Our Farm Festival & Show is right around the corner, October 14-15! After one whole year of planning and hard work on the part of many volunteers, the threshing machine will be demonstrated! Here is the story of the threshing machine, the family that once owned it, and it’s incredible history. Special thanks to Missy Winstead for her many hours of hard work to put together this personal story and gather all the photos.
James A. Riner of Welltown Road was a farmer, he did custom farming, operated a dairy farm with an orchard area, as well.
He purchased his McCormick-Deering threshing machine in 1936 just before the date of July 3rd. As told by my late Mother, Cora Mae, it did not have all the belts needed to run it and it requires a lot of belts. He wanted his brother Marvin to run him over to Hagerstown to pick them up, but he would not because his wife, Nellie, was in labor with her. My Mother, Cora Mae was the oldest of nine and has always enjoyed telling her birthday story and how she was the cause of delay, when he was anxious to get started threshing for people. She also always took great pride in her Daddy’s threshing machine. She would make sure to be present to see it any time it was demonstrated at the Dillon Farm Museum.
Our family was unique because three brothers from one family married three sisters from another family. James and Nellie were each the oldest of their respective families. James and Nellie had a large family of nine children, three girls and six boys. I have heard it said that Pap Pap used to say, “I have three daughters and each one has six brothers”. I am sure that would get a raised eyebrow as the person was doing the math to determine how many children he had!
As time goes by, we lose those we love. Cora Mae, John, George, Margie, and Micheal have passed away and there are only four of those nine children still living. In addition to information and memories from my father, I reached out to my remaining aunt and uncles to gather their thoughts, memories, and pictures to share about the threshing machine.
James threshed for farmers all over Berkeley County. He began pulling and working it first with a McCormick-Deering WD-40, then a Farmall MD which is basically a diesel version of the Farmall M. It would start on gasoline then switched and operated off diesel. The last tractor he used to run it was a Farmall 400.
The “Threshing crew” would change based on the location and neighboring farmers that came to help. My Father, Floyd worked and helped Pap Pap whenever he thrashed for them on their farm and at neighbors such as Marvin Clark, Donald Riggs and Bud James around Jones Spring.
My father, Floyd shares that Culler Ropp was a regular that ran with Pap Pap all the time thrashing. Jim Montgomery ricked straw with him and worked in the hay-mow. Aunt Jeanie spoke of Bob Price working on the farm and with him on the threshing machine.
Mom spoke often of “threshing meals”, anytime we had a large group in the family to feed, she would call it that. Aunt Jeanie doesn’t remember much about it running other than when they were threshing at home, she remembers her Mom and Grandmother would work themselves to death, to cook and feed up to 30 men that were there helping. My mother Cora Mae would have been old enough to actively help with that job, or perhaps watch younger siblings.
I have heard a “story” for the last 10 years as have two of my uncles, it is at the urging of Uncle Paul and Uncle David that I tell this story.
Nick Dugan went to school and graduated with Cora Mae my mother. Apparently anytime he would see one of her brothers he would jokingly say, “I should have been your brother-in-law. One summer I followed your dad all over the county working, following his threshing machine, threshing with him, just trying to get next to Cora Mae. Then the next thing I knew Floyd took her away”. He used to tell me and my sister the same story, only changing it slightly to what he could have been to us. We all used to just laugh at this story including Mom and Daddy.
I spoke with my cousin Bobby to see if his dad George had ever shared any stories about the machine. He shared that the only thing he ever heard him say about it was that his dad would go farm to farm working, he would have chores to do while he was gone. He would take that time to enjoy climbing trees or looking for snakes and then his mother would tell him to get his chores done and his dad would be home soon. He’d scramble around and try to get everything done he was supposed to do.
My uncle Clifford remembers the only time he helped with it was when he was a freshman or sophomore in high school and his brother Paul was a junior or senior. His Dad had it set up at my dad’s grandmother’s farm, Mrs. Laura Linton. He said that he remembers him and Paul having to turn the clover over with forks to dry it out before running it through the machine. They used it to thresh the clover seed out. Other than that, he remembers it being run on their farm and seeing it blow straw into the barnyard. He was maybe 5 or 6 years old, and his job was to stay back out of the way.
Aunt Jeanie doesn’t have a lot of memories of it in use but of it being stored in the wagon shed. She and Clifford would go on adventures all over the farm and play hide and seek in there. She remembers looking at it and wondering what it was and how it worked.
My Uncle David shared with me the last time he knew of their Daddy using it to thresh was in 1965 or 1966, they took it down to a Grant Farm on Opequon Lane that was 350 Acres. Aunt Norma Jean shared that Pap Pap rented that farm and Uncle John and her lived there in the house with their oldest son. They set it up in the field and by that time they used a dump rake to turn it. It was James (their father) and his sons John, Paul and himself (David). He said it was a lot of work. He told me that after that it was parked in the wagon shed.
Pap Pap would have had a combine by then, so a few different family members speculate that its possible that he had his combine in use on another farm and knowing that John knew how to set up the threshing machine and use it, it would make sense to put it in service at another location. In 1976 there was a Bicentennial Parade and Micheal the youngest son pulled it with the 400. While their dad (James) sat up on top throwing candy out to the children along the parade route.
A year or two after it was donated to the Dillon Farm Museum, Uncle David was contacted by members of the museum to see how to set it up, they were going to demonstrate it. He had never set it up for use, but his oldest brother John had the knowledge and so Uncle John went out and set up the machine and explained everything to Roy Davis and the other old-timers that were there then.
James and Nellie Riner had thirty grandchildren; I (Missy) am number 13 of that 30. It has been a privilege and an honor to gather this information so that when people see our Pap Pap’s threshing machine at the museum in a demonstration or sitting in its space in a building, they will have a better understanding of its use, the man that bought it and the family he and his wife raised that still loves and supports farming. We are now into the 5th generation of farmers with no plans of ceasing.
Photo credits and many thanks to all who helped with this write up. Floyd H. Stuckey, Sr. Barbara Wright, Norma Jean Riner, Bobby Riner, Paul Riner, Becky Riner, Clifford Riner, Jean Reed, David, and Debbie Riner