Message of Life Ministries California

R.G. at Santiago Dam (1931)

Fifty-eight percent (pp. 41–200) of R.G.’s autobiography, Mover of Men and Mountains, focuses on his California years (1905–35). Twenty-eight percent (pp. 200ff.) considers his years in Illinois, Georgia, Mississippi, and Texas. When LeTourneau gave his testimony, most of his stories came from his California years. It seems that readers and listeners found the challenges of those early years to be especially captivating.

More recent efforts at chronicling R.G.’s life’s work devote a relatively small number of pages to his California years. There is good reason for this. Company records from earlier years lack indexing, are held in several locations, and are woefully incomplete. Trying to write the history of LeTourneau in California from Company records is like trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle after 75% of the puzzle pieces have been lost. Historians have sought various ways to fill in the gaps in Company records.

I have faced the same task as other historians, but have approached it in a rather unique way. Prior to 1981, my main research occurred in California libraries (Stockton Public Library, University of California at Davis and at Berkeley, California State Library at Sacramento, etc.). Ever since 1981, Company records in Longview, TX, have been a part of my research. As a result of researching non-Company sources, my history emphasizes documents written between 1920 and 1935. Company records for that period are scarce, but a wealth of documents from other sources exist. Since 1971, we have painstakingly acquired and catalogued evidence. Primary documentation for some elusive jigsaw-puzzle pieces (such as the two levees near Marysville, CA, in 1930) continues to surface. By 2010 we hope to write a documented history.

This backlog of detailed research led Richard H. LeTourneau, one of R.G.’s sons, to recommend me for writing the paper for the A.S.M.E. (American Society of Mechanical Engineers). The paper was a nomination of his father’s 1922 Mountain Mover as a Historic Engineering Landmark. The ceremony occurred November 29, 2004, the day before R.G.’s 116th birthday. An updated version of that paper appears in the Publications Section.

We believe in what is called open scholarship. Thus, we will not just make assertions without divulging our evidence. We invite dialog and exchange of evidence. An assertion is only as good as the evidence underlying it. No one person possesses all of the evidence, so tell us about evidence that may refine our understanding.

Coming Attractions

Many know that 1932 marks the sale of the first new LeTourneau scraper with an apron. Many have seen pictures (around 1931) of his experimental aprons.

However, very few know of his 1926 experiments. Even fewer know why 1926 would initiate apron experiments and why he would wait another six years before putting apron-equipped scrapers on the market. We have gathered the evidence and are preparing an article with the appropriate documentation.

Roosevelt Street Plant in Stockton, CA (1936)

Eph Hahn operating the Mountain Mover

A LeTourneau five-bucket telescopic scraper with an apron. Summer 1926 at Philbrook Dam (Butte County, CA). Note the evergreen trees in the upper left.