Case Farming Part IV: The LeRoy Equipment Company

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J.I. Case Company Part IV:

The Rise of the LeRoy Equipment Company

by

Brian Wayne Wells

              (As Published in the July/August 2006 of the

Belt Pulley Magazine)

Poster advertisement of the new Case dealership in LeRoy, Minnesota
Poster advertisement of the new Case dealership in LeRoy, Minnesota

All farm machinery manufacturing companies depend heavily on their various franchisees and sales staff for the success of the company. The story of the sales component of any company consists of hundreds of small individual stories. The J.I. Case Threshing Machine Company is no exception to this rule. One thread in the continuing story of the sales component of the J.I. Case Company began on a farm in Carroll County, Iowa near the small town of Lanesboro on January 1, 1914. On that day, a second child, another son was born to Otto and Hazel (Coomes) Wetter. This son was named Duane E. Wetter. Duane joined the first born, Maurice, who had been born to the family in 1913. Later in 1916, a daughter, Winifred E., born to the family. The Wetter family operated the farm in Carroll County until 1917 when they purchased another farm in Redwood County, Minnesota.   This farm was located in Woodbury, Township within Redwood County.

Just to the south of Woodbury Township lay Lamberton Township. Here on December 13, 1918, another thread in this same story, began with the birth of a fourth son, Merle to the family of John and Ella (Werner) Krinke. Both of Ella Krinke’s parents had immigrated to the United States from Prussia in Germany. While John’s father, Christian William Krinke, had also immigrated from Germany, his mother, Mary, had been born in Wisconsin. After living in Wisconsin, and near Rochester, Minnesota and near Blue Earth Minnesota, Christian and Mary (Adler) Krinke purchased a 320-acre farm three (3) miles northwest of the town of Lamberton, Minnesota in 1905. This was the farm where John Krinke grew up. In 1910, John and Ella had married. In 1912, a son, Darold was born to the couple. Then another son, Kenneth, was born in 1913. In 1914, upon the retirement of his parents, John and Ella took over total control of the farming operations. Meanwhile the family kept expanding. A third son, Donald was born in 1915. Following the birth of Merle in 1918, two daughters were born, Mildred in 1921 and Ruth in 1922. Finally, two more children, Robert born in 1925 and Betty born in 1929 rounded out the family of two parents and eight children.

On the 320-acre farm, John and Ella raised about 20 acres of rye, and 20 acres of wheat for cash crops. However, the family’s largest crop was about 100 acres of corn. Some of the corn was used as feed for the pigs and the beef cattle they also raised on the farm. However, 40-50 acres of the arable land on the farm had to be designated each year for the raising of oats to feed the many horses they used for power on the farm. As the older sons came of age, they helped their father with the field work. To effectively and efficiently operate this 320 acre farm took a lot of manpower and horsepower. As John’s sons grew up they helped their father with the work on the farm. The family had a five (5) horse hitch and a six (6) horse hitch which they employed when plowing in the fall and the spring. Including riding horses, the Krinke family at one point, owned and operated 22 horses on their farm. Additionally, the family milked 10 to 12 Milking Shorthorn cows twice a day as a part of their farming operations. Kenneth, who is currently living in Lamberton at the age of 93 years, remembers that he and his brothers each had to milk three (3) cows every morning before they headed off to school. The family also raised a substantial herd of Hereford beef cattle. Thus, another large portion of the arable land on the farm had to be set aside just for raising hay for pastures for the dairy cows, the beef herd and the horses.

Besides the substantial help provided by their boys, John and Ella still needed to hire on additional help during the busy threshing season. Sam Marburger, a bachelor farmer also living in Lamberton township had a 28” Altman-Taylor threshing machine and a steam engine that he used in the summer to perform custom threshing for other farmers in the neighborhood. By the time of the mid 1920s, farming had recovered to some degree from the post-World War I recession that had settled over the farming economy in 1921. At this time, John Krinke perceived that the work would progress much smoother during threshing season if the family had their own thresher. Accordingly, he paid a visit to Oscar Wiebold, the local J.I.Case Company dealer in Lamberton. Eventually he signed a purchase agreement for a 22” Case thresher and a crossmotor Case tractor to power the thresher. After a while they also purchased a tractor plow to be able to use the tractor in the fields as well as on the belt. Soon other neighbors were soliciting John and his sons to do the threshing on their farms also. So the family found that they could supplement their farm income with some income from custom threshing in the neighborhood. Later in the 1920s, the Krinke family obtained a Waterloo Boy tractor which was also used to power the thresher.

John continued to plant his corn with the horses and the wire check two-row corn planter. Wire checking meant that a wire with curls or “buttons” placed every 40 inches along the wire was stretched across the entire length of the field. The wire was then attached to a mechanism on the side of the planter. As the horses pulled the planter across the field, the buttons on the wire would cause the mechanism to trip both rows of the planter at the same time. Thus, not only were the rows planted 40 inches apart, but the “hills” of corn were planted 40 inches apart within the rows. This formed a perfect grid of hills in the corn field which allowed the corn to be cultivated “cross-wise” as well as length-wise. Accordingly, not only were all the weeds between the rows dug up and eliminated by the cultivator, but even the weeds between the hills within the rows were removed by “cross cultivating” the corn. Every year, corn farmers tried to cultivate every corn field on their farm three times—the first cultivation was conducted lengthwise, then the corn was cross-cultivated and finally the corn was cultivated once again in a lengthwise fashion. Cultivation of the corn, thus, required a great number of hours (or days) of work during the summer. No wonder then when a mechanical way of speeding up this summertime task was developed, farmers jumped at the chance to employ this newer method of getting the task done.

Exactly for this reason, John Krinke obtained another tractor. This tractor was a tricycle-style Farmall Model F-12 tractor.   Besides moving faster in the field and having more endurance than horses, the F-12 was designed to be fitted with a two row cultivator. Thus, tractor cultivation of the corn could proceed at a rate of two rows at a time or twenty (20) acres in a single day as opposed to a mere six (6) or eight (8) acres a day when cultivating with the horses one row at a time. John Krinke was made aware of his need to save all the time in the fields as he could. In 1934, his oldest son, Darold got married and moved onto a farm of his own. In 1936, his second son, Kenneth did the same. In 1934, Donald had graduated from high school in Lamberton and had entered Minneapolis Business School.

Meanwhile, his fourth son, Merle, was also growing up. After obtaining an eighth grade education in a country school, Merle had enrolled in Lamberton High School for the “short course.” The short course was only three (3) months long and took place in the middle of the winter. The short course was designed for farm students who needed to help their parents on the farm during the spring and the fall of the year. Also attending these short courses at Lamberton High School was Duane Wetter. Although living in separate townships, the Wetter family and the Krinke family had become acquainted with each other at the Methodist Church in Lamberton. Originally, the Wetter’s had been attending another church in the community, but when that church suddenly burned down, they began attending the Methodist Church. In their first year on their new farm in Woodbury Township Otto and Hazel Wetter had added to their family with the birth of another son, Milo in 1918. Later, two more daughters, Zona in 1920 and Donna in 1923, were added to the family. Now during the short courses at Lamberton High School, the children of both families became more closely acquainted. Furthermore, in the fall of 1932 a new teacher moved to Lamberton from Amboy, Minnesota. This new teacher was Robert W. (Bob) Olson.

Bob Olson had a fairly active life. Born in 1893 in Sterling Township in Blue Earth County near the small town of Amboy, Minnesota (1900 pop. 432), Bob had served as a United States Army pilot during World War I. Coming home from the war in late 1918, he enrolled in school at the University of Minnesota and became a teacher. While at the University he met Mabeth Starrett. They fell in love and were married in 1920. Unable to find a teaching job, Bob and Mabeth moved back to the home farm of Bob’s parents in Amboy. Rural living was a new experience for Mabeth, but she soon adapted to life on the farm where she and Bob lived for a number of years. Two children were born to the young couple—a son, Bob S. Olson in 1924 and a daughter, Helen in 1926. Bob helped his father on the large family farm. However, in 1932, Bob was hired to teach an industrial arts class at the High School in Lamberton. Accordingly, Bob and Mabeth and their children moved to Lamberton. Among the students in Bob Olson’s industrial arts class during the winter months of the 1932-1933 school year was Merle Krinke. Although Duane Wetter had graduated from Lamberton High School on the previous June 2, 1932, he may well have met Bob Olson, anyway and Bob Olson might well have had an impact on the life of Duane Wetter. At any rate the lives of Bob Olson and Duane Wetter have some surprising parallels.

Like Bob Olson, upon graduating from high school, Duane went to Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul to further his education. He attended Dunwoody Institute in Minneapolis and studied the new and growing technology of refrigeration. After finishing his studies at Dunwoody, Duane obtained employment at the Minnesota Department of Highways in 1939. That fall, war broke out in Europe. As the war stretched into its second year, United States’ involvement in the war seemed more likely all the time. Even before the United States became involved in the growing world war, Duane joined the war effort by journeying to Winnipeg, Canada, to join the Royal Canadian Air Force (R.A.F.) and became a pilot. He met and married Esther Else. Together they moved off to Sherbrook, Quebec, where Duane became a flight instructor of other prospective fighter pilots. While the couple was living in Sherbook, Esther became pregnant and gave birth to a son, Berwyn. In May of 1944, after the United States had become involved in the world war, Duane and many other American citizens serving as pilots in the Canadian R.A.F. took advantage of the agreement between Canada and the United States to transfer from the R.A.F. to the United States Army Air Corp.   (Following the Second World War, the Army Air Corp would become an independent branch of the armed forces—the United States Air Force.) Thus, Duane was shipped out to Europe as a replacement pilot attached to the 316th U.S. Fighter Squadron of the 324th Fighter Group, stationed in Luneville, France. Thus just like Bob Olson a generation earlier, here was Duane Wetter serving as a pilot for the United States Army Air Corp in a war against the Germans and stationed in France.

Duane was assigned to a Republic Company-made P-47 (Thunderbolt) fighter and began flying combat missions on February 14, 1945. He would end the war as a survivor of seventy five (75) combat flight missions and also would win a number of decorations for valour during his service in Europe. Following the war, Duane stayed on in Europe to become part of the occupation forces stationed at Stuttgart, Germany. Duane was discharged from the military and was finally able to make his way back to Minnesota only in November of 1945.

In the meantime, Bob Olson had also impacted two other students in his short time at Lamberton High School. In the industrial arts class during that school year of 1932-1933 were Donald and Merle Krinke. During the fall and spring months, the Krinke boys were needed by their parents for help on the farm. However, during the “short course” held in during the winter months both Donald and Merle sought to further their education. During the short time that the boys knew Bob Olson in the winter of 1932-1933, Bob Olson made an impression on these boys that lasted far beyond their school days.

At the end of the school year, Bob Olson made a decision to leave teaching and take advantage of a business opportunity in Lamberton. He purchased a franchise from the J.I. Case Company to sell farm machinery in the rural area around Lamberton. This was 1933, starting a business at this time appeared to be a foolish decision. Business activity all across the nation was at a standstill because of the worst economic depression in the history of the United States. Bob’s outgoing personality and business sense were assets for his new business, but the biggest asset to his new business was the improvement in the economy. As 1933 gave way to 1934, the economy started to improve ever so slightly. Everybody breathed a sigh of relief and everybody began spending money again with more confidence in the future. Farmers, began once again to feel that there was a future in their occupation and began to purchase new farm equipment.

Case Model CC left side picture
The Case Model CC tractor was first introduced to the public in 1929. This left-side view of the tractor shows the famous “chicken’s roost” steering bar that was characteristic of many early Case tricycle style tractors.

The dealership was housed together with a hardware store and a plumbing and heating business. However on the farm equipment side of his new business, Bob found that, more and more, that the row crop tractor was the single item of farm machinery that farmers wanted most. This made sense given the fact that corn was the primary crop grown in Redwood County. On average, 37.5% of all farm acreage in the county was growing corn. The second most produced crop in the county was oats—with 26.3% of all farm land in the county growing oats. However, oats and hay were grown on all farms largely as feed for the animals, in particular the horses that were used for power on the farms. If both hay (10.4% of all farm land) and oats were removed from consideration, corn then made up of 59.3% of all “cash crops” grown on the farms of Redwood County.

Small wonder then that Bob Olson found that the Case Model CC row crop tractor was in large demand by the farmers showing up at his new dealership. The row crop tractor was allowing farmers to mechanize all the farming operations on their farm especially the cultivation of corn. This meant that slow animal power could be done away with on the farm altogether. The decline in the number of horses in Redwood County, is shown in the decline in the amount of acreage devoted to oats in the county. In 1925, 123,000 acres of oats were harvested in Redwood County. On average, between 1925 and 1935 108.6 acres of oats were harvested each year in the county as a whole. However, starting in 1936, oats started to decline in importance—from 100,100 acres harvested in 1936; to 87,000 in 1938; to 84,100 acres in 1942 and finally to 79,500 acres in 1944. (To be sure, oat production made a recovery back up to an average of 103,800 acres for the period of time from 1945 to 1955. However this is due to the sudden rise of the egg production in Redwood County during the Second World War. In the immediate, post war period Redwood County became the home for 500,000 chickens who were laying upwards of 100 million eggs each year.)

Early versions of the Model CC Case tractor weighed just 3, 640 pounds and had a maufacturer's suggested price of just $1.025.
Early versions of the Model CC Case tractor weighed just 3, 640 pounds and had a maufacturer’s suggested price of just $1.025.

Bob Olson sold a great number of Model CC tractors in the first years of his dealership. In 1936, he sold a Model CC to John Krinke. This particular Model CC was fitted with rubber tires front and rear on the tractor. Donald Krinke had graduated from Lamberton High School in 1933. In 1936, Merle Krinke also graduated from Lamberton High School. Like Duane Wetter, both of the Krinke boys also headed off to college in Minneapolis. Merle entered Augsburg College and later attended the University of Minnesota just as Bob Olson had done a generation earlier. Following his higher education in Minneapolis and no doubt under the influence, to some degree, of Bob Olson, Donald Krinke sought and obtained a job as the district manager for the J.I. Case Company in the area including Redwood and neighboring counties.

img092
In 1939, Case introduced their “flambeau red” series of farm tractors. This Case Model DC was the top of the line row crop tractor of the flambeau red series.

 

However, in 1940, with war clouds looming, and with the United States involvement in the Second World War looking increasingly likely, the U.S. Congress re-instated the Selective Service draft. Merle Krinke’s number was drawn in the draft lottery and it was a very low number, suggesting that he was soon to be drafted into the military. Not waiting for the draft, Merle quit school and enlisted. Perhaps, the influence of Bob Olson caused him to enlist in the Army Air Corps. The Army Air Corps unit to which Merle was attached was guarding the Panama Canal. Thus, in 1940, well before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Both Duane Wetter and Merle Krinke were involved in the spreading world war.

On December 7, 1941, the United States suddenly became involved in the world war.   Merle re-enlisted and continued his service until 1945. In April of 1944, Merle was, however, permitted a 30 day leave from his military service. During this leave he returned to Lamberton, Minnesota. He had a good reason for wanting to return home at this time. He wished to get married. In the years, that he had known the Wetter family, he was attracted by Duane’s sister, Zona. They had begun seeing each other and writing each other while Merle was away in the service. Now, in 1944, while on his 30 day leave from the Air Corp, Merle and Zona had decided to marry. Thus, on April 8, 1944, they were married. All too soon, however, Merle had to return to Panama. Only at the end of the war in September of 1945 was he allowed to come home for good and resume married life. Upon his return from the military, Merle obtained a job at the the Myhere and Nelson Implement dealership in Montevideo, Minnesota. The Myhere and Nelson dealership owned the J.I. Case Company franchise for the area around Montevideo and surrounding Chippewa County. Montevideo was located on the Minnesota River about 60 miles to the northwest of Lamberton. Merle commuted to his new job while continuing to live in Lamberton. After only a very short time at his new job, in Montevideo, Merle became aware of an opportunity to open a new Case dealership in another town.

