The Barn on the Grounds of the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association
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.
In the spring of 2016 a new structure arose on the grounds of the LeSueur Pioneer Power Association. This was a barn that had been originally built in the 1880s near the small village of Almena, Wisconsin. The Village of Almena is located in Barron County in Wisconsin. Indeed the Village of Almena is located on the eastern boundary of the “Town” of Almena. The word “Town” should not be confused with the word “village.” In Wisconsin, the word Town refers to a piece of land 6 miles by 6 miles square. In other states this geographical piece of land would be called a “Township.” Continue reading The Barn on the Grounds of the LeSueur Pioneer Power Association→
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A McCormick-Deering Little Genius Plow at Work in
Dryden Township, Sibley County, Minnesota
(Part 1 of 2 Parts)
Brian Wayne Wells
(This is a new article that was never published in
Belt Pulley Magazine)
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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)→
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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)
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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Cotton Picking in South Carolina with a
John Deere Model 630 Tractor
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→
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The Rinehardt/Christian/Boehne Allis Chalmers Model E Tractor
by Brian Wayne Wells
(As published in the March/April 2007 issue of
Belt Pulley Magazine)
Minnesota’s Henderson Township is located in the southeast corner of Sibley County, of the state of Minnesota. The Minnesota River flows along the eastern edge of the township. The River’s meandering course forms the political boundary between Henderson Township and Tyrone Township, which is located in neighboring LeSueur County. To the south of Henderson Township is Lake Prairie Township in Nicollet, County which is also adjacent to the Minnesota River. Across the Minnesota River from Lake Prairie Township was Sharon Township another LeSueur County township that lay south of Tyrone Township. Much of land area of these four townships is included in the southern hardwood forest on the state of Minnesota. As such this area became the home of a considerable, if small scale, hardwood industry. For decades settlers and farmers have felled the hardwood trees and sawn the logs into lumber to build their homes and barns. Many local farmers obtained a small circular saw mill rig with the intent of supplementing their farm incomes with wintertime income sawing lumber for their neighbors.
In the early 1930s, during what became known as the Great Depression, farmers in the Minnesota River Valley were merely trying to hang onto their farms and were not really worried about constructing buildings on their farm site. However, as the economy recovered and things started to get back to normal in the mid and late 1930s, farmers began again to think of improving their farming operations by adding additional structures and renovating the structures they already had. Six (6) miles southwest of the village of Henderson, Minnesota (1930 pop. 672), lived Rudolph and Ernestine (Doerr) Adams. Rudolph (nicknamed Rudy) and Ernestine lived in the house in the country with their newborn (May 23, 1936) son, Donald Rudolph. However, they did not farm the land directly. Instead Rudy and his older brother, George H. Adams worked together to make their living from threshing the small grain in the neighborhood during the summer months and sawing logs and making lumber for their neighbors in the wintertime. For threshing in the summer Rudy and George owned a Woods Brothers thresher with a 36 inch cylinder and a 58 inch separating table. Like most threshers of the time, the thresher had a “self-feeder” with a band cutter and with a “double wing” extension fitted onto the self-feeder. The self feeding mechanism had the capability of cutting the twine string around each bundle of grain and feeding the bundles automatically to the cylinder. Previously, a crew member had been required to stand on a platform at the front of the thresher and cut the twine on each bundle of grain and “hand feed” the bundle into the thresher by hand. The “double wing” extension of the self-feeder allowed two elevators attached to the self-feeder to be swung around and extended out at a 90º angle to the thresher on each side of the thresher. The double-wing self feeder was designed for “stack threshing.” As opposed to “shocking” their bundles of small grain in the grain field in “shocks” made up of seven to nine bundles each, some farmers of the neighborhood preferred to store their grain bundles in specially designed stacks built from the bundles. Carefully, constructed, a stack of bundles could be designed to shed rain water and keep the bundles perfectly dry until threshing day. These stacks were cylindrical and slightly conical in shape and were about 30 feet in diameter. On threshing day, the thresher would be pulled up to a location between two stacks on a farm. Then the wings of the self-feeder would be swung out and positioned to located over the center of the stacks of bundles on either side of the thresher. Crew members then needed only to stand on top of the stack and load the bundles of the stack onto the elevator wing with pitch forks.
