HUGHESVILLE?- An unusual machine from the horsepower era recently had its last demonstration in the hills outside Hughesville, off Beaver Lake Road near the Mt. Zion Lutheran Church.
A machine first used by William Henry Temple to clear his farm near Unityville in the 1890s of tree stumps was put to work once more on April 20 by his descendants before it goes to Penn State University's Pasto Agricultural Museum.
The "stump puller" - since there's no known machine like it around and no one has a better name - has been kept on the property of Wayne Rider for the past 15 years. The machine is a 32-foot long wooden beam with hardware to attach chains to the log, a tree and a team of horses, who do the pulling.
William Temple was the grandfather of Mary Gray and Guy Temple, sister and brother, of Unityville.
"We've looked around and never heard of another one," Temple said. "We have no idea where my grandfather bought it. When I filled out papers and so on for the donation for the Pasto Museum, they were wanting serial numbers and where was it built and manufactured and there's no question it was handmade at some blacksmith shop somewhere, I suspect."
The beam was recut about 20 years ago when the original rotted out; all of the hardware on the machine is more than 100 years old.
"Grandfather bought the farm in 1895, and we're not real sure what year he purchased the stump-puller, but it was early on, because he removed a lot of the trees and stumps on the farm in order to farm it," Gray said. "The chain that goes around the stump is probably a couple hundred pounds."
Though odd, the stump-puller is a literal, simple machine - it's nothing but a lever. Near one end of the beam, a chain wraps around one tree to provide a fulcrum point and stretches to wrap around the stump to be pulled. The horses pull the other end back and forth until the stump is out of the ground.
Because the lever is so long, the work isn't all that hard even for the horses.
"You may move a foot and a half the first time, turn the horses around, take up the slack and repeat that until the thing's out of the ground," Temple said.
Stumps are not all this machine moved.
"I was a little guy, 6 or 8 years old, when Dad and Grandad took it out east of Unityville a little ways to move a man's house across the road," Temple said. "It was two rooms down and two rooms up like they were back in the 30's."
In his teens, after the war, Temple helped his father, Earl, use the machine to clear a friend's field. That time, they used a John Deere tractor to do the pulling.
Now the stump-puller will be displayed at the Pasto Museum, where they hope to show video of it working alongside the machine.
"I don't know where they're going to put it," Temple said. "It's not something you can just hang right up on the wall. With a 32-foot lever, you can almost move a mountain."