder and Farmall H; and I was lucky enough to have bounced around on the stamped metal seat as he worked it through the corn field. So I gladly said yes, besides, we’d just be making models of equipment that already existed…

Parker Soil Pulverizer

Well, all is not always easy in the field of equipment preservation and recreation, and it was in this case that much information was indeed missing. All that existed of the Parker Pulverizer was the patent document from 1890, and this patent document was in no shape to be scaled accurately as the features were hand sketched freely with what seemed to be rather exaggerated features. There were also sixteen cast wheels present at the Parker House Museum in Ripley. These were found and purchased at an auction by Donna Covert, a previous employee of Mr. Chatham who had purchased the foundry long after Parker was gone. But these wheels were twenty-nine inches in diameter and seemed to closely resemble the newspaper ads from the 1880’s for the Parker-built McColm patent pulverizer. Countless hours of research ensued trying to assemble Parker’s industrial history and it was our good fortune that Alison Gibson of the Public Library in Ripley located an ad in an 1891 edition of The Ripley Bee while scrolling through countless rolls of microfilm. And so finally, there it was before us, a detailed image of what the true Parker pulverizer looked like. After months of dreaming what it would look like, I was speechless when I gazed upon the detailed woodcut image. It was beautiful.

Parker Soil Pulverizer

All in the Details of the Cut

As seen in the 1891 woodcut of what has determined to be Parker’s true pulverizer, the implement consists of eight cast wheels positioned on an axle mounted to a wooden frame and pulled by two draft animals. The operator is supported on a structure consisting of two curved straps and one curved foot guard sheet with what looks to be a cast iron seat mounted on top. It was noted that square head bolts were used to assemble the majority of the implement together. A tongue of unknown length is seen to be present with teamster’s double tree. To get a general idea of the size of the major components of the Parker pulverizer, such as the wheel diameter and frame members, the McColm and Parker pulverizer advertisements were employed. Similar features in size were identified including some of the frame components.

Since the rough diameter of the Parker built McColm wheels could be found from the wheels that existed at the Parker house in Ripley, the size of other components within the McColm pulverizer ad could be identified. Next, those features like in size between the two documents were used to find the diameter of the Parker wheel casting and other sizes of related items. Established dimensions were cross checked by using a different feature to begin the scaling process. The Parker wheel casting, for example, was found to be approximately forty-four inches in diameter from spike tip to spike tip.

Parker Soil Pulverizer

To fill in the details about the unknown features and un-scalable sizes, various sources were utilized. For example, Lynn Miller of Small Farmer’s Journal was sent a copy of the pulverizer newspaper image and contacted via phone. Over the course of an hour and half he shed an amazing amount of light on missing details. Mr. Miller introduced himself as one who has farmed with horses for the past thirty years or so of his life, written and published extensively, and has made it his life’s work. He informed, for example, that the cast iron seat depicted in the image is a “square” or “long” period cast iron seat typical of early implements, complete with “crotch killer.” It was different than the standard round cast iron and pressed sheet steel seats that I was used to seeing. He also explained general size and operation of various features of the horse drawn implement including details on the “double tree,” hammer strap, tongue, bearings etc. Mr. Miller also recommended his book entitled Workhorse Handbook Second Edition which was a treasure trove of wonderful information. A day long visit to Jim Butcher of Carriage Hill Farm (whom Mr. Miller had put me in contact with) was also paid during the research phase of the project. Carriage Hill is a 100 acre 1880’s period working farm set within a thousand or so acre park. The entire day was spent with him and his crew learning, watching, and experiencing what it means to work with horses. Much additional and useful information about antique horse drawn farm machinery and their use was gained from this trip, not to mention long lasting friendships.

Parker Soil Pulverizer

Meanwhile, my senior year was approaching fast, and all of us students began to contemplate what our final project would be with a bit of urgency. Being MET students our capstone project tasks us with identifying a need for a product or solution, bringing that product through the design phase, then building that product and displaying at the Technical Exposition open to the public (Tech Expo), put on each year in Cincinnati by our college at the end of Spring quarter. So I had the harebrained idea to embark on recreating not only a scale model of Parker’s Pulverizer, but to also recreate the real thing in full-scale, complete with fresh new wheel castings. The museum had a need for true relics of Parker’s industrial past to better tell a more complete story about his life to the visiting public, and I was going to try to deliver the product. Why not? My first co-op job had been in a pattern shop and besides I had the most important ingredient to make any crazy idea work, passion and enthusiasm, for such relics of our industrial and agricultural past.

Parker Soil Pulverizer

Unfortunately a problem with the patterns resulted in not having enough time for correction to produce eight Parker wheel castings and still meet the project deadlines for graduation. Instead, one casting was made with defect present, and the eight Parker-built McColm castings from Ripley were employed during exposition on the wooden implement frame we had built for the larger Parker wheels. The exposition was a success, earning a exposition award and a Bachelor’s diploma for myself. Present in the booth was the one-off forty-four inch diameter Parker wheel casting we produced; beautiful even with it’s pattern defect. Also on exhibit in our booth was the rolling wooden frame complete with teamster support structure with the long cast iron seat (after scouting out a few cast iron seat auctions that didn’t bear results, I luckily ran across one on Ebay! It very strangely appeared to be almost an exact match with that pictured in the woodcut), the patterns, and items loaned to me by the museum and others such as Parker’s large tobacco press, and a rather large mechanical ladle from the old foundry.