With the lifting of the wartime restrictions on the economy of the United States a huge pent-up demand for new farm machinery was unleashed. Having been unable to purchase new farm machinery all during the Second World War, farmers now poured into local dealerships to buy up the machinery that was now becoming available. Furthermore, the prices of farm commodities had reached new highs as the North American farmer attempted to feed the armed forces which were spread around the world. Since the war, the farm machinery manufacturing companies were busy not only making the new machinery as fast as they could get re-tooled from their wartime production for the armed forces, but they were also in a rush to open as many outlets from which to sell the new machinery. Record numbers of new franchises were being sold by all the farm equipment manufacturers. At the Myhere and Nelson dealership in Montevideo, Merle Krinke heard about yet another Case franchise that was being offered to anyone that was willing to start a dealership in the small town of LeRoy, Minnesota (1940 pop. 752). LeRoy, Minnesota is located in the extreme southeastern corner of Mower County, Minnesota. Mower County is situated in the Southeastern part of the state on the Minnesota/Iowa border in fact, the town of LeRoy is located only about ½ a mile from the Iowa border. Continue reading

Case Farming Part III: The Model CC Tractor

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J.I. Case Company Part III: Model CC Tractor

by

Brian Wayne Wells

            (As Published in the May/June 2006 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine)

            In 1924, a revolution occurred in the design of farm tractors.  This revolution had started with the introduction by the International Harvester Company of the Farmall tractor in 1924.  The Farmall was a “row crop” tractor advertised specifically as the tractor that could “do everything on the farm except the family budget” (a quote from the movie “Practical Magic” on Tape/DVD #3 of the International Harvester Promotional Movies).  Soon every tractor manufacturer was introducing their own version of the row crop tractor.  The J.I. Case Company’s first entry into the row crop tractor market was the Model CC tractor, introduced in 1929.  The Model CC contained an engine with a 3 7/8 inch bore and a 5 ½ inch stroke.  Tests of the 4,240 lbs. Model CC at the University of Nebraska, conducted on September 10, 1929, found that the tractor produced 28.79 hp. at the belt pulley and 17.88 hp. at the drawbar.  The Case Model CC tractor was a tricycle-style of tractor.  Although the Model CC had two wheels in front, the two wheels were positioned close together.  This configuration became a standard for row crop tractors and was called the “narrow front end” or “tricycle” design of farm tractors.  The front wheels of the typical tricycle tractor, like the Case Model CC tractor, could fit in the pathway between two rows of corn or other row crops planted 30 or 40 inches apart.

Case Model CC & Gordie Hahn # 1
Gordie Hahn standing at the controls of his restored 1936 Case Model CC tractor.

was this very ability of the Model CC to cultivate corn that attracted a particular farmer living in Stockholm Township in Wright County, Minnesota. He and his wife operated a 160-acre farm on which they raised oats and hay for his horses, some summer wheat, which they sold, and corn, part of which was used feed and part of which was sold as a cash crop. Our Stockholm Township farmer had eight or nine sows on their farm which, each winter, gave birth or farrowed to about 80 baby pigs. He raised the baby pigs until they reached their ideal market weight of 260 pounds. Given the losses from early death and disease among the baby pigs he would generally end up with 65 to 70 pigs ready for market in the late summer. In the final weeks before market the feeder pigs ate voraciously through the corn. Nonetheless, our Stockholm Township farmer could make a pretty good estimate of the amount of corn that he would need to “finish out” the feeder pigs. In a normal year, he would be able to hire his neighbor who had a large corn sheller to come to his farm and shell out all the ear corn in his corn cribs. He would do this in about February or March each year. He would have that part of the shelled corn that he would not need for the pigs, hauled straight to the Cooperative elevator in Cokato immediately after shelling to be sold. In a normal year, the price of corn would reach the peak of its annual cycle in these winter months.Case Model G feed grinder

Continue reading

Case Farming Part II: Steam Engines and Threshers

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J.I. Case Company Part II: Steam Engines & Threshers

by

Brian Wayne Wells

(As Published in the March/April 2006 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine)

John Hiniker standing on his restored 80 hp. Case steam engine
John Hiniker standing on his restored 80 hp. Case steam engine

At the age of 23 years, Jerome Increase Case set out from his birthplace and home in Oswego County, New York in the summer of 1842. He had purchased six (6) groundhog threshing machines on credit. He traveled to Wisconsin with the intent of selling the groundhog threshers along the way. Arriving in Racine, Wisconsin, Jerome began to work on his own design for a thresher. In 1844, he rented a small shop on the bank of the river in Racine and began making threshers. This was the beginning of what would become the J.I Case Threshing Machine Company. The Company became one of the leading manufacturers of threshing machines. To power these threshing machines, the company began the manufacture of a sweep-style horsepower in the early 1860’s. (See the article on the Case sweep-style horse-power in the January/February 2006 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.) The company soon realized the limitations of the sweep as a power source. This was particularly true as Case began to add innovative improvements to the basic design of their threshers. In 1880 Case introduced the Agitator thresher with the vibrating or agitating separator tables. In 1882, Case installed their patented tubular-style elevator on their threshers. Case developed their own straw stacker for the rear of the thresher which could lift stack the straw from the threshing operation into a tall stack behind the thresher. In 1888, a mechanical grain weigher was added to the top of the grain elevator. By 1893, self feeders were becoming a common part of nearly all Case threshers. These new improvements made the J.I. Case Threshing Machine Company, the leading producer of threshers. However, nearly all of these improvements imposed additional power requirements on the power source powering the thresher. At this time, Case offered threshers in a variety of sizes—one model with a 28 inch cylinder and a 46 inch separating unit, a model with a 32 inch cylinder and a 54 inch separator , a 36 inch x 58 inch thresher and a 40 x 62 model. The largest of the Case sweep-style horsepower—the seven team sweep—could produce up to about 28 horsepower. However, even the smallest of the new Case threshers—the 28 x 46 model—when fully outfitted with the new improvements, required 34 hp. to run at top efficiency. Obviously the sweep style horsepower was hopelessly outdated as a power source for these new threshers. Consequently, the Case Company began to look to a new source of power for their new threshers. The Company began to manufacture of steam engines in 1869. In 1876, the Company introduced its first “traction” steam engine, a steam engine that could move under its own power. From this time forward, the Case Company also became a leading manufacturer of steam engines and particularly traction steam engines. Until the 1890s, the J.I. Case Threshing Machine Company operated out of a singe factory located on Bridge Street in Racine, Wisconsin. Then during the 1890s, this building was torn down and replaced with the “Eagle” Building which became part of a new factory complex of buildings known as the “Main Works.” From the Main Works, the Case Company became a leading manufacturer of both a wide range of steam engines and a wide range of wood-frame grain threshers/separators.

A Wooden Case Thresher Fitted with optional Dakota Elevator
A Wooden Frame Case Thresher Fitted with optional Dakota Elevator

In 1904, Case continued its technological innovations in thresher technology. One of the major shortcomings of wood frame threshers was the threat of fire posed by a wood frame machine working in association with a steam engine sitting next to a highly flammable stack of dry straw. Consequently, the Case Company, in 1904, introduced the first “all-steel” thresher. These threshers were sold side by side with the wood-frame threshers until 1906 when production of the wooden threshers was discontinued.

At the beginning of the 20th century, threshers were very much in demand because settlement of certain areas of the arable land of the Midwest was still ongoing. New farming operations were still being formed. One such area was western Blue Earth County Minnesota. The townships of Lake Crystal, Judson, Garden City, Lincoln and Butternut Valley Townships were organized in western Blue Earth County as settlement came to the area. Right in the middle of these townships was the village of Lake Crystal, Minnesota (1900 pop. 1,215). Located on the boundary between Judson and Garden City Townships the village of Lake Crystal is actually divided between these two townships. The settlement that became the town of Lake Crystal was built around a junction of the east/west Chicago Northwestern Railroad line with another Chicago Northwestern line coming up from Iowa in the south. Continue reading

Case Farming Part I: Sweep-Style Horsepowers

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J.I. Case Company Part I: Sweep-Style Horsepowers

by

Brian Wayne Wells

(As published in the January/February 2006 issue of

                         Belt Pulley Magazine)

           Food, clothing and shelter are well known as the three basic requirements of human beings. Agricultural is generally concerned with the production of the raw materials i.e. plants and animals, that become the food for mankind. To a lesser degree, agriculture also is concerned with the production of raw materials for clothing for mankind e.g. cotton and wool. To a still lesser degree, agriculture may be said to be involved in one of the most basic building materials used in providing shelter for mankind i.e. wood. This is especially true in recent days when forests are replanted after harvest in preparation for another harvest of trees in the future.

Just as the development of the mechanical thresher/separator revolutionized the threshing small grains, so too did the sawmill revolutionize the lumber industry. In the early days of the settlement of the upper Midwest of the United States and Canada, homes were made from logs. However, a log house had a tremendous tendency to shrink or “settle” over the years. This settling was especially pronounced in the first couple years after the construction. Settling meant that windows and doors would not remain square and, thus, tight fitting doors and windows were impossible in traditional log homes. Only frame-built houses would allow for tight fitting windows and doors. As civilization came to the Midwest with more people settling in the towns and on the farms of the Midwest, the frame house became the rule in home construction.

This tremendous growth of frame house got under way in the period following the War Between the States—the golden age of American agriculture. This boom in frame built housing created a vigorous demand for sawn lumber. Thus saw mills sprung up all over the Midwest. Usually, these sawmills were located at the falls of a particular river. This would allow the sawmill to use the power generated by the falling water and a water wheel to power the saw. Additionally, the river would be used as a transportation medium for the logs as lumber camps cut the native timber of the watershed up river from the sawmill and floated the logs down the river to the sawmill. The water might be captured by a dam on the river just above the sawmill to provide a reservoir of water to power the sawmill through any dry spells. This “mill pond” above the sawmill also served as a storage place for all the logs that came floating down the river.

The wood most in demand for building construction was pine. Pine is a straight grained, light but strong wood. It is easily worked with a handsaw and/or a plane. Furthermore, it tends to maintain its proper dimensions and shape,once it had been properly seasoned. (Robert C. Nesbit and William F. Thompson, Wisconsin: A History [University of Wisconsin: Madison, 1989] p. 297.)   However, pine was not available in all areas of the United States.

Because of these desirable characteristics, pine could be transported a considerable distance and compete economically with any lumber found locally in any hardwood community. (Ibid.) Any person that has tried to hammer a nail into a “native” hardwood board will recognize why this is true. Pine tree forests were discovered to be most abundant in two belts of land in the United States. First was the wide belt of land that reached from New England through the Great Lakes area, with Lake Erie representing the southern most fringe of this belt, and extending on to present-day northern Minnesota. (Ibid.)   Secondly, there was the Southern pine wood belt which started in eastern North Carolina (Hugh Talmage Lefler & Albert Ray Newsome, North Carolina: The History of a Southern State [University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill, 1973] pp. 100-101.) and arched to the south and including nearly all of South Carolina (David Duncan Wallace, South Carolina: A Short History [University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill, 1951] pp. 3-4.)southern Georgia ( Kenneth Coleman & et al. A History of Georgia), northern Florida (Charlton W. Tebeau, A History of Florida [University of Miami Press: Coral Gables, Florida, 1971] pp. 42 & 52.), southern Alabama and southern Mississippi (Nollie Hickman, Mississippi Harvest: Lumbering in the Longleaf Pine Belt 1840-1915 [Paragon Press: Montgomery, Alabama 1962] pp. 3-11].

Lumbering of the northern pine woods began in Maine and followed the virgin forests of this band of land westward. The market for all this lumber was south of this belt where civilization in the form of towns and farms arose along the upper Ohio River valley during the early nineteenth. The cities of Pittsburg, Cincinnati, Louisville and Evansville were all build with pine wood harvested from the northern pine woods. Continue reading

Ellis Keystone’s Horse-powered Tread Mill

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   The Ellis Keystone Single Horse Powered

Tread Mill

by

Brian Wayne Wells

As Published in the November/December 2005 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

The horse was domesticated by early man in about 4000 to 3000 B.C.E. (Before the Common Era). (Encyclopedia Britannica [University of Chicago: Chicago, Illinois] Volume 5, p. 970.) Naturally, at first, the horse was ridden by man. However, around 2500 B.C.E. the chariot was developed. This was the beginning of the use of horses as a source of “draft” power. Draft power was converted for use in agriculture shortly after that time. From that time up to the middle of the twentieth century, the horse was in widespread use in agricultural fields around the world. Draft power provided by animals was a real step forward for agriculture technology and at first, draft horse power served all the needs of the farmer. However, as agriculture became more mechanized, stationary machines were developed to ease labor for mankind.   A different form of power was needed for these station stationary machines. At first, the power for stationary machines was provided by waterfalls or by the wind. However, these power sources depended too much on the whims of nature to be totally reliable as a consistent source of power for stationary machines. At some time in the past, farmers found that a tread mill could be used to capture animal power as a source of “brake” horsepower for stationary machines. The unit of measurement of force of strength necessary to operate these new stationary machines became known as “horsepower” based on the average pulling power of an average draft horse. Typically, the average draft horse was considered as having the “tractive” power to pull 1/8 of its weight for 20 miles traveling at 2.5 miles per hour. (Ronald Stokes Barlow, 300 Years of Farm Implements [Krause Pub.: Iola, Wisc., 2003] p. 24.) Thus, a typical 1,500 pound draft horse could develop 33,000 foot pounds per minute which became defined as one horsepower (hp.). By changing the nature of the power of the average horse from tractive pulling power to a stationary source of power, the treadmill actually improved on the horse’s ability. A 1000 pound horse on a treadmill inclined at a rate of 1 to 4 (an incline of one inch up for every four inches of length) could develop 1.33 hp. A 1600 pound horse on the same tread mill could develop 2.13 hp. (Ibid.) With the coming of the Industrial Revolution, there was an increased need for stationary power sources not only in agriculture but also in industry. The use of the treadmill was improved in design and efficiency. By 1830 the tread mill had become a very practical source of real power for the farm. Single horse treadmills were used on the farm for such tasks as butter churning, grinding feed for livestock, sawing wood and cutting fodder. The single horse treadmill could supply power at a rate of 32 to 36 revolutions per minute (r.p.m.) on the reel shaft. This speed could then be geared up to 96 to 108 r.p.m. on the main shaft and the attached band wheel. (C.H. Wendel, Encyclopedia of American Farm Implements & Antiques [Krause Pub.: Iola, Wisc., 1997] pp. 211 and 213.)

