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Case Farming Part V: Decline of the LeRoy Equipment Company

J.I. Case Company Part V:

The Decline of the LeRoy Equipment Company

by

Brian Wayne Wells

 (As Published in the September/October 2006 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.)

During the post-World War II period, the Case Model DC tractor remained the most popular selling tractor of the entire Case line of tractors. However with the labor strike which happened at the Main Works factor in Racine Wisconsin, the LeRoy Equipment Company was unable to obtain any tractors for the inventory of their dealership
During the post-World War II period, the Case Model DC tractor remained the most popular selling tractor of the entire Case line of tractors.

As noted previously (see the article called J.I. Case Company Part IV: the Rise of the Le Roy Equipment Company contained in the July/August 2006 issue of Belt Pulley Magazine), two newly discharged veterans of the Second World War formed a partnership to accept the business opportunity of starting a new Case Company dealership in the small town of LeRoy, Minnesota (1940 pop. 752).  Before the war, LeRoy, Minnesota had been the home of a Case dealership called the “LeRoy Equipment Company.”  However, during the Second World War, the dealership had disbanded.  Now the J. I. Case Company wanted to re-establish the “LeRoy Equipment Company” in order to take advantage of the expected boom in post-war demand for modern farm machinery.  Two veterans, Merle Krinke and Duane Wetter, both originally from the small town of Lamberton located in western Minnesota, had expressed interest in this business venture.

Duane and Merle had known each other at Lamberton High School.  Furthermore, ever since April 8, 1944 when Merle Krinke married Duane’s sister, Zona Wetter, Duane and Merle had been brother-in laws.

Merle had been discharged from the Army Air Corp at the end of the war in the Pacific in September of 1945.  Since that time, Merle had been employed at the Myhere and Nelson Implement dealership, a local  Case franchise dealership in Montevideo, Minnesota.  Montevideo was a small town located on the South Dakota border with Minnesota, northwest of Lamberton.  It was at Myhere and Nelson that Merle had first heard about the opportunity of starting the dealership in Le Roy.

During the war, Duane Wetter had served as a decorated fighter pilot in U.S. Army Air Corp and had flown 75 combat missions in the European theater.  Since the end of the war in Europe in May of 1945, he had been stationed in Stuttgart Germany as part of the U.S. occupation forces.  He was discharged in November of 1945.  Scarcely had he returned to his wife and young son in Minnesota, than he was asked to make the decision to join in a partnership with Merle and move off to LeRoy with his whole family.  Le Roy was located in the southeastern corner of Mower County, just ½ mile from the Iowa border.  This was a long way from Lamberton, Minnesota.  Nonetheless, a decision about the starting the dealership in LeRoy, Minnesota needed to be made as soon as possible by the two veterans.  They would re-establish the dealership under the name “LeRoy Equipment Company” to take advantage of the good will that had been formed by the pre-war dealership of the same name.  Continue reading Case Farming Part V: Decline of the LeRoy Equipment Company

Massey-Harris Farming (Part III): The Clipper Combine

      Massey-Harris Farming (Part III): The Clipper Combine

by

Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the July/August 2004 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

