Apparently the object that I have found buried on the farm was a stumper. In fact, the item is exactly that, a Zysset Stump Burner!
I went online and discovered a file from the Oregon State University. The file stated that the Agricultural Experiment Station in Corvallis began testing the burner in 1915 and the testing continued for seven years. In 1922 they published a 62 page Bulletin describing stump land reclamation and this new method.
Large trees that are logged leave huge stumps and massive root systems. Reclaiming the land for replanting forest or for crops was impossible with these huge stumps left behind after logging. Farmers and loggers had been using dynamite to blow the stump and roots to smithereens, but that was a dangerous and often times an ineffective tool to get rid of the bases of old growth trees. What remained after logging would dwarf the men and draft horses they were using to pull out left over pieces after the detonation.
A stump burner would be set down under ground level onto the stump or on one of the big roots and a small fire would be started. Dry cedar or seams of pitch from the fir trees would assist with the fire, then the stump burner would be placed over the fire. The small round part in the middle of the rounded metal would act as a air hole while the rest of the burner was buried with dirt. Many times a stove pipe would be attached to the stump burner since it would soon be buried with the ash it was producing. A well-placed burner would be able to get a stump burning below ground where it would burn for up to a year and effectively destroy much of the root system and stump.
If the fire was too hot, it would burn too quickly, and peter out just as fast. The stump burner helped keep a modest fire burning where it would travel throughout the myriad of below ground roots.
The bulletin was good news for people that were trying to clear the land of the massive stumps, but the University made sure to say that the burner was not 100% effective and that there would still be a lot of cleanup to do after the fire went out.
It’s nice to know that a farmer from Oregon was the one to come up with a great invention. Farmers for the last 100 years have Mr. Zysett to thank for the ability to plow a field, clear a section for replanting, or to have areas to build.