In May of 1915, George F. Edinger and his 15-year-old son George Jr. left their home on Edinger Road just on the outskirts of Urbana and made a long road trip to Columbus. They rode bicycles from Urbana to Mechanicsburg, on Route 29, one of the first toll roads in the county. The toll road ended in Mechanicsburg, so they had to walk along the much used freight road, a rough dirt track that served to connect the farms to established routes in nearby counties, toward the next “road” available to them, eventually arriving at Route 40, the National Highway. After reaching this “highway,” they made their way to German Village, a neighborhood of Columbus, where they stayed with friends before making the last leg of their shopping expedition to the steam engine dealership. High Street, Columbus, Ohio, was home to one of the display rooms of the J. I. Case Company of Racine, Wisconsin. On May 26, 1915, they were excited to sign a contract for the purchase of a 50 Horsepower Case Traction Engine.
The order included one Case Separator, with a 32-inch cylinder; one Case Feeder and Band-Cutter for the cylinder; one Case 54 inch Wind Stacker; and one Case 50 Horse Power Simple Steam Engine, coal and wood fire burner. The engine was to have a six banded jacket and come with a bagging attachment; a 12 bolt mounted water tank; tank pump and hose; 150 feet of seven inch, four-ply drive belt; a #3 canvas tank cover; a three ton jack; an ice pick; a separator brake; and drive wheels mounted with double rows of cleats inside. The total cost was $2,995.75 and was to be delivered by rail-car to the city of Urbana, Ohio.
The engine arrives in Urbana
Upon its arrival, they fired up the engine at the railroad freight station in Urbana and made their way to the farm on Edinger Road off Children’s Home Road to the near northeast. Upon entry into the farm lane, young George was instructed to go to the blacksmith’s shed at the entry of the farm yard drive and collect a horse shoe, hammer and nails. The horseshoe was then attached to the roof of the cab with the arms of the shoe pointing upward to “hold in the luck” before the engine entered the farmyard. The horseshoe is still in place in 2015.
It was customary for George Edinger to manage plantings and harvesting of the Children’s Home Farm that ran along Children’s Home Road and East Lawn Avenue. On July 4, 1915, the first job for this Case Engine was to thresh the wheat on the Children’s Home Farm. Many northeastern Champaign County farms employed George Edinger for custom threshing of their wheat crop. Out of season, the engine provided power for the sawmill located long Edinger Road.
George F. Edinger died in 1921 at the age of 47, but his son George continued the business and also opened other sawmills in other communities including as far away as Cedarville. He was often assisted by his brother Louis. Unfortunately the depression began limiting these business opportunities and the engine moved with George into Urbana to a location on Bloomfield Avenue in 1935 becoming Edinger Brothers Lumber Company, Inc. The lumber mill was powered by a Frick stationary engine, but the Case Engine still saw service, including providing power for the Champaign County Children’s Home when its power plant was down.
Case becomes ‘living history’
The Case was put to work at the Ohio State Fair for many years as a “living history” sawing lumber; it threshed wheat at the Miami Valley Steam Threshers Reunions and the Mad River Steam Shows, both held in Urbana, and traveled to other Ohio steam shows. It was a real iron workhorse.
Many stories can be recalled involving this Case Engine, but one story particularly stands out. Many times Peck Louis and George Edinger would be making their way home or to the next job with the engine that traveled 2 miles per hour when they would run low on fuel and supplies before they got to their destination. George would send Peck home with the horses and wagon to get more fuel and return. On one such trip, a storm suddenly came up while George was alone and without a quicker means of transportation to shelter so he put the engine down by a creek where he could take on water and banked the firebox as best as possible. Just then a violent ice storm hit. George took refuge under the engine nearest the firebox, pulling the wheel covers down as a shield against the storm’s onslaught.
Historians are thankful to Tom Tullis, local farmer and fair board member for Salem Township, for his persuading George Edinger’s engineer grandson James W. Jacobs into getting this 1915 Case Engine restored. It is fortunate to still be in the Edinger family’s possession with grandson Jacobs who lives near Bloomingburg, Ohio, and now it looks brand new.
Tom Tullis secured the engine’s display at this year’s Champaign County Fair in the Farm Bureau Building. It will also be available for viewing for a week after the Fair, at the Case Dealership Farmers Equipment Co. in Urbana. This is just another piece of Champaign County History coming back for a visit. Be sure not to miss it.
Sherry Virts is a local historian and regular contributor to this newspaper. Vital nformation was provided by Tom Tullis and James W. Jacobs.