To power and transport the thresher around the neighborhood, Rudy and George owned a 60 hp. (horsepower) J.I. Case Company traction steam engine. Helping the Adams Brothers with his threshing and saw mill business was a neighbor– Henry W. (Hank) Reinhardt. Hank and Irene (Delzer) Reinhardt rented 160 acre farm in Henderson Township. There they lived and worked with their son, Victor. Hank worked the land during the summer on his diversified farming operation. During July and August each year he would travel around the neighborhood following Rudy Adams and the thresher to help with the neighborhood threshing. Since the time when his son, Victor, became old enough to drive a team of horses, Hank would take Victor along as part of the threshing crew. Victor had the job of driving a team pulling a water wagon. He would hand-pump the 500-gallon tank on the water wagon full of water from whatever water source happened to exist on the particular farm where they were threshing. Then he would drive the team pulling the full tank of water to the grain field where the steam engine was at work. Then he would, again, hand-pump the water out of the tank on the water wagon into the 260 gallon “on board” water tanks located on the steam engine itself. Once that tank was full, the water intake hoses from the steam engine would be dropped into the opening in the top of the tank on the water wagon. For a while, Victor would have be able to take a rest while the steam engine drew all the water it needed directly from the water wagon. Once the water in the water wagon was all gone, the intake hoses were withdrawn from the water wagon and the steam engine went back to drawing its water from the on-board water tank. It was up to Victor to hurry off to fill the water wagon again and return before all the 260 gallons of water in the on-board water tank was used up. Victor was kept busy all day working on the water wagon just to assure that the steam engine always had water available for the boiler.
As published in the September/October 2003 issue of
As noted earlier the “waist” of Minnesota is the narrow part of the state, as it appears on a map. (See the article called “The Possible Story of One” Part I of the Loren Helmbrecht Tractor contained in the May/June 2003 issue of Belt Pulley magazine at page 28.) The waist is located roughly half way between the northern and southern parts of the state. Located in the waist, bordering Sherburne County on the north side is Mille Lacs County. (See the above-cited article for a description of Sherburne County.)
This area of the State of Minnesota is where the deciduous hardwood forests of the southeastern portion of the State end and the northern coniferous forests begin. (Theodore C. Blegen, Minnesota: A History of the State [University of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis, 1963] p. 11.) The pine and fir trees of the northern coniferous forests spring from the same sandy soil that covers Mille Lacs County.
As described in an earlier article, the sandy soil of the area had made the area of Sherburne and Mille Lacs County a good place to raise potatoes. Potato farming had thrived in the area of Mille Lacs and Sherburne Counties since 1890. (See “The Possible Story of One F-12” cited above.) In 1908, potato marketing cooperative associations began making their appearance in the State of Minnesota. (Blegen at p. 399.) In 1920, the Minnesota Potato Exchange was formed.
Princeton Minnesota (1920 pop. 1,685) served as a marketing outlet for the area potato crop. Indeed, in 1901 and 1902 Princeton became the largest primary potato market in the Northwest. One of the major potato buyers in Princeton was O.J. Odegard Farms Inc. Although, the Odegard family operated their own potato and onion growing operations on their own farm called “the bog,” Odegard’s served as a major buyer of potatoes for the entire Princeton area.
During the potato harvest in the fall of the year, the Odegard warehouse, located on 2nd South Street became a major employer in town. Potatoes were received washed and packed into 100 lbs. sacks and loaded onto freight cars of the Great Northern Railroad. The Great Northern tracks ran through town, north towards the county seat of Milaca and south to the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. The loading of the freight cars took place at the Great Northern Railroad Depot which is located at 10th Avenue and 1st Street in Princeton. (This depot is now the home of the exhibits and library materials of the Mille Lacs County Historical Society.) The potatoes were sold to wholesalers in Minneapolis.
Not only did Odegards hire on employees to work the harvest and processing of potatoes in the fall of the year, but they also hired on teenagers all summer to work on their hands and knees weeding the fields of their own farm in the bog. This made Odegards the largest employer in the Princeton area. (Taken from the manuscript called Memories of Princeton, Minnesota by Elvin Papenhausen.)
Princeton even developed into a market for the “culls” or unsatisfactory potatoes that potato growers could not sell on the edible potato market. These cull potatoes were used in the manufacture of commercial starch. On March 26, 1890 the Princeton Potato Starch Company was incorporated and a factory was built. The factory was so busy processing cull potatoes that the factory operated both day and night. Later a second starch factory was built in Princeton. (From an internet document called “History of Princeton, Minnesota.”)
