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Nov 07

Corral de Piedra Threshing Co.

From the May 14, 1956 Centurama edition of the Telegram-Tribune: THRESHING TIME…This picture of the Corral de Piedra Threshing company was sent in by George Kilbern, 1639 Garden street, Long Beach. The outfit belonged to Kilbern’s father. The photo was taken around 1906 by Frank C. Aston, retired photographer, who chronicled the life of San Luis Obispo through the camera lens for almost half a century. ©The Tribune

Western civilization is built on wheat.
The story begins about 10,000 B.C., a cross of three grass species is found to be a rich food source. Wheat farming is woven into the narrative of the United States. Clear the land of unproductive plants (and indigenous people), plant wheat, make money, and build a strong democratic society.
The early 20th century would bring the industrial revolution to the farm. What used to take many men and animals could now be done with fewer men and animals and steam power.
My grandfather Lionel told stories of his childhood in Colusa, north of Sacramento. Waking up before dawn, hitching up horses and mules to equipment, breakfast then working through the daylight hours with only a quick break for lunch to bring in the harvest.
Cutting the wheat could be done by hand or with a horse drawn mower. Others would bundle sheaves and take them by wagon to a threshing machine. Early machines were steam powered. They took time to get the water boiling and required specially trained steam engineers to run. They required regular infusions of clean low mineral water and were huge expensive machines, boilers on wheels.
Later machines would perfect the internal combustion engine and combine the thresher and mower.
California was one of the centers of agriculture mechanical innovation with the Best Manufacturing Company and Holt Manufacturing Company both located in Stockton. They would combine to form Caterpillar though the founding families never completely forgot the rivalry.
The San Luis Obispo History Center has a stock certificate for the Corral De Piedra Threshing Co. incorporated in 1904 and dated March 18, 1905 issuing 3 shares to Geo. Kilborn. The caption that ran with the photo spells his name Kilbern and the penciled note on the back of the print spells it Killum. I am inclined to prefer the stock certificate spelling but feel free to comment if you have a definitive answer.
Corral de Piedra was the name of a Mexican land grant between Arroyo Grande and San Luis Obispo named for a corral of white stones. According to an 1875 publication “Resources of San Luis Obispo County, California” the Steele brothers, who bought the rancho, had planted 3,000 acres of barley and wheat. It appears that the threshing company took the name from the region.

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