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A 1945 J. I. Case Company Model SC Tractor in Belgrade Township, Nicollet County, Minnesota

The 1945 Case Model SC Tractor in Nicollet County, Minnesota

by

Brian Wayne Wells

           This article remains under construction.  Periodically, new blocks of text will appear in the article and/or   current blocks of text will be corrected.

            The J. I. Case Company introduced their first tricycle-style tractor—the Model CC tractor in 1929.  The CC weighed 4,240 lbs. (pounds) and produced 27.37 hp. (horsepower) to the belt pulley and 17.33 hp. to the drawbar.  The CC was advertised as a tractor that could pull a two-bottom plow with 14 inch bottoms.  So the Model CC could perform all the heavy tillage work in the fields of the average farm, just like the “four-wheel” or “standard” tractors that Case had offered the farming public before 1929.  These four-wheel tractors could really do all the field work on the farms of North America except the cultivating of row-crops.  This meant that the North America farmer would not have to keep the large number of horses on the farm that were required for heavy tillage and seed-bed preparation in the Spring of each year.  The farmer need only keep the horses necessary for cultivation of the row-crops on the farm.

The real improvement offered by the new Model CC was that its tricycle-styling allowed farm gasoline-powered tractor could perform the cultivation of row-crops.  Thus, the Model CC could be used to provide all the power on the farm to perform all the field work over the whole growing season.  Therefore, a farmer could get rid of all his horses and convert totally to mechanical power on the farm.  The most unique feature about all Case row-crop tractors was the steering rod than located outside the hood of the tractor and extending along the entire length of the front end of the tractor.  Because this looked like a convenient place for the chickens, on the farm, to roost during the night, this rod became popularly known as “chicken’s roost.”   Over the entire production from 1929 until 1939, 29,824 Model CC tractors were made.

In 1939, the CC was “styled,” modernized and upgraded in horsepower to a full 32.92 hp. at the belt pulley or the and 24.39 hp. at the drawbar and was introduced as the new Case Model DC-3 tricycle style tractor.  Instead of being painted gray like the Model CC, the Model DC-3 was painted a reddish-orange color that the Case Company called “Flambeau Red.”  The DC-3 had a new Case-built engine with a 3-7/8 inch bore and a 5 ½ inch stroke, was commonly fitted with 11.25 by 38 inch rubber tires and weighed 7,010 lbs. Case advertised the DC-3 tractor as a “full three-plow  tractor.”  This meant that the DC-3 could pull a three–bottom plow even with 16 inch bottoms in most plowing conditions.   By 1944, the suggested retail price of the DC was $1,270 as mounted on rubber tires.  During the entire production run of the Model DC-3 from 1939 until 1955, 54,925 DC-3 tractors were manufactured by the J.I. Case Company, or about 3,433 Model DC-3’s per year.

With the introduction of the DC-3 and the phasing out of the Model CC tractor there was a vacancy in the “two-plow” class of tractors within the J. I. Case Company line.   Accordingly, in 1940, one year after the introduction of the DC-3, the J.I. Case Company introduced the

Model SC tractor. The Model SC weighed 4,200 lbs., was fitted with a 2.7 liter four-cylinder engine with a 3 ½ inch bore and a 4 inch stroke which  delivered 21.62. hp to the belt pulley and 16.18 hp. to the drawbar.  The Model SC was painted Flambeau Red to match the Model DC-3 and retained the hand clutch, the same “chicken’s roost” style steering rod of the Model CC and the Model DC-3 and retained the 11.25 by 38 inch rear rubber tires of the Model DC-3.  However, the Model SC could be purchased for a much lower price than the DC-3.  Many farmers took advantage of this price difference to purchase the Model SC tractor and the Model SC tractor became the best-selling tractor of the Case Flambeau Red line of tractors.  Over its shorter production run (from 1940 until 1955), a total of 58,991 Model SC tractors (or about 3,933 Model SC’s per year) were produced and sold by the company—this is a total of 4,066 more SC’s produced by the Case Company than the total number of DC-3 tractors produced over the longer production run of the DC-3.  In other words from 1940 until 1955. there were about 500 more SC tractors produced each year than there were Model DC-3 tractors during the same period of time.

Of course not every year of the production run from 1940 until 1955 was like the next.  History intervened, during this period of time, in the form of the Second World War, history from 1939 until 1955.  Involvement of the United States in the Second World War dates from the surprise bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.  Following the Pearl Harbor attack, most heavy industrial companies, like the J.I. Case Company were required by the United States government to join the war effort, as the country fought a desperate war in two separate theaters of operations (Europe and the Pacific).  Production of civilian goods gave way to production for the war effort.  However, it took some time for the various companies to be assigned their government military contracts and to start producing wartime materials. For the Case Company production of farm tractors at their factory located in Racine, Wisconsin tapered off somewhat gradually in favor of war materials for the war effort.  The factory at Racine was called the “Main Works.”  During the war, the “Main Works” became involved in the production of bombs and artillery shells, doors for the Sherman tank and parts for the B-26 bomber.

The limited amount of tractors that were produced during the war, rolled off the

assembly line at the Main Works were assigned a serial numbers in sequence regardless of the model. There are no separate serial numbers for the S-series, the D-series or the V-series tractors.  The first two numbers of any Case tractor serial number designates the year in which the tractor was assembled at the Main Works.  Even these first two numbers are hidden in some obscurity.   If the first two numbers of a particular are 44, this does not mean the tractor was produced in 1944.  Four years must be subtracted from the first two numbers of every serial number to arrive at the actual production year of the tractor.  Thus, the digits of “44,” in the serial number example cited above, stand for 1940—not for 1944.

Accordingly, in the fifth year of its production run , a particular Model SC rolled aff the assembly line at the Main Works bearing the Serial Number 4911952.  The first two digits of this particular serial number indicate that the tractor was manufactured at the Main Works in 1945.  Since production in the year 1945 began with the serial number 4900001.  Production of the Model SC with the Serial No. 4911952 must have been produced rather late in the year, 1945.  Indeed a good guess might be that it was produced in December of 1945.  As consistent readers of this blog will remember, in December of 1945, the partnership of Duane Wetter and Merle Krinke were buying property in the small town of LeRoy, Minnesota to establish what would become the local Case dealership called the “LeRoy Equipment Company.”  (See the two part series of articles called “The Rise and Decline of the article   land in Lthe note

 

. was mThe tractor was shipped to the Case dealership in Mankato, Minnesota and eventually sold to a particular farmer operating a farm in western Belgrade Township about 3 or 4 miles to the north of North Mankato on County Road #8 in Nicollet County Minneota.  This was the farm of our Belgrade Township farmer.   Sold into bankruptcy and No. 4911952 was sold to an auction house in Mankato kept No. 4911952 inside a storage shed or garage until an auction was held a couple months later.  At the auction, Ken Weilage purchased No. 4911925 and a couple of other tractors and took the tractors to his 5-acre hobby farm located on the east side of the Hwy. #169 between Mankato and St. Peter, Minnesota.

This hobby farm had originally been a working farm but in the 1960s the arable land of the farm was surveyed and separated from the building site of the farm.  The arable land was then sold to a neighboring farmer and the building site was sold to man who worked as a financial services manager named Ken Wielage (Tel: [507] 625-4810), who also had a hobby of collecting and restoring old farm tractors.  At this stage, No. 4911952 went through its first repainting and restoration.  Once the restoration was complete, the tractor was driven by Ken Weilage in a number of parades.  In about 1990 the tractor was sold to group of about ten (10) neighbors, who all lived along Washington Boulevard on the shore of Lake Washington, near the village of Madison Lake, Minnesota.  This group of neighbors included John Pfau, the owner of a number of Taco John restaurant franchised in Mankato, St. Peter and New Ulm and was the person who actually found the tractor was for sale by Ken Wielage, the late Ernie Weber, Gordon Strusz (at 4524 Washington Blvd. Madison Lake, Minnesota and Tel. [507] 243-3380); Ray Dumbrowski; and  John D. Jacoby who became the person who was most involved with the operation storage and repair of the tractor for the last 20 years.  At first, Washington Boulevard was a gravel rode.  The neighbors used No. 4911952 to pull an old steel-wheeled grader up and down Washington Boulevard to grade and maintain the road and the tractor was used twice a year to put the neighbors docks in Lake Washington in the spring and pulling the docks out of the waster in the autumn.

In 2013 through 2015 No. 4911952 was displayed on the Mike McCabe farm as a tractor for sale and there was seen by the current author in April of 2015 was and purchased for the Wells Family Farms collection of restored tractors. No. 4911952 is currently undergoing its second restoration.

 

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The The 100° longitude meridian line runs north and south over the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.  This longitude line is

Farming with a Coop E-3 Tractor in Illinois: Part 3

Farming in Illinois with the Coop Model E-3 Tractor

 (Part 3 of 3 Parts): The Owatonna Manufacturing Company

by

Brian Wayne Wells

This article remains under construction.  From time to time new blocks of text will appear or present blocks of text will be corrected.

            Throughout the history of North American agriculture, farmers have been attempting to solve their own problems.  Farmers have repeatedly joined together in societies and organi

Farming with a Coop E-3 Tractor in Illinois: Part 2

Farming in Illinois  with the Coop Model E-3 Tractor

 (Part 2 of 3 Parts): The Kewaunee Company

by

Brian Wayne Wells

This Article remains under construction.  Periodically blocks of text will appear and/or be corrected in the process of construction. 

            As noted earlier, the 1951 Coop Model E-3 tractor that had been purchased by our Sterling Township farmer bore the serial number #31591.  (See the prior article in this t

series called “Farming with the Coop Model E-3 Tractor in Illinois” contained at the blog portion of website called Wellssouth.com. )  Our Sterling Township farmer had purchased this tractor without the  remote hydraulic capability required for use with the new eight-foot trailing- style double Kewaunee disc that he had just purchased from his local dealership in     He knew that the Cockshutt Farm Equipment Company offered a remote hydraulic system as an option for all new Model 30 tractors that were manufactured in Bradford, Ontario, Canada.  The various Farmers Union affiliated cooperatives who are selling the Cockshutt Model 30 in the United States under the designation–“Coop” Model E-3, were now offering an “add-on” hydraulic system for E-3 tractors like No. 31591 which had originally been sold without hydraulics.

This add-on hydraulic system was composed of a live-hydraulic pump which was to be mounted to the oil pump at the front of the four-cylinder Buda engine, and the main hydraulic unit located under the operator’s seat.  Through this two-part system, the Cockshutt add-on hydraulic kit attempts to provide two hydraulic functions.  First, the main hydraulic unit located under the operator’s seat contains a rock shaft that protruded out either side of the main hydraulic unit.  The Cockshutt hydraulic add-on kit came complete with two lift arms which were attached to a round shaft that was installed on the drawbar under the power take-off shaft on the tractor.  A pair of rock shaft lift arms and two adjustable lift links were included in the kit.  The rock shaft lift arms were attached to the ends of the rock shaft.  This provided the power for the three-point hitch.  Two adjustable lift links were connected to the rock shaft lift arms with the lift arms attached to the drawbar.  The rock shaft was powered by hydraulic oil under pressure from the hydraulic pump.  The rock shaft would turn and pull up the lift arms.  These two lift arms formed two points of the three point hitch and were the power of the three-point system.  A top link attached to the rear of the tractor above the power take off shaft formed the third point of the three-point hitch.

However, there were also two “Parker-Pioneer” hydraulic connectors protruding from the rear of the main hydraulic unit under the seat of the tractor.  These Parker-Pioneer hydraulic connectors were part of the “remote” 2-way hydraulic system.  The remote system powered a hydraulic cylinder on a piece of trailing or pulled-type of farm equipment.

 

This is the system in which our Sterling Township farmer was most interested.  He did not know how he would ever use the three-point hitch, since there were few three-point hitch implements on the market in 1952.  the early 1950as  There  he ufor passing hydraulic oil from the pump on the tractor to a remote hyd nthe gdeveloped by sw   stm

 

all the parts that on would be needed to attach the Cockshutt three-point hitch to the tractor. .

 

the cast-iron axle housings located on either side of the tractor are attached to the cast-iron power train housing by six 5/8 inch bolts. The retrofit hydraulic kit sold by the Farmers Union cooperative contained special longer bolts which were to replace four of these original bolts on the top of the axle housing.  These four bolts on each axle housing were used to hold the main hydraulic unit under the operator’s seat.  However, because these bolts were located under the running boards on the operator’s platform, our Sterling Township farmer needed to have the thick sheet metal running boards attached to the side of the power train housing trimmed with a blow torch to allow the main hydraulic unit to be properly attached to the bolts on top of the axle housing.  The main hydraulic unit was fitted with a rock shaft.

these  .

ide of the unit under the seat was attached to the tractor by four of th eight bolts which bolts on the top of the Two hoses connected the pumereservoir and with two hoses which connect front of the engine on the

sunder the under the   purchased in rs like  tch he had aAccordingly,

 

the s s  Although, Cockshutt This traqctorwas a

 

Throughout the history of North American agriculture, farENGmers have been attemnship pting to solve their own problems. Farmers have repeatedly joined together in societies and organi

Farming with the Coop Model E-3 in Illinois (Part I):

Farming with a Coop Tractor (Part 1):

National Farmers Union

    by

    Brian Wayne Wells

 

THIS ARTICLE REMAINS UNDER CONSTRUCTION. PERIODICALLY ADDITIONS WILL BE MADE TO THE ARTICLE. WHEN THE ARTICLE IS COMPLETE THIS PARTICULAR MESSAGE WILL DISAPPEAR.

 

 

Throughout the history of North American agriculture, farmers have been attempting to solve their own problems. Farmers have repeatedly joined together in societies and organizations to protect their common economic and political well being. In the United States, one of these attempts of farmers to band together to solve their problems occurred in 1867 with the formation of the National Grange of the Society of the Patrons of Husbandry (or more simply “the Grange). The Grange was formed in the state of Maine in 1867. Following the initial founding of the National Grange, local chapters of the Grange Society sprang up all across the northern rural areas of the nation. At first, Grange meetings were merely social events—community dinners and dances. This was an attempt to solve the problem of loneliness or isolation facing many farm families. However, soon the Grange took a more serious bent and began to protest the political and economic problems faced by farmers.