In 1919, following, the First World War, the International Harvester Company made their first major corporate acquisition since 1904, when they purchased the Parlin & Orendorff (P. & O.) Company of Canton, Illinois. (C.H. Wendel, 150 Years of International Harvester [Crestline Pub.: Sarasota, Fla., 1981], p. 31.) Along with their famous line of plow, the P. & O. Company also had introduced a mechanical potato digger several years prior to the merger with International Harvester. The International Harvester Company inherited this horse-drawn mechanical potato digger. (Ibid. p. 237.) In 1920, International Harvester continued production of this potato digger, with some substantial improvements. The potato digger was called the McCormick-Deering Model No. 6 potato digger. (Ibid.) One of the improvements of the Model No. 6 over the prior P.&O. Company potato digger was the rod-link chain apron. The potatoes would travel over the moving apron which would shake off all the dirt. The potatoes would then be deposited on top of the ground in plain view for the field hands to collect. (Ibid.)
In 1920 the local International Harvester dealership franchise in Princeton, Minnesota may have been held by the owner and operator of the local hardware store. Starting in 1920, the International Harvester dealership in Princeton was able to compete in the potato growing market by supplying the area potato farms with mechanical potato diggers. In 1921, International Harvester introduced the new McCormick-Deering potato planter. Together the Model No. 6 potato digger and the new McCormick-Deering potato planter allowed the dealership in Princeton to prosper all through the early part of the 1920s. Sales of farm equipment allowed the hardware store to advertise employment for a position of farm equipment sales person.
In answer to the newspaper advertisement of the position of sales person at the hardware store an ambitious 24-year-old man by the name of Floyd Hall arrived in Princeton. Born in Henry, South Dakota, on January 30, 1896 to W. K. and Grace (Henry) Hall, Floyd had married Eva Leathers on October 11, 1916. Eva was also from the town of Henry. In 1918, while still living in Henry, Eva had given birth to their son, Willard F. Hall. Now in 1920, she was pregnant again with a daughter. Marjorie Hall was born to the couple in December of 1920.
As published in the November/December 1999 issue of
Belt Pulley Magazine
By the time Sears Roebuck bought out the David Bradley Manufacturing Company in 1910, the “David Bradley” name was already associated with a wide range of different farm machinery products manufactured at its site in Bradley, Illinois. Nonetheless, the company remained small and relatively unknown outside its local market. Its connection with the Sears mail-order system, however, changed all that. Once David Bradley farm implements were offered to the public through Sears catalogue, David Bradley became a household name across the nation.
After Sears purchased the company, it added a great number of farm implements to the David Bradley line of equipment. Many of these implements were manufactured by other companies and merely sold under the David Bradley name. Soon these implements out-numbered products actually manufactured by the David Bradley Works. Nevertheless, whether made by the David Bradley Works or by someone else and merely sold under the David Bradley name, some products became very popular with farmers. Two examples were the very popular David Bradley garden tractor and the David Bradley farm wagon gear and wagon box. The garden tractor was a product manufactured at the David Bradley Works in Bradley, while the widely-sold David Bradley wagon was an example of one of the products made by another company and sold under the David Bradley name.
(NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: Brian Wells relates to us that this is a significant article in one very important way: It is the first truly “interactive article” he has written. Brian says that this article could not have been written without the help of Belt Pulley readers who responded to requests for information on the Belle City Company. When all of his usual sources–local public libraries, local and state historical societies–had failed him in his pursuit of information on this company, only the responses from readers made this article possible. Thus, Belt Pulley has becomes a forum of two-way communication–an interactive magazine. We hope this trend will continue and grow. As noted in our last issue, Brian has been attempting to write an article on the Wood Brothers Threshing Company of Des Moines, Iowa. Once again, a search of his usual sources has yielded very little information. Brian relates that he has received some calls and letters from readers with good information; however, he is still looking for material on the corporate history of the Wood Brothers Company.)
In 1878, David Lawton was already the owner of a successful flour, feed and implement store in Racine, Wisconsin, when he started a manufacturing concern called the David Lawton Company. The company was first located at 300 Fourth Street in Racine where it began manufacturing feed cutters for the growing Midwest farm market. The feed cutter, or ensilage and fodder cutter, was a small machine, about the size of a typical fanning mill, made of wood, with a long elevator attached to the rear of the machine which could raise the chopped ensilage up into the barn or silo. (An 1886 advertisement for a feed cutter shows it being powered by a two-horse treadmill. One of these Belle City machines is owned by Paul Coussens of South Bend, Indiana. Paul and his son, Daniel, are currently attempting to restore this very early product of the Belle City line of farm machinery.)
