By Bill Heusinkveld - correspondent
In pioneer days, the farmer had to plow the sod so that the land could be used for corn.
This was a difficult task because the prairie grass had very tough roots, intertwined together. Six horse teams of oxen or horses were often used. This provided many acres of tillable land. But there were still many aces of marginal land, covered by trees and brush, useful only for grazing. Much of the timber had been cut down for building homes and rail fences, and many of the tree stumps were in the way, some quite huge.
The stump puller invented by Bateman and Fuller was a vast improvement. With this stump machine, two horses were hitched to the end of the sweep log or beam and were driven in a large circle to gain the leverage and power to turn the cable drum in the center. The cable drum housing was first anchored firmly by attaching it to an existing stump or to nearby trees, using heavy cable, about a half inch, low enough to the ground for the horses to step over. In the absence of trees, a log could be buried in the ground, called a “dead man”. As shown in the picture, the drum cable was then attached firmly to the stump and tremendous force applied very slowly. The Hercules puller tore the stump out of the ground, roots and all.
The first stump pullers were made of cast iron, which is very brittle. Since the machines were subjected to heavy strains, it was necessary to make the iron machines so large, heavy and cumbersome that they were too unwieldy for fast work. Cast iron was also subject to breakage when subjected to sudden shocks or jars. Steel is about ten times stronger than cast iron. In 1905 Hercules built the first steel stump puller ever made. Since the new factory was built, steel was used exclusively, and the casting was done locally. The steel pullers gained steadily in popularity until, by 1916, a new record was made every month in sales.
Some trees, such as evergreens, have lateral roots and the stumps pull very easily. Many other trees throw out roots in every direction and pull relatively easily. Hickory, black gum, mesquite and white oak have a tap root, which may be full trunk size for several feet below the ground and are very difficult to pull out. For these stumps, Hercules developed the Triple Power Puller. By threading the cable through pulleys as shown in the picture, so that there are three cables between the cable drum and the stump, the pulling power is increased by a factor of three. The cable moves only one-third as fast but the pulling force is increased dramatically. In later years the tractor was sometimes used in place of the team of horses.
The Hercules stump puller boldly went forth to contend for superiority over any kind of stump pulling device in existence. An elaborate series of tests were made under the supervision of the University of Minnesota in about 1915. In one test the Hercules, with a team and three men cleared five acres of 1261 stumps in the soft timber region in nine days. The No. 1 triple puller was used, the test being on the university farm, working eight hours a day. . Another smaller machine of another make made pulled only 87 stumps in one day.
The Hercules has become known the world over where stump-pulling machinery can assist in adding to the cultivatable portion of the globe. It was a Hercules that cleared off a portion of the summer estate of the Czar of all the Russias. It has gone to South Africa, Australia, Japan, China and India, and all over South America. It has had many sales in Mexico as well as Canada.
It sells in all parts of the United States, particularly in the timber regions of the south and the northwest. The Arcadia orchard in Spokane, Wash. has 26 of the triple power pullers at work, clearing vast area for orchards. In 1915 they cleared 7,000 acres, and the year before, 6,000 acres near Deer Lake and Colville, Wash. They use dynamite on stumps over three feet in diameter to loosen them, but Hercules took out smaller stumps unaided.
Hercules made many small parts used in the assembly of the stump puller. There were pulleys, cable fittings, coupling hooks, sockets and spreader chains. The only completed product that was purchased was the wire cable. In addition to the stump puller, Hercules also made a steel root plow.to help do a better job of clearing the land. There was also a brush puller with loops of cable to be attached around obstinate brush and pulled loose.