 

Founding Hall of the National Society of the Grange in Solon, Maine.

 

Chief among the concerns of the Grangers was the exploitation of farmers by private grain elevators and the railroad. Usually the local privately-owned grain elevators exercised a near monopoly over the prices that local farmers received for their crops. Often times this price was much lower than the farmer might have received if some competition in the market had been available to the local farmer. However, such competition was usually not readily available to the farmers. Usually there was only a single grain elevator in each local town. To find competing elevators the farmer would have to carry his grain to more distant elevators. Shipping their products to more distant markets was one means by which the farmers might find a higher price for their farm products. Railroads, the primary method of shipping to those distant markets, but usually railroads also had a monopoly over shipping from local small towns. Usually there was only one railroad in each small town. Thus, railroads could charge what ever they wanted for shipping the farmer’s grain. So railroads, along with grain elevators became the targets of farm protest movements.

The individual farmer felt himself being squeezed between the twin monopoly powers of the railroads and their local privately-owned grain elevators. Accordingly, the political program of the Grange developed into a strong protest against monopolistic price-setting powers of both the railroads and the privately-owned grain elevators. The State of Illinois, reacting to protest agitation on the part of the Grange, passed legislation on April 25, 1871 which required the appropriate state to regulate the rates that local privately-owned grain elevators charged farmers for their services. Regulations for the storage of grain by privately-owned grain elevators were promulgated in January of 1872. In June of 1872, a group of elevators including the Munn & Scott grain elevator of Chicago, Illinois, were sued by the State of Illinois for a violation of these regulations regarding terms and rates of grain storage charged. Munn & Scott appealed the case to the United States Supreme Court to test the constitutionality of the Illinois statute allowing the regulation of grain elevators. This case became the landmark case called Munn v. Illinois, (94 U. S. 113 [1877]). The Grange joined the State of Illinois, in the case. The case was decided by the United States Supreme Court in 1877. This decision upheld the States of Illinois’ right to regulate the rates that grain elevators could charge for the services they rendered. (More broadly, however, the Munn decision recognized the constitutionality of any state government to regulate any private corporations operating within its boundaries. As such, Munn v. Illinois became the foundation of many areas of law including the state’s right to prevent discrimination against people based on race, sex, age or etc.)

 

Munn vs. Illinois is argued before the United States Supreme Court.

 

The Grange was limited in geographical scope to the northern states of the nation. In the south, the National Farmers Alliance was the most popular farm protest group. Formed in 1876 in Lampasas, Texas, the National Farmers Alliance was political from the start. The Alliance agreed with the Grange in demanding restrictions on the monopolistic power of the railroads. However, whereas northern farmers protested against the monopoly power of grain elevators to set prices, southern farmers had the same complaints against the monopoly power of cotton brokers, banks and local merchants under the crop-lien system of farming. Under the crop-lein system, local merchants and bankers would loan money, seed and equipment to farmers before spring planting. Collateral on this loan was a lien on the expected crop to be harvested in the fall. Since cotton was the only crop that paid well enough to support the principal and interest on these loans, the merchants and bankers required that only cotton be planted by the farmer. Thus the farmer’s fortunes rose and fell economically, each year, on a single crop—cotton. Thus, under the crop-lien system, the farmer had no ability to diversify his crops to protect himself economically from the risk of a bad cotton price in a particular year. If cotton crop prices failed, the farmer would still have to make payments on the loan and the interest charges on that loan continued to pile up.

State government regulation of monopoly power provided some protection from certain unscrupulous actions taken against the farmer, however, farmers eventually began think about working together to market their farm products. The idea was that all the farmers of a given community would be a member of the organization, or cooperative. In the north, this meant that the farmers would own their own grain elevator. They would all become shareholders in this elevator. The farmers would meet once a year in a shareholders meeting and elect a board of directors to operate the cooperative elevator. The board of directors, in turn, would hire all the officers needed to handle the day-to-day affairs of the cooperative elevator.

In the 1890s many of these farmer-owned cooperatives sprang up across the Midwestern United States. These farmer-owned cooperatives built new grain elevators or purchased old ones and built or purchased dairy creameries. Thus, in many rural communities of the Midwest there was true competition for the farmers products—corn, wheat and milk. These early cooperatives faced a widespread opposition from railroads, grain companies, banks and many newspapers. Shortly after the turn of the century, two significant farm organizations were organized in support of the cooperative movement.

In the south, the Farmers Alliance was broken by the organized and united power of the cotton brokers, the banks and the railroads. Accordingly, in 1902, the National Farmers Union was organized in Point, Texas by Newt Gresham and a number of other farmers. Newt Gresham became one of the main organizers of the Farmer’s Union. Newt Gresham knew how to persevere in the face of adversity. He had been orphaned at the age of 10 years. Thus, at an early age he had become totally self-reliant. He was self-educated, had worked the land for most of his life and became the chief organizer for the Farmers Alliance.

 

The first organizing meeting of the Farmers Union. Newt Gresham stands second from the right in the back row.

 

In 1911, another farmers group was formed—the American Farm Bureau Federation was organized in Binghamton, New York. Both of these farm organizations agreed on the benefit of cooperatives to the average farmer. The American Farm Bureau began forming some cooperatives in the 1920s. (Cockshutt: The Complete Story compiled by the International Cockshutt Club, Inc. [American Society of Engineers Press: St. Joseph, Michigan, 1999] p. 78.) These Farm Bureau affiliated cooperatives were located, mainly, in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana. Farmers Union cooperatives were mainly located further west (Wisconsin, Minnesota and the Dakotas) and extended south as far as Oklahoma and Texas. However the two organizations developed an entirely different philosophy regarding governmental assistance to farmers in distress. The National Farmers Union supported government assistance and government regulation of the farm markets in time of distress. The America Farm Bureau tended to be opposed to all governmental interference in the farm economy.

One of the early cooperatives formed in the Midwest, was the Equity Cooperative Exchange of St. Paul, Minnesota which had been formed in 1908. In 1914, Equity Cooperative built their own grain elevator on the banks of the Mississippi River in St. Paul. However, Equity had trouble finding buyers for its grain because of the discriminatory actions of private grain companies. For example, Equity was denied a seat in the privately-owned Minneapolis Grain Exchange because of this opposition led by the Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce. Accordingly, Equity started their own grain exchange—the St. Paul Grain Exchange in 1914.

The free-wheeling free enterprise economy of the 1920s worked against the cooperatives. Equity Cooperative was forced into bankruptcy in the 1920s and in 1926, Farmers Union Terminal Association took over the assets of Equity, in order to continue the goals of the cooperative movement in North America. True to its Farmers Union philosophy the Farmers Union Terminal Association supported stronger regulations on the inspection of grain and governmental regulation of the weighing and calibration of the scales within elevators to assure honest weighing practices.

The severe economic depression of the early 1930s brought renewed vigor to the cooperative movement in the United States. Farmer-owned cooperatives surged in numbers across the Midwestern states. On June 1, 1938, the Farmers Union Terminal Association re-organized itself as the Grain Terminal Association (GTA).

 

Charles C. Talbot, organizer for the National Farmers Union and President of the North Dakota chapter of the Farmers Union in the 1930s.

 

Leading organizers of the Farmers Union, like Charles C. Talbot founder and president of the North Dakota Farmers Union; Bill Thatcher, a legislative lobbyist for the Farmers Union in Minnesota; and A.W. Richer, now became involved with GTA.

 

William (Bill) Thatcher (1883-1977) General Manager of the Grain Terminal Assciation

 

In the early 1930’s, Myron William (Bill) Thatcher became the general manager of the GTA. Over the 30 years that Bill Thatcher served as general manager of the developed contacts and friendships with politicians, including President Franklin Roosevelt, Secretary of Agriculture Henry Wallace, Senator Hubert H. Humphrey of Minnesota and Republican Senator Milton Young of North Dakota. Because of the political philosophy of the Farmers Union which tended to support governmental support of farmers in trouble, most of the political contacts that Bill Thatcher generated on behalf of the Farmers Union/GTA tended to be overwhelmingly members of the Democratic Party. Both in 1932 and 1936, the Farmers Union supported Franklin Roosevelt, while the American Farm Bureau did not. Accordingly, the Farmers Union evolved into a traditional major constituency of the Democratic Party similar to the way the AFL (the American Federation of Labor) and the CIO (the Congress of Industrial Organizations) became major constituent parts of the Democratic Party among urban laboring people.

 

Hubert Humphrey brings Bill Thatcher to the White House in April 1961 to meet President Kennedy.

Continue reading Farming with the Coop Model E-3 in Illinois (Part I):

Oliver Farming in Mower County, Minnesota (Part VIII): The Robert Westfall Family

Oliver Farming in Mower County (Part VIII):

The Robert Westfall Family 

by

Brian Wayne Wells

THIS ARTICLE REMAINS UNDER CONSTRUCTION. PERIODICALLY ADDITIONS WILL BE MADE TO THE ARTICLE. WHEN THE ARTICLE IS COMPLETE THIS PARTICULAR MESSAGE WILL DISAPPEAR.

In December of 1968, Robert and Lorraine Westfall and their family of eight children moved from the Jimmy Olson farm, located northwest of Dexter, Minnesota (1960 pop. 313), to their own farm which they purchased in December of 1968. This farm was located in the same neighborhood and was situated east of the village of Dexter. east of thev of rural which they had been renting since 1959 to their own farm which th. No. 4501745 was again sold through Thill Implement in the December of 1968 to Robert Westfall of Dexter, Minnesota. Robert and Lorraine Westfall used No. 4501745 on their farm until Robert passed away on January 13, 1992. Lorraine continued to live on the farm and rent out the acerage until she sold the farm in October of 1996. In 1996 she sold No. 4501745 to Mark Wells. In August of 1996, David Preuhs pickup and trailer from LeSueur, Minnesota to the Westfall farm in near Dexter, Minnesota to pickup the Oliver tractor and bring it back to LeSueur Pioneer Power. Kyle Lieske worked on the Oliver over the winter of 2008-2009 and the tractor was brought to West Virginia by Sally and Brian Wells where the tractor was painted during June of 2009 by Jake Lovejoy of Red House, West Virginia.

 

Austin, Minnesota, (1950 pop. 23,100) is the county seat of Mower County. Austin is located in a Township on the a Located in the middle of Mower County is Windom Township which surrounds the small village of Rose Creek, Minnesota (1930 pop. 210). Until 1980, Rose Creek, Minnesota was famous in the surrounding agricultural community for a farm tractor dealership that was far out of proportion with the town’s small size.

Until the dealership closed its doors in 1965, Thill Implement served as the a local Oliver Farm Equipment dealership. However, over the years they were in business, Thill Implement grew in reputation and fame until they served much more than just Windom Township and the immediate Rose Creek community. The dealership eventually became the premier Oliver dealership of all Mower County and, began to serve the entire southern Minnesota and northern Iowa area.

thaof the the South Bend, Indiana is famously known as the home of Notre Dame University. However, the economic basis for the small Indiana city is build on the processing of iron and the manufacture of farm machinery. Two particular examples of the farm equipment manufacturing basis of the South Bend economy are the two factories owned by the Oliver Farm Equipment Corporation—South Bend No. 1 and South Bend No. 2. South Bend No. 1 is basically a foundry. While South Bend No. 2 is a basically a large machining works where the various castings molded in South Bend No. 1 are drilled with the necessary bolt holes and and where edges on those castings are shaved down under huge milling machines to the proper tolerances to be fit together with other castings during the assembly of Oliver tractors and Oliver farm macinery. (Scenes of the operations inside both South Bend No. 1 and South Bend No. 2 can be seen on the movie Acres of Power [1948]. This movie is available on VHS video tape from the Floyd County Historical Society.)

On Friday morning , December 11, 1953, the work force at the South Bend No. 1 foundry works of the Oliver Farm Equipment Company changed some numbers on the mold for the transmission and rear-end housing for Oliver’s most popular tractor—the Row Crop Model 77 tractor. Each casting l the casting rought the date on the mould of their castings up to date. All transmission and rear end housing that would be cast today would bear the current date—December 11, 1953.   a particular casting for the transmission and rear end housing was cast. As usual, all the molds used for casting this e on this the mold was All the cast iron used in the assembly of the famous Oliver tractor are “cast” right here in South Bend No. 1. that fit together   In December of 1968, Robert and Lorraine Westfall and their family of eight children moved from the Jimmy Olson farm, located northwest of Dexter, Minnesota (1960 pop. 313), to their own farm which they purchased in December of 1968. This farm was located in the same neighborhood and was situated east of the village of Dexter. east of thev of rural which they had been renting since 1959 to their own farm which th. No. 4501745 was again sold through Thill Implement in the December of 1968 to Robert Westfall of Dexter, Minnesota. Robert and Lorraine Westfall used No. 4501745 on their farm until Robert passed away on January 13, 1992. Lorraine continued to live on the farm and rent out the acerage until she sold the farm in October of 1996. In 1996 she sold No. 4501745 to Mark Wells. In August of 1996, David Preuhs pickup and trailer from LeSueur, Minnesota to the Westfall farm in near Dexter, Minnesota to pickup the Oliver tractor and bring it back to LeSueur Pioneer Power. Kyle Lieske worked on the Oliver over the winter of 2008-2009 and the tractor was brought to West Virginia by Sally and Brian Wells where the tracor was painted during June of 2009 by Jake Lovejoy of Red House, West Virginia.     and r f from tr Defrom   drove his trailer and and she sold the Olver Row Crop to Mark Wells.   Wesvat this The Oliver continued to be used on the farm for u r Retired from farming in tithe Model and Fa;;l V s ;V. The the

 

M

 

Mower County, Minnesota is located on the southern border of the State of Minnesota, adjacent to the State of Iowa. In 1953, Mower County was a predominately rural county. Topographically, Mower County is located in a transition area. Starting in western Mower County and extending into Freeborn County to the west the land becomes very flat. However the land in eastern Mower County and extending east into Fillmore County the land becomes increasingly more hilly. Additionally, the soil itself in the eastern part of Mower County is sandy and is not as rich as the darker humus soil in the western part of the county.

Oliver Farming in Mower County Minnesota: Oliver Row Crop Model 77 Bearing Serial No. 4501

Oliver Farming in Mower County (Part VIII):

The Row-Crop  Model 77 Tractor Bearing the Serial No. 4501745 

  by

Brian Wayne Wells

 

THIS ARTICLE REMAINS UNDER CONSTRUCTION. PERIODICALLY ADDITIONS WILL BE MADE TO THE ARTICLE. WHEN THE ARTICLE IS COMPLETE THIS PARTICULAR MESSAGE WILL DISAPPEAR.

Subsequent acquisitions by the New Idea Company included the Horn Company of Fort Dodge, Iowa.   In 1963, the New Idea Company bought the Uni-tractor line from Minneapolis-Moline.   In 1984, the Allied Company bought the New Idea Company. In 1985, the Allied Company purchased the White Tractor Company. In 1988, the White-New Idea Company closed the old Tractor Works located in Charles City, Iowa and moved all White tractor production to the New Idea factory in Coldwater, Ohio.

Austin, Minnesota, (1950 pop. 23,100) is the county seat of Mower County. Austin is located in a Township on the a Located in the middle of Mower County is Windom Township which surrounds the small village of Rose Creek, Minnesota (1930 pop. 210). Until 1980, Rose Creek, Minnesota was famous in the surrounding agricultural community for a farm tractor dealership that was far out of proportion with the town’s small size.

 

Favorable market conditions in the sheep market were reported over the radio—like WCCO radio out of the Twin Cities. Our Nevada Township farmer began think hard about acquiring a small flock of ewes. He was not alone. Many farmers in his neighborhood were doing the same thing. Indeed, for one farm family over in a neighboring township—Austin Township—sheep raising was already a major part of their farm income. Earl Eugene and Margaret (Stormer) Subra owned a farm containing only 60-acres in Austin Township. While, the Subra family milked some cows and raise some pigs, they virtually made all their cash income from sheep—pure bred Suffolk sheep. Born in 1913, Earl Subra grew up on the farm of his parents William J. and Bertha (Dennis) Subra located in Austin Township. Raised on his father’s farm, Earl had moved to his own farm. In 1931, he and Margaret Stormer were married. Earl began raising Suffolk sheep prior to 1940. He chose Suffolk sheep because of the characteristics of breed.

The Suffolk breed was born as a result of the cross breeding of Southdown sheep with old Norfolk sheep in England. Suffolks are not “wool” sheep. They grow only a moderate amount of wool. They were a breed of sheep known for their black faces and legs, which were free of wool. Suffolk sheep were raised primarily as “meat” sheep. Suffolk ewes (female sheep) were prolific in the production of offspring and were “good milkers.” Suffolk lambs grew rapidly; they had more edible meat and less fat than other breeds. Suffolks have excellent feed conversion characteristics which means that Suffolks have the capacity to actively graze and rustle for feed even on dry range lands. However, this characteristic also means that when Suffolk lambs are raised on high quality feeds, the breed has one of the fastest growth rates of any breed of sheep. Consequently, Suffolk sheep were rapidly becoming the most common breed in the Midwestern United States. (Paula Simmons & Carol Ekarius, Storey’s Guide to Raising Sheep [Storey Publishing: North Adams, Massachusetts, 2001] p. 74.)

Earl Subra noted that Suffolks answered the demands of the market at the current time in 1940. Meat, not wool, was the main product that was in demand in the current market. Suffolks had the quality of lean meat that the market demanded. Furthermore, the short five-month (147-153 day) gestation period plus the rapid growth rate of the individual lambs meant that the farmer could make money faster with Suffolks than with other breed of sheep. Earl Subra knew that, drawn by the chance for making a good profit, many farmers would be attempting enter the sheep market by acquiring flocks of their own for the first time. He also knew that many of these farmers would be choosing Suffolks. Accordingly, in addition to raising and selling lambs to the Hormel meat packing plant in Austin, he felt he could also make a profit selling bucks (male sheep) and ewes (female sheep) to those farmers wanting to start their own flocks. In this way he would be working with the rising tide of farmers entering the sheep market. This, Earl Subra thought, was the way he could make a living out of the new situation that was arising.

However, to sell Suffolks to the farmers wishing to start their new flocks, Earl Subra felt that he needed to have a product that would these farmers would buy. If Suffolk sheep had characteristics that would stand out among other breeds of sheep, then the goal should be to raise Suffolk sheep that would adhere closely to those characteristics and avoid any negative characteristics. Indeed, there already was an organization in devoted to promoting the best characteristics of the Suffolk breed by educating Suffolk breeders. This organization was the National Suffolk Sheep Association (N.S.S.A.) which was headquartered in Michigan and later was headquartered in Columbia, Missouri. N.S.S.A. started a registration process by which purebred Suffolks could be registered with N.S.S.A. N.S.S.A. would mail out a certificate of registration to the owner of the individual registered sheep. In order to qualify for registration, both the sire (father) and dam (mother) must also have their own certificates of registration. Theoretically, then every registered purebred Suffolk could be traced back through a paper trail of registration certificates to the original Suffolk sheep which initially defined the breed. Each certificate of registration would document that the individual sheep was direct descendant of these original Suffolk sheep.

Even prior to 1939, Earl Subra had been working on developing a flock of Suffolk sheep that reflected superiority in any number of individual features. Soon his ewes and rams were winning a number of blue ribbons at the Mower County Fair which was held in the first week of August each year. Earl also began to make a name for himself at the Minnesota State Fair. Soon breeders from outside the Midwest, and even from Canada, were searching him out to purchase rams and ewes from the Subra flock. These other breeders saw traits in the Subra sheep that they wished to include in the blood lines of their own flocks. Consequently, Subra sheep were sold far and wide and Earl Subra became quite famous among Suffolk breeders across the nation.

Accordingly, when our Nevada Township farmer began to think seriously about obtaining a flock of sheep for his own farm, he though of the Subra farm located in the next township to the west. Accordingly, in the fall of 1941, after watching the dramatic increase in the price of sheep over the summer (reaching $7.10 per hundred weight in August of 1941), our Nevada Township farmer purchased eight (8) purebred Suffolk ewes from Earl Subra in September of 1941 and brought them to his farm. He hoped that adding sheep to his farming operation would be another diversification of the farming operation and the farm income. He hoped this diversification would further strengthen his family’s financial position.

Introducing the ewes to his farm for the first time required that some changes be made to the farm. The farm on which our Nevada Township farmer and his family lived was established in a series of concentric circles, each area fenced off from the next larger circle. The immediate area around the house contained the lawns, the outhouse, dog house and family garden. This was the inner yard. A legal term for this area is “the curtilage.”   The next largest encircled area included most of the rest of the building site of the farm, the grove, the orchard and the windbreak running along the north and west sides of the building site. This area was also called the “yard,” but the term was meant to be used in a larger sense than the mere curtilage around the house. The area behind the barn was fenced off from the yard to keep the cows out of the yard. Likewise the areas on either side of the hog house were fenced off to keep the pigs out of the yard and the chicken yard next to the hen house was fenced off to keep the chickens out of the yard. All animals were kept out of the yard except the family dog and any cats from the barn. These animals were actually encouraged to patrol the yard and keep rodents under control. However, the yard was intended to be the main home for the small flock of sheep that he was now acquiring.

One of the benefits of a flock of sheep would be the fact that they would keep the grass and weeds in all area of the yard under control. This would save labor and time that the family had, in the past, spent trying to keep these areas mowed and trimmed. This was one of the advantages that our Nevada Township farmer looked forward to about having sheep on the farm. However, there were also disadvantages. One of the most important disadvantages was that all the fences around the yard had to be improved and reinforced. Sheep were curious and would explore every portion of the area they occupy in order to find vegetation to eat. First, the fence between the yard and the cartilage needed to be made more secure to keep the sheep from invading the cartilage and most importantly out of the family garden. In the garden, the sheep could make quick work of the young succulent plants the family was trying to grow there. The lawns inside the cartilage would continue to be mowed by the family, just as in the past. Likewise the fences around the outside of the yard needed to be strengthened to prevent the sheep from getting into the fields where the farm crops were being raised.

In 1945, the number of sheep across the whole state of Minnesota stood at 995,000 head. In Mower County the sheep population was 17,500 head in 1945. The number of sheep in neighboring Fillmore County, to the east of Mower County, stood at 30,500 head.

The sale lambs to the Hormel’s, the sale y

 

This s   During the the esheltolocation to la Farm withwhich had been the foread merged with r headed southw dd On the one hand, being just e Minnesota that sm wee.n a on o t

October Sr. John and (A short profile of Robert Thill and a short history of Thill Implement is contained in the       issue of Oliver Collector magazine

 

Until the dealership closed its doors in 1965, Thill Implement served as the a local Oliver Farm Equipment dealership. However, over the years they were in business, Thill Implement grew in reputation and fame until they served much more than just Windom Township and the immediate Rose Creek community. The dealership eventually became the premier Oliver dealership of all Mower County and, began to serve the entire southern Minnesota and northern Iowa area.

The Second World War had had a large impact on the population of the United States. In 1940, still 43.5% of the population of the nation lived on farms. In 1950, this figure had dropped to 36.9% of the total population. (See the U.S. Census on-line.) Still with more than one third of the nation making their money from farms, the United States remained a “rural nation.” Thus, many of the returning United States veterans from both theaters of the war were from farms and upon their return to home. When they did return they had many new ideas on how to modernize the family farm. First and foremost, in the improvements sought by returning veterans, was to replace slow, inefficient horse power on the family farm with mechanical power supplied by a farm tractor. Thus, a large demand for tractors was created at the end of the war. Furthermore, this demand for tractors was made worse by the fact that no new tractors had been available during the whole course of the war. Accordingly, even the farmers that might have bought a new farm tractor during the war were prevented from doing so by the wartime restrictions on the economy which curtailed civilian tractor production. With the return of peace, these wartime restrictions on the economy were suddenly ended. There was a tremendous surge of buyers released into the new farm machinery market. This surge of buyers caused new local dealerships to spring up all over the Midwestern United States.

One of these new implement dealerships, was the Thill Implement dealership in Rose Creek, in Mower County, Minnesota. John Thill started this dealership in   . John Thill remained a farmer in Windom Township. In     , with his brother Jack. Thill Implement had a dealership franchise agreement with the Oliver Farm Equipment Company of Charles City, Iowa, to sell the full line of Oliver farm equipment from the. Since 1937, the line Oliver of tractors had been distinguished by the six-cylinder Model 70 tractor. The Model 70 was the most popular selling tractor in the line of Oliver had a sales reputation that stretched far beyond the rural Rose Creek community. The dealership became an important regionally severing a multi-county area in southern Minnesota and Northern Iowa. The dealership With the return of peace following the Second World War, the In the post-war was uniques line, were In the pos

dealership grown into a .   Rober achad not yet reached its full capacity . The dealership had been was

thaof the the South Bend, Indiana is famously known as the home of Notre Dame University. However, the economic basis for the small Indiana city is build on the processing of iron and the manufacture of farm machinery. Two particular examples of the farm equipment manufacturing basis of the South Bend economy are the two factories owned by the Oliver Farm Equipment Corporation—South Bend No. 1, located on the large industrial lot at the corner of Chapin and Sample streets and extending to Indiana Street, and South Bend No. 2 located at Walnut Street.   South Bend No. 1 is the Oliver Chilled Plow factory and contains a foundry. While South Bend No. 2 is the “Tractor Works” is basically a large machining works where the various castings molded in South Bend No. 1 are drilled with the necessary bolt holes and and where edges on those castings are shaved down under huge milling machines to the proper tolerances to be fit together with other castings during the assembly of Oliver tractors and engines. (Scenes of the operations inside both South Bend No. 1 and South Bend No. 2 can be seen on the movie Acres of Power [1948]. This movie is available on VHS video tape from the Floyd County Historical Society.)

On Friday morning , December 11, 1953, the work force at the South Bend No. 1 foundry works of the Oliver Farm Equipment Company changed some numbers on the mold for the transmission and rear-end housing for Oliver’s most popular tractor—the Row Crop Model 77 tractor. Each casting l the casting rought the date on the mould of their castings up to date. All transmission and rear end housing that would be cast today would bear the current date—December 11, 1953.   a particular casting for the transmission and rear end housing was cast. As usual, all the molds used for casting this e on this the mold was All the cast iron used in the assembly of the famous Oliver tractor are “cast” right here in South Bend No. 1. that fit together and form Oliver tractors are made in bMost famously milled. ade in the uplants s the basic xiand town s The The 100° longitude meridian line runs north and south over the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. This longitude line is

 

 

In December of 1968, Robert and Lorraine Westfall and their family of eight children moved from the Jimmy Olson farm, located northwest of Dexter, Minnesota (1960 pop. 313), to their own farm which they purchased in December of 1968. This farm was located in the same neighborhood and was situated east of the village of Dexter. east of thev of rural which they had been renting since 1959 to their own farm which th. No. 4501745 was again sold through Thill Implement in the December of 1968 to Robert Westfall of Dexter, Minnesota. Robert and Lorraine Westfall used No. 4501745 on their farm until Robert passed away on January 13, 1992. Lorraine continued to live on the farm and rent out the acerage until she sold the farm in October of 1996. In 1996 she sold No. 4501745 to Mark Wells. In August of 1996, David Preuhs pickup and trailer from LeSueur, Minnesota to the Westfall farm in near Dexter, Minnesota to pickup the Oliver tractor and bring it back to LeSueur Pioneer Power. Kyle Lieske worked on the Oliver over the winter of 2008-2009 and the tractor was brought to West Virginia by Sally and Brian Wells where the tracor was painted during June of 2009 by Jake Lovejoy of Red House, West Virginia.     and r f from tr Defrom   drove his trailer and and she sold the Olver Row Crop to Mark Wells.   Wesvat this The Oliver continued to be used on the farm for u r Retired from farming in tithe Model and Fa;;l V s ;V. The the

 

T

Oliver Farming in Mower County, Minnesota (Part VI): The Korean War

 

Oliver Farm Equipment in Mower County Minnesota (Part V):

The Korean War

by

Brian Wayne Wells

THIS ARTICLE REMAINS UNDER CONSTRUCTION. PERIODICALLY ADDITIONS WILL BE MADE TO THE ARTICLE. WHEN THE ARTICLE IS COMPLETE THIS PARTICULAR MESSAGE WILL DISAPPEAR.

 

By the spring of 1950, our Nevada Township farmer had seen the benefits of his attempts to modernize his farming operation. Ever since the summer of 1947 he had been combining his oats and his soybeans with his own Oliver Model 15, Grain Master combine. These machines meant that he now had control over the harvesting nearly all the crops on his farm. He able to harvest his corn, soybeans and oats on his own farm when they were ripe rather than having to wait on custom harvesters to finally reach his farm. Thus, during the last two bountiful years of 1948 and 1949, our Nevada Township farmer had been able to raise the crops on his farm with maximum efficiency. The proof was in the numbers yields of his two cash crops—soybeans and corn—for those two years. The year 1947 had presented problems for the farmers in Mower County, Minnesota, including one particular farmer in Nevada Township in Mower County. This farmer had been attempting to avoid the pitfalls of occasional falling prices and bad crop years by diversifying his farming operation a number of different products and crops on his farm. First he had added a sheep raising operation to his farm. The he had begun raising soybeans during the recent war. Through diversification our Nevada Township farmer had been able to maintain a relatively steady income despite falling prices for some farm products. When some products fell in price, it was likely that other prices would hold steady or even rise to make up the difference.

Then like a bolt out of the blue, on June 25, 1950, the North Korean Army invaded South Korea which started the Korean War. The United States led a United Nation’s effort to resist this invasion. Soybean prices rose to $2.80 per bushel as an average for the month of June and rose to $2.94 per bushel as an average for the month of July, 1950. Corn prices rose to $1.34 per bushel in August 1950 and $1.35 per bushel in September, 1950. However, most surprising to our Nevada Township farmer, as he listened to the local farm reports on KAAL radio at 1480 kc on the dial, broadcasting out of nearby Austin, Minnesota (1950 pop. 23,100), was the increase in lamb prices at the Hormel meatpacking plant in Austin.

Since 1944, lamb prices had been languishing around the $7.00 or $8.00 per hundred weight (cwt.) range for market lambs. However, in June 1950, the price of lamb rose to $10.40 per cwt. To take advantage of this spike in lamb prices, our Nevada Township farmer was tempted to sell a great deal of his flock to Hormel’s before the spike in prices disappeared. However, he delayed his decision on this matter. When he had begun raising sheep, he had realized that raising sheep for market was one thing, but he could make more money by raising breeding stock for other sheep farmers. Good breeding ewes (female sheep) could bring 6 or 7 times the price of common market sheep if they had been properly registered and had their papers in order. Registered Purebred Rams (male sheep) could bring even more money than ewes. This led him into raising purebred sheep—purebred Suffolk sheep. (See the previous article in this series called “Oliver Farm Equipment [Part I]: Suffolk Sheep Raising.”) Soon he was registering his sheep with the National Suffolk Sheep Association (N.S.S.A.) and showing his sheep at fairs like the Mower County Fair in Austin and like the Minnesota State Fair in St. Paul, Minnesota (1950 pop. 311,349). He had spent many years building his purebred Suffolk flock and was reluctant to sell off all his best ewes to Hormels, if he could make more money raising breeding stock like he used to do during the recent world war. Perhaps this was not a mere spike in the price of lamb. He had struggled along with his purebred stock during the intervening post-war years, always hoping for better days ahead. This might be the start of the “better days” for his purebred flock. If so he did not want to miss the boat by selling off his whole flock to Hormel’s for a quick profit. So he waited.

In July, the average price for lamb rose to $10.90 per cwt., In August, the price rose again, to $11.10 per cwt. and in September, 1950 the price climbed to $12.60 per cwt. Whether the war or more correctly “police action” in Korea was causing the price of lamb to rise or not, the high price of lamb was no temporary apparition. Our Nevada Township farmer did not, however, understand why the military action in Korea was causing this escalation of the price of lamb. He remembered that something like this price rise had happened in 1940 which had caused him to get into the business of raising sheep in the first place. (See the previous article in this series called “Oliver Farm Equipment [Part I]: Suffolk Sheep Raising.”) At that time, the government had purchased lamb to put in military C-rations. That decision, he remembered had turned out to be disastrous. American soldiers during the recent world war had strongly disliked the lamb in the C-rations. As a result the government had ceased buying mutton in 1944 and the price of lamb had languished. Our Nevada Township farmer could not believe that American soldiers, just five years later, had discovered that they now liked lamb in their C-rations.

Our Nevada Township farmer knew that the United States was the primary western super power in the world concerned with the Pacific Ocean affairs, the United States bore the brunt of armed forces resisting the North Korean invasion of South Korea. The United States supplied about 203,000 troops for the Korean War. Still the resistance to the North Korean invasion of South Korea was officially a United Nations effort, involving not just the United States alone. There were smaller military contingents from twenty (20) other nations around the world fighting in Korea. There were 14,200 British troops, 6,150 Canadian troops, 5,460 Turkish troops, 1,390 New Zealand troops, 1,270 Ethiopian troops, 1,260 Greek troops, 1,120 French troops, 1,070 Columbian troops, 900 Belgian troops, 820 Dutch troops, 300 south African troops, 170 Swedish troops, 105 Norwegian troops, 100 Danish troops, 72 Italian troops, 70 Indian troops and 44 troops from Luxembourg.

Most of the public of the United States did not know immediately that the task of supplying food to all the troop contingents in Korea had been centralized and assigned to the United States Army Quartermaster Corps. Accordingly, the Quartermaster Corps purchased food products on the United States market. This buying created a strong demand for farm products and farm prices rose almost immediately after the June, 1950 invasion. Our Nevada Township farmer was later to learn that while lamb was no more popular among the U.S. troops (and probably not much more popular with the Canadians) than it had been during the Second World War (see the first article in this series of articles called “Oliver Farm Equipment in Mower County, Minnesota [Part I]: Suffolk Sheep Raising”), lamb did, nonetheless, form a substantial part of the diet of many of the other armed contingents from the other countries fighting in Korea. Thus, meant that Quartermaster Corps needed to purchase substantial amounts of lamb from the United States market. This purchasing by the Quartermaster Corps, our Nevada Township farmer learned, had caused the spike in lamb prices immediately after the North Korean invasion of the south in June of 1950.

Additionally, during the Korean War, the Quartermaster Corp made a conscious effort to supply as many troops as possible with fresh cooked food served in field canteens, rather than relying on C-rations to feed the troops in the field. Consequently, lamb prices in the United States rose dramatically, breaking all previous records. Rising up out of the usual doldrums price range of $7.00 to $8.00 cwt., the market price of lamb shot up to $10.50 cwt. in July of 1950. By December of 1950 the price of lamb had reached $14.80 cwt. and by March of 1951 the price was $18.50 cwt.

Almost immediately our Nevada Township farmer noticed that it was much easier to sell his purebred ewes (female sheep). Traditionally, he would show his prize ewes at the Mower County Fair in early August and again at the Minnesota State Fair which ended on Labor Day in early September. The ribbons he won at these fairs served as advertising for his purebred flock of Suffolk sheep. During and after these fairs, he could expect to sell some of his purebred ewes and bucks or rams (male sheep) as breeding stock to other farmers seeking to improve their flocks. In 1950, he now sold more ewes than he had in any year since 1944. Many farmers, it seemed, wanted to start raising sheep or to increase the size of the small flocks they already had on their farms. This increase in flocks of sheep was reflected in the 1950 Minnesota sheep population figures. To be sure, the 1950 figures reflected another decline of sheep to 571,000 head of sheep. However, this represented only a 1% decline from 1949. The massive decline of sheep populations that had occurred since 1945 had finally reached bottom. Even here in Mower County, the end of the precipitous post-war decline in sheep population was evident as the population of sheep in Mower County declined again in 1950 by only a 2.8% to 10,300 head for the county as a whole. Clearly, better times were ahead for sheep farmers in the Midwest.

The ewes that he sold after the Mower County Fair and the Minnesota State Fair, were not bred ewes. Usually, he released the rams to graze with the ewes even the young ewes after he returned from the State Fair following Labor Day in September. Generally, within thirty (30) days all the ewes would be pregnant. In this way, every ewe in the flock would be bred during the months of September and October. Thus, he could expect that most of the new lambs in his flock would be born in the months of March and April of the next year.

Generally, after Christmas, in January each year there would quite a few organized annual “bred ewe” sales held around the Midwest. These auctions were a good chance to sell even more breeding stock. Since the ewes at these sales were already pregnant, the ewes would usually sell for even more money than the un-bred ewes he sold after the fairs. In 1950, however, our Nevada Township farmer was receiving higher prices for his both his pregnant and non-pregnant ewes, than ever before.

Generally, after Christmas, in January each year there would quite a few organized annual “bred ewe” sales held around the Midwest. These auctions were a good chance to sell even more breeding stock. Since the ewes at these sales were already pregnant, the ewes would usually sell for even more money than the un-bred ewes he sold after the fairs. In 1950, however, our Nevada Township farmer was receiving higher prices for his both his pregnant and non-pregnant ewes, than ever before.

 

However, there had been a 13% decline in the soybean yield in Mower County, but the high price he had received for his soybeans had more than made up for the loss of yield.   Once again soybeans had saved the family income. Not only did the high price of soybeans save them from a loss in income caused by the low soybean yield, it also helped recover some of the losses in the corn yield in 1947.

Ewes that he sold after the Mower County Fair and the Minnesota State Fair, were not bred ewes.  Usually, he released the rams to graze with the ewes even the young ewes after he returned from the State Fair following Labor Day in September.  Generally, within thirty (30) days all the ewes would be pregnant.  In this way, every ewe in the flock would be bred during the months of September and October.  Thus, he could expect that most of the new lambs in his flock would be born in the months of March and April of the next year.

Generally, after Christmas, in January each year there would quite a few organized annual “bred ewe” sales held around the Midwest.  These auctions were a good chance to sell even more breeding stock.  Since the ewes at these sales were already pregnant, the ewes would usually sell for even more money than the un-bred ewes he sold after the fairs.  In 1950, however, our Nevada Township farmer was receiving higher prices for his both his pregnant and non-pregnant ewes, than ever before.

 

However, there had been a 13% decline in the soybean yield in Mower County, but the high price he had received for his soybeans had more than made up for the loss of yield.   Once again soybeans had saved the family income.  Not only did the high price of soybeans save them from a loss in income caused by the low soybean yield, it also helped recover some of the losses in the corn yield in 1947.  Our Nevada Township farmer recognized that once again diversification of his farming operation had saved the day.  Specifically, diversification into soybeans appeared to be work not only in drought years like 1945, but also in wet years like 1947.

Mower County, Minnesota is located on the southern border of the State of Minnesota, adjacent to the State of Iowa.  In 1953, Mower County was a predominately rural county.  Topographically, Mower County is located in a transition area.  Starting in western Mower County and extending into Freeborn County to the west the land becomes very flat.  However the land in eastern Mower County and extending east into Fillmore County the land becomes increasingly more hilly.  Additionally, the soil itself in the eastern part of Mower County is sandy and is not as rich as the darker humus soil in the western part of the county.

Located in the extreme southwest corner of Mower County was Lyle, Township.  Immediately, to the east of Lyle Township was Nevada Township.  In 1953, on one particular farm in Nevada Township, lived a man and his wife and one adult son.  Our Nevada Township farmer had lived on this farm all his life.  Indeed, his parents had owned and operated the farm before him.  As he had come of age on the farm, he had gradually taken over more responsibility for the farming operation from his parents.  In 1924, he had married his wife and together they had moved into the same large house with his parents.  In 1925, when his wife had become pregnant with their son, his parents had decided to officially retire and move into Austin, the county seat of Mower County.  Austin (1950 pop. 23,100) was located in the middle of Austin Township, northwest of Nevada Township and straight north of Lyle Township.

Like many farms in the Midwestern United States, the 160-acre farm on which our Nevada Township farmer and his family lived was “diversified farm.”  Diversified farming operations were those farming operation that raised a variety of crops and animals rather than specializing in only one crop or one type of livestock.  Faced with the typical market fluctuations for the various farm commodities, our Nevada Township farmer, like other diversified farmers sought to avoid “putting all his eggs in one basket.”  Rather than growing only one cash crop or raising only one type of livestock on the farm, our Nevada Township farmer raised corn, soybeans, oats and hay.  And he milked dairy cows raised pigs, and had about 200 laying hens in his chicken house.  In this way, he hoped that if there was a “softness” or decline in the price of one of these commodity markets, the other commodities would help him maintain a near stable cash income for the year.

However, not all of the crops on the farm could be sold for cash.  When our Nevada Township farmer had taken over the operation of the farm from his parents, he had used horses, exclusively, for power on the farm.  Accordingly, one field on the farm had been set aside for raising hay for the horses and the dairy herd.  Another field had to be set aside each year for the raising oats for feed for the horses, cattle, pigs and chickens.  Therefore, these crops were not cash crops.  These were crops were raised for animal feed only.  Corn was, therefore, traditionally the only “cash crop” of the farming operation.  However, not all of the corn could be sold.

Some of the mature corn plants were chopped in late August while they were still green and blown into the silo to be fed as “ensilage” to the dairy cows during the winter time.  The rest of the corn was allowed to ripen and the ears of the corn were harvested in October or November each year.  This ear corn was stored in the corn crib to dry in the cold winter air.  In February the dried ear corn would be shelled.  Most of this shelled corn would be sold to the Hunting Company grain elevator in the small village of Lyle, Minnesota (1950 pop. 609), located about 9 miles to the southwest of the farm in neighboring Lyle Township.

However, some of the shelled corn had to retained on the farm as animal feed.  A large portion of the shelled corn would be ground and fed to the feeder pigs.  Grinding the shelled corn in a feed grinder allowed the pigs to digest the corn easier and more efficiently.  The concentrated calories in corn quickly brought the feeder pigs up to market weight.  Another portion of the corn retained on the farm each year would be fed to the chickens.  The calories in corn and the protein in oats would provide a balanced diet for the chickens and kept their egg laying at a maximum.  Because chickens have gizzards, which can digest very coarse food, both the shelled corn and the oats could be fed to the chickens without grinding or other processing.  A portion of the ear corn retained on the farm was ground in the feed grinder—cob and all—to become feed for the milking cows.  Our Nevada Township farmer provided a scoopful of this ground corn to each lactating cow at each milk time.  This small amount of ground corn fed to the lactating cows twice a day allowed the extra calories that the cows needed to continue supplying milk.  Furthermore, since most of the cows were also pregnant, the additional calories in the ear corn also supported the growing unborn calf the cow was carrying.  The cow feed was not as rich in calories as was the pig feed.  Our Nevada Township farmer did not want the dairy cattle to become fat—like beef cattle.  He wanted a balanced diet.  The cobs in the cow feed provided a certain amount of roughage for the cattle.  Furthermore, when grinding the ear corn for the cows, our Nevada Township farmer added oats to the ear corn he fed into the grinder.  The oats added protein to the cattle’s diet.  The milking cows needed the roughage and protein more than they needed concentrated calories.  They did not need to put on a great deal of weight like pigs or beef cattle.  Even after sufficient corn had been retained on the farm for all these animals, a large amount of shelled corn could be hauled off the farm and sold to the Hunting Company elevator in Lyle.  The sale of this remaining corn supplied a large part of the cash income for his farming operation each year.

When our Nevada Township farmer had taken over control of the farming operation from his parents in 1924, horses provided the power for field operations, exclusively.  Accordingly, in addition to feeding the cows, pigs and chickens on his farm, a great portion of the oats and hay, he raised on the farm fed the horses he used on the farm.  Although the horses were used primarily only in the summer, they had to be fed all year long.  He had been aware, for some time, that he could increase the efficiency of his farming operation by mechanizing the power source on his farm.  Subsequently in 1940, Our Nevada Township farmer obtained a used 1937 Oliver/Hart-Parr Model 28-44 tractor.  This tractor was also called the “3-5 plow tractor.”  The Model 28-44 certainly was a great improvement to his farming operation.  The tractor performed all the heavy duty field work such as plowing and discing much more quickly than with horses.  Previously, these heavy duty field tasks had required the use of four or six horses harnessed together.  As time went by, our Nevada Township farmer even began using the Model 28-44 for lighter duty field work.  He had shortened the tongue on his Oliver/Superior horse-drawn two-row corn planter so that he could use the tractor to pull the planter across the field in the spring.  Our Nevada Township farmer found that he was able to reduce the number of work horses he kept on the farm.  Soon the only field task, which he not able to perform with his Model 28-44 tractor was the cultivation of corn.  As a “standard” or “four-wheeled” tractor, the Model 28-44 was not configured to be fit with a cultivator.  Accordingly, our Nevada Township farmer had to retain some of his horses for this single field task—the cultivation of corn.

The cultivation of corn to control weeds was a task that dominated all his summers from June until the latter part of July.  Even now in the post-war era, he was still cultivating corn, one row at a time with his horses and horse-drawn one-row cultivator.  Cultivating corn was the most time-consuming activity on farm.  Hours, days and weeks of time were spent by our Nevada Township farmer riding the cultivator behind the horses watching the tiny shoots of corn pass between the two horses and slip between the two shields positioned on the cultivator to protect the young plants from being covered up by the dirt that was being stirred up by the shovels of the cultivator.  Our Nevada Township farmer vowed each spring to cultivate the entire corn field three times before the middle of July.  The first time, the corn was cultivated lengthwise.  This cultivation attempted to eliminate the weeds between the rows of corn.

Our Nevada Township farmer used the “check-wire” type of planting when he planted his corn each spring.  He stretched a wire across the length of the field.  Spaced along the wire at every 40 inches was a button.  The wire was attached to a tripping mechanism on the side of the corn planter during every trip across the field.  As the planter progressed across the field the wire would slide through the tripping mechanism on the corn planter.  As each individual button on the wire, the button would cause the planter to trip and both planting units on the two-row corn planter would plant corn seed at that location in the field.  Thus, when finished the entire field was planted in a “grid” of 40 inch rows and the individual corn plants within each row would each be 40 inches apart.  This grid allowed the corn to be cultivated cross-wise as well as length-wise.

Thus, the first time over the field with the cultivator, our Nevada Township farmer drove the horses and cultivator lengthwise across the field.  The shovels dug out all the weeds in between the rows of corn as the cultivator moved along.  However, this grid allowed the corn field to also be cultivated in a crosswise pattern.  Cross cultivating allowed the cultivator to dig out all the weeds had not been dug out in the earlier lengthwise cultivation—in particular those weeds which were growing up between the corn plants within the rows.  Consequently, in addition to the first time lengthwise cultivation of the corn, our Nevada Township farmer always wanted to complete a second cultivation of the corn in a crosswise pattern.  Ideally, the corn should be cultivated a third time.  Every spring our Nevada Township farmer pledged to cover the corn three times with the cultivator.  However, between the slow progress of cultivating with the horses one row at a time and the rainy days which prevented any field work, his plans were usually went awry.  Usually by the end of July the corn was too tall to fit comfortably under the frame of the cultivator and besides the corn was already to the “tasselling” stage.  Cultivation at this stage would do more harm than good to the corn.  Most years, our Nevada Township farmer found that the corn was already too tall before he had finished third cultivation.  Thus, our Nevada Township farmer would be forced to cease cultivation of the corn before he was done with the third cultivation.

For some time, our Nevada Township farmer had been aware that if he owned a tricycle-style tractor, he could mechanize his entire farming operation—including the cultivation of corn.  He might then have no need for horses at all on his farm.  The elimination of horses from the farm would allow our Nevada Township farmer to decrease the number of acres used for raising oats and hay on the farm.  Thus, more of the arable acreage on his farm would be available for cash crops.  This meant that he could derive more income for his farming operation.

However, in late 1941, about a year and half after he had purchased the Model 28-44 tractor, The United States found itself thrust into the Second World War.  Farm machinery of any kind and especially tractors became extremely difficult to obtain.  All farm tractor production was severely restricted as the industrial capacity of the United States was funneled entirely to the war effort.  Thus, for the duration of the war our Nevada Township farmer was required to continue using just the machinery he had at the beginning of the war.

The war brought about a great number of changes in the rural farm economy.  First and foremost were the high prices that farm commodities fetched during the war.  The United States government bought a great deal of food stuffs as the government attempted to feed its armed forces stationed around the world.  Large government buying in the agricultural products market raised prices of agricultural products across the spectrum.  These higher prices created new opportunities for farmers.  One such opportunity arose because of the disruption of trade between Australia and Great Britain.

Britain has traditionally been known as a nation of meat eaters.  In the pre-war era (before 1939), the average British citizen ate 109.6 pounds of meat.  (From a 1949 document, found on the Internet, called “Australia’s Contribution to the British Diet” by R. H. Heywood.)  By comparison, the average citizen of the United States ate 82.9 pounds of red meat in 1938.  Like the diet of the average United States citizen, most of the meat eaten by the British was beef.  However, unlike the United States, the second meat of choice in the British diet was mutton or lamb, while pork was in third place among meats in the British diet.  In the United States, pork was second behind beef in popularity while lamb fell far behind chicken and even fish in popularity.  (From a United States Department of Agriculture spread sheet called “Red Meat and Poultry per capita availability in the United States” found on the Internet.)  Indeed, citizens of the United States ate twice as much chicken and nearly four times as much fish and shellfish as lamb.  (Ibid.)

Time was, when Britain raised nearly all the sheep consumed by its own people.  However, following 1900, the increase the number of sheep in Great Britain did not keep up with the growing of the population.  (“Australia’s Contribution to the British Diet” by R. H. Heywood found on the Internet.)  Consequently, lamb and mutton began to be imported—largely from Australia.  By 1940, one third of all mutton consumed in Great Britain was imported.  (Ibid.)  However, the Japanese conquests of large parts of Southeast Asia and the threats to Australia, had a debilitating effect on Australia’s trade with Great Britain.  Additionally, what trade left the shores of Australia safely faced another difficulty.  The virtual closure of the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean Sea for the duration of the war meant that Australian shipping no longer had access to the Mediterranean “shortcut” to Britain.  Trade destined for Britain had to make its way around the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa on its way to Great Britain.  This added a great deal to the expense to the price of Australian sheep.  The price of sheep in the United States began climbing as early as February of 1938.  However, in April of 1941, with the German invasion of the Greek mainland and the island of Crete and the resultant threat on British shipping in the Mediteranean, the price of sheep in the United States rose to $6.40 per hundred weight—a price not seen since 1930.  Consequently, a niche opened in the sheep market for the American farmer.  The Midwest family farm was now able to compete profitably with Australian sheep producers for a share of the large British market.

In 1941, sheep and lamb production in the United States set a new all-time record of 2.3 billion pounds of meat.  (From an April 30, 1942 document called “Meat Animals—Farm Production and Income 1935-1941 found on the Internet.)  Despite this drastic increase in production of sheep in the United States of America, no glut appeared in the sheep market which might threaten the price.  Indeed the price of mature sheep (mutton) continued on a sharp increase—rising from $3.90 per hundred weight in 1940 to $5.10 per hundred weight in 1941 (a 31% increase in just one year).  (Ibid.)  Spring lamb prices rose from $8.10 per hundred weight in 1940 to $9.58 per hundred weight in 1941 (a 19% increase in one year).  (Ibid.)  The United States Department of Agriculture estimated that the sheep raisers saw a 27% increase in their income between 1940 and 1941.  (Ibid.)  After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor which drew the United States into the War, mutton prices remained at high levels as the United States put mutton into several C-ration military field kits.  (Many people now allege that putting mutton in military C-rations ruined the market for lamb and mutton for an entire generation of Americans.  After the war, returning World War II veterans absolutely refused to buy or eat lamb because of bad memories they retained of the mutton in the military field C-rations they had been forced to eat during the war.)

Favorable market conditions in the sheep market were reported over the radio—like WCCO radio out of the Twin Cities.  Our Nevada Township farmer began think hard about acquiring a small flock of ewes.  He was not alone.  Many farmers in his neighborhood were doing the same thing.  Indeed, for one farm family over in a neighboring township—Austin Township—sheep raising was already a major part of their farm income.  Earl Eugene and Margaret (Stormer) Subra owned a farm containing only 60-acres in Austin Township.  While, the Subra family milked some cows and raise some pigs, they virtually made all their cash income from sheep—pure bred Suffolk sheep.  Born in 1913, Earl Subra grew up on the farm of his parents William J. and Bertha (Dennis) Subra located in Austin Township.  Raised on his father’s farm, Earl had moved to his own farm.  In 1931, he and Margaret Stormer were married.  Earl began raising Suffolk sheep prior to 1940.  He chose Suffolk sheep because of the characteristics of breed.

The Suffolk breed was born as a result of the cross breeding of Southdown sheep with old Norfolk sheep in England.  Suffolks are not “wool” sheep.  They grow only a moderate amount of wool.  They were a breed of sheep known for their black faces and legs, which were free of wool.  Suffolk sheep were raised primarily as “meat” sheep.  Suffolk ewes (female sheep) were prolific in the production of offspring and were “good milkers.”  Suffolk lambs grew rapidly; they had more edible meat and less fat than other breeds.  Suffolks have excellent feed conversion characteristics which means that Suffolks have the capacity to actively graze and rustle for feed even on dry range lands.  However, this characteristic also means that when Suffolk lambs are raised on high quality feeds, the breed has one of the fastest growth rates of any breed of sheep.  Consequently, Suffolk sheep were rapidly becoming the most common breed in the Midwestern United States.  (Paula Simmons & Carol Ekarius, Storey’s Guide to Raising Sheep [Storey Publishing: North Adams, Massachusetts, 2001] p. 74.)

Earl Subra noted that Suffolks answered the demands of the market at the current time in 1940.  Meat, not wool, was the main product that was in demand in the current market.  Suffolks had the quality of lean meat that the market demanded.  Furthermore, the short five-month (147-153 day) gestation period plus the rapid growth rate of the individual lambs meant that the farmer could make money faster with Suffolks than with other breed of sheep.  Earl Subra knew that, drawn by the chance for making a good profit, many farmers would be attempting enter the sheep market by acquiring flocks of their own for the first time.  He also knew that many of these farmers would be choosing Suffolks.  Accordingly, in addition to raising and selling lambs to the Hormel meat packing plant in Austin, he felt he could also make a profit selling bucks (male sheep) and ewes (female sheep) to those farmers wanting to start their own flocks.  In this way he would be working with the rising tide of farmers entering the sheep market.  This, Earl Subra thought, was the way he could make a living out of the new situation that was arising.

However, to sell Suffolks to the farmers wishing to start their new flocks, Earl Subra felt that he needed to have a product that would these farmers would buy.  If Suffolk sheep had characteristics that would stand out among other breeds of sheep, then the goal should be to raise Suffolk sheep that would adhere closely to those characteristics and avoid any negative characteristics.  Indeed, there already was an organization in devoted to promoting the best characteristics of the Suffolk breed by educating Suffolk breeders.  This organization was the National Suffolk Sheep Association (N.S.S.A.) which was headquartered in Michigan and later was headquartered in Columbia, Missouri.  N.S.S.A. started a registration process by which purebred Suffolks could be registered with N.S.S.A.  N.S.S.A. would mail out a certificate of registration to the owner of the individual registered sheep.  In order to qualify for registration, both the sire (father) and dam (mother) must also have their own certificates of registration.  Theoretically, then every registered purebred Suffolk could be traced back through a paper trail of registration certificates to the original Suffolk sheep which initially defined the breed.  Each certificate of registration would document that the individual sheep was direct descendant of these original Suffolk sheep.

A registration fee was assessed by N.S.S.A. for each and every registration.  Farmers therefore tended only to register the best examples of Suffolk sheep in their flocks. Farmers would register only those sheep that were intended to keep as “breeding stock.”  Any sheep intended for market would not registered.  Usually all those sheep with lesser breed characteristics were sent to market.  These sheep might be purebred sheep, but they were non-registered purebreds.  Suffolks of unknown origin might look very good as far as breed characteristics, but because no paper trail of registration certificates could be assembled to show how they were connected to the original Suffolks, these sheep could never be registered, no matter how good they looked as far as breed characteristics.  These sheep are known as “grade” sheep.  The intended result of this registration process was that registered purebreds with their papers in good order would bring more money at any sale of breeding stock than either grade sheep or unregistered purebreds.

The N.S.S.A. sponsored judging shows of registered purebred Suffolk sheep to educate sheep growers on the best characteristics of the Suffolk breed.  The N.S.S.A. also promoted the “open class” sheep judging contests at the various state and county fairs around the nation.  Usually 4-H and FFA classes were also judged at these county and state fairs.  These judging contests were open only to members of the 4-H or FFA.  However, the “open class” show, which was open to sheep growers of all ages.  Within the open class competition, there were many different sub-divisions according to the breed of sheep.  Within each of these breed sub-division, only registered purebred sheep of that particular breed could be entered.  These judging competitions and shows were attempts to educate and sharpen the eye of individual breeders as to fine points of the breed.  The N.S.S.A. defined and evaluated exact standards as to the ideal Suffolk sheep.  Judges at county and state fairs around the nation were provided a “score card” which evaluated the various features of the Suffolk sheep and how many points were to be allowed for each feature.  The total number of points was 100 points of which 35 points were set aside for the rear legs alone.

Even prior to 1939, Earl Subra had been working on developing a flock of Suffolk sheep that reflected superiority in any number of individual features.  Soon his ewes and rams were winning a number of blue ribbons at the Mower County Fair which was held in the first week of August each year.  Earl also began to make a name for himself at the Minnesota State Fair.  Soon breeders from outside the Midwest, and even from Canada, were searching him out to purchase rams and ewes from the Subra flock.  These other breeders saw traits in the Subra sheep that they wished to include in the blood lines of their own flocks.  Consequently, Subra sheep were sold far and wide and Earl Subra became quite famous among Suffolk breeders across the nation.

Accordingly, when our Nevada Township farmer began to think seriously about obtaining a flock of sheep for his own farm, he though of the Subra farm located in the next township to the west.  Accordingly, in the fall of 1941, after watching the dramatic increase in the price of sheep over the summer (reaching $7.10 per hundred weight in August of 1941), our Nevada Township farmer purchased eight (8) purebred Suffolk ewes from Earl Subra in September of 1941 and brought them to his farm.  He hoped that adding sheep to his farming operation would be another diversification of the farming operation and the farm income.  He hoped this diversification would further strengthen his family’s financial position.

When our Nevada Township farmer bought the eight registered ewes, Earl Subra supplied him the corresponding N.S.S.A. registration certificates for each individual sheep.  Each registration certificate contained a registration number and was signed by the Suffolk breed secretary—Clare Williams of Michigan.  The registration number was matched to a number on a metal tag in the ear of the respective sheep.  On the registration certificate, were the registration numbers of both the sire (father) and dam (mother) of the particular sheep.  If needed, our Nevada Township farmer could use these sire and dam registration numbers to call the breed secretary and trace the registrations of the sire and dam back in time.

Introducing the ewes to his farm for the first time required that some changes be made to the farm.  The farm on which our Nevada Township farmer and his family lived was established in a series of concentric circles, each area fenced off from the next larger circle.  The immediate area around the house contained the lawns, the outhouse, dog house and family garden.  This was the inner yard.  A legal term for this area is “the curtilage.”   The next largest encircled area included most of the rest of the building site of the farm, the grove, the orchard and the windbreak running along the north and west sides of the building site.  This area was also called the “yard,” but the term was meant to be used in a larger sense than the mere curtilage around the house.  The area behind the barn was fenced off from the yard to keep the cows out of the yard.  Likewise the areas on either side of the hog house were fenced off to keep the pigs out of the yard and the chicken yard next to the hen house was fenced off to keep the chickens out of the yard.  All animals were kept out of the yard except the family dog and any cats from the barn.  These animals were actually encouraged to patrol the yard and keep rodents under control.  However, the yard was intended to be the main home for the small flock of sheep that he was now acquiring.

One of the benefits of a flock of sheep would be the fact that they would keep the grass and weeds in all area of the yard under control.  This would save labor and time that the family had, in the past, spent trying to keep these areas mowed and trimmed.  This was one of the advantages that our Nevada Township farmer looked forward to about having sheep on the farm.  However, there were also disadvantages.  One of the most important disadvantages was that all the fences around the yard had to be improved and reinforced.  Sheep were curious and would explore every portion of the area they occupy in order to find vegetation to eat.  First, the fence between the yard and the cartilage needed to be made more secure to keep the sheep from invading the cartilage and most importantly out of the family garden.  In the garden, the sheep could make quick work of the young succulent plants the family was trying to grow there.  The lawns inside the cartilage would continue to be mowed by the family, just as in the past.  Likewise the fences around the outside of the yard needed to be strengthened to prevent the sheep from getting into the fields where the farm crops were being raised.

Additionally, our Nevada Township farmer needed to take special precautions to protect the sheep.  He installed a gate across the driveway of his farm.  This was to keep the sheep from getting out onto the road and being struck by cars and/or trucks.  Also he obtained an old baby chick brooder house at an auction in his neighborhood.  The old brooder house was in fairly good shape with a shingled roof to repel rain and wooden siding for warmth in the winter and three windows along the back of brooder house to let in light.  These windows could be closed in the winter to keep the sheep warm and opened in the summer to let in the cool breezes on summer nights.  Our Nevada Township farmer wanted to convert this brooder house into a sheep shed for his farm.  The brooder house was mounted on four “six inch by six inch” wooden beams which ran the full length of the small building.  These beams acted as skids and allowed the building to be towed along on the ground by a tractor or team of horses.  Because the auction had been held not far from his farm, our Nevada Township farmer used his Oliver/Hart-Parr Model 28-44 tractor to drag the little building back to his own farm.

A secure sheep shed was needed to protect the sheep at night.  The worst predator for sheep on the typical Midwestern farm is the domesticated dog.  With the master and family gone to bed, their pet dog might slip away from his homestead in search of excitement.  Dogs will band together at night and chase and attack anything that runs.  Sheep habitually seek flight from danger by running every time they are chased.  Although thoroughly domesticated as pets, dogs will, nonetheless, refert to their wild nature and join together in packs at night to chase and kill the fleeing sheep.  Most times these are pet dogs from neighboring farms.  Our Nevada Township farmer knew that owners of these dogs, his own neighbors, will passionately deny that their dog ever leaves their own farm, much less has ever killed any sheep.  They just could not believe it about their family pet.  The neighbors would continue in their denials even when shown wool caught in their teeth the next morning, following any such attack.

Our Nevada Township farmer surely could not afford to lose one of these expensive purebred ewes due to a dog attack that could have been prevented.  Accordingly, the only way to avoid problems with neighborhood dogs was to lock the flock up in a secure sheep shed every night.  Thus, locking the sheep in the sheep shed became the last chore that our Nevada Township farmer completed every evening after the milking was done.  Although this chore was usually done after dark when the mid-day heat was past, the fall of 1941 was warmer than usual.  Consequently, on these warm nights, the sheep resisted going voluntarily into the sheep shed.  They preferred sleeping outside on the ground rather than being locked up in the sheep shed.  Accordingly, it took a little effort to round them up and get them into the sheep shed.

Our Nevada Township farmer made some improvements to the sheep shed/brooder house by nailing a couple of one inch by four inch boards to the inside frame of the windows.  These boards were nailed over the lower portion of each window in the brooder house no higher than the height of an average mature sheep.  These boards would prevent the windows from being accidentally broken by sheep moving boisterously about inside their new sheep shed during the night.  By protecting these windows from breakage, the windows could be closed in the winter for warmth and opened in the summer to catch the cool summer night breezes.

In one corner of the sheep shed, our Nevada Township farmer fixed a little hay rack to hold a single bale of hay.  With the “killing frost” expected any day, our Nevada Township farmer knew that soon he would have to feed the ewes hay to replace the vegetation that would no longer be available to the sheep after the frost.  He also built a little frame on the floor of another corner of the sheep shed.  This little frame was just the right size for a salt block.  On the next trip to Lyle, our Nevada Township farmer reminded himself that he would have to pick up a block of iodized salt at the Hunting elevator.

Since dogs only chased sheep in the night time hours, the arrival of early morning brought safety for the sheep.  Accordingly, the sheep could be let out of the sheep shed even before sunrise each morning.  Knowing how the sheep disliked being locked up in warm weather, our Nevada township farmer wanted to let the ewes out of the sheep shed as soon as possible in the morning.  Accordingly, he made sure that his first chore in the each morning was to walk out to the sheep shed and open the door of the shed to let the sheep out for the day.  On his way to the sheep shed, he made his way up the small hill in the back of the house to the windmill.  At the based of the windmill, our Nevada Township farmer unlatched and turned the crank connected to one of the four legs of windmill.  This crank was connected to a cable which ran up the leg of the tower to the head of the windmill located at the top of the tower. Unlatching the crank and loosening the crank allowed the vane of the windmill to swing loose and bring the wind wheel of the windmill around to face the direction of the wind.  Then the wind wheel began to turn and draw water up out of the ground.  Ordinarily, the water would be drawn up to a pipe that lead to an underground cistern.  Because this cistern was buried underground on the small hill, this cistern was actually at a higher level than the house and the barn on the farm.  Accordingly water could flow by means of gravity through an underground pipe down to the house and through another underground pipe to the barn.  Being underground the cistern was protected from freezing in the winter.  Therefore, the cistern and gravity provided “running water to both the house and the barn on the farm.  However, by turning a valve at the base of the pump jack, water could be diverted from flowing to the underground cistern and would be pulled by the windmill to the top of the pump jack where the water would flow out the pump jack and fill a tub that was sitting on top of the ground outside wooden fence that surrounded the base of the windmill.  This tub was the watering tank for the sheep.

Sheep needed fresh water available to them at all times.  Fresh water was important to sheep for a number of reasons.  Unlike cattle who can drink water of a wide variety of temperatures, sheep need water of 50°F in order to stay cool during hot weather.  Water also aided the transportation of nutrients around the body of the sheep and aided in the removal of waste matter from the body.  Additionally, water was required for some of the chemical reactions that were occurring inside the bodies of the sheep and water helped keep the cells of the bodies of the sheep hydrated and healthy.  The water now pouring out of the pump jack was of the correct temperature and came from a well that was around 300 feet deep and, thus, was fresh and free of any unhealthy bacteria that might be found in surface water.  After being locked up all night, the sheep came out of the shed in the morning and headed straight for their water tank.  Throughout the day they would find their way back to their water tank for another long drink.

After drinking water, the sheep would begin grazing.  Because they were exclusively planter eaters, the sheep would have to graze most of the day just to gather enough grass and plant life to sustain them.  The stomach or rumen of the individual sheep was divided into chambers or individual stomachs.  The rumen is designed to allow the sheep their graze for a couple of hours until their first stomach was full.  Then, they would lie down for about an hour to “chew their cud.”  During this process the “cud” or partially digested material in the first stomach would be regurgitated a mouthful at a time back up into the mouth for re-chewing.  After the cud had been sufficiently re-chewed, the cud would be re-swallowed into the second (regular stomach) and make its way through the regular digestive tract of the sheep.   Mouthful by mouthful the cuds would be chewed, until the first stomach was empty.

Cattle have the same type of digestive, however, sheep are much more efficient than cattle.  Any weed seeds that are ingested by cattle will pass through the entire digestive tract and will be discarded on the ground with the manure.  After the manure, has dried out and been incorporated into the soil, the individual weed seed may start growing again.  However, individual weed seeds will not survive the digestive system of the average sheep.  Accordingly, weeds that depend on seeds for propagation will not survive in any sheep yard like weeds in a cow pasture.  Only those plants that propagate from growth of the roots will survive in a sheep yard.

The Suffolk ewes grazed the outer yard and the grove and kept the grass and weeds under control much more efficiently than our Nevada Township farmer could ever have done the lawn mower or the scythe, even if he had had the time to do that chore.  They even ate the grass and weeds down around the old abandoned machinery that was parked in the grove. Evidence of the sheep’s recent grazing location could be seen in the little round marble-sized balls of fresh sheep manure, that could be seen around the yard.  Our Nevada Township farmer always felt that these little “marbles” of dung were neater and less messy than the “cowpies” of cattle.  Additionally, sheep manure was more valuable than cow manure.  Indeed, sheep manure, was richer in soil nutrients than any other manure on the farm.  Sheep manure has almost twice the nitrogen content of horse manure and more than twice the nitrogen found in cow manure.  Accordingly, when he cleaned out the sheep shed once a year, our Nevada Township farmer spread the sheep manure on the garden rather than taking it to the fields with the barn manure.

Nonetheless, having sheep in the outer yard took some adjustment of the family’s daily habits.  In the past, they might leave the granary door open as they moved back and forth from granary to the chicken house carrying pails of oats to feed the chickens every morning.  Now they had to be aware that the sheep were constantly watching for an opportunity for a chance to steal into the granary to get a few mouthfuls of shelled corn.  The family had to remember to close the granary door every time they made the short trip to the chicken house with pails of oats and corn for the chickens.  In the past the various gates to the inner yard might be left open for the better part of the day.  Not any longer.  The sheep seemed intent on taking any opportunity to invade the inner yard.  Having done so, they would not content themselves with eating the grass on the lawn, which might have been acceptable.  Instead, the sheep would head straight to the “salad bar”—the family garden— where they could eat all the tender young tops of the carrots or the rows of young, green lettuce plants or the English pea plants or the bean plants.  In a very short time the sheep could destroy the family garden.  Indeed, they were hesitant to leave even under threat of a family member running to the garden with a stick in hand or the rapid approach of the family dog, sent to “sic ‘em.”  They would watch the approach of the threat with one eye cocked toward the approaching threat.  Their bodies would be leaning toward the gate like a sprinter ready to start a race but still they would continue to eat as fast as they could to get every last mouthful before they were forced to run for the gate as fast as they could go.  Everywhere the family went in the yard, un-noticed eyes of the sheep were watching for any opportunity to pass through an open door or open gate into some forbidden area.  Once these patterns of behavior were adopted by the family members, the sheep began to find their niche on the farm.

Keeping the outer yard clear of weeds and overgrown plant life was just one of the benefits of the sheep, but our Nevada Township farmer also wanted to earn cash income from the sheep.  Although sheep have wool which can be sold as a product on the market, this did not amount to much in Suffolk sheep.  Suffolk sheep had only a moderate amount of wool.  They were primarily “meat sheep” not “wool sheep.”  The most money could be made from the sheep by the sale of their lambs.  Lambs which are fed a supplement of rolled oats and corn could reach market weight in as little as five months.  To be ready for the market in August or September, 1942, the lambs would have to be born in early spring—March or April of 1942—rather than in the late spring—May or June of 1942.  Lambs born in March and April would have the advantage of not having to contend with flies and other insect pests during their early life, as would lambs born in May and June.  From breeding until lambing, ewes have a five month gestation (pregnancy) period.  Thus, in order to have lambs in March, the ewes would our Nevada Township farmer needed to allow a ram to graze with the ewes as early as early as October in 1941.

Egg Raising in Dryden Township, Sibley County Minnesota (Part 1)

Statistics recorded with Counterize - Version 3.1.4

A McCormick-Deering Little Genius Plow at Work in

Dryden Township, Sibley County, Minnesota 

(Part 1 of 2 Parts)

 by

Brian Wayne Wells

(This is a new article that was never published in

Belt Pulley Magazine)

Mark Wells working with the Trebesch plow in the fields on the grounds of the LeSueur Pioneer Power Assoc. in 1994

The more a person works at restoration of an old farm tractor or a farm implement the more one begins to ponder the history of that farm implement.  One wonders, who originally purchased the farm implement.  What kind farming operation was the implement used for?   If curiosity is sufficiently aroused the person restoring the tractor or implement may start making telephone calls back to the person who sold the tractor and may start attempting to establish a chain of ownership of the tractor or implement back to the original owner.  However, the process of establishing the chain of ownership can be extremely difficult as time passes and memories fade.  Furthermore, when purchases of tractors and farm implements are made, as many are, at swap meets and/or auctions and when such purchases are made for cash from individuals unknown, the chain of ownership can be extremely difficult to reconstruct.  (Just how difficult it is to start reconstructing the history of a tractor when time passes is described in the two-part series of articles contained in the July/August 2008 and November/December 2008 issues of Belt Pulley magazine which deal with a 1937 Farmall Model F-20 tractor.)  Thus, it is often important to collect history of a particular tractor or implement at the point of sale or at least collect telephone numbers to call back at a later date.

 

The 1937 F-20 bearing the Serial No. 71355.

 

Such pondering over the history of the history of a particular implement was particularly true during the restoration of one particular McCormick-Deering Little Genius 2-bottom plow with 14″ bottoms.  (The actual restoration of this plow is described in the article carried on page 11 of the September/October 1994 issue of Belt Pulley magazine [Vol. 7, No. 5.  This article is called “The McCormick-Deering  Little Genius Plow” and has also been posted on this website.)  This particular plow was purchased by Mark Wells at the 1993 LeSueur County Pioneer Power Swap Meet.  Luckily, Mark Wells had written down the name and address of the seller of the plow–Larry Hiles of rural Arlington, Minnesota.

Arlington, Minnesota is located in eastern central Sibley County.

 

Contact was established with Larry Hiles in 1995.  Larry Hiles was living in Arlington Township in Sibley County.  The homestead was located just south of the village of Arlington.  This particular Little Genius plow had been discovered by Larry Hiles parked in the grove of trees that formed the wind break for this homestead.  The farm on which the homestead was located had been originally owned by Earl Nagel.  While living on the farm, Earl Nagel was actively engaged in farming the land.  In about 1956, the homestead on the farm was sold to Raymond Kraels, who was a rural mail carrier.  Raymond Kraels was not actively engaged in farming the land.  On July 12, 1974, Delmar and Bonnie Mae (Kopishke) Trebesch rented and moved onto the homestead on the Nagel/Krael farm.  During the years that the Trebesch family lived on the farm, they had a large garden.  The garden was so big that they needed a tractor plow to turn the soil of the garden at the conclusion of each growing season.  Accordingly, sometime after moving onto the farm, Delmar Trebesch purchased a McCormick-Deering Little Genius 2-bottom plow at a local farm auction.  This was the same McCormick-Deering Little Genius plow that was later sold by Larry Hiles to Mark Wells at the 1993 LeSueur County Pioneer Power Swap Meet and became known as the “Trebesch plow.”

Sibley County is located in the rich farm land of southern Minnesota.

 

As described in the article in the September/October 1994 issue of Belt Pulley, cited above, this particular Little Genius plow was fitted with 14 inch bottoms and originally had been a steel wheeled plow fitted with McCormick-Deering’s own “round-spoke” steel wheels.  However, the front wheels on this particular plow had been cut down and rims for rubber tires had been welded onto the round spokes of the front wheels.  As noted in the above-cited article, although the “furrow wheel” on the right side of the plow had been fitted with a rim for a 6.00 x 16 inch rubber tire, the land wheel on the left side of the plow was fitted with a rim for a 4.75 x 19 inch tire.  This seemed a rather odd pairing of tires sizes for the front of the plow.  If a farmer were having the steel wheels of the plow cut down to mount rubber tires on his plow, why would he not make the tires on both sides of the plow the same size?

Before the Second World War very few farm implements were sold from the factory with rubber tires.  Nonetheless, as noted in the 1994 article, the International Harvester Company (IHC) had been offering the Little Genius plow to the farming public with the option of rubber tires as early as the 1930s.  Rubber tires were not a common option on the Little Genius plow in the pre-world War II era.  However, during the “pre-war” era, IHC had a contract with the French and Hecht Company (F.& H.) of Davenport, Iowa, to supply rims for all the rubber-tired equipment sold under the McCormick-Deering name.  Pursuant to this contract, F.& H. supplied their familiar “round spoke” wheel rims to IHC.  When the option of rubber tires were requested on the Little Genius plow, IHC fitted the plow with a 6.00 x 16 inch tire on the furrow wheel and a 4.75 x 19 inch tire on the land wheel.

This followed the design pattern of the original steel-wheeled Little Genius plow, in which the land side wheel was bigger in diameter that the furrow wheel. The reason for this wheel configuration was that the land wheel was the wheel connected to the clutch of the plow.  The clutch on the land wheel was the mechanism that lifted the entire plow out of the ground when the trip rope was pulled at the end of the field.  Consequently, it was thought that a larger diameter wheel was needed to provide the traction and leverage necessary to pull the plow out of the ground in some heavy soil conditions where the surface of the ground was slippery.  This was the situation when plowing succulent green vegetation (green fertilizer) into the soil.  The land wheel rolling along on the vegetation could become slippery from the succulent plant life crushed under the land wheel.  Then when the trip rope in pulled the land wheel might slide along the surface of the ground rather than continuing to turn and lifting the plow out of the ground.  Accordingly, it was decided that the land wheel should be larger in diameter so as to provide more leverage when the clutch was engaged to pull the plow out of the ground.  As a result, the steel-wheeled version of the Little Genius plow was fitted with a 30 inch steel wheel on the land wheel side of the plow and a 24 inch steel wheel on the furrow wheel side of the plow.

The 30 inch steel wheel that was the original standard equipment wheel on the left side (land side) of the plow.

Thus, when the optional rubber tires were installed on the Little Genius plow at the factory in Canton, Illinois, the plow was fitted with a land wheel and tire of a larger diameter than the furrow wheel of the plow.  During the immediate pre-war era, the 6.00 x 16 inch tire was becoming the most commonly used tire on automobiles.  However, the 4.75 x 19 inch tire was also a well-known and popular size tire, it was the size of tire that was used on the very popular Ford Model A car.  Thus, the configuration of a 6.00 x 16 inch tire on the furrow wheel and a 4.75 x 19 inch tire on the land wheel became the standard configuration for Little Genius plows sold with rubber tires before the Second World War.  A 1941 picture of the showroom of the Johnson Bros IHC Dealership of Taylorsville, Illinois bears this out.  In the foreground of the picture is a new rubber-tired version of the Little Genius plow with a 6.00 x 16 inch tire on the furrow wheel and a 4.75 x 19 inch tire on the land wheel side of the plow.

 

Inside the showroom of a typical McCormick-Deering dealership in the immediate pre-war period of 1940 and 1941.

 

During the Second World War hardly any rubber was available for civilian use.  Consequently, IHC reverted to steel wheels on its new farm equipment.  Some time during the Second World War, the contract with F.& H. was terminated and IHC signed another supply contract for rims with the Electric Wheel Company of Quincy, Illinois.  The wheels provided by the Electric Wheel Company were “disc-type” wheels.  Thus, the “post-war” McCormick-Deering Little Genius plow becomes distinguishable from the “pre-war” Little Genius plow fitted with rubber tires, in that disc-type wheels characterized post-war Little Genius plows and F.& H. round-spoke wheel rims characterized pre-war Little Genius plows fitted with rubber tires.   Thus, when cutting down the steel wheels of the Trebesch plow, someone had done a lot of work to make the plow appear as though it came from the factory as a rubber tired plow during the pre-war era.

The left side (land side) wheel on the Delmer Trebesch 2-bottom plow that was fitted with a 19 inch by 4.75 inch Model A Ford car tire.

By 1974, when Delmar Trebesch ended up being the highest bidder on this particular “Little Genius” plow, the increased size of the average farming operation and the larger equipment used on the average farm had definitely made this two-bottom tractor trailing plow into an “antique” from a bygone era.  However, there was a time when this particular Little Genius plow had been a new object of attention for a particular farmer looking to modernize his farming operation.  Continue reading Egg Raising in Dryden Township, Sibley County Minnesota (Part 1)

Potato Farming in North Dakota with a 1937 Famall F-20 (Part 2)

Statistics recorded with Counterize - Version 3.1.4

Potato Farming in No. Dakota with A 1937 F-20 (Part II)

by Brian Wayne Wells

(As published in the November/December 2008 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine)

Grafton Potato Growers Inc.: A major potato buyer of potaotes in Grafton, the county seat of Walsh County, North Dakota.

As noted previously, Walsh County, North Dakota borders the Red River of the North in eastern North Dakota.  (See the first article in the series called “Potato Farming in North Dakota [Part I]” contained in the July/August 2008 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.)  Because of its location and its light rich soils, Walsh County traditionally leads all 53 counties of North Dakota in the production of potatoes.  Indeed, some years, Walsh County produces 40% of the North Dakota’s total annual potato crop.  Walsh County is divided into 37 townships.  The townships on the extreme eastern edge of Walsh County that border the Red River are not the leading townships in the county in potato production.  Rather it is the “second range” of townships back from the Red River that are regarded as the best locations for the growing of potatoes.  Among this second tier of townships in Walsh County is Martin Township.

A map of North Dakota showing the location of Walsh County. The eastern boundary of North Dakota is formed by the Red river of the North.

 

As noted previously, Martin Township was, in 1936, the home of a particular farmer and his wife and two children.  Together they lived on a diversified 160-acre farm on which they raised potatoes as a primary cash crop.  However, they also raised spring wheat, corn, oats and hay.  They also milked a small herd of Holstein dairy cattle.  They had a chicken house full of laying hens and a few hogs in an attempt to diversify the sources of farm income as much as possible.  Consequently, a large portion of the arable land of their farm was taken up by pastureland and crops used as feed for the animals on the farm.  Martin Township was located so far north in the Midwest that the typical growing season was only 110 days long, extending only from an average last frost in the spring on about May  11 until the first killing frost in the fall on about September 11.  Corn which requires a 120-day season, does not, therefore, have enough time to mature in Martin Township.  This far north, corn is not a cash crop and is used as an animal feed on the farm.  Consequently, all the corn, raised by our Martin Township farmer was chopped green and put in the silo to be fed to his dairy herd.  Only wheat and potatoes were sold as cash crops.

A township map of Walsh county showing the location of Martin Township north of the county seat of Grafton, North Dakota on the northern border of Walsh County.

 

As the growing season approached in the Spring of 1937, our Martin Township farmer was reducing the amount of the acreage to be devoted to oats and hay on his farm for the coming year.  The reason for this was that over the winter of 1936-1937 he had purchased a new row crop tractor which would, eventually, replace the horses on his farm.  As noted previously, this new tractor was a Farmall F-20 tractor bearing the Serial Number 71355.  (Ibid.)  He had purchased No. 71355 from the Honsvald Oil Company in Grafton, North Dakota, the county seat of Walsh County.  (Ibid.)

An advertisement of the Grafton Implement Company, which formerly had been known as the Honsvald Oil Company.

 

No. 71355 was a tricycle-style tractor with a narrow front end, and factory-installed 5.50 x 16 inch rubber tires mounted on French and Hecht (F. & H.) round-spoke wheels in the front and 11.25 x 24 inch tires also mounted on F. & H. round-spoke tires in the rear.  Because the tractor had been fitted with rubber tires at the International Harvester Farmall Works factory in Rock Island, Illinois, No. 71355 was also fitted with the optional foot brakes and was fitted with the optional 28-tooth high speed road gear.  With the more common 36-inch rubber wheels in the rear, this optional road gear would have delivered a speed of 7.07 miles per hour (m.p.h.) to the tractor.

A Farmall model F-20 tractor configured with 24 inch rubber tires in the rear and French & Hecht round-spoke rims front and rear, just as No. 71355 was configured when it arrived at Honsvald Oil Company in Grafton, North Dakota.  The narrow front end of the tricycle-style of No. 71355 would provide our Martin Township farmer with the ability to perform all the field activities on his farm including the cultivation of row crops.

 

However, because No. 71355 was fitted with the optional 24-inch wheels in the rear, the speed of the tractor in every gear was reduced by almost 1/3.  Accordingly, the speeds available to No. 71355 through its four speed transmission were 1.575 mph in first gear, 1.925 mph in second gear, 2.275 mph in third gear and 4.666 mph in the optional fourth gear.

A Heisler step-up transmission mounted on a Farmall model F-20.

 

Because this range of speeds was painfully slow for cultivation and other light duty field work, our Martin Township farmer had agreed to the installation of a supplemental high-speed transmission to No. 71355, as a part of the original purchase contract.  The particular high-speed supplemental transmission installed by the Honsvald Oil Company to No. 71355 was the Model HT-2033 supplemental transmission manufactured by the Heisler Company of Hudson, Iowa.  (Ibid.)  The Model HT-2033 supplemental transmission added some very important working speeds back to the tractor that had been taken away by the 24 inch wheels.  These were 3.654 mph in high range of first gear, 4.46 mph in high range of second gear, 5.25 mph in high range of third gear.  Additionally, the new Heisler transmission added a road gear of 11.28168 mph to the F-20 for fast transport down the road when needed.  To be able to use No. 71355 for the most important of summer field work tasks, i.e. cultivation of the row crops, our Martin Township farmer had included the purchase of a Model 229 two-row mounted cultivator as part of the same sales contract with Honsvald.  Additionally, as noted previously, the purchase contract with Honsvald Oil Company also included the purchase of a new Model 12 two-row potato digger.

