Threshing in the Willshire & Chatt Area

Last week I wrote about threshing and cooking for threshers and I learned a lot about both events. Threshing and the meal preparation certainly was a whole lot of work, but the families were able to turn the hard work into a social event at the end of the day.

Several of us Miller relatives talk every Friday morning on Skype. My aunt and uncle (my dad’s brother and sister), and a couple of my cousins enjoy talking about the good old days and catching up on the latest news. Last Friday my aunt Ruth, who will be 100 this year, and my uncle Kenny shared some of their memories about threshing on the Miller farm north of Chatt.  

Uncle Kenny said he remembers helping out on threshing day when he was about 10 years old, by delivering water to the threshing crew. He said that Johnny Reef had a threshing machine and he recalls the names of some of the men who were on the threshing crew, the threshing ring, as he called it: Homer Carr, Howard Caffee & sons, and Jr Miller. He said my dad also worked with the crew, by sacking grain.

Aunt Ruth recalled that her aunts Caroline (Miller) Caffee and Clara (Miller) Reef came over to help with the threshing meal. Ruth said her mother cooked a lot of roast beef, macaroni and cheese, and pies. Ruth said the macaroni and cheese was her favorite and that grandma made very good cream pies. Kenny thought they had an ice cream social when the threshing was done for the season.

They both said they liked to play on the straw stack and slide down it. In fact, all their siblings liked to play on it. They said the straw stack was quite tall and that the animals would eat from it.    

Cornelius L. Schumm threshing machine, at 1986 sale.

My grandpa, Cornelius L Schumm, had a threshing machine and did threshing for some farmers in the Willshire area. These photos are from his last threshing job, threshing for R.L. Stetler in 1952.

C.L. Schumm’s last threshing job, for R.L. Stetler, 1952.

C.L. Schumm Threshing for R.L. Stetler, 1951-2.

C.L. Schumm, threshing for R.L. Stetler, 1951-2.

Grandpa had a Rumely Oil Pull and he may have used it to power his threshing machine.

C.L. Schumm by Rumely Oil Pull, 1985.

Grandpa Schumm saved a few of his threshing account books, which are dated from 1938-1948, and usually during the months of July and August. The grain was mostly wheat, but there was some oats, rye, and barley. Bushel amounts ranged from 48 to over 400 bushels.

C.L. Schumm’s Thresherman’s Account Book, 1946-48.

C.L. Schumm’s Thresherman’s Account Book, 1946-48.

For example, one 1948 slip for R.L. Stetler: 76 bushels wheat @ 7¼, total $5.39; 858 bushels oats @ 5¼, total $45.03; minus $5.00 labor; total owed $45.42.

C.L. Schumm threshing account for RL Stetler, 1946.

I assume he took his threshing machine to the individual farms, charged them using a specific number, according to the number of bushels, and deducted the farmer’s labor from his bill. I do not know how that specific number was determined, but it was always 7¼ for wheat and 5¼ for oats. When you do the math it figures to be $0.0725/wheat and $0.0525/oats.

I wonder if the other farmers on the crew helped out for free or if they got paid or compensated in some way. Maybe they volunteered at each farm, knowing the crew would come and thresh at their farm eventually. I would be interesting to know the answers to these questions.

Below are some of the names in his threshing books, the farmers my grandpa Schumm threshed for between 1938-1948. I put them in alphabetical order. Maybe you will see the name of one of your relatives.

