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I felt like I knew my great-great-great grandfather, Henry Rogers, pretty well after studying his journal and writing Fips, Bots, Doggeries, and More, a book about his 1838 travels across five states. But even after all this time, that man can still surprise me!
Over the weekend, I got a call from K. Larry Pyle, a retired Cincinnati architect with an interest in local history, particularly the mill built by my ancestors in the 1820s. He’d seen one of my recent blog posts about the mill.
Larry told me something I didn’t know–Henry Rogers assisted in the development of the Obed Hussey reaper, which was patented in 1835.
A reaper is a machine used to harvest grain. It was a huge time-saver for farmers who had harvested grain by hand, cutting it with heavy curved blades called scythes.
Obed Hussey, a Quaker who had settled in Cincinnati, created the first reaper used in the Northwest Territories.
This is an excerpt from a book entitled Obed Hussey, Who of All Inventors, Made Bread Cheap, by Follett L. Greeno:
“The turning and fitting for these machines was done at the mill of Henry Rogers, about 500 yards away from the little shop. In the following copy of a recent affidavit sent us, date not given, these last matters are sufficiently substantiated.”
Mr. [Clark] Lane continues:
“Who invented the Reaper? The full, honest answer is that Obed Hussey invented the Reaper.
“Between April and July, 1835, John Lane and Henry Rogers (with Isaac and Clark Lane assisting in the work) at their respective places of business one mile north of Mt. Healthy, Hamilton County, Ohio, made to order of Obed Hussey one Reaping machine for S. F. and Algernon Foster, then of the same County and State. Said Reaper was made to conform to or with drawings and patterns made and furnished by the said Obed Hussey, who also superintended the work of making the machine, and witnessed its trial in the field near the middle of June, 1835, in presence of many farmers, mechanics and others near by where the same was made; and when and where it was delivered to the Messrs. Foster’s, who took this same reaper to La Porte County, Indiana, for the reaping season of the same year.
“For the iron and steel work done as aforesaid books in my possession show that fifty-three and 69/100 dollars was paid by Messrs. Fosters, July 6th, 1835, to John Lane and by him receipted for in full, etc., etc.”
Hussey’s innovation placed him in fierce competition with inventor Cyrus McCormick of Chicago. Both men made several patented innovations to the reaper, but McCormick proved the better marketer, and Hussey was finally driven out of business. He sold the rights to McCormick in 1858.