The stationary grain thresher/separator is one of the labor saving machines developed for agriculture which required brake style power. Development of the thresher started with simple, hand-fed machines to threshing machines with “apron” separating units which could thresh from 35 to 60 bushels per day. (Ibid., p. 336.) These early hand fed threshing machines generally used a single horse or two horse treadmill as a power source. Indeed, the treadmill was so closely associated with hand threshing machines that the horse tread mills were often sold together with threshers as a package deal. Such was the case with the Ellis-Keystone Company of Pottstown, Pennsylvania. The Ellis Keystone Company began as the brainchild of John Ellis from the small community of Ellis Woods, Pennsylvania in Chester County. John was first and foremost an inventor who was thrust into operating his own business. Sometime before 1876, John was engaged in attempting to develop a small hand-fed thresher which would be called the “Champion Grain Thresher.” In 1876, the company was chartered and a factory was built at the corner of Cross and Keim Streets in Pottsville, Pennsylvania for the mass production of the hand-fed thresher and the treadmill. He obtained a patent from the United States Government for part of his new hand-fed thresher on July 1, 1878. He obtained another patent for a different feature of the little thresher on July 25, 1880 and yet a third patent was obtained in October of 1884. Notice of these patents was stenciled onto every thresher made by the Ellis Keystone Company.       Continue reading

Tobacco Farming with a Farmall Super C

                  Tobacco Farming in West Virginia

with the Farmall Super C

by

Brian Wayne Wells

As Published in the September/October2005 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

Ever since the Surgeon General’s report of January 11, 1964, linking smoking of tobacco with lung cancer, smoking of cigarettes has been on the decline. Today, with only 22.8% of the public of the United State still engaging in the habit of smoking, it seems hard to imagine a time when the majority of the American public smoked. In 1949, 44-47% of the nation’s total population (50% of all men and 33% of all women) smoked. Cigarette manufacturing was a large and lucrative business. Supplying that large and lucrative business with at least some of the raw product—tobacco plants—were North American farmers, particularly the farmers of the southeastern part of the United States. West Virginia does not produce much tobacco. Currently West Virginia is 16th among all the states in the production of tobacco. In 1953, West Virginia ranked 15th out of the 21 tobacco growing states, ranking just ahead of Missouri in tobacco production. Despite the drought in 1953, West Virginia produced only 4,542,000 pounds of the light burley type of tobacco out of the 2 billion pounds of tobacco produced in the United States that year. Lincoln County in West Virginia produced 31.4% of the State’s total production of tobacco with 1,426,000 pounds grown that year. Hamlin is the county seat of Lincoln County. State Road #3 runs through the center of Hamlin from west to east. About 1½ miles east of Hamlin, State Road #3 intersects with State Road #34. About a mile north of this intersection on S.R. #34 is Harvey’s Creek Road. Living on the first farm on the left down Harvey’s Creek Road in 1953 was Raymond and Edyth Marie (Byrd) Thompson. Raymond worked off the farm and was employed by the Tennessee Gas Company. However, ever since they purchased their 85 acre farm on Harvey’s Creek Road from J.A Pack in January of 1944, Raymond and Edyth had dreamed of making their living from their own land. Much of their farm could not be cultivated because of the rough terrain. Thus, they made the rough terrain profitable by making it a permanent pasture for the Hereford beef cattle they raised. Given the terrain of the State, beef farming is a natural choice for most farming operations in West Virginia. Indeed beef farming does constitute a great deal of the farming conducted in the State of West Virginia. Within the West Virginia beef cattle industry, Hereford cattle are predominant. Additionally, a surprising number of Hereford farmers in West Virginia have become interested in improving blood lines of their Hereford cattle. Toward this end a significant portion of West Virginia beef farmers raised “purebred” Hereford beef cattle. These purebred Hereford farmers will generally register the best cows and bulls in their herds with the American Hereford Association in Kansas City, Missouri. Native West Virginian B.C. (Bud) Snidow, now retired and living in Mission, Kansas, worked for the American Hereford Association from 1951 until 1983. Born in Princeton, West Virginian, Bud Snidow, throughout his career, naturally kept track of the registered Hereford beef industry in his native state. He noted that following the Second World War there was an increase in the number of registered Hereford cattle in West Virginia. This increased pushed West Virginia to a position of 20th among all states in the number of registered Hereford cattle herds. Raymond did not follow the purebred blood lines of the Hereford breed like some beef farmers, but he did insist on raising only Hereford cattle on his farm. He liked his Hereford cattle. Because most of their farm was taken up in the hillsides and bluffs which are common to Lincoln County, West Virginia, leaving only a very small quantity of flat bottom land that was arable, Raymond rented two other 15 acre fields from Eb Oxley. Eb Oxley was actually a distant relative of Raymond and Ethyl Thompson. These two 15 acre fields were located about one mile north of Raymond and Edyth’s farm on S.R. #34 just across the county line into Putnam County. On these two fields rented from Eb Oxley, Raymond raised hay and corn every year alternating the crops from one field to the other every other year. On the very small arable acreage of his own farm, located in the bottom of the Harvey’s Creek “hollow” where they lived, Raymond and Edyth raised oats that they needed for the horses and they also set aside 7/10s of an acre for their tobacco allotment, issued by the United States Department of Agriculture. Pursuant to this allotment Raymond and Edyth were permitted to raise up to 7/10s of an acre of tobacco. Like his neighbors, Raymond knew that, despite the small size of the acreage, tobacco could become a major crop on any farm. For this reason, tobacco allotments were highly prized by farmers. Tobacco raising had been strictly controlled by means of acreage allotments since the 1933 Agricultural Adjustment Act. The original intent of the tobacco acreage allotments was to provide the tobacco farmer with the security of price supports. However, since the end of the Second World War, these price supports had hardly been necessary. The price of tobacco had led all other farm commodities in return for the time and labor invested. Indeed, it was said that the tobacco allotment “paid for many a farm.” As time went by, tobacco allotments added a great deal to the value of a farm. So much so, that some buyers insisted that a particular paragraph be added to the deed of sale of the land they were purchasing which would make specific mention of the transfer of the tobacco allotment with the purchase of the land. (Paragraphs, like these really provided no protection for the buyer of a farm. The Farm Service Agency (F.S.A.) of the United States Department of Agriculture issued acreage allotments, each year, only to the person owning a particular farm that particular year. Any attempted transfer of the acreage allotment not tied to the sale of the farm would not be recognized by the F.S.A. Instead the purchaser of a farm would have to file an application with the F.S.A. each year, to obtain a tobacco allotment for that year.) For Raymond and Edyth Thompson the growing season of tobacco came in the middle of March every year with a trip to Stone’s Southern States, a feed and seed farm supply store on the west end of Hamlin. Raymond would drive off to Stone’s in his Chevrolet pickup and there he would buy the small packet of certified tobacco seed he needed for his tobacco crop. Returning home after picking up a few other things for of the farm, Raymond opened the seed packet and blended the contents together with some corn meal in a coffee can. The individual tobacco seed is so small that a single teaspoon full will contain a million tobacco seeds. Thus, the certified seed is mixed thoroughly with a small quantity of corn meal to allow the seed to be sown in a uniform manner. Tobacco seed which is packaged and sold every year is raised by some tobacco farmers. Indeed a little further up Harvey’s Creek Road where the road crosses the county line into Putnam County, was the 100 acre farm of Stanley and Garnet (Painter) Young and their sons. In addition to their own large tobacco allotment in the early 1950s, the Young family had an additional plot of tobacco that they were “letting go to seed.” The flowers on these tobacco plants would not be removed. Instead the flowers were allowed to bloom and the seed pods were allowed to form. In the fall of the year after these tobacco plants had fully ripened, the seed pods would be harvested and sold to the tobacco warehouse in Huntington, West Virginia. There had been very little snow over the winter of 1952-1953. Although temperatures had been colder than usual in late February, it looked as though March was “coming in like a lamb” with higher than ordinary temperatures. Raymond Thompson burned off a small patch of ground on his farm. This patch was just big enough to be covered by a wooden frame with a large piece of cheesecloth stretched over the wooden frame. After working up this small patch of ground with a garden hoe to form a seed bed, he sowed the corn meal/tobacco seed mixture on the newly worked ground and covered the ground with his “hot house” frame. This frame, which was used every year was made of wooden boards placed edgewise and was nailed together at the corners. This frame was taken down out of storage in the barn. There were some small nails sticking upward out of the frame which would allow a large piece of cheese cloth to be stretched across the frame. The wooden frame and the cheese cloth formed a hot house over the small seed bed where the tobacco seed had been sown. The porous nature of the cheese cloth allowed the sun to shine through to the seed bed and allowed the rain to keep the seed bed moist. However, the heat from the sun was trapped under the cheese cloth and kept the little seed bed warm enough to allow the tobacco to germinate, despite the cold weather and occasional snows of the late winter and early spring . Indeed, Raymond and Ethyl also started a bed of leaf lettuce under the same cheese cloth “hot house” to get an early start on the family garden. Raymond would make daily inspections of the hot house under the cheese cloth. Gradually, he would begin to see the young tobacco sprouts poking up out of the ground under the cheese cloth. After the spouts leafed out and became small seedlings, Raymond would start removing the hot house frame from the seed bed during the daylight hours and cover the bed again at night. This procedure allowed the tobacco seedlings to absorb the direct sunlight during the day and to “harden,” or become accustomed to the warming weather outside the hot house. Eventually, the weather would be warm enough to allow the hot house frame to be removed altogether. The tobacco seedlings would continue to grow as Raymond began his seasons work on the rest of his farm. He tilled the ground on his farm with his horses to form a proper seedbed. Then, he sowed the oats that he would need for the next year to feed the horses. Next, he planted his corn. As in years past, he borrowed a wire-check corn planter from a neighbor to plant his corn. The wire-check planter came complete with a roll of wire that was long enough to stretch all the way across any field. This wire contained little wire buttons attached to the wire at intervals of 42 inches. This wire was stretched across the field along the side of the field where the farmer wanted to begin planting corn. The wire was attached to the checking mechanism the located on the side of the planter. As the horses pulled the planter across the field the buttons would slide through the checking mechanism and trip the planter releasing seed into the ground with each tripping action. The result would be that the corn would be planted uniformly in 42 inch spaces along the rows. When the horses and planter reached the end of the field, the wire was temporarily disconnected from the planter. The horses and planter were then turned around to line up for the next two rows of corn to be planted along side the first two rows just completed. The wire was then attached to the checking mechanism on the opposite side of the planter. As the planter moves across the field again, the wire passing through the checking mechanism, again, tripped the planter to release seed corn to the ground at 42 inch intervals and the seed placement in these next two rows exactly matched the seed placement in the first two rows just planted. Thus, the corn would be in a grid of 42 inch rows and with “hills” of corn located 42 inches apart along each row. This would allow the corn to be “cross-cultivated” as well as cultivated lengthwise. This way, the weeds within the rows between the hills of corn could also be controlled. Next it was time to transplant his tobacco to the field. Because, tobacco plants remove a great deal of nutrients from the soil during the growing season, Raymond had to rotate the tobacco crop to a different field each year to prevent the soil from becoming “exhausted.” This year, as an additional guard against soil depletion, he started the practice of adding some artificial fertilizer to the tobacco ground. He “broadcast” the fertilizer on the ground with a horse-drawn fertilizer spreader after disking the soil and before he finalized the seed bed with a peg-tooth harrow or drag. Following suggestions of tobacco experts at the F.S.A., he spread the fertilizer at a rate of 200 pounds per acre. Tobacco allotments are issued by the F.S.A. in sizes ranging from as little as 1/10th an acre upwards in steps of 1/10th of an acre. Generally, in Lincoln County, tobacco allotments ranged from ½ (or 5/10s) of an acre to a full-acre. As noted above, Raymond’s allotment was 7/10s of an acre. The transplanting stage was one of the stages where he really “felt” the size of this large allotment. To be sure the ground intended for the tobacco that year could be worked up into a seedbed with the horses, just as in the other fields. However, the transplanting of the tobacco was all handwork. The little tobacco transplants were carefully dug up and placed in a large tub and then taken to the field. Then a long string with a stake on either end was uncoiled and stretched across the entire field. The string was tightened into a straight line across the entire length of the field and the stakes were pounded into the ground on either end of the field. Transplanting was an affair for the whole Thompson family. One family member would walk along the string with a stick or a pole and make little holes in the ground along one side of the string—each hole was 18” apart along the string. Another member of the Thompson family could then follow with the tub full of tobacco transplants and place one plant in each hole and then close up the hole around the roots of the transplant with dirt. Packing the ground around the new transplant assured good contact of the root with the dirt of the seedbed and guaranteed the best start possible for the new transplants. When one row was completed over the entire length of the field, the stakes at the ends of the field would be moved over in the seedbed 42”. The string was again tightened out straight across the field and the second row of tobacco transplants was set out in the field. This process was repeated until the whole 7/10ths-of-an-acre field was planted in tobacco. Almost as soon as the whole field had been completely transplanted, the cultivation of the tobacco was begun.   Under the hot summer sun the tobacco transplants grew very fast. Generally, within three weeks after the transplanting of the tobacco, the young plants had grown to the point where the horses and the one row cultivator could not move easily between the rows without damaging the plants. Thus, all cultivation of the tobacco to eliminate weeds had to be completed within the three week period of time following the transplanting of the tobacco crop. Because of the rapid growing nature of the tobacco plants, there was no need to worry about cross cultivating the tobacco. The plants would soon be big enough to cover the space between the plants and shade out any weeds attempting to grow there. In the crush of the summer time field work, Raymond felt himself lucky to cultivate the tobacco three times in the three week period of time that he had to complete the cultivation of the tobacco. Especially since he needed to begin cutting and putting up his hay crop at the same time as he was attempting to cultivate the tobacco three times. Then there was the need to continue the cultivation and cross-cultivation of his corn crop. It was always a busy time. There just were not enough hours in the day. Raymond also knew that he would have to cultivate his corn at least once prior to hay season. Haying was started at about the first of June. He needed to get the hay down and raked into windrows quickly. Cecil Lewis, who provided custom baling of the hay for the farmers in Harvey’s Creek, would be scheduling his New Holland Model 77 baler and Ford Model 8N tractor to visit the farms in the area rather soon. Raymond wanted to have his hay ready for any convenient time that Cecil might have to come to the Thompson farm. However, as he mowed and raked his hay, Raymond had to keep an eye on the tobacco to notice when plants began to grow buds in preparation for flowering. June was the time that the tobacco plants would begin to flower. Some times as soon as one week following the end of cultivation the tobacco plants would begin to flower. To keep the energy of the growing tobacco plants directed toward the growing leaves rather than into the production of flowers, the emerging buds had to be removed from the plants as soon as they started to develop. The operation of removing the flowering buds was another task that had to be completed by hand. The entire tobacco field had to be walked and the buds removed from each individual plant. Even this was not the end of the hand work in the tobacco field, however. Once the flower buds had been removed, some of the tobacco plants would develop “suckers” or additional shoots which would spring up out of the same stem and root system. If allowed to grow these suckers would also sap away energy from the leaves of the plant. So, within a week after the deflowering of the tobacco plants, the field had to be walked again by the family to remove these suckers which may be attempting to grow. These tasks had to be fitted in to the summers work whenever time could be found during their busy summer schedule—whenever the family was not involved in putting up hay and/or cultivating the corn.   There was no time to rest and scarcely enough time to get all the field work done. Then, there were usually rainy days in which no work was accomplished at all. This year in 1953, however, Raymond fervently wished for a few more rainy days. He could see that the leaves of corn were starting to roll up, indicating the lack of water. August was incredibly dry. The radio reported that over in Kentucky the rainfall for the growing season was 12 full inches less than normal. In late August, approaching Labor Day, the leaves on the tobacco plants began to turn from the dark green color of summer to the light green or yellow-green color that indicated that the tobacco plants were beginning to mature. All plants that mature or ripen in the fall, go through a process, whereby, the vital fluids of the plant are returning from the leaves to the roots in the ground for the winter. As the fluids flow out of the leaves, the leaves begin to loose their green color and start to yellow. The more yellow the leaves are, the more fluids have departed the leaves. In tobacco, these fluids in the leaves, and the ingredients that are contained in the fluids, are the very elements thing that make the tobacco leaves marketable. Thus, the proper time to cut the tobacco plants is just when the maturation of the leaves has begun. In this way all the fluids will be retained in the leaves. Accordingly, the tobacco plants are cut off at the stem. Harvesting the tobacco is hand work which requires the work of the whole family. Cutting and handling is performed carefully so as to not damage the outside leaves. These outside or lower leaves are called flynes and are the most valuable leaves. The tobacco plants are then “speared” or placed on a thin 4 foot long stick. The stick full of tobacco plants is then hung upside down on a rack in the barn. Hanging upside down allows any fluids in the stem to flow back into the leaves. The barns in tobacco growing areas of the country are not like barns in other areas of the United States. Usually barns are built tight to prevent cold weather from infiltrating the inside of the barn. However, a tobacco barn is purposely constructed with the boards on the sides of the barn spaced so as to allow cracks between the vertically-placed boards in the walls of the barn. Observing a tobacco barn, a person will see daylight showing through the walls. These cracks allow air to pass through the walls of the barn and air-dry the tobacco hanging inside the barn. The process of air drying tobacco in the barn takes six to eight weeks. During this time Raymond harvested his corn. The yield on the corn was disappointing because of the dry weather. Across Lincoln County in 1953, the yield of corn was down by 9%, from the year before—from 31.8 bushels per acre to 28.9 bushels per acre. (From the National Agricultural Statistics Service page on the website of the United States Department of Agriculture.)   Yet because the drought was limited to the eastern Kentucky and West Virginia areas there was no dramatic rise in price of corn. (Ibid.) Indeed, of the 81,574,000 acres of corn planted across the nation 98.6% (or 80,459,000 acres) was harvested in the fall of 1953, resulting in a nationwide bumper crop of corn that actually depressed corn prices. Additionally, the nationwide “per acre yield” from the 1953 corn harvest averaged 40.7 bushels per acre—fourth highest yield in the history of United States corn farming. On the Thompson farm, this condition meant that not as much corn was actually harvested and the price obtained for the small amount of corn that was harvested was low. Thus, Raymond Thompson would feed a great deal of his corn to his beef cattle. Feeding more corn to the young calves would cause them to gain weight faster and be ready for market at an earlier date. This was one means of diversification of the corn crop that Raymond could employ on his own farm. If corn was not getting a good price then using it for cattle feed could possibly be a way of getting a more money for the corn. However, although surpluses were not as big a problem in the beef market, beef prices had been on a slow, but steady, decline since the December in 1952. After reaching a high of 35 to 36 cents a pound caused by the demands of the Korean War, beef prices had dipped to 20 cents per pound and even now was only was hovering around 25 cents per pound. (Omaha Choice Historic Beef Steer Prices from 1950-2005 page at the United States Department of Agriculture website on the Internet.) So, in 1953, even the beef market was a disappointment for Raymond. Thus, Raymond’s hope for a successful crop year lay with his tobacco crop. Tobacco plants can withstand dry conditions better than corn. Proof of this was shown when the tobacco was harvested. Over all of Lincoln County a new record level tobacco harvest was reached with 1,426,000 lbs, over the entire county—up 2% from 1952. Considering that only 920 acres of tobacco were planted in 1953 as compared with 950 acres in 1952, this was a staggering result considering the extreme dryness of the growing season. The 1953 average yield in Lincoln County was 1,550 lbs. per acre—up almost 5½ % from 1952. The only explanation, that Raymond could find for the higher yield in a dry year was the fact that he had joined many of his neighbors in adding artificial fertilizer to the tobacco ground. Before the tobacco leaves could be sold, however, the Thompson family had to strip the leaves off the stem of each plant. Starting, generally, in November, the process of stripping was also a long process which involved the most hand labor of all the tobacco growing procedures. The sticks full of dried plants were taken down from the drying racks in the barn. The plants were removed from the sticks and the leaves were then stripped from the stem. In order that the leaves would not be too brittle to be destroyed by handling, Raymond usually waited for one of the uncommonly humid days in the fall to get the racks down from the barn and begin the process of stripping. Handling the leaves in a relatively humid environment would not damage the leaves especially the outer or lower leaves which were the most valuable leaves. Handling the leaves at this stage was somewhat messy work. While stripping the leaves by hand a dark residue would settle on the hands. Still it was with some anticipation that the family performed the tasks. At the end of the process, Raymond knew that, in an ordinary year, the 7/10 of an acre allotment would allow his family to load the Chevy pickup up with a thousand pounds of leaves for delivery to the Huntington Tobacco Warehouse at 20 Twenty-Sixth Street in Huntington, West Virginia. Once at the tobacco warehouse, the tobacco would be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Auctions were held at the warehouse from November through January each year. Buyers from the R.J. Reynolds, American Tobacco, Phillip Morris and all the other tobacco companies would be present at these auctions to bid on the tobacco. Coming this late in the year and being the major cash crop on the farm, Raymond would use a portion of the money he would receive for the tobacco to pay off the debts. Then they would get the new shoes and clothes that the children would need. (Carol [Young] Mullins, granddaughter of Stanley and Garnet Young, remembers that she and her family too anticipated Christmas as they worked to strip the tobacco leaves. The Young children looked forward to a happy Christmas which would be financed in part by the money the fetched at market. Anticipating Christmas led the children to work diligently at stripping the tobacco leaves.) This year, in the late fall of 1953 Raymond looked over at his children as they worked together stripping the tobacco. They were becoming adults. Eleanor Gay (“Gay”) and Patricia Fay (“Fay”) were already teenagers and would soon be setting out on their own. Soon he would be more shorthanded that he already was in doing his farm work. He became aware that he would soon have to think about doing something to save time in his farming operation. Toward this end he had been considering the purchase of a farm tractor. He felt this was the year that he would have to make his move to purchase a farm tractor and replace the horses on his farm. Accordingly, over the winter of 1953-54 he visited Henderson Implement Company in downtown Hurricane, West Virginia. Hurricane, West Virginia is located across the county line into Putnam County about 14 miles north of the Thompson farm. Bernie Henderson had started selling horse drawn McCormick-Deering equipment from his dealership located on Main Street in downtown Hurricane. However, since the end of the Second World War, he had found that the market for small tractors was really growing by leaps and bounds. In addition to the Farmall C and Super C, he found that the Farmall Cub was becoming a mainstay of the sales from his dealership. Continue reading