Civilized man has grown plants for consumption since 8000 B.C.E. (Before the Common Era).  This change from the hunting and gathering stage of human development to the growing of food products is referred to as the agricultural revolution.  One of the first crops planted by civilized man was a form of wheat grain.  Processing of wheat into flour was so common among civilizations around the world that bread became known as the “staple of life” and wheat became known as the “shaft of life.”  The processing of wheat involved a lot of manual labor.  Since the earliest of times, the grain was harvested after it had turned golden amber color under the hot summer sun.  However, even at this stage the grain contained moisture.  Harvesting or reaping would sever the plant from its roots and allow the grain to “sweat” and dry completely.  This sweating generally occurred after the grain had been gathered together in bundles and placed in “shocks” in the field.  Once the grain had thoroughly dried out, the bundles would be gathered up and threshed by hand.  Then the grain had to be winnowed or separated from all the chaff that may be left in the grain following threshing.  Thus, harvesting and threshing and winnowing of the grain remained three separate time-consuming hand operations for the processing grain.  This method of processing grain remained unchanged for centuries. In 1831, on his family farm in Virginia, Cyrus McCormick took his first big step toward mechanical grain harvesting with his reaper.  Improvements to the reaper, eventually, allowed the machine to automatically bind the grain into bundles.  Mechanization of the threshing process was also accomplished by the development of a threshing machine in the 1860s.  However, this threshing machine was a stationary unit and the bundled grain had to be brought from the field to the thresher for threshing and winnowing of the grain.  Originally steam engines were used as power sources for these stationary threshers.  By 1877, the Buffalo-Pitts Company was able to advertise a thresher/separator, that would not only thresh, but would also winnow the grain. Development of a small portable thresher-separator that would combine the operations of harvesting, threshing and winnowing in one single operation was carried on in the Central Valley of California by three different corporate concerns—the Stockton Combine Harvester and Agricultural Works; the Daniel Best Agricultural Works and the Stockton Wheel Company.  (After 1892, Stockton Wheel became the Holt Manufacturing Company.)  In 1925, these three companies would merge to form the Caterpillar Tractor Company.  The early combines produced by each of these three companies were of mammoth proportions and required 24 to 40 horses to pull the machine across the field.  A separate auxiliary power source was need to power the machine itself. California’s steady weather allowed the grain to be harvested while it was still standing in the field rather than being cut and dried out in a windrow.  Likewise, all across the western United States and the western provinces of Canada, grain was harvested while standing.  In these western states grain was raised in fields stretching from horizon to horizon.  Thus, the Great Plains became known as the bread basket of North America.  Only in large-scale grain farming areas like the Great Plains were the huge combines profitable. In the Midwest, farms were much smaller—generally only about 160 acres.  Furthermore, the arable land of the average farm was often shared with other crops and with pasture for animals.  Usually only about 30 to 35 acres of grain would be raised on a typical 160-acre farm in any given year.  A big combine was not profitable in this type of farming operation.  Farms in the Midwest had to await development of a small combine. Development of the small combine for use on the small farms of the Midwest took a circuitous route and some early attempts were not entirely successful.  One early attempt to develop a small combine began with Curtis Baldwin and his brothers, Earnest and George, who formed the Baldwin Manufacturing Company (later to become the Gleaner Manufacturing Company) of Nickerson Kansas in 1915.  The efforts of the Baldwin brothers resulted in a Fordson-mounted combine in 1923.  This combine was named the “Gleaner” combine.  The popularity of the Gleaner combine was tied directly to the popularity of the Fordson tractor.  In the early 1920s, the popularity of the Fordson made the Gleaner mounted combine a popular sales item, but later in the late 1920s,  when the Fordson declined in popularity, so too did the popularity of the Gleaner.  The Gleaner mounted combine ceased production altogether in 1927. In the 1930s, the Baldwin Company went into bankruptcy.  New owners bought the company from the Baldwin brothers and changed the name of the company to the Gleaner Manufacturing Company of Independence, Missouri. The new Gleaner Company began designing and producing a series of pull-type combines.  Revealing the company’s long-time ties to the Ford Motor Company, early versions of these pull-type combines were powered by Ford Model A industrial engines.  However, these attempts at producing a pull-type combine were not successful over the long run.  Gleaner pull-type combines proved to have design flaws and never became popular with the buying public. Only after 1951, the Gleaner Company became successful for the combines they produced.  However, this success was not based on development of a pull-type combine.  Rather Gleaner became famous for the development and production of its line of self-propelled combines. The most successful small pull-type combine was the 3,000 pound All-Crop- Harvester developed and manufactured by the Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company of West Allis, Wisconsin (a more complete story of the All-Crop Harvester was published in the March/April 2005 issue of Belt Pulley magazine and is also exhibited here on this website).  The All-Crop Harvester was first introduced to the public in 1929.  Following in the train of the success of the All-Crop Harvester, other farm equipment companies began producing their own version of a small pull-type combine.  Most of these other companies adopted a “straight through” design for their small combines.  The straight-through designed cut the grain (or picked up the grain from a windrow) threshed and separated the grain from the straw and then deposited the straw on top of the same stubble at the rear of the combine in roughly the same location where grain had been cut or picked up.  In this way, the straight-through combines avoided the sharp left turn the chaff and straw would take as it progressed through the All-Crop Harvester. One of the farm equipment companies to develop a straight through combine was the Massey-Harris Company of  Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  Starting with a design by E. C. Everett, Massey-Harris introduced their small straight-through combine in 1938.  his combine was called the “Clipper” combine.  Although the Massey-Harris Company was a Canadian company and maintained most of its manufacturing facilities in Canada, virtually all Clipper combines were made in the United States at the company’s Batavia, New York facility.  The 3,000 pound Clipper pull-type combine was marketed with either a 6-foot or a 7-foot cutter bar model.  