In 1882, the David Lawton Company merged with the Racine Brake Company to become the Belle City Manufacturing Company, formed under the corporate laws of Wisconsin, with $30,000.00 in capital. David Lawton became President of the new company, with Frank K. Bull, a former owner of the Racine Brake Company, as Vice-President, and L.E. Jones as Secretary/Treasurer. At the same time as he became vice president, Frank Bull was serving as Continue reading Belle City Manufacturing Company (Part I)→
with the assistance of
Del Gendner of Grand Prairie, Texas
Joe Thome of Racine, Wisconsin
Bob S. McFarland of Sauk City, Wisconsin
Ed Mortensen of Racine, Wisconsin
Gary Oechsner of Fon-du-Lac, Wisconsin
As published in the July/August 1999 issue of Belt Pulley Magazine
(NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: Brian Wells relates to us that he was able to write the history of the Belle City Company only with the help of the reading public of the Belt Pulley magazine. Thus, this is the first truly “interactive article” Brian has written. We hope this trend will continue and grow. As you know, Brian has been attempting to write an article on the Wood Brothers Threshing Company of Des Moines, Iowa. He is also doing some research on the Rosenthal Cornhusker Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and the Electric Wheel Company of Quincy, Illinois. He would appreciate any material on the corporate history of any of these companies.)
All through the 1930s, the Belle City Company enjoyed access to the farm equipment market through the distribution and dealership network of the tractor division of the Ford Motor Company. However, with the introduction of the new Ford/Ferguson 9N in 1939, Ford gravitated toward the Woods Brothers Threshing Company of Des Moines, Iowa. Woods Bros., of course, manufactured the famous “Humming Bird” thresher which was offered in the 21″ x 36″, 26″ x 46″, 28 x 46″ and 30″ by 50″ sizes. (Robert N. Pripps and Andrew Moreland, Threshers [Motorbooks International: Osceola, Wisc. 1992] p. 122.) These threshers covered the entire gambit of the small thresher market, and Ford had no further need of the joint venture with Belle City. Thus, after 1938, Belle City was on its own, and had to start advertising independent of Ford.
At first, Belle City suffered from the lack of the dealership network which it had enjoyed under its contract with IHC during the 1920s and with Ford during the 1930s. Fortunately, however, Belle City had insisted that the slogan “Belle City Built” appear on all its threshers sold by Ford and International Harvester Company. Thus, farmers had become so familiar with seeing that slogan on its threshers that, both during the contract with IHC prior to 1926 and during the joint venture with Ford, farmers began to insist that their threshers be stamped “Belle City Built” if their new thresher had slipped through manufacture without that slogan stenciled on the sides. Consequently, by 1939, when the company had to go it alone as far as advertising, sales, and distribution, Belle City had already succeeded in becoming somewhat of a household name with farmers in the upper midwest.
Among the advertising possibilities for Belle City was the Wisconsin State Fair held on a 200-acre site in West Allis, Wisconsin. In the years just prior to the Second World War, the Wisconsin State Fair consisted largely of tents. There were very few permanent structures. However, it was a very popular event with Continue reading The Belle City Manufacturing Company (Part II)→
The evening milking was all done and the family had eaten their supper. In the farm house on the hill overlooking the snow-covered fields of western Fillmore County in southeastern Minnesota in January of 1948, Howard and Ethel Hanks sat down with their eldest son Fred to review their farming operation and to make plans for the coming spring. As related elsewhere (See “The Case NCM and a Family’s Crucial Year” in the January/February 1995 issue of Belt Pulley, Vol. 8, No. 1, p. 31. and the article on the Ford/Ferguson 2N in the January/February 1998 issue of Belt Pulley Vol. 12, No. 1.), 1947 had been a critical year for the Hanks family. The spring of 1947 had started with such miserable prospects and had gotten worse as the year progressed because of the unrelenting rain. However, in July the rains had stopped and the rest of the year was almost perfect. As a consequence, the Hanks family had gotten all their crops harvested before the snow started falling on the evening of November 14, 1947.
Now in mid-January 1948, as the family gathered around the table discussing the upcoming year, the short winter day had ended and it was already dark. Howard lit a lantern and placed it on the table. (Rural Electric Association (REA) service would not reach this area of Beaver Township in Fillmore County until February of 1949). The family realized that their financial position was somewhat more secure than it had been in the previous year, thanks both to the weather and the gamble the family had taken in purchasing a Case NCM baler to perform some custom baling. As noted in a previous article (January/February 1998 issue of Belt Pulley Vol. 12, No. 1.), the baler had been purchased together with a Ford/Ferguson 2N and a series of accompanying Ford/Ferguson implements.