Parker Soil Pulverizer

After graduation, the problems with the patterns were corrected through many long hours of hand finishing work and patience; and they currently await an opening in the foundry’s pouring schedule. For the time being, the smaller Parker-Built McColm wheels remain on the implement’s axle, and are those seen in the pictures accompanying this article. Jim Butcher of Carriage Hill kindly tried it out recently (as mentioned above) on the ground he and others worked as part of their tillage demonstration, and the small cast wheels didn’t do too bad at breaking up the clods. It will be wonderful though to finally see how well the true Parker pulverizer wheels perform, once they have been cast, and to finally have the pulverizer exhibited at the Parker House in Ripley, Ohio. It may then very well be the first time in seventy-five years or more that a true Parker Pulverizer once again works ground by the steady hands of a teamster. After that, the pulverizer can finally be brought back home to be placed on exhibit at the John P. Parker House in Ripley, Ohio.

Parker Soil Pulverizer

A Special Thank You

My last year of college was filled with countless hours of work, worry, and stress. I was lucky though to have much help in the form of funding, donated resources, and in persons willing to lend a hand or offer encouragement. Northbend Pattern Works donated the services of their first class pattern shop, Cast Fab Technologies donated the casting services necessary to produce the Parker wheels, Nick Kirst of the same company designed the gating for the mold and was a constant source of support and advice; Glenn Grismere turned the Hickory wood bearings, James McCafferty offered 3D design consultation, Vince Moore donated time and the use of his forming roll to shape the curved metal strap framework, Wilhelm Lumber Co. of Brookville, IN donated the lumber for the frame, Byron Haban offered countless hours of finishing help on the patterns, Doug Rife helped to make the college’s machine shop available, Professor Allen Arthur provided guidance as my project advisor, and countless others helped me along the way. I could not have pushed this dream as far as I did without their help.

Parker Soil Pulverizer

Ben Schulte and the Parker Pulverizer.

Spotlight On: Equipment & Facilities

Work Bridle Styles

Work Bridle Styles

Here are fourteen work bridle styles taken from a 1920’s era harness catalog. Regional variants came with different names and configurations, so much so that we have elected to identify these images by letter instead of name so you may reference these pictures directly when ordering harness or talking about repairs or fit concerns with trainers or harness makers. In one region some were know as pigeon wing and others referred to them as batwing or mule bridles.

Basil Scarberrys Ground-Drive Forecart

Basil Scarberry’s Ground-Drive Forecart

by:
from issue:

I used an ’84 Chevrolet S-10 rear end to build my forecart, turn it over to get right rotation, used master cylinder off buggy and 2” Reese hitch, extend hitch out to use P.T.O. The cart is especially useful for tedding hay. However, its uses are virtually unlimited. We use it for hauling firewood on a trailer, for pulling a disc and peg tooth harrow, for hauling baled hay on an 8’ x 16’ hay wagon, and just for a jaunt about the farm and community.

Snow Trail Groomer

Snow Trail Groomer

by:
from issue:

Want to groom sled trails, freeze skid trails, or set cross-country ski trails? Here is a relatively inexpensive device that has numerous advantages over the conventional chain link fence, bedspring, log, tractor tire, etc. It is easy to construct, manhandle, and store. One of the major advantages over some other methods is that it allows the snow to stay on the trail rather than pushing it to the side. This action allows it to cover rough surfaces such as roots, rocks, and ruts.

Plowing with the Single Horse

Plowing with the Single Horse

All other aspects being equal, the primary difference in plowing, comfortably, with a single horse is that the animal walks on unplowed ground immediately adjacent to the previous furrow, rather than in the furrow. This will cause the point of draft at the shoulder to be somewhat higher and will dictate hitching longer and/or higher than with the animal walking down 5 to 8 inches lower in the furrow.

McCormick-Deering Potato Digger

McCormick-Deering Potato Digger

from issue:

McCormick Deering (eventually International Harvestor) made what many believe to be one of the outstanding potato digger models. This post features the text and illustrations from the original manufacturer’s setup and operation literature, handed to the new owners upon purchase. This implement, pulled by two horses or a small suitable tractor, dug up the taters and conveyed them up an inclined, rattling chain which shook off most of the dirt and laid the crop on top of the ground for collection

Hay Making with a Single Horse Part 2

Hay Making with a Single Horse Part 2

by:
from issue:

From reading the Small Farmers Journal, I knew that some people are equally happy with either model, but because McCormick Deering had gone to the trouble of developing the No. 9, it suggests they could see that there were improvements to be made on the No. 7. Even if the improvement was small, with a single horse any improvement was likely to increase my chance of success.