Gravely Motor Plow and Cultivator Company

    The Gravely Motor Plow and

Cultivator Company

of

Dunbar, West Virginia

by

Brian Wayne Wells

           with the assistance of

James O. (“Boone County Jim”) White of Bim, West Virginia

As published in the July/August issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

            Some individuals are so bathed in inventiveness that they can apply their creativity to whatever field they which they happen to inhabit. Move such an individual from one field of endeavor to another and they will still shine with success and ingeniousness in that field. One such person was Benjamin Franklin Gravely. Born on November 29, 1876, the son of an owners of a chewing tobacco business in Dyer’ Store in Henry County near Martinsville, Virginia; Benjamin attended a school for boys at Mount Airy, North Carolina. After his schooling, Benjamin was employed as a salesman for the Eastman Kodak Company of Rochester, New York.

After a short while of employment at Kodak, Benjamin obtained another job which brought him to Huntington, West Virginia in 1900. There, Benjamin met a young photographer named Charles R. Thomas. They decided to become partners in a photographic business. Thus, was established the Gravely-Thomas Studio located at 948 Third Avenue in Huntington, West Virginia. Benjamin put his inventive mind to work on a problem that arose in the photographic business and soon had invented a photographic enlarger. This machine was called the “Gravely auto-focus Camera Projector.” Over the course of his life, Benjamin would possess 65 patents. However, most of these patents were for products not connected with photography. Most of the patents owned by Benjamin would be related to product which was to become much more closely associated with his name than anything in his photography business.

During this time in Huntington, the tall and handsome, Benjamin Gravely became acquainted with Elizabeth Susan Downie from Pomeroy, Ohio. They fell in love and were married in the fall of 1902 in Pomeroy. Together they would eventually have five children including a son Charles and daughters, Virginia and Louise. Seeking to improve the prospects of his photography business, Benjamin and Elizabeth moved to a house located on east Washington Street in Charleston–the state capitol of West Virginia. Benjamin’s photography business was first located in the Burlew building in Charleston, which housed the Burlew Opera House. Later, Benjamin formed a partnership with his cousin-in-law Marguerite Moore. The new partnership moved to the Sterrett Building located at 124 Capital Street in Charleston. This new location would remain the place of business for Gravely and Moore Photographers for more than 60 years under the guidance of Marguerite, then Benjamin’s son Charles and then his daughter, Louise. The business closed its doors only in 1963.

In May of 1911, Benjamin and Elizabeth moved to a new home in South Charleston. At this new home, Benjamin undertook gardening as a hobby. This gardening was quite a substantial operation as Benjamin not only undertook to raise vegetables to feed his growing family, but undertook to raise fruit trees in addition. The necessity of having to operate the photography business meant that there was very little time left for working in his garden. Thus, Benjamin took advantage of every labor-saving device that he could find for work in his garden. His creative mind led him to design and build his own small “walk behind” tractor for use in his garden. From parts of an old Indian motorcycle, donated to him by a Mr. Doney of South

Charleston, Benjamin began to experiment with many configurations for the tractor that he was now calling his “motor plow.” Benjamin spent five years designing and redesigning the motor plow. Finally, in 1915 he found a successful design that worked in his garden satisfactorily. The tractor was a single-wheeled tractor powered by a small 2 ½ horsepower single-cylinder internal combustion engine which Benjamin built himself. The crankshaft of the engine passed directly through the hub of the wheel. Thus, the weight of the engine served as ballast to provide traction for the tractor. To maintain some semblance of balance on the one-wheeled tractor the engine and flywheel were located on one side of the wheel and the gearing of the transmission was located on the other side of the wheel. The wheel however, was powered by a belt on pulleys on the transmission side of the wheel. Once the neighbors saw the garden tractor working in the yard around his house, they began expressing a real interest in the tractor, which he was now calling a “motor plow.” Based on this interest, Benjamin began to think that he could make a living manufacturing and marketing the motor plow. On December 15, 1916, Benjamin obtained a patent for his little motor-plow. Despite, the fact that the market for the tractor was still viewed as being limited to Benjamin’s friends and neighbors, and despite the fact that production of the tractor was still largely in the hands of Benjamin Gravely himself, Ben filed papers of incorporation for a Gravely Company to be formed. Continue reading

Navy Bean Farming (Part III): The Innes Company

       Navy Bean Farming (Part III): The Innes Company of Bettendorf, Iowa

by

Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the May/June 2005 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

As noted previously, a revolution in edible bean farming occurred in 1937. (See the article called Navy Bean Farming [Part II] in the March/April 2005 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.) The effect of that revolution can be seen in the harvest production figures for 1937. Also as noted previously, across the nation that spring, 1,911,000 acres of edible beans were planted. (From the National Agricultural Statistics Service page of the United Sates Department of Agriculture website.) In the fall of that year, 88.7% of this acreage was harvested. (Ibid.) The yield per acre was a record 934 pounds per acre. (Ibid.) This was a 23.7% increase in the average yield of 712 pounds per acre of 1936. After 1937, the average yield never again fell below 800 pounds per acre. (Ibid.) As noted previously, this dramatic and permanent increase in the average yield of navy beans was due in large part to the introduction of the small combine to navy bean harvesting in place of the stationary thresher.

The year 1948 was another revolutionary year in the per acre yield of edible beans. Nationwide, there was a nearly 11% increase in the average per acre yield of edible beans. For the first time the average per acre yield of edible beans rose above 1000 pounds per acre (1,074 pounds per acre). In 1949, the per acre yield rose another 6% to 1,134 pounds per acre. After 1949, despite some growing seasons with adverse weather conditions and mediocre harvests, the average annual yield of edible beans never again fell below 1,100 pounds per acre. If the drastic improvement in the per acre yield of 1937 was the result of the invasion of the combine into the edible bean threshing market, the further drastic improvement in yield in 1948 was the result of the small combine finishing the job of total domination of the edible bean market.

In both cases, the improvement in yield was largely due to the reduction of loss of beans in the harvesting and threshing operation wrought by the combine as opposed to the losses incurred by the stationary thresher method of harvesting and threshing edible beans. The savings in losses were twofold in nature. First, savings in loss of beans were obtained by the fact that combining edible beans resulted in much less “handling” of the beans. Secondly, combining sped up the harvest. Thus, there was less chance of the navy beans being affected by mildew and the resultant discolorization.

As noted earlier, navy beans grown in the state of Michigan composed the largest part of the United States edible bean harvest. In years past, upwards of 80% of the nation’s crop of navy beans were grown in Michigan. Within Michigan, Huron County, lead all other counties in production of navy beans.

The navy bean plant grows to only about 18 inches in height as compared to the 36“ height of a good crop of soybeans. Consequently, every pod of navy beans on the plants in the field becomes important. Thus, whereas the soybean farmer may cut soybeans off at a level 1½ inches above the ground and consider the loss of any pods attached to this 1½ inch stubble left in the field as a very negligible loss, the navy bean farmer, on the other hand, would suffer a considerable loss of yield by leaving 1-½ inch stubble in his navy bean field. Furthermore, prior to the introduction of the first hybrid bush style navy bean variety (the Sanilac variety in 1956), all navy bean varieties were “vining” plants that grew along the ground. Thus, navy beans were harvested by “pulling” the plants. The process of “pulling” involved cutting off the navy bean plants below the ground. Traditionally, this was accomplished with a horse-drawn one-row cultivator fitted with “knives” that would pass under the ground and cut the row of navy bean plants off at the root below the ground. The navy beans vines would then be left lying on top of the ground. After the navy bean crop had been pulled, the farmer would return to the field with a pitch fork and stack, or “cock” the vines into conveniently located piles spaced throughout the field. The vines would, then, await the day that the neighborhood thresher arrived on the farm before they were forked onto the wagon and hauled to the thresher and then forked into the thresher. Each handling of the vines would result in a further loss of beans as the pods either fell off or were cracked open letting the beans fall on the ground. Furthermore, additional handling of the beans occurred if a rain fell while the vines were cocked in the field, as the farmer would have to return to the navy bean field with his pitchfork and turn each pile of navy bean vines to allow the vines to dry thoroughly without mildewing.

Even the navy beans which successfully, made it through the harvesting process were not necessarily saleable. Once delivered to the grain elevator, the navy beans were inspected by hand. All discolored navy beans were removed. Only the pearly white beans that passed inspection were then marketed. Generally, the farmer would “buy back” the discolored, or “cull,” beans from the elevator. Usually, the cull beans were fed to the pigs or other livestock on the farm. The farmer’s purchase of the cull beans paid for the process of hand inspection of the total bean crop. All over Huron County, Michigan, the inspection of the navy bean crop was done by workers hired by the grain elevator. These workers sat at specialized machines designed to allow navy beans to flow past the eyes of the worker. The cull beans would then be removed by worker one bean at a time. (These machines have since been discarded in favor of faster more efficient automatic machines. However, some of the old machines are kept as antiques of a by-gone era. One such machine is, currently, owned by Dave MacDonald of Bad Axe, Michigan. The machine is kept in his garage and is used to entertain visiting children and grandchildren. Today, instead of separating cull beans from good beans this old machine in the MacDonald garage is used to separate red marbles from white marbles.)

The inspection of navy beans at the elevator had serious consequences for the navy bean farmer . A navy bean farmer could find that 50% of his crop was lost through discolorization. Discolorization was caused by mildew. It was bad enough that the navy bean vines grew so close to the ground, but the hand cocking of the navy beans in the field left the vines lying on the ground and susceptible to mildew. A rain falling on the cocked beans would add even more exposure to mildew.

No wonder then that the combine became so popular in the navy bean fields. The harvesting process was reduced to “pulling” the beans two rows at a time with a tractor. The tractor mounted bean puller would fold the two rows into a single windrow lying on top of the ground. After pulling the entire field of navy beans the farmer would then return the next day, or maybe even the same day to combine the navy beans. As a result there was very little “handling” of the beans. Additionally, after the navy bean vines were “pulled,” the vines spent very little time on the ground in a windrow, exposed to rain and weather, before being threshed by the combine. Thus, mildew and discolorization would have less chance to form on the navy beans.