Both models featured a 5-foot cylinder and a 5 foot wide separating table.  In its first two years of production (1938-1939), the simplicity, small size and low price of the Clipper made the combine a sales success.  In those first two years the Clipper cut well into the market share dominated by the Allis-Chalmers All-Crop Harvester. Right from the start of production, the Clipper combine was available only on rubber tires.  Like many farm equipment companies before World War II, Massey-Harris contracted with the French & Hecht Company of Bettendorf, Iowa, to supply round-spoked wheel rims for these rubber tires on the Clipper.  After the war, Massey-Harris switched to disc-type wheel rims for their rubber tired wheels for the Clipper combine.  Like most companies in the post-war era, Massey Harris obtained these disc-type wheels from the Electric Wheel Company of  Quincy, Illinois.  Because of this abrupt change of contract, “pre-war” Clipper combines are distinguishable from the Clipper combines manufactured in the post-war era. Concurrent with the start of Clipper combine production, Tom Carroll, an engineer for Massey-Harris began to work on a self-propelled combine.  By 1942, Carroll had completed a design for a self-propelled combine that would become the Massey-Harris Model 21 combine.  This was the world’s first truly self-propelled combine.  The Model 21 combine was ready for production, but wartime restrictions prevented its manufacture.  Massey-Harris set about convincing the United States War Production Board that the Batavia, New York factory should be allotted sufficient steel and other raw materials to produce a limited number of Model 21 combines.  Massey-Harris sought to build sufficient Model 21 combines to conduct extensive field tests on the combine.  These field tests would, the Company felt, convince one and all that one-man-operated self-propelled combine could harvest much more grain with less investment and in money and manpower “than any other machine or combination of machines in existence.” The War Production Board was persuaded and Massey-Harris was allotted enough materials to produce 500 Model 21 combines.  These combines were sold to custom harvesters in March of 1944.  The new combines would begin harvesting in Texas and move north across the Great Plains to the Canadian border, combining nearly 1 million acres and threshing 15 million bushels of grain in the 1944 harvest season.  This became known as the Massey-Harris Harvest Brigade and served as an excellent advertising promotion for the company.  The Harvest Brigade was so successful that it was expanded for the 1945 harvest season. The Harvest Brigade attracted public attention at the time and has attracted the fancy of fans and restorers of Massey-Harris equipment ever since.  Thus, as the 60th anniversary of the Brigade approached more and more restorers expressed interest in participating in a reenactment of the original Harvest Brigade.  Thus, on September 22, 2001, a large number of Massey-Harris tractors and equipment were brought to a 130-acre plot of land in rural Chillicothe, Illinois, to plow, prepare the seed bed, and plant winter wheat on the plot of land.  This event, organized by Dale Lawrence, was dubbed the “Great Planting.”  The wheat formed a good root system over the fall of 2001 and then went into a dormant stage over the winter.  With the arrival of spring, the wheat started growing again and by early summer in 2002, the wheat was ready to harvest.  Harvest Day was planned and was called the “Great Harvest.”  A collection of Massey-Harris combines owned by Wes Armstrong, Gary Emsweller, Vernon Winterroth and Ray Swanson gathered together to harvest the wheat at the Great Harvest Day.  (See “A Massey Connection” by Cindy Ladage in the July/August 2003 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.) At the annual show held on the grounds of the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association in rural LeCenter, Minnesota on August 26 through 29, 2003.  This annual show was to feature the same Harvest Brigade combines as had participated in the Great Harvest Day the year before in Illinois.  In anticipation of this field demonstration, some of the grain that is usually planted on the grounds and which is usually cut and bundled for threshing during the annual show, was left standing uncut.  This grain was left standing in order to be harvested by the Massey-Harris combines at the show in another re-enactment of the Harvest Brigade. Throughout the summer of 2004 a continuation of the celebration of the Harvest Brigade took place in many locations across the Great Plains.  One particular celebration began in March of 2004 when Lenwood Holo of Omaha, Nebraska and Eau Claire, Wisconsin loaded up his newly restored Model 21 self-propelled Massey-Harris combine on his 1949 Dodge 2-ton truck truck and set out for Texas to retrace the route of the Harvest Brigade—following the harvest north from Texas to Langdon, North Dakota. While the self-propelled Massey-Harris combine and the Harvest Brigade captured all the attention during the war.  After the war, when the wartime economic restrictions on civilian industrial production were lifted, Massey-Harris’ pull-type Clipper combine came back into prominence.  Indeed the Clipper combine became a very big seller for the Massey-Harris Company.  Clipper combine production resumed after the war.  The post-war Clipper combine was offered to the farming public in a power take-off version as well as an engine-powered version.  The engine used for the auxiliary-powered version, was the Wisconsin Model VE-4 air-cooled engine.  (An article on the history of the Wisconsin Motor Company was published in the September/October 2004 issue of Belt Pulley magazine and is reproduced at this website.)  Despite the fact that power take-off was a common feature of post-war tractors and despite the fact that the 1-3/8th inch containing six (6) splines had become universally accepted as the standard power take-off, there still, nonetheless, seemed to be more auxiliary engine-powered versions of the Clipper combine manufactured than power take-off versions. Of particular interest for this particular article are two post-war Clipper combines, both equipped with the Wisconsin VE-4 air-cooled engine, which were delivered to two separate Massey Harris dealerships in southern Minnesota.  The first of these two Clipper combines arrived in Amboy, Minnesota (1940 pop. 576) some time in the early summer of 1948.  The combine arrived on board a flat-bed car attached to a Chicago and Northwestern train.  The flat-bed railroad car carrying the Clipper combine and some other Massey-Harris equipment originated from the Massey-Harris Company branch house located in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  In Amboy, the Clipper combine was unloaded from the railroad car and was taken to the W. J. Nelson Dealership in Amboy.  (A history of the W. J. Nelson dealership was carried in the second article of this three part series of articles on “Massey-Harris Farming” published in the May/June 2004 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.  The article is also reproduced on this website under the name “Massey-Harris Farming: The Arno Schull Model 30 Tractor.”) Continue reading Massey-Harris Farming (Part III): The Clipper Combine

