GROTON — When the Williams Barn was undergoing restoration, Al Wyatt — a Williams descendant — related that as a teenager he had torn down the “machine shed.”
This was a 16- by 26-foot building that supposedly housed an engine, either gasoline or steam. It would have been used to power the ensilage cutter and other farm equipment. Al further related that a line shaft ran through the building at ceiling height with a large flywheel on each end.
Harlan Fitch, while visiting the barn, heard this story and said, “That was a stationary steam engine, and my father bought it to use in our sawmill, but never set it up and eventually sold it to Lefty Perrin.” Since Lefty Perrin had died a few years earlier, the location of the steam engine remained unknown.
About a year later it was recalled that Mary Perrin — the owner of Atami Travel Agency in Ayer — might be related to Lefty Perrin. Indeed, she was his daughter-in-law.
When Mary was told what we knew to date she said, “I know exactly where it is.”
It turns out that Lefty Perrin lived at 71 Hollis St. next to the Boutwell School, and the steam engine had been stored in his barn for years. When that property was sold, “Lefty” gave the steam engine to his very close friend, Frank Scimemi, of Groton.
Scimemi had retired after spending many years as the superintendent of maintenance at Fletcher Quarries. He also collects antique machinery such as steam engines, airplane engines, outboard motors and so forth. Scimemi and his wife, Louise, invited an inspection of the engine, which is in excellent condition, and then generously decided to donate it to the Williams Barn. Being a very heavy piece of machinery, Scimemi and his friends even moved it to the Barn.
Today, the engine sits proudly in the Williams Barn awaiting a yet to be constructed machine shed.
This move is in keeping with the goal of the Williams Barn Committee to maintain a historically correct period at the barn, that is, the era prior to the advent of the gasoline engine.
The Williams Barn Committee is deeply indebted to Frank and Louise Scimemi for their generosity in helping to preserve an important part of our agricultural heritage for the people of Groton.