Category Archives: Cooperative-sold tractors

Articles of tractors sold through farmer -owned cooperatives.

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

Farming in Illinois  with the Coop Model E-3 Tractor

 (Part 2 of 3 Parts): The Kewaunee Company


Brian Wayne Wells

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

The Kewaunee Machinery and Conveyor Company was based in Kewaunee, Illinois locateed in Henry County which bordered Whiteside County on the south.


            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 this series called “Farming with the Coop Model E-3 Tractor in Illinois” contained at this website. )  Although, Sterling Township was located in Whiteside County in the state of Illinois, No. #31591 was actually purchased from the Sauk County Farmers Union Cooperative store in Baraboo, Wisconsin.  Baraboo, Wisconsin, was actually, his childhood home.   He had been born and raised on a farm in Troy Town in Sauk County. Wisconsin.  Indeed his father and younger brother still lived on and worked the “home farm” in Troy Town.

Our Sterling Township farmer had been raised in a “Farmers Union” family and he had a strong loyalty to the National Farmers Union ideal of banning together to sell their crops to obtain the best price for their crops and banning together to purchase the products that farm families needed on the farm in order to obtain the lowest price possible for their necessary expenses.  However, there were no Farmers Union stores anywhere in his area of Illinois.  Indeed he had been unable to find any Farmers Union Stores anywhere in entire state of Illinois.  So he continued to go out of his way to shop at the Sauk County Farmers Union store in his childhood home town of Baraboo, Wisconsin.  He, usually stocked up on purchases at the store whenever he and his wife travelled back to Baraboo to visit his family.  In this way he would still get his annual Farmers Union dividend for the goods that he purchased from the store in Baraboo just as he always had always done.  Indeed, he anticipated that his purchase of No. #31591 in 1951 would yield a rather substantial dividend in 1952.

The Farmers Union ideal had two sides. Banning together in the Farmers Union allowed the farmers to purchase their own granaries to control the sale of their crop in order to get the best price.  This was the “selling side” of the Farmers Union.

As noted in the first article in this series noted above, there was also a “buying side” of the Farmers Union.  Farmers hoped to also ban together to keep their expenses as low as possible.  This is where stores like the Farmers Union store in Baraboo, Wisconsin, sold a whole line of gasoline, grease and oil products at the lowest price possible for their farmer/members to use in their farming operations.

In order to expand the buying side of the Farmers Union operation, local Farmefrs Union cooperatives across the United States, interested in making inexpensive farm machinery available to their members came together, in 1942, to form the National Farm Machinery Cooperative.

The National Farm Machinery Cooperative or NFMC, set a goal of providing a “full line” of farm machinery for cooperative farm members all across the United States.  NFMC  envisioned selling a full line of farm machinery under the COOP name in the United States through a large number of local farm cooperatives.

Prior to the founding of NFMC, various ad hoc groups of cooperatives across the nation  had already developed a close contractual relationship with the Famous Ohio Cultivator Company  of Bellevue, Ohio, by purchasing farm machinery and selling the machinery to their members.  These individual “supply” contracts with Ohio Cultivator had allowed these ad hoc groups of cooperatives to purchase the machinery in bulk at low prices and to pass the savings along to their member/farmers in the form of initial low retail prices and in the form of annual dividends to those members.  Formation of National Farmers Cooperative had the effect of broadening and streamlining this operation.  This meant even more savings that could be passed on to Farmers Union members.

However, in 1943, the NFMC had an opportunity to actually purchase the whole of the Ohio Cultivator Company.  This purchase promised even more streamlining and savings in the sales of farm machinery to NFMC member/customers.

Although Ohio Cultivator had begun its life as a manufacturer of the first successful horse drawn row crop cultivator in which the farmer could actually ride the cultivator rather than walk along behind the cultivator.  This riding cultivator immediately became the best seller and made Ohio Cultivator a leading manufacturer of farm machinery.  The




Cultivator Company used the profits to expand the number farm implements that they offered to the farming public.   However in this time of tractor power farming, Ohio Cultivator was not a “full line” manufacturer of farm machinery.  To be a “full line” retailer of farm machinery, a NFMC needed to have a farm tractor available for sale under the COOP name.  The acquisition of Ohio Cultivator did not solve this problem.  (Although about a  decade and a half prior, the aquisition of Ohio Cultivator might have solved the problem by bringing a tractor to NFMC.  In 1929, Ohio Cultivator had some sort of relationship with the General Tractor Company of Cleveland, Ohio.  While this relationship lasted Ohio Cultivator was a “full line” provider of farm equipment including a farm tractor. Alas, however, General Tractor went out of business and disappeared from the farm machinery market.