R.E. Allmandinger
Rudy Allmandinger
W.L. Allmandinger
Basil Banta (hauling clover seed)
J.H. Becher
Laurel Bowen
Clarence Brandstetter
Emil Brandt
Claude Buchanan
A.H. Buechner
Otis Byers
L.S. Cully
Firmin Dellinger
Frank Dudgeon
O. Dudgeon
Del Eichar
W. Eichar
Henry Etzler
Ernest Gribler
Sam Haggard
Albert Hamrick
W. Hamrick
Leon Huffine
T.C. Hofmann
Gale Hook
Mrs. J. Hurless
Austin Jones
Frank Ketrow
Fred Kidd
Christ Krall
H. Merkle
R.L. Painter
George Putnam
George Roehm
Paul Roehm
Albert Roop
J. Scaer
Oscar Scaer
Glen Schadt
Arthur Schinnerer, Mrs. Minnie Schinnerer
Arnold Schumm
Paul Schumm
W.J. Schumm
Floyd Shoaf
Harold Stetler
R.L. Stetler
Roy Stetler
A.A. Stove
Clarence Trable

Grandpa threshed for quite a few people over the years. I recognize quite a few names. Interesting stuff!


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    • Brian Siefring on July 26, 2019 at 9:14 am
    • Reply

    My father (who would have been 92 this year) mentioned more than once that he would get so mad when he brought out water to the threshers when he was young and they would take the water and pour it over their wrists to cool off instead of drink it 🙂

    1. Ha! I will have to ask my uncle Kenny if he remembers the threshers doing that. Carrying heavy buckets of water was probably quite a job for the younger guys and they probably thought the men were wasting it. Thanks for writing!

    • Tom Reichard on July 26, 2019 at 12:53 pm
    • Reply

    My grandfather, Carl Weinman, from Schumm, used to take my brother and I to the thresher’s convention held in Bryan, OH. during the Williams county fair. They had various threshing machines set up to demonstrate how they threshed grain. I remember the steam powered machines and how noisy they were. It was a big deal back then.

    1. Sounds interesting. I should seek one of those shows out and see first-hand how threshing was done. Some places probably still have those demonstrations. We heard some of those noisy engines at the Portland steam engine show years ago. In fact, I think my uncle used to take grandpa’s old Rumely over there. Thanks for writing.

    • Fred Wiessner on June 20, 2022 at 1:47 pm
    • Reply

    Very interesting article. Reminds me of helping my Uncle in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan when we would visit for the summer in the late 40’s and 50’s. They lived in Rudyard, a small farming community halfway between Saint Ignacio and Soo Saint Marie.
    When we were big enough, my brothers and I were “allowed” to help with harvesting. Our first job was to gather the bundles of wheat and stack them into “Teepee’s”. (My Uncle always tried to make it a FUN thing to do as we didn’t like to work!)
    As I got bigger, I got to drive the tractor pulling the wagon so the men could use pitchforks to load the Shocks of wheat onto the wagon. When the wagon was full I drove it to the Thresher (like the one you pictured). The Thresher was owned by a neighbor and was connected by a long belt to a Tractor that had a big Flywheel on the side. There were about 8 farmers/neighbors who all pitched in to help each other with the harvesting and threshing of wheat. I don’t know what financial arrangements were made with Howard Heslink, who owned the Thresher and tractor.
    When I got bigger and stronger I was “promoted “ to help fill the sacks with grain. I do remember being to fill the sacks to the top before tying them shut with twine – it was my toughest job helping with the harvest as I couldn’t fill the bags as full as they wanted and being able to tie them. So I was “Promoted” again to the job of loading the filled bags onto a wagon to take to the barn so the men could offload the bags into storage. When I returned in the fall to Kalamazoo, I was one of the most Tanned and Strong kids in school. I finally figured out that my Uncle was tricking me into working by making me WANT to help and then making the work important by “Promoting “ me. He was a smart man.

    1. Thank you for sharing your memories of threshing. It is wonderful to hear your first-hand account and your uncle was indeed a clever man. Your story is so interesting. Thank you for writing!

    • Debra Miller on June 21, 2022 at 12:27 pm
    • Reply

    I read this to my Dad who will be 95 in July. He knows all about it the Hinton threshing ring around Chatt.
    You need to talk with him, he can tell you exactly how the figured up the payout for the workers. Very interesting.
    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Sounds like he has some good information and he would be interesting to talk with. I may get back with you about that. Thanks for writing.

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