Robert T. Rhode

Robert T. Rhode
Robert T. Rhode

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Patents of Pine Village, Rainsville, and Independence, Indiana 2

Job X. Mills, who was born in 1847, farmed in Pine Township just west of my hometown of Pine Village, Indiana, in Adams Township. His wife was named Sarah Matilda Metsker, and she was related to the Metskers that were one of the founding families of the town. Many of Mills’ siblings are buried in Quaker Cemetery, but Job, who died on the 5th of October in 1918, is buried in Pine Village Cemetery. Job and Sarah Matilda had a daughter with the charming name of Leafy Dell and a son named John W. The census in 1900 lists the family in Adams Township. Job was fortunate enough to hold three patents, the first of which is featured in this blog.

Patent for Portable Feed Racks
By Job X. Mills
Pine Village, Indiana (1874)

On the 15th of December in 1874, Job X. Mills received a patent for portable feed racks. William C. Mills (one of Job’s brothers) and John W. Freeman served as witnesses to Job’s patent.

Essentially, Mills’ 1874 patent addresses the desire to feed short animals, such as sheep, and tall animals, such as cows (or horses), from the same feeder. Mills places his device on runners, making it portable, as horses can pull it from pasture to pasture. At a low level is a sturdy flat box that can hold “liquid or semi-liquid food,” presumably for the sheep. Above are two facing racks that can be pinned in a V shape convenient for holding dry or relatively dry food, such as hay. While cattle are eating, any bits that happen to fall from the racks will land in the box and can be consumed by the sheep. When the farmer wants to empty the racks, he can release the pins and swing the racks outward, so as to dump whatever might still be jammed in between.

I admire the simplicity of Mills’ portable feeder. Any enterprising farmer could easily build one. As with all such early patents, I wonder if Mills sold such feeders to his fellow farmers. Although my father had no sheep, I think he would have appreciated Mills’ feeders for the cows my father raised.

As I am on the topic of feeders, I can hardly resist sharing an anecdote from my father’s past. When my father was a lad, his agriculture teacher called on my father to answer this question in class: “Joe, how would you introduce a pig to a feeder?” With a straight face, my father answered, “Mr. Pig, this is Mr. Feeder. Mr. Feeder, this is Mr. Pig.”

Was Mills aware of his future fellow patent holder in Pine Township, Anson L. Massey? On the 12th of July in 1887, Massey, who gave his residence as Rainsville, received a patent for a hame-tug loop, useful with bridles of horses. Massey wrote, “The object of my invention is to provide a hame-tug loop which is strong and durable, easily and readily made, secured and inseparable when finished, and cheaply manufactured.” The uppermost patent drawing offers a deconstructed view of the strap and loop. A hame is a metal rod encircling a horse collar. It ends in a ball at the top. There are two hames, one on either side of the collar. Tugs, or traces, attach to the hames and are the principal straps that pull whatever the horse is pulling, such as one of Mills’ feeders. Massey’s loop made a firm connection for each tug.

Patent for Hame-Tug Loop
By Anson L. Massey
Rainsville, Indiana (1887)

S. C. Fenton and J. W. McMullen served as witnesses to Massey’s patent. The former was Dr. Samuel C. Fenton (1844–1918), an esteemed medical doctor who became a victim of the flu epidemic.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Patents of Pine Village, Rainsville, and Independence, Indiana 1

Note: While this series of six blogs will focus on patents from Pine Village, Rainsville, and Independence, Indiana, several equally fascinating patents originated in other towns within Warren County, Indiana.