Homemade Ground-Drive PTO Forecart

Homemade Ground-Drive PTO Forecart

by:
from issue:

As we start, consider a few things when building a pto cart. Are big drive tires necessary? Is a lot of weight needed? Imagine the cart in use. Try to see it working where you normally go and where you almost never go. Will it be safe and easy to mount or dismount? Can you access the controls of the implement conveniently? Is it easy to hook and unhook? Where is the balance point? I’m sure you will think of other details as you daydream about it.

The Farm & Bakery Wagon

The Farm & Bakery Wagon

by:
from issue:

The first step was to decide on an appropriate chassis, or “running gear.” Eventually I chose to go with the real deal, a wooden-wheeled gear with leaf springs rather than pneumatic tires. Wooden wheels last forever with care and are functional and look the part. I bought an antique delivery wagon that had been left outdoors as an ornament. I was able to reuse some of the wheels and wooden parts of the running gear.

Moving Bees

Moving Bees

by:
from issue:

Moving beehives from one location to another is often a necessary step in apiary management. Commercial beekeepers routinely move large numbers of hives often during a season, to pollinate crops, avoid pesticide applications or to utilize specific honey flows. Beekeeping hobbyists may also move bees to distant honey flows or pollination sites, or to bring home a newly purchased hive.

Hay Making with a Single Horse Part 3

by:
from issue:

In parallel with making hay on the ground, nearly every year I have also made some hay on tripods. The attraction of this method is that it only needs one day of good weather to dry the grass sufficiently before it is put on the tripods, and then the hay takes very little harm no matter what the weather, usually coming out green, dry and smelling of hay two weeks later when it can be baled or stacked.

Laying Out Fields for Plowing

Laying Out Fields for Plowing

There are four general plans, or methods of plowing fields. These are: (1) to plow from one side of a field to the other; (2) to plow around the field; (3) to plow a field in lands; and (4) to start the plowing in the center of the field.

A Short History of the Horse-Drawn Mower

A Short History of the Horse-Drawn Mower

Book Excerpt: The enclosed gear, late model John Deere, Case, Oliver, David Bradley, and McCormick Deering International mowers I (we) are so fond of had a zenith of popular manufacture and use that lasted just short of 25 years. Millions of farmers with millions of mowers, built to have a serviceable life of 100 plus years, all pushed into the fence rows. I say, it was far too short of a period.

Permanent Corncribs

A short piece on the construction of corncribs.

New Horse-drawn Side Delivery Rakes from Europe

New Horse-drawn Side Delivery Rakes from Europe

In Northern Italy the two agricultural machinery manufacturers MAINARDI A. s.r.l. and REPOSSI Macchine Agricole s.r.l. produce a vast range of haying equipment with pto and hydraulic drive, also hay rakes with mechanical drive by the rear wheels. The majority of the sold machines of this type are currently used with small tractors and motor cultivators. The technology of these rakes is based on implements which were developed in the 1940s, when animal traction still played an important role in Italy’s agriculture.

Littlefield Notes: A Slower Pace

LittleField Notes: A Slower Pace

by:
from issue:

I will probably never get a chance to sit at the throttle of a steam engine heading up some winding mountain grade and feel the romance of the rails as the lonesome sound of a steam whistle echoes off canyon walls. Nor will I sit and watch out over the bowsprit of a schooner rounding Cape Horn as the mighty wind and waves test men’s mettle and fill their spirits with the allure of the sea. It is within my reach however to draw a living from the earth using that third glorious form of transport – the horse.

Build Your Own Butter Churn

Build Your Own Butter Churn

by:
from issue:

Fresh butter melting on hot homemade bread… Isn’t that the homesteader’s dream? A cheap two-gallon stock pot from the local chain store got me started in churn building. It was thin stainless steel and cost less than ten bucks. I carted it home wondering what I might find in my junk pile to run the thing. I found an old squirrel cage fan and pulled the little motor to test it. I figure that if it could turn a six-inch fan, it could turn a two-inch impeller.

Multi-Purpose Tool Carrier Equi Idea Multi-V

Multi-Purpose Tool Carrier: EQUI IDEA Multi-V

Building on the experiences with a tool carrier named Multi, consisting of a reversible plow interchangeable with a 5-tine cultivator, the Italian horse drawn equipment manufacturer EQUI IDEA launched in 2012 a new multi-purpose tool carrier named Multi-V. The “V” in its name refers to the first field of use, organic vineyards of Northern Italy. Later on, by designing more tools, other applications were successfully added, such as vegetable gardens and tree nurseries.

Stationary Baler

Stationary Baler: Engineering and Evidence

Our friend, Mark Schwarzburg came by the office with an old wooden box he inherited from his great great great grandfather, Henry Schwarzburg. In it is a lovely, very old working wooden model of the stationary baler Henry helped to invent. Also were found, on old oil-skin paper, beautiful original engineer’s drawings for patent registry; and a brochure for the actual resulting manufactured implement.

Small Farmer's Journal

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT