Sam Kriebel is 93 years old, and he lives in the house where he was born; in fact, the house has been in his family for nine generations. It was built in 1783 by his ancestor Christopher Wiegner. As the crow flies, 45 Fretz Road in Lower Salford Township is about twelve miles from Lansdale. I have known Sam for about four or five years now, and I finally paid him a visit this past weekend. He knows that I am the mayor of Lansdale and therefore, interested in its history, so he mentioned that I should come take a look at some of his farm equipment manufactured in Lansdale at the turn of the last century by the Heebner Agricultural Works. The Heebner factory was located just north of the railroad tracks on Broad Street where Vespia’s Tire Center is now right across from Montellas Pub. This farm equipment was designed and built to convert horse power– actual horses walking on treadmills– into implements that would drive combines and threshers and the like. These farm machines made right here in Lansdale were shipped all over the world to places as far away as Czarist Russia. Unfortunately, the Heebner Family failed to recognize the significance of the internal combustion engine and before long the Heebner and Sons company was out of business. Here is a link to more information about the Heebner Agricultural Works written by Lansdale Historical Society President, Dick Shearer: http://lansdalehistory.org/articles/Booklet%20Town%20Is%20Born.pdf
Here are a few photos that I took while visiting Sam Kriebel at his farm (he doesn’t look a day over eighty).
Here’s a five horse power motor (it looks more like the definition of a contraption to me) that drives belts that would then be attached to pulleys to drive the pumps that would bring water to the cows in the barn, another belt would drive a mill stone that would grind wheat and yet another would drive a conveyor belt for something else. This five horse power engine– while manufactured in Ohio– was installed by Lansdale’s Heebner at this very spot in 1902 according to Sam. It cost $390 in 1902. Looking down at the five horse power contraption, he joked that today there are weedwacker motors that produce five horsepower.
In the barn just on the other side of this powerhouse, were a corn cutter and a thresher made in Lansdale. What I find so interesting and nostalgic about this scene is that here is a living link to Lansdale’s past. No one lives forever so when Sam has departed this earth, this equipment will simply be that– metal and wood with some historical and monetary value, but no longer any sentimental value.
Note the beautiful– yet entirely unnecessary– Pennsylvania Dutch ornamental painting on the side of the thresher. I can only imagine Sam’s grandfather, after a long, hot day in the Pennsylvania, summer sun finishing up with his work and looking down at this painting and thinking with pride about his sophisticated, modern equipment from the “big” town of Lansdale.
Much like his grandson at ninety-three looking at the Heebner and Sons “portable” corn grinder/separator in April 2015.