As noted earlier, the Allis Chalmers All-Crop harvester was the pioneer small combine that led the way in crowding the stationary thresher out of the navy bean field. (See the article called “Navy Bean Farming in Huron County [Part II]: The All Crop Harvester” contained in the March/April 2005 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.) The All Crop Harvester was introduced in 1935. Although by 1947, the suggested retail price of an All Crop Harvester had risen to $885.00 farmers continued to flock to their Allis Chalmers dealers to purchase the little orange combine. The Allis Chalmers Company was turning out 150 All Crop Harvesters per day at the LaPorte, Indiana plant, just to keep up with the huge demand. This was the peak year of production for the All-Crop Harvester. Allis Chalmers had a 40% share of the small combine market. (From the 1954 Allis Chalmers promotional movie called “The All-Crop Story” available on VHS video tape from Keith Oltrogge, Post Office Box 529, Denver, Iowa 52622-0529. Telephone: [319] 984-5292.)

Just one indicator of the role the All Crop Harvester played in this revolutionary change in farming in Huron County, Michigan, was the number of Allis Chalmers dealerships that sprang up all across Huron County. First was the H.A. Henne & Son of Bay Port, Michigan. As noted earlier, although addressed 8982 Henne Road, Bay Port; the Henne dealership was actually located in McKinley Township, 1½ miles east of the city limits of Bay Port. (See the article, cited above, called “Navy Bean Farming in Huron County [Part II]) Henry A. Henne and his son, Floyd, organized this Allis Chalmers dealership business in 1932.

Meanwhile, the privately owned grain elevator in the small town of Ruth, Michigan, had re-organized itself as a farmer owned co-operative elevator in 1933. In 1938, the Ruth Cooperative Elevator also obtained a franchise to sell Allis Chalmers farm equipment and Roman Booms began his long tenure as the chairman of the board of the cooperative. (Roman Booms is mentioned in this capacity in the book called Plow Peddler written by Walter M. Buescher [Glenbridge Pub. Ltd.: MaComb, Illinois, 1992] p. 100.) Over the years, the machinery dealership side of Ruth Co-operative employed a number of local citizens including LaVern Hanselman as service manager and Earl Edwards as parts manager. Also in 1938 Harold Leese obtained an AllisChalmers dealership franchise. Harold established the dealership on the 60 acre farm that he and his wife, Gertrude (Champagne) Leese owned in Gore Township. Located on Kaufman Road, near the village of Port Hope, the Leese farm was just one mile north of the country school/Gore Township Hall on route #25. In 1940, Al Bowron and his son, Harold, started the Al Bowron and Son dealership in the county seat of Huron County—Bad Axe, Michigan. These new dealerships and, indeed, all the Allis Chalmers dealerships in Michigan were served by the AllisChalmers warehouse and branch office at Toledo Ohio. Personnel from the Toledo Branch Office including Ed Howe, Branch Service Manager, often traveled to the individual dealerships to provide any assistance required by the new dealerships.

The post-World War II era, brought forth a new generation of farmers who had new ideas about farming. One of the young farmers walking into the Henne dealership to inquire about the an All-Crop Harvester in 1947 was John Prich. John was the second son of George Prich, of rural Bach, Michigan. As noted earlier, the 80 acre Prich farm was located in Brookfield Township in Huron County. (See the article, cited above, called “Navy Bean Farming in Huron County [Part II].) John’s older brother, George Jr., took over the farming operations from their father, George Sr., on the home farm. Although he continued to live at home, John Prich struck out on his own and started renting and farming what land he could find in the neighborhood. He raised wheat, oats, sugar beets and of course, navy beans. In addition to the horses, John and his brother George Jr. shared ownership of an unstyled model A John Deere tractor as a source of power in their respective farming operations. The tractor had rubber tires and, thus, the Model A could be driven down the public roads to the fields that John rented in the neighborhood. For planting his wheat and oats John and his brother used a 9-foot grain drill made by the Ontario Drill Company of Despatch, New York. This grain drill contained fifteen planting units. By closing off some of the holes in the bottom of the grain box of the drill, John could also use the Ontario grain drill to plant his navy beans in 30-inch rows.

Just like their father, both John Prich and his brother, George Jr., employed the Kuhl family for threshing their crops. Bill Kuhl Sr. lived on a farm north of Bath, Michigan in Huron County. Along with his sons, Bill Jr., Floyd, Don and Robert, Bill Kuhl owned a 36” x 62” Keck and Gonnerman thresher which they used to do custom threshing in the neighborhood. To power the large Kay-Gee thresher, the Kuhls owned a 30-60 Model S two-cylinder Oil Pull tractor manufactured by the Advance-Rumley Thresher Company of La Porte, Indiana. (The Kuhl family has continued to maintain an interest in Oil Pull tractors to this day. Carol Kuhl, daughter of Floyd Kuhl, later married Duane J. Deering, now of Unionville, Michigan in Huron County. Duane purchased, restored and currently owns a 1929 Model X 25-40 Oil Pull tractor.)

However, in the late fall of 1947, John Prich was able to withdraw from the hand labor and responsibilities involved in stationary threshing when he contracted with Heene Implement in Bay Port, Michigan, for the purchase of an Allis Chalmers All-Crop Harvester. Thus, John Prich became one of the 20,825 purchasers of an Allis Chalmers Model 60 All Crop Harvester combine in 1947. The combine purchased by John Prich was not fitted with any windrow pickup at all. It was too late in the season to use the All-Crop Harvester for the harvest of 1947. Consequently, John returned to Heene Implement in the summer of 1948 to purchase a windrow pickup for the new combine. From their experience the Heene Implement dealership knew that the Innes pickup made by the Innes Company of Bettendorf, Iowa , was superios to any of the Allis Chalmers windrow pickups. Therefore, John purchased a new Innes stiff finger windrow pickup from Heene Impliment in the summer of 1948 for the price of $95.00. (John Prich still has the receipt from this purchase made more than 55 years ago.

By 1947, the Innes name was becoming quite well known in the navy bean farming areas of Michigan. The Innes Company of Bettendorf, Iowa, actually began in 1914 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania as the brainchild of George Innes. George and his wife, Edith, were happily living in Philadelphia which at that time was a bustling city of 1,549,008 (1910 census). Thus, Philadelphia was, at the time, the third largest city in the United States. George Innes was of Scottish ancestry and had an inquisitive mind. He could not stop thinking about how to improve things. Toward this end he used his ability to think in mechanical terms to try many new inventions. On December 12, 1914 a son, Donald, was born to George and Edith. The Innes family would eventually have three boys with the addition of Robert and Brainard Innes to the family.

Perhaps it was the restlessness of George’s inventive mind or the social changes that were being wrought on the United States economy in the post-World War I era, but in 1923, George and Edith moved out of Philadelphia to settle in the town of Bettendorf, Iowa (1920 pop. 2,178). Bettendorf is the smallest of four cities which all border each other at the confluence of the Rock River and the Mississippi River. These four cities, Rock Island and Moline, Illinois, and Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa are commonly referred to as the “Quad Cities” because of their close proximity to each other. Adapting himself rather quickly to the rural Midwestern community to which he had decided to settle, George was soon at work on a new invention.

As noted earlier, combines, especially small combines, were just making there appearance in the Midwestern part of the United States. (See the article called “Navy Bean Farming (Part II) in the March/April 2005 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.) The “combine” had originally developed in California. A big bulky apparatus, the combine was profitable for use only in the “horizon to horizon” farming of the western states. Use of combines in the diversified farming areas of the Midwest, had to await development of the small combine, starting with the Allis-Chalmers All-Crop Harvester. (Ibid.)

Unlike the western states, combining of oats and other small grains in the Midwest could not easily be accomplished by harvesting the grain as it stood in the field. Generally the grain needed to be cut and laid into windrows to allow the grain to “sweat” as it would in the shock and to allow any extraneous “green” material to wither and dry up and pass through the small combine in an easier manner. (Jeff Creighton, Combines and Harvesters [Motorbooks International: Osceola, Wisc, 1996] pp. 69 and 113.)

To allow the grain to sweat and dry properly, it was generally suggested that grains be cut into wind rows, leaving stubble 6” to 8” tall. (From the “Operating Manual for the John Deere 12A Combine,” p. 80.) “A stubble of this height will allow free circulation of air under the windrow.” (Id.) With stubble of this height and with the windrow resting on top of the stubble, the feeder unit of the combine containing the cutter bar, could easily be slid under the windrow and the harvesting of the grain could be accomplished without the need of any special pickup attachment. However, in reality the stubble would not always be of this height and, in reality, the windrow might well be resting on or near the ground and on top of the stubble. Thus, need required the invention of a windrow pickup attachment. (J.R. Hobbs, writer for the Green Magazine has written a nice history of the development of windrow type of grain harvesting and the development and patenting of the “traveling combine” and the pickup by the Hovland brothers of Ortley, South Dakota in 1907, and the in the article called “Amber Waves of Grain Laid Down by John Deere Windrowers.” J.R. Hobbs also reflects on the improvements that were made to the technology of the windrow style of combining in 1926 and 1927 by Helmer Hanson and his brother. This article is contained in the July, 2003 issue of Green Magazine.)

Typically, before mounting the windrow pickup to the feeder unit of the combine, both the reel used in standing crops and the sickle in the cutter bar were removed. The most common pickup attachment that evolved and became universalized throughout the industry generally consisted of rows of wire teeth set on an axle. The teeth protruded through slots in a stationary piece of sheet metal. The teeth would pick up the windrow and raise it up into the feeder unit. The stationary piece of metal would “comb” the windrow off the pickup attachment and allow the windrow to proceed into the feeding unit of the combine. The combing action of the stationary portion of the pickup was intended to prevent the teeth from hanging on to the straw in the windrow and causing the windrow to wrap around the axle of the pickup attachment. Despite the partial success of the combing action of the typical windrow pickup, “wrapping” of the windrow around the pickup attachment remained a problem. This is problem that caught George Innes’ attention.

Sometime after moving to Bettendorf, Iowa, George began working on a new type of pickup attachment. The Innes designed pickup consisted of a metal cylinder which contained a number of holes. Inside the cylinder was a shaft to which stiff metal teeth were attached. Because the shaft was not located in the very center of the cylinder, but rather was located “off-center” to the front inside the cylinder, the stiff teeth attached to the off-center shaft emerged and withdrew from the slots in the cylinder as the cylinder turned. Both the axle to which the teeth were attached and the metal cylinder in the Innes designed windrow pickup would revolve at the same speed. With each revolution of the cylinder the teeth would protrude out of holes of the cylinder to full extension to pickup the windrow and then withdraw back into the cylinder as the cylinder continued to revolve bringing the windrow up to the feeding unit. Combing action in the Innes designed windrow pickup was eliminated by this extension and withdrawal of the teeth into the cylinder as the cylinder revolved. Thus, the Innes design greatly reduced “wrapping” of the grain around the pickup. The design of this cylinder style of windrow pickup was and would remain George Innes’ greatest invention.

George Innes, determined to mass produce and market his new pickup for the farming public. In this endeavor, George received some help from his son, Donald. Donald Innes graduated from Augustana College located in neighboring Rock Island, Illinois and in 1937 joined with his father in an attempt to manufacture and market the new pickup in mass numbers. Toward this end George and Donald Innes, incorporated the Innes Company in 1938 to manufacture his new pickup attachment. Although located in the state of Iowa, the Innes Company was incorporated as a Delaware Corporation to take advantage of the tax benefits and other benefits traditionally accorded Delaware corporations. (Harry G. Henn and John R., Alexander, Laws of Corporations (West Pub.: St. Paul, Minn., 1983) pp. 187-189.) Incorporation under the laws of Delaware was a common practice for many corporations. However, since the corporation’s manufacturing facilities were to be located in Bettendorf, George filed Articles of Business Activity with the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office on February 7. 1938. On this original document the Company reported $10,000 as initial “startup” capital. About a year and a half later, on September 7, 1940 the company was reporting capital of $84,000. The Company obtained a manufacturing site located in rural Bettendorf. The new company was thus able to take advantage of the excellent railroad connections that the Quad Cities enjoyed—especially the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railway which served the Quads to the east and to the west. The new Innes factory site came alive with activity. The Company chose dark blue as their trademark color. Soon the dark blue Innes pickups were pouring out of the factory. Each pickup was carefully packaged up and loaded onto waiting boxcars for shipment to all parts of the nation. Continue reading

Navy Bean Farming in Michigan (Part II): The All-Crop Harvester

                    Navy Bean Farming in Huron County, Michigan (Part II)

by

Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the March/April issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

            As noted earlier, the lower peninsula of Michigan is shaped in the form of a winter mitton.  Huron County, Michigan lies at the tip of what is called “the Thumb” of the State of Michigan.  (See the article on called “Navy Bean Harvesting in Huron County Michigan [Part I]” in the January/February 2005 issue of Belt Pulley.)  Although navy beans had been raised in in Huron County and the Thumb since 1900, the production of navy beans in really became a major crop in Michigan only in 1915.  Spurring that growth in production was the high prices that all edible beans were fetching in the market starting in 1914 due to the war in Europe.  Additionally, in 1915 the Michigan State University released its newly researched and developed “Robust” variety of navy bean.  The Robust variety had been bred to have genetic features which made this variety of navy bean adapted for commercial growing in Michigan.  By the 1920s, production of navy beans on the Thumb and in the neighboring Saginaw River Valley, located at the base of the Thumb, was sufficient to push Michigan into first place among all states in the United States in the production of field beans.  (Willis F. Dunbar, Michigan:A History of the Wolverine State [Eerdmans Pub. Co.: Grand Rapids, Mich., 1980] p. 578.).  Within the State of Michigan, Huron County became the leading county in the state for the production of field beans.  Indeed Bad Axe, Michigan, the county seat of Huron County, began to identify itself as the “Navy Bean Capital of the World.”

Following the First World War, the map of Europe changed following the disintegration of four empires—the Ottoman Empire, the Russian Empire, the German Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  A series of newly independent nations sprang up Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Romania, Hungary, Czechslovakia and Poland.  The economic dislocations caused by this new order set off another wave immigration to the United States.  In 1920, George Prich immigrated from the newly formed nation of Czechslovkia to Detroit.  His parents, George and Marie (Sliacky) Prich remained in Czechslovakia.  However, the family did have relatives living in Detroit.  However, George did not remain long in Detroit.  He moved out of the city and up to the Thumb.  Settling in the western part of Huron County on the Thumb, he rented a farm and commenced farming winter wheat, corn, hay, sugar beets and navy beans and raising some hogs and beef cows.  In August of 1924, he married a local German girl by the name of Martha Haag.  They began were blessed by the birth of a son—George Jr. (really the third George) born in June of 1925.  On March 1, 1926, they purchased an 80-acre farm in a low-lying area of Brookfield Township in western Huron County.  However, the farm was on the county line road between Huron County and Tuscola County.  Consequently, the Prich family still had strong contacts with western Huron County.  The Prich family farm was located in a low liying area called the “Columbia swamp.”  On their new farm they had three more children—John born in 1926, Florence born in 1929 and Albert born in 1933.  The main crops raised on the farm were hay, oats and corn.  However, each year about 10 acres were planted to sugar beets and about 10 to 15 acres were planted to navy beans.