Before the birth of NFMC, various groups of cooperatives across the United Stat


All over the state of Illinois, small companies had sprung up that were manufacturing  new and improved farm implements and machinery.  One of these small companies was located just south of our Sterling Township farmer’s home in Whiteside County, Illinois.  This was Kewanee Machinery and Conveyor Company located in Henry County which bordered Whiteside County on the south.  Henry County contained the small manufacturing city of Kewanee, Illinois.  This was where the Kewanee Company was based and from which the Company derived its name. (Thanks to the July 28, 1986 article in the “Around Town” column of the Kewanee Courier-Star newspaper written by David Clarke and the files at the Kewanee Historical Society, we have a good outline of the history of the Kewanee Machinery and Conveyor Company.) 

The Kewanee Company had actually begun its existence as the Kewanee Corn Hanger Company–after its first successful product–the seed corn drying hangerIn the years prior to the production of hybrid seed corn, farmers used to walk through their corn fields, looking for the best ears of corn that could be saved to be used for seed corn in the next spring.  By saving only the best ears the farmer was attempting to use the process of artificial selection to improve his corn crop.    Wire and string were used to tie these special ears of seed corn together and hang them up inside the granary out of the winter elements and suspended away from the reach of rodents.  In 1911, George Hurff and Benjamin Franklin (called B. F.) Baker submitted an application to the U.S. Patent Office for a  corn hanger which could be used to dry these selected ears of seed corn.

In the next year, 1912, Wallace Glidden, Hurff’s son-in-law incorporated a company which would market the corn hangers to the farming public.  This company was called the Kewaunee Corn Hanger Company and was based at 121 Loomis Street in Kewanee.  The Kewanee Company was a family business. Wallace Glidden had been employed at the Kewanee Boiler Company, where he had met Benjamin Franklin Baker (popularly known as B.F. Baker), who was the boss of the company.  It was B. F. Baker that provided most of the financing for the new business.  Wallace Glidden’s own younger brother Raymond Boyd Glidden, become the manager of the Kewaunee Corn Hanger Company.  In 1916, the name of the company was changed to the Kewaunee Implement Company.


A 1927 advertisement of the the ear corn drying hanger made by the Kewaunee Implement Company.


The corn drying hanger proved to be a great sales success.  Based the success of this product,  the Company was able to expand into the manufacture of other products for the small diversified farm of the Midwestern United States.    However, the company expanded into the manufacture of other products for the small farm.  By 1916, the Company was making chicken waterers and hog oilers


The Kewaunee Company’s popular hog oiler allowed hogs of all sizes to control insect infestions on their skin. The cheap price of the Kewaunee meant that most small farmers could afford an oiler for their farms.


Leonard W. Glidden was the father of Wallace and Raymond  Glidden.  In 1900, Leonard had brought his entire family of three sons and two daughters from Olive, Ohio to Henry County, Illinois where he started a new hardware and farm implement store in the the small town of Galva, Illinois.  Galva was a small town near the City of Kewaunee, Illinois. was Leonard influenced the direction of the In 1930, the name of the company was changed to the Kewaunee Machinery and Conveyor Company.  Raymond worked for a longer time in his father’s store and, thus, became impressed by the future promise of farm machinery.  Accordingly, when he joined his brother, Wallace, and B. F. Baker in forming and operating the Kewaunee Corn Hanger Company, he was already predisposed toward directing the future of the Kewaunee Implement Company toward manufacturing even more farm implements.

Wallace tragically  died in 1921 at the young age of 41 years.  Raymond took up the reins in the place of his older brother.  In 1922 the Kewaunee Implement Company purchased a corporate entity from the Hart Grain Weigher Company of Peoria, Illinois.  This was be a significant move made by the Company which would be important for the future of the Company.  (More on the story of the elevators manufactured by the Kewaunee Implement Company is carried in a later article on this website called “Farming in Illinois with a COOP Model E-3 Tractor (Part III): The Owatonna Manufacturing Company.”)

In the post-World War II era, a high school Agricultural Education instructor from Rochelle, Illinois, by the name of Hugh Cooper,  had been working on a new kind of double disc.   In 1950, this new disc was shown to the management of the Kewanee Company.  The disc was a great improvement over most tillage implements of the past.  The double disc was mounted on rubber-tired wheels.  These wheels could be raised or lowered by a hydraulic cylinder with was to be activated by the driver on the tractor seat..  When the wheels were lowered the entire double disc would be raised entirely off the ground and the disc could be transported easily and rapidly on the rubber tires from field to field or even over the public roads.  The Kewaunee Machinery and Conveyor Company purchased the design of this disc and began production of the disc in sizes from 7-foot 11 inches to 13 feet 4 inches in width.

The new Kewanee rubber tired transportable disc was an instant and spectacular success.  The Kewanee disc in this picture  is the eight (8) foot version being pulled by a John Deere Model 60.


