December 7 2003


The Spencer Steam Tractor is truly a Wayne County original. The idea for building Wayne County’s first steam tractor was David Spencer’s of Pleasant Mount in 1876 after visiting the Philadelphia Centennial.

Constructed in 1888, it was first demonstrated to the public on July 4, 1889 in the town of Pleasant Mount. On that date, the Pleasant Mount Presbyterian Church hosted a picnic on the church lawn, and several hundred people were in town for the occasion. With David Spencer at the controls and Fred Spencer, a nephew, as fire man, they drove from David’s garage to the J. L. Morgan and Bros. Store where they hitched on a short-armed Oswego lumber wagon. From there they drove to the picnic grounds where they found several of the young people waiting for a ride. With a wagonload of passengers they proceeded through Pleasant Mount, up the North Road as far as the John Dix farm and then back again to the starting point, a distance of over three miles. People who witnessed the demonstration were greatly impressed.

Further use of the tractor was confined mostly to the hauling of logs around the Spencer mill yard and on one occasion it furnished power for thrashing oats. David realized that before it could be put into commercial service, it would require a gearshift, and that the boiler would have to be redesigned as the water and fuel consumption were greater than anticipated. The cost had exceeded the $10,000 mark so he decided to wait and let some other designer carry on.

David Spencer died February 28, 1944 at the age of eighty-nine years, having lived long enough to see his original idea develop into a horseless age. His invention subsequently passed through several different owners and was eventually moved out of Wayne County.

The J. B. Park Farm Museum Committee of the Wayne County Historical Society began looking at the possibility of returning the Spencer Steam Tractor to Wayne County about two years ago. The Committee felt an item of such historical significance should be housed in the County of its origin. A visit to the tractor site by Committee members in November of 2003 convinced them that the tractor could be restored to display condition. To that end, the Board of Directors of the Wayne County Historical Society voted on January 15, 2004 to acquire the tractor. The tractor returned to Wayne County on February 7th for future restoration and display.