As fewer than a million gallons of sorghum syrup are produced annually in the United States today, it is easy to forget that, in 1900, when the U.S. population was only a fourth what it is today, more than twenty million gallons were produced. Sorghum is a cereal grain that is harvested for human consumption in some parts of the world. As it is free of gluten and full of nutrients, sorghum could enjoy a comeback in the U.S. one day. Benjamin Franklin wrote about using the straw for brooms, but not until a century later was sorghum widely cultivated in the U.S. Page 62 of the Fourteenth Annual Report of the Ohio State Board of Agriculture (1859, published in 1860) announced that the state fair had witnessed “many samples of syrup of the Sorgho, or Chinese Sugar Cane.” As late nineteenth-century homes had gallon containers of sorghum syrup (a.k.a. sorghum molasses) to pour on buckwheat pancakes, to sweeten baked beans, to make cookies, and to flavor bread, there was widespread interest in techniques for boiling the juice from the crushed sorghum stalks to transform into syrup.

Sorghum: An Important Crop in Samuel M. Williams' Day

According to page 32 of the Report of the Commissioner of Agriculture for the Year 1867, 6,698,181 gallons of sorghum molasses were recorded in the census for 1860. Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri were responsible for approximately half the total production in 1867, when Samuel M. Williams, who lived on a farm just west of my hometown of Pine Village, Indiana, invented an improved evaporator system to change sorghum juice into “sirup,” as the word was often spelled back then.

Sorghum Mill for Mashing Juice from Stalks
Drawing by Eric Sloane
In Once Upon a Time: The Way America Was (1982)

If my genealogical work is correct, Samuel was the grandson of two early Hoosiers. Kenneth E. Kinman contributed this information to the Society of Indiana Pioneers: Samuel Williams, who was born around 1788 in Charles County, Maryland, was the eldest son of Jeremiah Williams, who was born possibly in the 1760s in Charles County, Maryland, and who died on the 31st of May in 1812 in Franklin County, Indiana, where the family had moved after residing in Scott County, Kentucky. In 1809, the same year that Abraham Lincoln and Edgar Allan Poe were born, Samuel married Susanna Hackleman, who was born a daughter of Johann Jacob Hackleman in South Carolina in 1787. The censuses of 1820 and 1830 recorded that Samuel and Susanna were living in Fayette County, Indiana. On the 8th of June in 1833, Samuel bought two hundred acres of land in Warren County, Indiana (the county where I grew up on a farm). Four years later, he added thirty-eight more acres. Although Samuel died on the 20th of March in 1839, his widow, Susanna, whom some documents call Susan, lived for many more years. She appeared in the censuses of 1840 and 1850 as a citizen of Warren County. She then moved across the state border to Iroquois County, Illinois, where she was buried.

Patent for Sorghum Juice Evaporator
By Samuel M. Williams
Pine Village, Indiana (1867)

I see an eight-year-old Samuel listed in the 1850 census (taken in September of that year), who is in Susanna’s household, where a daughter in her thirties was also living. I must guess that Samuel is Susanna’s grandson. They lived in Pine Township, which is immediately west of Pine Village and which includes Rainsville. I am virtually certain that I have identified the correct person as our inventor, but let me explain my slight hesitancy. The name “Samuel Williams” was common in the 1860s; there were several men by that name in Indiana. I believe that I can logically rule out the others and that Susanna’s grandson is the Samuel Williams of our story.

Samuel M. Williams’ Patent
For Sorghum Juice Evaporator
Reported in Scientific American for June 29, 1867

If I am right, Samuel was twenty-five years of age when he patented his evaporator system. Let us get the gist of his invention. Essentially, Samuel has one firebox to supply heat to three trays. When the sorghum juice has been reduced a third of the way in one of the trays, it is conducted into a second tray, and, when it has been reduced by a second third, it is finished in a third tray that is steam heated just above the firebox. Samuel opens and closes dampers to conduct heat from the fire to the tray of his choice.

Samuel also patented a rake with a screen that slides along the edges of the trays in such a way that it does not touch the unwanted sediment at the bottom of a tray but merely skims any unwanted scum off the surface of the syrup.

As with any patent about which not much can be known this many years later, I wonder if Samuel built and sold any of his evaporators. Apparently, his invention was novel enough to catch the attention of Scientific American, the leading magazine of its kind, which listed his evaporator patent. Other names associated with Samuel’s patent include witnesses William W. Sale and George W. Wakeman.