Our Sterling Township farmer had purchased his 1951 COOP Model E-3 tractor bearing the serial number 31591 without the optional hydraulic package installed..  As noted in the earlier article in this series (“Farming with a COOP Model E-3 Tractor in Illinois [Part I]: Farmers Union,” the COOP Model E-3 tractor was really a Cockshutt farm tractor manufactured by the Cockshutt Farm Equipment Company in Bradford, Ontario, Canada.

Prior to 1946, the Cockshutt Company had confined itselt largely to the Canadian market.

However, in 1942 local cooperatives with in the United States, interested in making inexpensive farm machinery available to their members,  came together to form the National Farm Machinery Cooperative.  The National Farm Machinery Cooperative or NFMC, set a goal of providing a “full line” of farm machinery for cooperative farm members all across the United States.  NFMC  envisioned selling farm machinery under the COOP name in the United States through a large number of local farm cooperatives.

Toward this end NFMC had developed a close relationship with the Ohio Cultivator Company and in 1943, NFMC would actually purchase the Ohio Cultivator Company.  Although Ohio Cultivator had begun its life as a manufacturer of the first successful horse drawn row crop cultivator in which the farmer could ride the cultivator rather than walk along behind the cultivator, by 1943, Ohio Cultivator had become the manufactuer  However, to be a “full line” retailer of farm machinery, NFMC needed to have a farm tractor available for sale under the COOP name.  The aquisition of Ohio Cultivator did not solve this problem.  (Although about a  decade and a half prior, the aquisition of Ohio Cultivator might have solved the problem by bringing a tractor to NFMC.  In 1929, Ohio Cultivator had some sort of relationship with the General Tractor Company of Cleveland, Ohio.  While this relationship lasted Ohio Cultivator was a “full line” provider of farm equipment including a farm tractor. Alas, however, General Tractor went out of business and disappeared from the farm machinery market.

Before the birth of NFMC, various groups of cooperatives across the United States had signed contracts at various times with the Allis-Chalmers Company of West Allis, Wisconsin , the Oliver Farm Equipment Company of Charles City, Iowa, the Huber Company and finally the Duplex Machinery Company  of Battle Creek, Michigan, to provide tractors which could be sold under the COOP name.  However, the last contractual relationship with Duplex for a tricycle-style row crop tractor–the COOP Model 1– had ended in 1938.  The story of these earlier contracual relationships with tractor companies to aquire tractors to be sold under the COOP name.     Accordingly, the local cooperatives of the United States once again found themselves without a tractor to tractor to sell to their members which bore the name COOP on the hood.

Thus, as early as 1944, NFMC began negotiating with the Cockshutt Farm Equipment Company of Brantford, Ontario, Canada to once again resolve this lack of a farm tractor for the COOP line of farm equipment.  After the war ended and the wartime restrictions on the production of civilian farm machinery were lifted both in Canada and the United States a contract was signed between NFMC and Cockshutt which suddenly made the National Farm Machinery Cooperative, NFMC,  the primary United States outlet for the line of Cockshutt farm machinery and the new and very modern Cockshutt Model 30 tractor.  The Model 30 was scheduled to go into production at the Cockshutt Works in Brantford, Ontario.   (Under the terms of this contract NFMC became the predominent retailer of but was not the only retail outlet for Cockshutt tractors in the United States.  A small number of Cockshutt 30 tractors were sold under the “Farmcrest” label by the small Minneapolis, Minnesota headquartered Gambles/Skogmo chain of hardware stores.  As noted in the earlier article cited above also starting in 1947.)

From Cockshutt’s point of view, the deal concluded with the NFMC meant that Cockshutt would be able to break into the United States market with a corporate entity that already had an extensive retail dealership network.  This was the major benefit to the Cockshutt Farm Equipment Company would recieve from the deal. 

On the NFMC side of the ledger, the deal with Cockshutt fit the long range goal of the NFMC to become a “full line” farm equipment seller.  As noted in an earlier article on this website–“Farming in Illinois with a COOP Model E-3 Tractor (Part I): The Farmers Union,”–the Farmers Union having greatly expanded their farmer-member’s ability to sell their own grain and corn at the best price available by increasing the network of local cooperative grain elevators in various small towns across the upper Midwest and the Great Plains of the United States, the Farmers Union now sought to build up the “buyer” side of their local cooperatives by increasing the amount of farm implements and supplies that the farmer could buy from their local cooperatives and be able to pay the lowest price for those implements and supplies.   .