During the same time another family was living on a farm in southwestern Seigel Township located east of Bad Axe and north west of the settlement of Parisville.  Even before the sun rose, one morning in October of 1935, activity was brewing on this 160 acre farm.  Our Siegel Township farmer was taking a team of horses to the field towing a one-row “Albion Bean Harvester.”  The bean harvester or “puller” that he was towing behind the team of Percheron horses—Pete and Moll—was really a horse-drawn a cultivator with the shovels removed and horizontal long knives bolted onto the cultivator frame.  The Albion line of bean harvesters were made by the Gale Manufacturing Company of Albion, Michigan.

Our Siegel Township farmer arrived in the field were the navy beans were stood.  Although planted in rows, the 18” yellow/brown vines had grown out along the ground and blurred the 30” pathways between the rows.  Our Siegel Township farmer “drew up” the horses to a halt with the reins at the start of the first row in the field of navy beans that he and his father had grown during the summer.

He and his father raised navy beans as part of a diversified farming operation that included oats and wheat on their farm.  However, the summer of 1935 had been a difficult growing season.  Indeed the past couple of years had seen drought conditions all across the United States.  Nationwide the dry condition, which was coming to called the “dust bowl” on radio, had begun in 1932.  (William E. Leuchtenburg, Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal [Harper and Rowe Pub.: New York, 1963] p. 172.)  In Huron County the dry conditions had started in June 1933, when only 1.91 inches of rain fell during the whole month.  (From the monthly average historic rainfall for Saginaw Michigan on the web page for Saginaw, at the NOAA weather web site on the Internet.)  A normal June would have seen 2.9 inches of rainfall. (From the Bad Axe average rainfall page of the Worldclimate.com web site.)  July and August of 1933 had followed with only 1.13 inches of rain in each month.  2.9 and 3.3 inches of rain was normal for those months.

Last year’s growing season had continued to be extremely dry.  May of 1934 had yielded only 0.76 inches of rain for the whole month, whereas 3.3 inches would have been normal.  June, July and August of 1934 all continued to be dry with rainfall amounts of 1.7 inches, 1.29 inches and 1.43 inches of rain falling in those months, respectively.  Although normal rains had returned in September of 1934, this was too late to help the crops and the rains only succeeded in making harvesting of the crops difficult.  As a result of the drought conditions in 1934, only 1,461,000 acres or only 75% of all the acreage planted to edible beans nationally were actually harvested.  Generally, 90% of all acres planted were harvested in a normal year.

The drought conditions returned last April with only 0.86 inches of rainfall for the entire month of April 1935.  However, suddenly in May, the weather reversed itself.  Last May (1935) had been the coolest month of May on record since 1925.  This was largely due to the 4.5 inches of snow had fallen in May.  (Ibid. on the historic monthly snowfall page.)  Snow in May!  It was not a good beginning to the growing season.  Spring planting had been delayed because of the cold spring in 1935.  Once June did arrive, the rains would not abate.  The radio reported that the Thumb had had 5.09 inches of rain in month of June whereas only 2.9 was average for June.  (From the Bad Axe average rainfall page of the Worldclimate.com web site.)

As a result, spring planting development of all the crops were delayed.  Only the winter wheat which had been planted in September of the prior year (1934) was growing according to schedule.  Following the heavy rains of June, the drought conditions returned throughout July and August with only half the usual amount of rainfall for those months.  (Ibid.)  Usually, our Siegel Township farmer began pulling the navy beans in mid-September.  However, the beans were still growing and maturing in September.  Now here he was in October just getting started with the task of pulling the beans.

Across Huron County to the west and indeed, just across the county line in Elmwood Township of Tuscola County township the George Prich family was also struggling to get the navy bean crop harvested.  George had planted the navy beans in rows with his 7½ foot Van Brunt grain drill.  This grain drill had 13 planting units.  However, by closing off the proper amount of holes in the bottom of the seeder box of his Van Brunt grain drill he could use the old grain drill to plant navy beans on his farm also in 30 inch rows.

The 30-inch rows meant that there was room for a horse to walk down the pathway between the rows without stepping on the rows of growing beans.  This would allow the navy beans to be cultivated.  However as the navy bean plants grew, they began to “vine” along the ground and to tended to cover over pathway between the rows.  Thus, the navy beans could only be cultivated a couple of times before the bean plants became too viney and covered too much of the 30 inch pathway.  By harvest time in the fall, the beans had become a tangled mass of plants in the field.

Now in October of 1935, our Siegel Township farmer lowered the cultivator on the first row of navy beans the newly sharpened knives lay horizontally on top of the ground over the hilled up row of beans.  As he urged the Pete and Moll forward with a shake on the reins and uttering a “giddap” the knives slid under the ground and moved along through the hill of beans, cutting off the beans from their roots just below the surface of the hilled up row of beans.

Our young Siegel Township farmer regreted loss of navy beans that he knew was occurring during this harvesting process.  All he needed to do is to look down on the ground and see the naked white beans laying on the ground to know that some loss was occurring because of the cracking of bean pods under Pete and Moll’s feet.  Although Pete and Moll walked down pathways between the rows, they could not help treading on the vines.which tended to cover over the 30 inch pathways.  This caused a loss of some of the navy beans on the ground as the horses’ feet cracked open the pods of the beans.  Indeed the mere manipulation of the bean plants by the cultivator tended to crack open the dry pods on the vines spilling the pearly white navy beans onto the ground.  To avoid this type of cracking of dry pods, our young Siegel Township farmer had begun pulling beans with the team early in the morning while the dew was still heavy on the plants.  In this way it was hoped that they would complete a great deal of the bean pulling while the dew lasted.  The dew tended to moisten the dry pods and to prevent cracking.  Once the dew had lifted under the sun of the mid-morning, our young Siegel Township farmer would cease his work in the navy bean field.  This meant that work in the navy bean field was limited to early morning work.

Looking down at the little white beans that lay on the ground, our young Siegel Township farmer was struck by a feeling of digust.  He had always felt that way.  Ever since he was a child he had felt a repugnance against waste that had caused him remorse over the loss of even a single good bean.  As a child, his father had attempted to assure him that the losses were usually of “cull beans” which were too discolored or too immature to pass inspection at the grain elevator anyway.  However, out in the field he could see that these beans, lying on the ground, were pearly white and were certainly good beans.  While reading some articles in the Michigan Farmer, he was gratified to find that his feelings about waste were reflective of the modern trend in scientific farming.

In addition to noting the waste on the ground, our Siegel Township farmer was beginning to doubt the value of having navy beans in the crop rotation on his farm.  Despite the passing of the worst part of the depression, prices of all edible beans last year (1934) had averaged only $3.52 per 100 pounds.  (From the National Agricultural Statistics Service page of the United Sates Department of Agriculture website.)  This was only 52% of the average price of 1929, the year before the depression.  (Ibid.)  Continue reading

Navy Bean Farming in Michigan (Part I)

                     Navy Bean Farming in Huron County, Michigan (Part I)

by

Brian Wayne Wells

    As published in the January/February 2005 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

            As mentioned in past articles, agriculture in the United States has long served as a beacon of hope for many immigrant groups which came to the United States in search of a new future.  This was especially true for the earlier waves of immigration from North Europe and Scandinavia.  It is generally assumed that for the later waves of immigration from eastern and southern Europe were limited in their opportunities to only industrial and mining occupations.  However, even for these later waves of immigration, agriculture in the United States still offered some opportunities.  One such immigrant group who recognized these opportunities in agriculture were the Poles.

The struggles of the Polish population for a nation of their own had long been an important feature of European history.  From 1773 until 1795 the Polish nation underwent three different land grabs (politely called “partitions”) by its more powerful neighbors—Prussia, Russia and Austria.  (Norman Davies, God’s Playground: A History of Poland [Columbia University Press: New York, 1982) p. 512.)  By the time of the third partition in the 1795 there was no independent Polish nation left, all the territory had been swallowed up.  However, the spirit of Polish nationalism never ceased to exert itself.  The Poles of Cracow in the Austrian controlled portion of the former state of Poland revolted against the Austrian government in early 1846.  Two years later, in 1848, there was a rash of revolts which broke out all across German speaking lands.  (This period of time saw the emigration of William Frederich Oltrogge from Germany to the United States.  See the article called “Massey-Harris Farming: The Oltrogge Family of Waverly, Iowa” in the March/April 2004 issue of Belt Pulley.)  This series of revolts spilled over into the parts of Poland controlled by the German speaking kingdom of Prussia, as the Poles in the city of Posnan rose in revolt.  (H.W. Koch, A History of Prussia [Dorset Press: New York, 1978] p. 236.)  In both 1830 and in 1863, the Polish population of the part of Poland controlled by Russia revolted against the Russian Government.  (Edward Crankshaw,The Shadow of the Winter Palace [Viking Press: New York, 1976] pp. 105-109 and 203-206.)  All of these revolts were unsuccessful and were put down by the authorities.  The suppression of each of these each of these revolts had the effect of spurring emigration from the various parts of occupied Poland.  These Poles sought to build a new future for themselves in the United States.  One of the major destinations for the immigrating Poles was the State of Michigan.  Michigan had entered the union of the United States only in 1837.  In 1848, the first Poles settled in Michigan.  Throughout the 1850s and 1860s, Poles were arriving in large numbers in Detroit, Michigan, which was rapidly becoming Michigan’s premier town.

Then in 1881, Czar Alexander II was assassinated.  Despite the fact that Czar Alexander II had been assassinated by Russian radicals and not-Poles, the Russian Government began another round of persecutions of the Poles in retaliation for the assassination  As a consequence of this Russian repression of the Poles, a second and much greater wave of Polish emigration to the United States was begun in the 1880s.  (Maldwyn Allen Jones, American Immigration [University of Chicago Press: Chicago, 1960] p. 198.)  Russian immigration (of which Polish immigration was considered a part) grew from only 5,000 in 1880, to 81,000 in 1892 and rose to a peak of 258,000 by 1907.  (Ibid., p. 202.)  Of this total “Russian” immigration approximately 25% was actually Polish immigration.  (Ibid.)

Once again Detroit, Michigan, became a destination for many Poles in this second wave of immigration.  (See the article on the Wisconsin Motor Manufacturing Company in the September/October 2004 isue of Belt Pulley magazine.)  However, not all of the Polish immigrants of the second wave chose to remain in the urban areas.  Across the nation some of the Polish immigrants migrated out of urban areas to seek their fortune in the rural areas of the nations.  “After 1900, there was a small, but significant movement of Poles from American cities, factories and steel mills to the semi-abandoned farms of the the East.  In western Massachusetts and Connecticut, Polish farmers began to cultivated onions and tobacco, crops requiring special soils, intensive hand-labor and not a little technical skill and business ability.”  (Maldwyn Allen Jones, American Immigration, p. 215.)  Thus, some of the Poles that came to Detroit, chose to pass through the town and settle in a rural area of Michigan known as “the Thumb.”

Michigan is divided into two land masses—the Upper Peninsula and the Lower Penninsula.  The geographical shape of the Lower Penninsula on a map appears to be in the shape of a hand or a winter mitten.  North of the city of Detroit lies a protrusion out into the Lake Huron which appears to be the “thumb” of the mitton-shaped  Lower Penninsula.

Located on the very tip of the Thumb is Huron County, Michigan.  The townships along the shoreline of Huron County, Siebewaing, Fairhaven, McKinley, Seville, Lake, Hume, Port Austin, Huron, Gore, Rubicon, Sand Beach and Sherman Townships were predominately involved with fishing and later became the tourist and vacation destinations for the population of the Detroit metropolitan area.  Thus, after the fading of the fishing industry, the economy of these shoreline townships came to revolve around the summertime tourist trade coming largely from Detroit.  However, in the middle of Huron County are fourteen townships, Chandler, Meade, Lincoln, Bloomfeld, Windsor, Oliver, Colfax, Verona, Siegel, Brookfield, Grant, Sheridan, Bingham and Paris, which are primarily agricultural in economy.  The level ground of these townships with their covering of the clay/loam soil is conducive to agriculture.  Furthermore, the mild summer weather moderated by the close proximity of Lake Huron adds to the natural plant growing capability of Huron County, Michigan.

Huron County was organized as a political sub-division of the State of Michigan in 1859.  However settlement of the area had begun much earlier.  Polish settlement of Huron County began in the late 1840s and early 1850s, by immigrants coming directly from Poland but arriving in the Michigan from Canada.  The early settlers gathered around the small town of Parisville., Michigan.  In 1852, the first Roman Catholic mission was opened in Parisville.  By 1858 the foundation of St. Mary’s Church in Paris Township was laid by Reverend Peter Kluck, himself an immigrant from Poland.

The town of Bad Axe was located in the middle of Huron County and became the county seat of newly organized Huron County.  Poles arriving in Huron County from Detroit as a result of the massive second wave of Polish immigration and worked on farms owned by others.  However, they soon became farm owners themselves.  Polish Settlement of the Huron County tended to be centralized in the townships east of Bad Axe.  Immigrants of German heritage tended to settle the townships west of Bad Axe.

Like most frontier areas, the early settlers on the Thumb raised a great deal of alfalfa hay and small grains—largely for their own use.  However, with the coming of the market economy and modern transportation, farmers on the Thumb began to find a specialized niche in United States agriculture.  The flat land and silt loam, clay, well drained soil of the Thumb was found to be extremely accommodating to the raising of dry edible (field) beans—specifically navy beans.

The navy bean is a very high source of protein and obtained its name because of the fact that once dried, the beans could be stored for a very long time.  Thus, the navy bean was perfectly suited for storage aboard ships.  The first navy beans were introduced to Huron County in 1892 as six (6) acres were planted to navy beans that year.  In 1895, still only eight acres of navy beans were grown in Huron County.  However, an explosion in the growth of navy bean production occurred in 1900.  By 1909, Huron County, alone, was raising 10% of all edible beans raised in the whole United States.  In 1910, 20,015 acres within Huron County were devoted to navy beans.  Following 1909, the navy bean market stablized for a number of years until 1914, when the outbreak of war in Europe created an increased demand and another spurt in production of edible beans occurred.

In 1915, one particular farmer in Bingham Township in Huron County became interested in raising navy beans on his own 160 acre farm.  Just like his neighbors our Bingham Township farmer raised oats, hay and winter wheat.  Just like his neighbors, our Bingham township farmer used nearly all of the hay and oats that he raised on his farm as animal feed.  Only winter wheat served as a “cash crop” which was sold each year.

Winter wheat was planted each year in mid September.  It grew some in the fall and then went dormant in the frozen ground under a blanket of snow during the winter.  Upon the first thaw of the ground in the spring, the winter wheat began growing again.  Having already established a root system the winter wheat always matured well ahead of other crops that had been planted in the spring.  Consequently, winter wheat usually ripened and was ready to harvest each year in July.  Each year, our Bingham Township farmer would carefully watch the price of wheat.  Sometimes he would sell his wheat immediately after threshing in July if he thought the price was right.  He did this in 1910 and in 1912 and had been able to get $1.00 per bushel and $1.01 per bushel, respectively.  (From the Macro-history Prices page of the National Bureau of Economic Research web page on the Internet.)  However, in most years the price fell in July as a result of the glut in the market, created when everybody attempted to sell wheat at the end of the harvest.  In 1911, he stored his wheat and waited until October and finally sold his wheat at 97¢ per bushel.  This was nearly 10¢ more per bushel that the price had been in July of 1911.  Last year, in 1914, the price of wheat reached $1.09 per bushel.  He really felt that this high price would not persist.  However, the war in Europe had created and was continuing to create some unusual price conditions in the market and the price of wheat had continued to rise in the winter and spring of 1915 until the price reached $1.57 per bushel in March of this year—1915.  He now wished now that he had held on to his wheat through the winter.  However, hind site is always 20/20.

