A. M. Bohnert Rice Plantation Pump No. 2 Engine

Located on the southeast corner of the junction of U.S. Highway 165 and Post Bayou Lane near Gillett (Arkansas County) is the A. M. Bohnert Rice Plantation Pump No. 2 Engine. It serves as a reminder of the importance of an adequate supply of water for successful rice farming. The pump, the only survivor of four that were once on the plantation, was added to the National Register of Historic Places on September 23, 2010 (with the nearby well also contributing to the nomination). It stands in the twenty-first century much as it did when installed, surrounded by fields of crops.

The land on which the pump stands was purchased by A. M. Bohnert in the early twentieth century. Bohnert purchased the first pump in about 1908 to provide water for his rice crop. Over the next thirty-seven years, a total of four pumps were installed on the plantation, the last being the National Register property. In service from 1946 to about 1950, it is the only one of the four that remains. All four engines were installed by Walter Bohnert, the son of the original landowner. The total installation cost was $1,170.24. All four pumps were replaced by electric-powered engines by the 1950s.

The A. M. Bohnert Rice Plantation Pump No. 2 Engine, a type Y with a two-cylinder vertical crankcase, was manufactured by Fairbanks, Morse and Company. The Fairbanks company, founded in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, in 1830, was a major supplier to Arkansas rice farmers. Two cylinders and a small belt wheel are located on the east side of the pump, with a large flywheel and belt wheel on the west side. The internal combustion engine is vented by a tall exhaust stack on the north side. The base of the engine is stamped on both the north and south sides with “FAIRBANKS-MORSE.” The engine, which faces east, is mounted on a cast-concrete base. The water supply for the pump came from a well north of the pump.

In 2017, the Grand Prairie Historical Society placed a free-standing historical maker at the site.

For additional information:
“A. M. Bohnert Rice Plantation Pump No. 2 Engine.” Historical Marker Database. https://www.hmdb.org/m.asp?m=192660 (accessed January 3, 2024).

“A. M. Bohnert Rice Plantation Pump No. 2 Engine.” National Register of Historic Places registration form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at https://www.arkansasheritage.com/docs/default-source/national-registry/ar0358-pdf.pdf?sfvrsn=7b6d64d4_0 (accessed January 3, 2024).

Mike Polston
CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas


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