Toward this goal, at the end of 1943, in the middle of the Second World War, the NFMC bought the Ohio Cultivator Company of Bellevue, Ohio.  By this purchase, the NFMC immediately broadened its line of farm implements in the Ohio Cultivator Company line.  (A 2004 article written by Sam Moore and published in the April 2004 Farm Collector Magazine in April of 2004., provides us a short history of the Ohio Cutlivator Company.  The Ohio Cultivator Company was founded by Harlow Case Stahl.  Born on February 12, 1849 near, Ballville in Sandusky County Ohio.   Harlow Stahl had married Annie Charlotte Mitchell on October 21, 1874.  On his parents farm, Harlow grew tired of endlessly trudging along behind the simple one or two shovel horse-drawn cultivators which were common at the time.  In 1878, Harlow worked together with a local backsmith in Freemont to develop a horse-drawn cultivator which had wheels which straddled a single row of corn with shovels on both sides of the row and had a seat at the rear which allowed the farmer to ride as he cultivated his corn.  This new cultivator was called the “Fremont cultivator.”  The Fremont cultivator was credited as being the first successfully designed riding cultivator which was successfully marketed.

Harlow Case Stahl, the founder of the Ohio Cultivator Company.


The cultivator was a success from the very beginning.  In the very first year, 87 Fremont cultivators were built and 81 of these were sold to local farmers.  By 1882, sales had risen to 1,000 culivators in one year.  In 1885, Stahl moved his cultivator factor to a larger factory located in Bellevue, Ohio.   At about this the business was incorporated as the  the “Ohio Cultivator Company.”

The sucess of the Ohio Cultivator company with their new riding cultivator led to a nimber of other companies producing similar riding cultivators. Here a pair of horses are pulling a New Century Company cultivator in the corn fields.


During the “good times” of the 1880s Harlow Stahl’s company made sure to pay all its bill to suppliers on time.  Accordingly, they built up a good reputation with the suppliers for dependability.  This reputation set the Ohio Cultivator Company in good stead when in the a period of tightening credit occurred in 1892 and 1893.  The economic condition in the United States grew worse until it became a full blown economic Panic in 1893.  The Panic of 1893 resulted in the bankrupcies of major companies on Wall Street.  Most United States businesses were unable to get loans to carry on manufacturing.  Accordingly, most of these corporations had to lay off workers or cease production altogether.  However, the suppliers of raw materials trusted the Ohio Cultivator Company because of their past record of reliability in paying their bills and the Company was able to continue production of cultivators.  Therefore, when the economy began to recover again in 1895 and 1896 and farmers were ready to start buying machinery again, the Ohio Cultivator Company was well-positioned  with a large inventory of horse-drawn cultivators to sell to them.

An advertisement of a local dealership of the Ohio Cultivator Company. Note at the very bottom of the sign the “Black Hawk” name is prominately seen on the sign.


This gave the Ohio Cultivator Company an advantage over competitors in the farm machinery market.  Harlow Stahl exploited this advantage by expanding his line of farm machinery beyond the horse-drawn cultivator. In 1896 he purcased a factory of a company in Dayton that had been making discs.  In 1899, he purchased the struggling Bellevue Plow Company.  The Ohio Cultivator Company also absorbed the Ohio Hay Press Company in 1900 and the Bissell Plow Company in 1905.  Another agricultural business recession struck the United States economy in 1907-1908.  Nonetheless, through this recession the work force of the Ohio Cultivator Company remained steady at 300 employees.

In 1923, Stahl led his company in making an important acquisition of the D.M. Sechler Implement and Carriage from Moline, Illinois and its Black Hawk line of corn planters and grain drills.  More than the implements of this company it would prove to be the name “Black Hawk” that would prove to be the most enduring asset that would help the Ohio Cultivator Company and after 1943  would the NFMC and later still would help the Cockshutt Company.

An Ohio Cultivator Company advertisement which highlights the “Black Hawk” name at the top of the advertisement.


and would  the  proposed  the   offered a hydraulic kit that could be retrofitted onto the Cockshutt Model 30.  Once again this hydraulic kit was offered for sale in the United States by the network of farmers cooperatives.

A new 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 Farm Equipment Company not only offered a remote hydraulic system which operated through hoses that were connected to the two “Parker-Pioneer” hydraulic connectors protruding from the rear of the main hydraulic unit under the seat of the tractor.  There were two 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.but also t only a one of the leading farm equipment companies to he 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 lift arms were also connected 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): The Farmers Union

Farming with a Coop Tractor (Part 1):

National Farmers Union


    Brian Wayne Wells





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): The Farmers Union

Case Farming Part I: Sweep-Style Horsepowers

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


Brian Wayne Wells

(As published in the January/February 2006 issue of

                         Belt Pulley Magazine)

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

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

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

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

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


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

Scene from an early American steam- powered sawmill.
Scene from an early American steam- powered sawmill.

Continue reading Case Farming Part I: Sweep-Style Horsepowers