Our Bingham Township farmer was a member of the grain co-operative that owned the grain elevator in Ubly.  Ubly was a small village located in the central part of Bingham Township.  Every winter the co-operative held its annual meeting to elect new members to the Board of Directors.  Speakers were invited to this meeting to talk about new trends in farming.  For some years now, speakers at this meeting had been urging farmers in the Ubly area to plant navy beans in addition to their other crops.  Pointing out the recent “volatility” of the winter wheat market, they noted that navy beans would provide Huron County farmers with some economic stability by providing at least some diversification of their cash crops.  By not having all their “eggs in one basket” Huron County farmers would have a “hedge” against any dip in the price of winter wheat.  These speakers pointed out that since 1909, the overall price of dry edible beans had increased from $3.30 per hundred weight in 1909 to $4.00 per hundred weight in 1914—a 52% increase in the price.  (A “hundred weight” referred to a 100 pound sack of beans.  One hundred pounds of beans was equivalent to roughly two (2) bushels of beans, since a bushel of beans weighed about 56 pounds.)  This 52% increase in the price of navy beans compared quite favorably with the price of wheat over the same period of time.  Forget all the monthly rises and declines, the average price for the whole year in 1909 had been 98.6 ¢ per bushel.  (From the National Agricultural Statistics Service page of the United States Department of Agriculture website.)  Last year, in 1914 the average yearly price of wheat had been 97.5¢ per bushel—an actual decease in the average yearly price over that same period of time.  (Ibid.)

Now in 1915, after hearing that the price of navy beans would likely go still higher because of the recent war in Europe, our Bingham Township farmer decided to plant a 15-acre field on his farm to navy beans.  Our Bingham Township farmer was not alone in making this decision.  A number of his immediate neighbors were also planting navy beans for the first time or were increasing the number of acres they were devoting to navy beans.  Indeed, many farmers across the nation, joined our Bingham Township farmer in this decision in 1915.  For the first time more than a million acres of farmland (1,156,000 acres) were planted to edible beans—up from 986,000 acres in 1914.  (Ibid.)  Nationwide, this represented a 17% increase in the number of acres planted to edible beans in the spring of 1915.

Planting navy beans was not a simple decision of merely adding another row crop to the farm.  Navy beans would have to be harvested, or “pulled” by obtaining a beans puller or by attaching knives to his horse drawn cultivator.  The process of pulling the beans meant cutting the bean plants off beneath the ground.  Because the navy beans were relatively short plants (only about 18’ to 24” tall), it was necessary to get all the bean pods the plants.  Beans cut off above the ground, such, as by a grain binder, would result in some loss of bean pods which are located within the first 2 to 3 inches of the plant above the ground.  In taller beans, such as soybeans, which could grow to a height of 3 feet tall or more, a loss of these bean pods might be regarded as negligible.  However, a loss of that magnitude was unacceptable when growing the shorter navy beans plants.  Thus, the navy beans had to be cut off below ground level.  This process was called “pulling” beans and specialized equipment was needed just for this task.

Additionally, the navy beans must be allowed to dry.  If allowed to grow unattended the vines would continue to sprout more bean pods until frost killed the plants in the late fall.  Meanwhile the mature beans would never dry properly.  In order to promote drying of the navy beans, the vines needed to be pulled well before the first frost.  Harvesting of the navy beans generally took place in September.  Once dry, the navy beans were then threshed.  Until 1900, most threshing of navy beans in Huron County was done by hand.  After 1900, the stationary thresher took over nearly all the threshing of navy beans.  Generally, a farmer growing navy beans served as part of the threshing crew which traveled around the neighborhood with a thresher owned by a single custom farmer or the thresher could be owned by all the farmers in the particular neighborhood “threshing ring.”

Since winter wheat was harvested in July, oats were harvested in August and navy beans were harvested in September, a farmer could expect to be gone from his own farm for a great portion of those three months.  Thus, on top of working with the harvesting crew throughout most of July and August, navy beans would add the month of September that the farmer would have to be away from his own farm.  These were unexpected costs of raising navy beans.  Nonetheless, our Bingham Township farmer decided that planting navy beans would be profitable and would diversify the sources of his farm income by adding a second “cash crop” to his farming operation.  Thus, if there was a dip in the price of winter wheat in any particular year, he could look to the navy beans to possibly offset any loss of income.

Spring arrived early in 1915.  April was very warm.  Furthermore, only about half the amount of rain fell that month as compared with a normal April.  Accordingly, there was plenty of time to complete the seed bed preparation and plant the crops.  Despite the early spring, our Bingham Township farmer knew that he should wait until June 1st to plant his navy beans.  Only by that time would the soil be sufficiently warm for the navy beans to germinate properly.  Additionally, with the 85 to 90 day growing life of navy beans, he did not want to have his navy beans ripening at the same time that his oats ripened in August.  The threshing season was crowded enough without having the navy bean harvest coincide with the oat harvest.  Accordingly following the sowing of his oats with his six-foot Hoosier Company grain drill, our Bingham Township farmer modified the grain drill to plant the new crop of navy beans.        Navy beans needed to be planted as a row crop to allow cultivation of the navy bean field for weed control.  Thus, he needed to adjust the Hoosier grain drill to plant in rows approximately 30 inches apart.  The Hoosier grain drill had 16 planting units, each with a disc-type furrow opener.  The planting units on the grain drill planted wheat and oats in rows 4½ inches apart.  Looking at the grain drill from the rear, our Bingham Township farmer numbered the planting units on the grain drill from the left to the right.  By closing all the holes in the bottom of seed box leading to the individual planter units of the grain drill, except for numbers 1, 9 and 16, the old Hoosier grain drill was converted into a three-row planter, planting beans in 31½ inch (or roughly 30 inch) rows.  When operating the modified grain drill in the field, the marker located on either side of the grain drill that would leave a mark in the fresh dirt of the seed bed each time he crossed the field with the grain drill.  This long scratch in the fresh seed bed extending the full length of the field and guided him and the horses on his return trip back across the field.  Following this mark would assure that the three new rows he was planting would remain about 30 inches from the previous rows just planted.

By planting the navy beans in 30-inch rows, our Bingham Township farmer was assured that there would be sufficient space between the rows for a horse to walk down in the pathway without stepping on the rows of growing beans.  This would allow the navy beans to be cultivated with his one-row horse-drawn cultivator.  Besides disrupting the weeds in the pathway, cultivation of the navy beans had the effect of “hilling up” dirt around the navy bean plants.  This would allow excess water to drain off into the lower pathway between the rows rather than gather around the plants and stunt the growth of the navy beans by inundating the roots of the beans with too much water.

Having made the decision to invest in navy bean production, our Bingham Township farmer started seriously thinking about a plan that had been on his mind for some years.  If he had to spend so much time away from the farm in July, August and September anyway, he felt that he should try to get paid for the time.  He reasoned that if he could get a thresher and do custom threshing in the neighborhood, he would earn extra income to supplement his farm income.  He would be making money all during the long threshing season.  Many of the threshing machines already operating in the neighborhood were old and their operators were approaching retirement age.  Thus, there was a need for someone new in the business—especially now when many more farmers in the neighborhood were starting to raise navy beans.

For a while he had toyed with the ideal of purchasing one of these old threshers from one the current operators.  However, the old threshers were becoming worn out from years of use.  Furthermore, unlike the older style threshers now operating in the neighborhood, the new threshers now on the market were fitted with modern labor saving devise like self-feeders, grain weighers and blower-style straw stackers.  These three innovations had drastically improved the performance of threshers.

The self-feeder had been invented in 1891 by Franz Wood, one of the founders of the Wood Brothers Threshing Company.  (For  history of the Wood Brothers Threshing Company, see the article called “Wood Bros. Company” [Part I] on page 16 of the January/February 2001 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.)  However, the Wood Bros. Company manufactured its self-feeder for installation, exclusively, on its own threshers.  Other companies, like Garden City Feeder Company of Pella, Iowa, soon sprang up to make similar self-feeders.  The Garden City Company did not manufacture a threshers.  They merely contracted with other thresher manufacturing companies to supply those companies with self-feeders.  The self-feeder was a major step forward in the technology of thresher production and design.

The older threshing machines already operating in Bingham Township were the older “hand-fed” style of thresher that pre-dated the self feeder.  Hand-fed threshers had a platform and a “feeding table” at the front of the thresher.  A member of the threshing crew would stand on top of the loaded bundle wagon next to the thresher with a pitch fork and toss bundles, one at a time, over onto the feeding table of the thresher.  Another member of the threshing crew would stand on the platform of the thresher and manually cut the twine on each bundle of grain and feed the bundle into the thresher by hand.  Self-feeders would automatically cut the twine on each bundle of grain entering the thresher and then “feed” the loosen bundle of grain to the cylinder of the thresher.  Our Bingham Township farmer could see that a new thresher with a self-feeder would save a great deal of threshing time by eliminating the dangerous and time consuming task of hand feeding.  All the threshing crew workers needed to do was pitch the bundles onto the self feeder and let the self feeder do the rest.  Indeed, operation was speeded up to the point where bundles could be pitched onto the self feeder from bundle wagons located on both sides of the thresher.

In addition to the self-feeder, most modern threshers were also fitted with a grain weighing bagging attachment.  Almost universally, grain weighers on all the modern threshers were manufactured by the Hart Grain Weigher Company of Peoria, Illinois.  The Hart grain weigher was a sheet metal basket device located at the top of the vertical grain elevator.  The basket of the grain weigher collected the grain pouring out of the grain elevator.  When the amount of grain in the clamshell basket reached the proper weight (approximately 26-30 lbs. for wheat depending on the moisture content of the particular crop of wheat being harvested) the bottom of the basket would quickly open and close again.  This allowed all the grain in the basket to fall into a funnel located under the basket.  The grain would then slide down the funnel and into a long sheet metal tube to the bagging attachment located near the ground.  Every time the basket of the grain weigher emptied itself, the grain weigher measured out two (2) pecks of grain.  When the basket emptied twice, four (4) pecks of grain or one whole bushel had been threshed.  A numeric counter located on the Hart grain weigher kept track of the number of bushels that were weighed out by the grain weigher.

The bagging attachment of the thresher was nothing more than a “Y” in the sheet metal tube at the bottom end of the tube.  A control valve at the crotch of the Y would allow grain to flow out one leg of the Y or the other leg.  Burlap sacks were attached to the end of each leg of the Y.  By turning the control valve one way or the other, the bagging worker of the threshing crew could fill one burlap sack, then switch the control valve to fill the other sack while he detached the filled bag, tied or sewed the filled sack closed securely and loaded the filled sack onto a nearby wagon.  None of the older threshers operating in Bingham Township neighborhood were fitted with grain weighers.  Thus, the grain was collected in large two peck containers which were then awkwardly poured into sacks.  Our Bingham Township farmer knew from experience that this method chronically resulted in spillage and waste.  Even though this type of thresher used the volume measuring method rather than the weigh measuring method used by the Hart grain weigher, our Bingham Township farmer knew that getting the two containers full without over filling or under filling was not an easy task.  Thus, in actual practice, the automated grain weighing system was a much more accurate measure of the number of bushels.

The blower-style straw stacker (called the “Farmers Friend windstacker”) had also become universal on all modern threshers.  The Farmers Friend windstacker had been marketed almost exclusively by Indiana Manufacturing Company of Indianapolis, Indiana since 1891.  The Indiana Manufacturing Company had purchased all the patents to the various blower-style straw stackers.  (C.H. Wendel, Encyclopedia of American Farm Implements [Krause Publishers: Iola, Wisc., 1997] p. 345.)  Indiana Manufacturing then sold their Farmer’s Friend windstacker to nearly all the threshing manufacturers.  Thus, the Farmer’s Friend insignia appears on a great number of threshers.

None of the threshers currently operating in Bingham Township had any of these improvements.  The hand-fed thresher with the volumetric grain measuring system and the elevator style straw stacker still predominated among the local threshers.  For these reasons, our Bingham Township farmer concluded that a niche in the local economy existed that would allow him to make money with a modern custom threshing operation.

Of course, threshing navy beans was not the same as threshing small grains.  Our Bingham Township farmer knew that in order to use the same thresher for navy beans certain modifications would have to be made to the thresher.  Whereas, the cylinder speed of a thresher working with small grains (oats and wheat) was usually set at approximately 1100-1150 r.p.m. (revolutions per minute), the cylinder speed was slowed down to around 400 r.p.m. for beans.  However, although a slower cylinder speed was needed for beans the rest of the thresher needed to operate at normal speed.  Thus, merely slowing the speed of the steam engine or merely changing the main drive pulley on the cylinder shaft of the thresher from a 9” pulley used for threshing wheat, to a 14” main drive pulley for threshing navy beans would not solve the problem.  Since all the other pulleys on the cylinder shaft were used to power the rest of the thresher.  Consequently, these other pulleys on the cylinder shaft of the thresher had to be replaced by larger pulleys to allow the rest of the thresher to operate at normal speed.

Some of these changes in pulley size were pretty significant.  Most important was the fan at the rear of the thresher, which was part of the Farmer’s Friend wind stacker.  This fan blew the straw and chaff through a large tube at the rear of the thresher and onto the straw stack behind the thresher.  This fan had to operate at full speed in order to prevent the tube from becoming clogged with straw.  Ordinarily, this fan was powered by a 9” pulley on the cylinder shaft.  For harvesting navy beans this pulley was replaced with a 24” pulley to allow the fan to operate at its optimum speed.

In all, four different pulleys and three different belts were needed to convert the thresher from small grain threshing to navy bean threshing.  Nonetheless, our Bingham township farmer knew that this additional expense plus the initial costs of obtaining a thresher and a steam engine would be returned in a relatively short amount of time in the form of additional income to his farming operation if he could use the threshing outfit for a major portion of the year, threshing navy beans as well as small grains.

Keck & Gonnerman (Kay-Gee) threshers were popular in Huron County.  Our Bingham Township farmer could see that Kay-Gee threshers were designed to be more suited to bean threshing.  For example, the largest thresher made by Keck & Gonnerman had a 36” cylinder.  However, this 36” thresher was available in two different models—one with a 54” separator and a second model with a 62” separator.  Our Bingham Township farmer knew that the second model with the wider separating tables and sieves was particularly fitted to navy beans.  There was always a great deal of straw and chaff when harvesting navy beans.  As one of the new style threshers, the Kay-Gee thresher was fitted with a Garden City self-feeder and a Hart Company grain weigher.  Naturally, the Kay-Gee thresher had a Farmer’s Friend windstacker to pile the straw in a stack behind the thresher.

Consequently, in the fall of 1914, our Bingham Township farmer took delivery on a Keck- Gonnerman 36 x 62 thresher and a 20 hp. steam engine to power the thresher.  The steam engine was the largest model made by Kay-Gee and was advertised as the perfect mate to the large Kay-Gee thresher.  Although delivering 20 hp. to the rear wheels, the thresher produced 70 hp. at the belt which was sufficient for the large thresher.  The engineer that came along with the steam engine stayed with our Bingham Township farmer and his wife for about a week and taught our Bingham Township farmer how to operate the large steam engine in a safe manner.  Our Bingham Township farmer became aware of the dangers of steam engine operation and learned that the single most important secret to safe operation of the engine was to keep a close eye on the water level.  However, there were so many other things that needed to be watched about the steam engine, that our Bingham township farmer felt that from the time that he started the fire in the boiler early in the morning until, he closed the flue to “bank” the fire (reduce the fire to coals) at sundown, he was “married” to the steam engine.  Properly banked coals in the firebox of the steam engine would produce only a small amount of heat all night.  However, come morning, when fed more wood and/or coal, the fire would come roaring back to life and the steam pressure would quickly return to operating temperature.