The Hanks family and Howard and Ethel’s, son-in-law Wayne Wells, had used the 2N and the Case baler to augment their farm income through custom baling of hay and straw in the neighborhood. Howard and Ethel’s 11-year-old son John had driven the 2N around and around many a hay field in the neighborhood. The used Ford\Ferguson 2N and the Case NCM baler that they had purchased in the spring of 1947 had really saved the family from financial ruin. The 2N was a good match for the Case NCM baler in terms of the proper slow speeds for the field. Furthermore, the addition of the Sherman step-up auxiliary unit to the transmission had meant that the little tractor would waste less time in moving the baler and hay racks around the neighborhood, helping the Hanks family complete all the custom baling that the family had contracted that year.
Now, as Howard, Ethel and Fred sat by the kitchen table, they realized that they would need to do a good deal of custom baling again in 1948 to further consolidate their economic position on the farm. They looked at the potential manpower that they would have available for custom baling and they also looked at their current farm equipment. Although there had been substantial changes in the family over the last year, with three marriages in a single year (Bruce Hanks in April, Lorraine (Hanks) Westfall in June and Marilyn (Hanks) Wells in July), one strong point remained in favor of the Hanks family: the number of people available to help out in the busy summer season. On this particular night in January, Howard and Ethel’s youngest daughter, Hildreth, was not in the house. Currently, she was involved in school activities as a member of the LeRoy High School Cardinal annual staff which involved many meetings after school hours. Hildreth intended to join her brother Bruce at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago in the fall of 1948. In the interim, however, Hildreth would be available to help the family for the summer.
Wayne Wells, who had originally proposed the idea of purchasing the Case NCM baler to his brothers-in-law Fred and Bruce Hanks, was now farming on his parents’ farm two miles to the west of the Hanks farm. He had owned 1/3 interest in the baler and the Ford/Ferguson 2N tractor together with Fred and Bruce. He had cooperated with the Hanks family during baling season and also with the custom baling they did in 1947 and would do so again in the coming year.
Besides Fred, young John, and son-in-law Wayne Wells, Howard and Ethel’s second son Bruce would be available during the month of August. While Bruce’s course of study at Moody occupied the entire year, the month of August was summer vacation. Bruce and Mary intended to return to the farm in LeRoy in August of 1948 and for each year after until Bruce graduated. Therefore, Bruce would also be available to help out on the farm for one very busy month of the summer season.
Additionally, the Hanks family knew they would probably have to hire some help just as they had in 1947. Accordingly, the family assumed that they would again be hiring Keith Hall, Billy Blade and some other high school age boys from the town of LeRoy to help out at different times during the year when the workload was the heaviest.
In a review of their farm machinery, the Hanks family began considering the little 2N tractor. While the Ford\Ferguson 2N had served the family well in the previous year, the little gray tractor did have its imperfections. One of the most striking shortcomings of the Ford 2N which was noted by the Hanks family was the awkward arrangement of its operator foot brake pedals. As pointed out in a previous article (January/February 1998 issue of Belt Pulley Vol. 12, No. 1.), the Ford Company designed their tractors to have a low center of gravity. While this was an appealing feature, especially where farming was conducted on steep, hilly fields, the low center of gravity was obtained by having the operator of the tractor straddle the power train, with one foot on the right side and one foot on the left side of the transmission. Like the Ford/Ferguson 9N which had preceded the 2N in production, in addition to the left-side brake pedal being located on the left side of the tractor, the foot clutch of the 9N and 2N was also located on the left side of the tractor. For sharp left turns from a dead stop, the operator was already using his left foot to release the clutch and therefore could not engage the left brake to aid in a turn. This was a definite disadvantage when pulling the manure spreader in the cow yard and positioning it near the barn for loading from the manure carrier, when backing any farm wagons or other farm implements around the yard, or when making sharp turns in the fields while cultivating corn or beans. Additionally, although the Model 2N had been equipped with the auxiliary Sherman Step-Up transmission, the little three-speed transmission was still out of date.
In the fall and winter months of 1947-1948, Fred was attracted by information about the new Ford tractor–the Model 8N, which had just been introduced. Models of the new red and gray Ford 8N had been on display at Regan’s, the local Ford car and tractor Continue reading The Family’s First New Tractor: The Ford 8N→
Belt Pulley Magazine Articles by Brian Wayne Wells