This advertising photo for the new Model 12 two-row potato digger shows that when the F-20 tractor is fitted with 24 inch wheels in the rear the tractor can pull the two-row potato digger. This convinced our Martin Township farmer to include a Model 12 two-row potato digger as a part of the purchase package with No. 71355.

 

Throughout most of January and early February, 1937, there had been accumulations of ten to twelve inches of snow on the ground.  However, unseasonably warm temperatures in early March melted the snow entirely by the middle of the month.  Now our Martin Township farmer had to wait for the soil to dry out and warm up.

Our Martin Township farmer knew of the old “rule” which stated that potatoes should be planted each year on Good Friday of the Easter holidays.  However, like most such rules, our Martin Township farmer knew that this rule did not apply to the “far north” of the Midwest where Grafton, North Dakota was located.  Most years in Walsh County, the last heavy frost in the spring occurred in early May.  Furthermore, he suspected that the old rule referred to potatoes planted in gardens in “sheltered” areas around the homestead.  He knew that the soil out in the open fields took a little longer to warm up in the spring than did the soil in the protected areas around the house.

In the spring of 1937, our Martin Township farmer was able to use the same Little Genius No. 8 two-bottom plow with 14 inch bottoms with No. 71355, which he had used the previous autumn with his old Model 10-20 tractor, to finish the plowing of his fields.

 

April, 1937 was slightly warmer than normal and so was early May.  The last cold night that even approached a killing frost occurred in mid-April.  Furthermore, the gentle rains that occurred throughout April and May helped warm the soil.  These springtime rains dried quickly in the light soil of his farm and did not unduly delay the field work because of wet conditions.  Accordingly, our Martin Township farmer got into the fields in early May of 1937.   He put the bright, red No. 71355 to work preparing seed bed.  Both the spring wheat and oats could germinate in soil as cool as 37°F while seed potatoes required a temperature of 42°F.  Therefore, our Martin Township farmer and his neighbors usually sowed the spring wheat and the oats before planting the potatoes.  By contrast, corn required a soil temperature of 50°F for planting.  Accordingly, corn was planted only after the potatoes.

Cutting the seed potatoes into pieces, by hand, so thatevery piece included at least two “eyes,” was a wintertime activity when potato plots were small. The pieces would then be placed in sacks to await springtime planting. Meanwhile the cut edge of the potato piece would “cure” to prevent rot. The sacks of potato pieces would have to be stored in the cellar of the house; warm enough to keep them from freezing and yet cool enough to retard early sprouting of the eyes of the potato pieces.

 

Cutting the seed potatoes into pieces ready for the potato planter was a job that employed the whole family and it was an ambitious job to be conducted each spring as planting time arrived.  The average potato might weigh 8 to 12 ounces.  After cutting the potatoes into pieces ready for planting, each piece would weigh about 2.5 oz to 3.75 oz.  In the past, potato growers and their families would cut all the potatoes by hand with a knife.  Our Martin Township farmer remembered that even as a small child, he helped his parents with this daunting task of cutting the potatoes for planting.  His mother would admonish him to be careful to leave two or three “eyes” on each piece of potato he cut.  “Don’t make dummies,” she said, referring to potato pieces which had no eyes.  The eyes of the potato were the locations on the potato where the spouts of the new plant would begin to form once the potato was underground.  Leaving two or more eyes on a seed potato piece would be extra insurance that the seed potato piece would still sprout and grow even if one eye failed to sprout.  Our Martin Township farmer’s mother used to joke with him as a child and say that the potato piece needed two eyes to see which way to grow.

Pre-sprouting of the seed potatoes reveals the locations of the “eyes” of the potatoes.

 

Once cut, the seed potato pieces would be placed in a sack and sacks full of potato segments would be placed in the root cellar where the potato pieces would be kept warm enough to not freeze in the winter weather and would be kept cool enough not start sprouting.  Additionally, the cut sides of the potato pieces would “cure” or “heal over” and the potato piece would be protected from rotting.

Seed potatoes laid out on a tray with holes in the tray. Air will circulate around all sides and edges of the potato pieces and heal over the cut surfaces of the potato pieces to prevent them from rotting,

 

He remembered that cutting seed potatoes by hand was a long and arduous task in the spring because the family would have to cut enough potatoes to plant 11,600 pieces for every acre of land they intended to plant to potatoes.  This meant the family would have to cut enough pieces to fill as many as 14 sacks of potato sections for each acre of potatoes they wished to plant.  Currently for the 30 acre field that our Martin Township farmer wished to plant to potatoes, he needed 420 sacks full of seed potato pieces.  Cutting this many seed potatoes would have been impossible for the family alone without hiring on extra help.  However, a relatively recent and ingenious invention made in the 1920s by a local boy, greatly reduced the hand labor of cutting the potatoes into sections in the spring.

g George W. French’s mechanical seed potato cutter dating from the rime of its invention in the 1920’s.  The mechanical cutting of seed potatoes into pieces ready for planting, greatly speeded the process of preparing for spring time planting, 

 

During the 1920s, George W. French, from rural Grafton, North Dakota, invented a mechanical potato cutter which would cut small potatoes into two pieces and large potatoes into six pieces.  (Lynda Kenney, The Past is Never Far Away: A History of the Red River Valley Potato Industry [Potato Growers Association Press: East Grand Forks, Minn., 1995] p. 123.)  The French potato “sizer and cutter” was a new invention that greatly reduced the amount of time that was taken up cutting potatoes for planting.  French’s potato cutter also “sized” the potatoes for planting with a mechanical potato planter.  Mechanical potato planters worked much more smoothly when the seed potato pieces were cut into relatively uniform chunks.  The French potato sizer and cutter did a good job at creating uniform chunks for planting in the field.

If seed potato pieces are stored in too warm of an environment, they will begin to sprout and grow before they be planted in the Spring.

 

Although the French mechanical potato cutter could not assure that every seed potato piece that was produced by the machine would have an eye, the process of cutting a great number of seed potato pieces for planting was simplified.  Thus, some “dummies” or “duds” would escape the careful attention of the potato farmer and his family in  the automatic cutting process and make it into the sacks of potato pieces that would be stored in the root cellar and may be planted in the field.  other seed potato pieces and would be planted even though they would not grow.  When the potatoes would sprout up through the ground there would  be a “gap” or  a blank in the row where the dummy had been planted.  Our Martin Township farmer began to expect and to tolerate these occasional gaps in the rows of growing potatoes.  He surely did not want to go back to hand-cutting the potatoes with a knife, just to eliminate all dummies.

 

The modern industrial sized and computerized seed potato cutter grew out of Henry  French’s simple mechanical seed potato cutter invented in the 1920s. and can produce seed potato segments of what-ever size is desired and will produce many less “dummies” than non- The computerized capability of this cutter will assure that there are many less “dummies.”

Continue reading Potato Farming in North Dakota with a 1937 Famall F-20 (Part 2)

Cotton Picking in South Carolina

Statistics recorded with Counterize - Version 3.1.4

Cotton Picking in South Carolina with a

John Deere Model 630 Tractor

by

Brian Wayne Wells

(As published in the January/February 2008 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine)

            As noted in a previous article, Deere and Company had, ever since the late 1940s entertained great hopes that their cotton pickers would have the same overnight success that had greeted the introduction of the small combine and/or the introduction of the corn picker into the farm market.  (See the article called “Cotton Picking on the Mississippi Delta” contained in the November/December 2007 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.)

When the small combine was made available to the North American farmer at the end of the Second World War, there had been a revolutionary change in which small grains were harvested.  The small combine entirely replaced the stationary thresher in a period of a very few years.  Similarly, the introduction of the corn picker had quickly replaced the hand picking of corn and the stationary corn shredder on North America farms.

To some degree, the expected revolutionary change did greet the introduction of the mechanical cotton picker.  The cotton picker had swept the state of California by storm.  Although, in 1949, only 12% of the cotton in California was harvested by machine, this figure mushroomed to 35% in 1950; then to 52% in 1952; to 60% in 1953 and up to 67% in 1956.  Cotton growers in California recognized that mechanical picking of cotton cost only about $7.00 per acre, on average, as opposed an average of about $40.00 to have the same acre of cotton picked by hand.  As noted in the above-cited article, however, California’s experience with the cotton picker was not repeating itself in the lower Mississippi River Valley.  Statistics revealed that in 1957, while fully 67% of the cotton grown in California had been picked by machine, only 27% of the cotton of the lower Mississippi Valley was being harvested by machine.

Even more dramatically, cotton farmers in South Carolina appeared to be even more reluctant than the cotton planters of the lower Mississippi River valley to adopt the mechanical method of cotton harvesting.  Only 2% of the cotton raised in South Carolina in 1952 had been picked by machine.  This figure had risen to 8% in 1954.  However, since that time, use of the mechanical cotton picker had actually declined—to 4% in 1955 and 1957.  In last fall’s harvest, 1958, use of the cotton picker had fallen to only 1% of all the cotton grown in South Carolina.  Even those cotton farmers in South Carolina that had employed a mechanical picker in the past, now appeared to be reverting, once more, to hand picking of cotton during the 1958 harvest.

Still, despite the slowness of sales of the cotton picker in South Carolina, Deere and Company remained hopeful that the change to cotton pickers would occur in South Carolina.  Indeed, Deere and Company felt that 1959 might be the year when sales of mechanical cotton pickers “took off.”  The Company rationalized that the decline in sales of cotton pickers in 1958 may well have been the result of the recession that had gripped the United States economy from August of 1957 until April of 1958.  Thus, Deere and Company remained optimistic for the new year.

Cotton pickers continued to be produced in large numbers at the John Deere factory works in Moline, Illinois and the Company continued to send large numbers of the cotton pickers to their regional branch/warehouses in the south including the one  located at 5147 Peachtree Street in the Atlanta suburb of Chamblee, Georgia.  This branch/warehouse served the local dealerships in the southeastern United States including those in the state of Georgia and South Carolina.

The most popular cotton picker being offered by the John Deere Company was the Model 22.  The Model 22 was a single row cotton picker that was designed to be mounted on a narrow front-end—“tricycle”—style “row-crop” tractor.  The Model 22 cotton picker was only mounted on the tractor during harvest season.  The cotton picker could be removed from the tractor at the end of the harvest season.  Thus, the tractor would be free for other farm tasks throughout the rest of the growing season.

As part of the process of mounting the cotton picker, the cotton farmer was required to open up the transmission of the tractor and reverse a gear in the transmission.  This simple procedure would have the effect of allowing the tractor’s forward working speeds and road gear to act in reverse.  Once the cotton picker was mounted on the tractor, the operator would sit on special seat on the cotton picker above the normal tractor operator’s seat and facing the rear of the tractor.  The steering wheel, throttle, clutch and other controls of the tractor were modified and extended to be accessible from the new rearward facing operator’s seat on the cotton picker.  The same wheels that steered the tractor in its normal configuration, now steered the tractor and mounted cotton picker in its new configuration.  However, these wheels were now in the rear of the machine rather than at the front.  The large driving wheels were now in the front of the machine.

As noted in the previous article, the Model 22 cotton picker had been introduced by Deere and Company in the fall of 1956.  (Ibid.)  The Model 22 was designed to fit on any tricycle-style, row-crop version of either the John Deere Model 520, Model 620 or the Model 720 tractor.  The four-plow Model 620 tractor proved to be the most popular tractor of the 20 series.  During the two years of its production, 21,117 Model 620 tractors of the tricycle or row crop design, alone, had been produced and sold.  (Production Log of the John Deere Waterloo Tractor Factory 1929-1972, pp. 43-44.)  As noted previously, the Model 620 became the tractor that was most commonly paired with the Model 22 cotton picker.

Now in the summer of 1958, Deere and Company was introducing the new 30-series tractors which were to replace the 20-series tractors.  By October, 1958, the retooling of the Waterloo plant was complete and the factory was turning out 162.17 tractors of all models (Model 830, Model 730, Model 630 and Model 530 tractors) and styles (tricycle row crop or standard “four wheel” tractors) per day.  However, fully a third, or 31.2%, of all the tractors that were produced at the Waterloo facility were Model 630 tractors of the tricycle or row crop design.  (Ibid.)  Every day an average of 50.65 Model 630 tractors of the tricycle design rolled off the assembly line at the Waterloo plant. (Ibid.)

Although there were substantial cosmetic differences between the 20 series tractors and their corresponding models of the 30 series, the tractors, underneath these cosmetics changes, remained almost identical.  Once again, it was expected by Deere and Company, that the four-plow Model 630 row crop tractor would be the tractor most often sold together with the Model 22 cotton picker.  Accordingly, the Company continued to ship a large number of Model 630 John Deere tractors the cotton raising areas of the southeastern United States.

On Friday, October 3, 1958, two Model 630 tractors bearing the serial numbers 6301691 and 631692 were making their way along the final part of the assembly line in the Waterloo plant.  Both tractors were of the tricycle configuration and had gasoline-powered engines.  (Production Register: The John Deere Waterloo-Built “30”Series Tractors [Two-Cylinder Pub.: Grundy Center, Iowa, 2000] p. 71.)  At the end of the assembly line, the tractors faced their most important test.  The two tractors needed to start and be driven off the assembly line under their own power.  Accordingly, a worker at the end of the assembly line jumped up into the operator’s seat of No. 6301691 and switched on the ignition and stepped down on the starter button with his right foot.  Like magic the two-cylinder 321 cubic inch engine, with a 5½ inch bore and a 6 3/8 inch stroke,  popped a couple of times and came to life.  Giving the engine a little more gasoline by pushing the throttle ahead with his left hand, the worker shifted the tractor into gear and then grabbed the large clutch lever with his right had and eased the lever forward to engage the clutch.  No. 6301691 moved ahead smoothly off the assembly line and directly out of the factory building.  Right behind this tractor on the assembly line, No. 6301692 also passed its “test” and that same day both tractors were loaded up on a railroad flat car to be combined with an Illinois Central Railroad train which was headed east out of Waterloo toward Dubuque, Iowa (1950 pop. 49,671).  Continue reading Cotton Picking in South Carolina