As he made the rounds of his neighborhood that first summer in 1915 for harvesting the winter wheat and the oats, our Bingham Township farmer preferred to get the thresher away from one completed job and onto the next farm before he banked the fire and shut down for the night.  In this way, the next morning he was able to ride Mac and Polly, his team of Percheron horses, over to the farm where the thresher was located and get an early start on threshing just as soon as the dew lifted.

Our Bingham Township farmer preferred Percheron horses to Belgian or Clydesdale draft horses.  Although Percherons were slightly smaller, standing on average only 16 “hands” tall at the shoulder as opposed to 16½ hands for the average Clydesdale and 17 hands for the average Belgian, and although the Percheron was sometimes lighter in weight than the average horse of the other two main breeds of draft horses, the Percheron had a “quicker step” than the horses of the other two breeds.  The Percheron was the least “lumbering” and slow of the three main breeds of draft horses.  That meant that on a morning like this Mac and Polly would walk down the road to the neighbors at a quicker pace than the average team of Belgian or Clydesdale horses.

Upon arriving at the farm where his thresher sat, and even before hitching Mac and Polly to the water wagon, he opened the door of the firebox on his steam engine and peered inside.  He moved the lever connected to the rockers that formed the bottom of the firebox.  As the rockers twisted from side to side, the ashes in the firebox fell down between the rockers to the ash pan located under the firebox.  Emerging from the ashes were a few cherry-red coals.  Good!  He would not have to start a fire from scratch.  Just throw on some wood and the boiler would be up to 155 pounds of steam pressure in no time at all.

Next he filled the water reserve tank on the steam engine from the water that remained in the water wagon.  While the thresher heated up, he picked up the bucket of grease and made his way around the thresher checking all the grease cups.  He liked to screw them down until he saw a little bulge of grease emerging from the crack between the bearing housing and the particular shaft on which the bearing was located.  Then he knew the grease had thoroughly covered the bearing.  Then he would unscrew the lid to the grease cup and fill the lid entirely full of grease from the grease bucket.  He would then screw the lid to the grease cup back in place only until the first threads of the lid “caught.”  Periodically, through out the day, the crew could tighten down the lids of those grease cups one turn at a time to provide additional grease to the bearings again as was needed throughout the day.  By the time, he completed greasing the entire thresher, the steam engine had a “full head of steam.”  He put the steam engine in gear and moved the thresher to its location near the straw piles that had which had been created on this farm earlier that year during the wheat and oat harvests.  He pulled the thresher around so that the feeder of the thresher pointed west.  Nobody could ever be sure which way the breezes would blow during the day.  However, given the generally eastward direction of the weather patterns of mid-western North America and the resultant “prevailing westerly” winds, the best guess was always that the breezes during the day would be coming from the west.  By parking the thresher with the feeder facing west, most of the dust of the threshing operation would be carried away to the east toward the straw pile.

Next he took the carpenter’s level out of the tool box on the thresher.  He laid the level on a large wooden beam on the back of the thresher.  He found the right side to be a little too high.  Consequently, he got the shovel from its location on top of the thresher and dug a slight hole in the ground behind the right rear wheel and backed the thresher until the right wheel rolled into the hole.  That did it.  The thresher was level from side to side.  The thresher was also level from front to rear with just a slight raise in the front.  This slight raise in the front was beneficial as it would help the flow of straw from the cylinder at the front of the thresher to blower of the “Farmer’s Friend” straw stacker located at the rear of the thresher.

Next he crawled to the top of the thresher and reset the counter on the grain weigher to zero.  He would be paid according to the number of bushels of grain recorded on this automatic counter.  Then he belted all the pulleys on the thresher, unhooked the steam engine and turned the steam engine around to face the front of the thresher.  He then belted the steam engine to the thresher with the long drive belt.  The owner of the farm where they were this day, had gotten one wagon loaded full of bundles of wheat the previous evening.  This wagon was now pulled out of the barn where it had been stored, shielded against any potential overnight rain.  The horses pulled the wagon load of wheat up to the Garden City self-feeder of the thresher.  Meanwhile, the rest of the threshing crew made their way to the wheat field with wagons and teams to start the day’s work in the field loading bundles.

July of 1915 was only slightly drier than normal and provided good harvesting weather for the winter wheat harvest.  (A comparison of the actual monthly precipitation chart for 1915 on the Saginaw Michigan page of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (N.O.A.A.) website with the average monthly rainfall chart for Bad Axe, Michigan on the Bad Axe/Huron County page of the World Climate website.)  The dry weather helped get the wheat well under 13%-15% moisture in order for good threshing of the crop.  Our Bingham Township farmer was able to work nearly the entire month threshing winter wheat on the farms of his neighbors without interruption from the rain.

Starting September of 1914, the price of wheat had risen out of its normal range of 85¢ to 93¢ per bushel to $1.12 per bushel.  This spike in prices was in reaction to the war in Europe.  Most newspapers expected the war to be a short war which would be over by Christmas of 1914. However, the war stretched on into 1915 on and the price of wheat continued to rise to extraordinary record levels.  In February 1915, the price was an astounding $1.59 per bushel.

Prices for all farm commodities tended to rise all year until the harvest time for that particular crop.  Then the price usually dropped at harvest time due to the large volume of crop that came into the market with the harvest.  However, high prices in 1915 held as the war in Europe dragged on.  In April, 1915, the price of wheat was still at $1.57.  In July as the winter wheat was being harvested prices still averaged $1.19 per bushel for the entire month.  The customers of our Bingham Township farmer were loading the bagged wheat onto wagons and taking the crop to the elevator in Ubly or the one in Ruth, just as fast as the crop was threshed.  These customers were able to take advantage of the high prices provided they could get their grain to market in a hurry.  This desire to harvest wheat early this year made it a perfect time for a custom thresher to begin operations.  Farmers in older more established and larger “threshing rings” were induced to sign up as the first customers of his new custom threshing operation in hopes of getting their wheat threshed early before the price dropped.

However, in order to keep these customers satisfied, our Bingham Township farmer had placed his own name at the bottom of the list of customers.  His wheat would be threshed last.  He felt certain that the price would go through a dramatic correction before he could get his wheat harvested.  For a while during the winter wheat harvest, our Bingham Township farmer thought that he would have to depend on his navy bean crop to cover his farming expenses.  Because he was last on the list of farms to be threshed, he was sure that he would be unable to sell his winter wheat in time before the current high prices fell.

Meanwhile, all during mid-July, he observed the white flowers that were blossoming on the growing navy beans in the fields of the neighborhood.  This signaled the end of any further cultivation of the navy beans.  Any work in the bean field at this time threatened to knock off the delicate white flowers of the bean plants.  Every flower represented another pod of navy beans.  He feared that this second cash crop may have to save him financially, if he was unable to sell his wheat at a decent price.

Although the price of wheat did decline some, the average price for the month of August remained at the relatively high level of $1.09 per bushel.  Thus, our Bingham Township farmer was able to sell his entire 1915 winter wheat crop at a price just 3¢ less per bushel than he had sold his 1914 crop the previous September.  This price was still well above the “normal” range of wheat prices.

Almost immediately, upon the completion of the winter wheat harvest, it was time to start making the rounds again with the steam engine and thresher to thresh the oat crop.  Oats were not a cash crop.  Nearly all oats were used on the farm for feeding the horses and other livestock.  Thus, although, oats returned money to the farm only in an indirect way, they were a vital crop on farms all across North America.  Everybody had to raise and harvest oats but the market price of the oats was not followed as closely as wheat prices.  Our Bingham Township farmer was gratified to discover that most of the customers for whom he had threshed winter wheat in July returned to be customers again during the oat harvest in August.  However, the weather in August 1915 did not co-operate.  Almost twice the usual amount of rain (5.28 inches) fell during August of 1915 than was normal for August (2.90 inches).  Nearly all his customers had their oats shocked in the field.  Shocking the grain involved a great amount of hand work in the fields.  Four (4) to six (6) bundles were placed upright propped up by each other.  Then two (2) bundles were placed on top of the upright bundles.  This was the “cap” of the shock.  When properly made the shock of bundle would allow the oats to dry down to the 10% or less moisture content that would permit good threshing.  Properly shocked grain would also repel rain.  Thus, even during this wet harvest season, once the oats were shocked, the farmers of the neighborhood no longer needed to spend time in the oat field.  September remained a wet month as 4.54 inches of rain fell during September 1915.  Usual rainfall for September was only 3.30 inches for the entire month.

The delay in the oat harvest also delayed the navy bean harvest.  Farmers usually wished to start harvesting their navy beans by about September 15 each year.  However, the delays imposed by the late oat harvest and working up the ground for planting of next years winter wheat, the navy bean harvest was delayed well beyond September 15.  Many days were wasted as the thresher sat idle in some neighbor’s yard covered with canvas tarpolines while the rains drizzled down.

By the time that our Bingham Township farmer had finished the oat harvest, he hardly had time to change the pulleys on the thresher at the conclusion before it was time to start out on the road again.  He had only very limited amount of time to work up the soil on his own farm to plant next year’s winter wheat.  Our Bingham Township farmer was again gratified to find that all his customers were remaining loyal for the navy bean harvest in September (or at least those who were raising navy beans).  With all the rains of August and September, this year was certainly the year that proved the efficiency of his modern large thresher by threshing a great amount of crop in the few dry days that remained in those months.

The farmers of the neighborhood were all approaching the navy beans harvest with a great deal of concern.  At harvest, the navy beans were “pulled” (cut off at the root below the ground) and “cocked” (hand forked by the farmer into convenient piles in the field) to be allowed to dry down to 18% or less moisture content.  However, unlike shocks of wheat or oats, these piles of navy bean vines did not protect the beans from rain.  Indeed, the farmers knew that they would have to return to the bean field after each rain to turn the piles of navy beans to prevent the pearly white navy beans from mildewing and discoloring.  Any discolored beans would be regarded as “cull” beans and would reduce the yield of beans the farmer could sell.  Sometimes discolorization could reduce the crop by as much as 50%.  Furthermore, in addition to being time consuming, this additional hand work in the fields turning the bean piles was wasteful.  With each additional “handling” of the bean vines, more pods would be lost off the vine or the pods would split open and allow the beans inside to fall out onto the ground.  Consequently, the farmers foresaw a great deal of the profits from the navy beans going down the drain if these rains continued.

However, late in September the rains suddenly quit.  Just as the navy bean harvest was starting the weather turned and started cooperating for the harvest of navy beans.  Only ¾ of an inch of rain fell during the whole month of October.  As our Bingham Township farmer made his way around the neighborhood with his steam engine and thresher, he found that his customers were pleased with the yield from their bean fields.  The beans pouring out of the grain weigher each time it dumped, looked uniformly white with very little discolorization.

The price of navy beans was down from the record highs of the past year.  However, everybody believed this to be just a natural low point of the annual cycle of prices.  Nearly all of the customers on our Bingham Township farmer’s list were confident that navy beans would continue to increase in price as they had since the war in Europe had begun.  The war had dragged on for an entire year now with no end in sight.  Accordingly, nearly all of his customers intended to store their navy beans on the farm in order to take advantage of the higher price they expected in the coming winter.  Consequently, they did not feel the same need to rush to the market with their navy beans as they had done with the winter wheat.  They wished only to schedule the “pulling” and “cocking” so that the beans would spend as little time on the ground as possible to be exposed to the possibility of rain.  Still, our Bingham Township farmer placed his name at the bottom of his list of customers.  He wanted to keep his customers for the next year.  As with the wheat and oat harvests, he was collecting 5¢ on every bushel of threshed crop that poured out the big Kay-Gee thresher.  Every two times that the grain weigher dumped its contents into the bagging attachment, he earned another nickel.  He would surely need all the money that he could earn this threshing season, just to meet the coming payment he would have to make on the steam engine and thresher.  Additionally, he wished to keep his customers loyal to him for next year.

It was simply another morning in October, our Bingham Township farmer, was yearing the end of the threshing season.  Last evening, he had pulled the thresher up into yard of another neighbor.  This farm was located in the southwest corner of Siegel Township to the northeast of Bingham Township.  Other than himself, this was the last customer on his list.  Just one more day, or perhaps a little more, and the threshing crew would finally be moving back to his own farm in Bingham Township to complete the navy bean harvest.  It could not come any too soon.  There had been no rains for days.  Thus, chances were strong that a rain would soon arrive.  With his navy beans piled up, or cocked, in the field to dry, he felt as though he was tempting fate with each passing day.

Over the course of the three harvesting seasons that summer, our Bingham Township farmer had learned that the dangers inherent in the steam engine and thresher, the rig offered an attractive nuisance to the children on the farms of his neighbors.  He hated to appear gruff to the children of his neighbors, but he had a dread of what might happen not only around the steam engine itself, but also what might happen around all the moving belts and chains of the thresher.  The kids constantly wanted to climb up on the thresher and the steam engine, the way that they saw the adults do.  He and his wife had never had children.  Thus, he was unsure how to react to children in the first place, but he knew how bad he would feel if a child were injured around the equipment and always feared that if something happened it would be his fault in the eyes of his neighbors.  In most eyes, he realized, he appeared as a person that did not like children.  However, he knew that this was not true.  He merely wished that the children were not around when he was operating the thresher.  However, on this farm in Siegel Township, one boy, about eleven (11) years of age, captured his attention.  Unlike the other children, this boy appeared to be thinking about serious subjects all the time.  Rather than wanting to climb up on the thresher, he would watch the grain pouring out of the chute of the bagging attachment of the Kay-Gee thresher.  If he noticed a small spill of navy beans on the ground he would attempt scoop up the beans with a shovel, open a door at the rear of thresher and throw the beans onto the cleaning sieves.  The beans would be cleaned again and any dirt picked up with the beans would be removed.  The beans would then emerge for the thresher as clean beans ready for the sack.  Sometimes, when the other children were gone, our Bingham Township farmer would see the boy standing quietly watching the steam engine.  During times like that our Bingham Township farmer would explain to the boy what to watch on the steam engine, e.g. the steam pressure gauge and most importantly the water level indicator.  It was the seriousness of the boy that appealed to our Bingham Township farmer.  He noticed this characteristic in the boy whenever he saw the family at church.  The boy’s family attended St. Mary’s Church just north of Parisville in neighboring Paris Township, just as our Bingham Township farmer and his wife did.  Indeed, he had purchased Mac and Polly, his team of Percheron horses from the boy’s father.

Our Bingham Township farmer, standing under the canopy of his Kay-Gee steam engine, kept looking over his shoulder to the west.  He was scanning the skies for any sign of approaching rain clouds.  However, he need not have worried.  The threshing crew was allowed to finish all the navy beans on this farm in Siegel Township as well as all the beans on his own farm without any interference from the rain.  Just like his neighbors, our Bingham Township stored the navy beans in hopes of selling at a better price in the coming winter.  Nationwide, as noted above, a record 1,156,000 acres of edible beans were planted in the United States.  Now in the fall, 93.9% of that total acreage was harvested (1,085,000 acres across the nation—also a new record.)  Despite this record level of beans flowing into the market, the ongoing war in Europe kept pushing the price per hundred weight up to new record levels.  The price increased sufficiently to allow the average price for the whole year of 1915 to be $4.88 per hundred weight and the average price for the following year—1916 proved to be a phenomenal $9.31 per hundred weight.  Our Bingham Township farmer obtained a very good price for his navy bean crop—as did his neighbors.  This “other” cash crop was certainly living up to predictions.  Indeed the future looked bright to our Bingham Township farmer as he spent time that winter inspecting the inside of his steam engine.  Sitting right next to the steam engine in the shed was his new thresher.  He now looked forward to the next summers harvest with anticipation and with the satisfied feeling that he had made the proper decision to purchase this new equipment when he did.

Belt Pulley Magazine Articles by Brian Wayne Wells