The 1938 Rasmus Thronson Farmall F-12 Tractor

The Farmall F-12 (Part III):

The 1938 Rasmus Thronson Farmall F-12 Tractor

by

Brian Wayne Wells

with the assistance of

Elvin Papenhausen of Princeton, Minnesota

 As published in the September/October 2003 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

 

The restored 1938 Rufus Thronson Farmall F-12 bearing the Serial No. 121778 at the 2016 LeSueur County Pioneer Power Show.

 

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.)

A map of Minnesota showing the location of Mille Lacs County in the “waist” of the state.

 

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.

The pine tree forests of the Chippewa National Forest typify the soft wood forests that are spread all across northern Minnesota.

 

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.

The potato washer located in the O.J. Odegard Inc. warehouse located 2nd South Street in Princeton, Minnesota.

 

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.

The O. J. Odegard peat bog, shown here is representative of the agricultural land of the southern part of Mille Lacs County including Greenbush township.

 

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.

The old Great Northern train depot in Princeton as it appears today.

 

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.”)

The Parlin & Orenburg factory located in Canton, Illinois, as seen in 1905.

 

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.) 

A McCormick-Deering one-row potato digger

 

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.

The City of Princeton, Minnesota is located in Princeton Township on the southern border of Mille Lacs County. Indeed a small part of the city of Princeton spills over into neighboring Sherburne County to the south. In this 1914, map of Mille Lacs County Princeton Township can be seen as the pink-colored township at the very bottom of the map. Additionally, Greenbush Township, where the Rasmus Thronson farm was located is shown here as a green-colored township at the bottom of the map to the left of Princeton Township also on Mille Lacs County.

 

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.

Floyd Hall in middle age.

Continue reading The 1938 Rasmus Thronson Farmall F-12 Tractor