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Cotton Picking in South Carolina

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Cotton Picking in South Carolina with a

John Deere Model 630 Tractor

by

Brian Wayne Wells

(As published in the January/February 2008 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cotton Farming on the Mississippi Delta

Cotton Growing on the Mississippi Delta

by

Brian Wayne Wells

(As published in the November/December 2007 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine)

            Though grown only in the southern regions of the United States, no other crop, grown in the United States, has had the impact on the history of the nation as has cotton.  In colonial days, cotton was regarded as involving too much hand labor at all stages of its production to be considered a profitable cash crop.  However, development of the cotton gin, in the 1790s, finally mechanized one stage of the raising and processing of cotton.  The cotton gin provided a rapid process for the removal of the seeds the cotton bolls.  Although Eli Whitney is most often given sole credit for development of the cotton gin, he had had a great deal of help along the way.  In 1788, Joseph Eve developed a two-roller device to remove the seed from Sea Island cotton.  Sea Island cotton derived its name from the fact that it was originally grown on the islands of the Caribbean.  Sea Island cotton is a beautiful “long staple” cotton with fibers which vary from 1 ¼ inches to 1 9/16 inches in length.  It is used for making fine cotton fabrics.  However, since this “long staple” cotton could only be successfully cultivated on the 30 or 40 mile stretch of coast in South Carolina around Hilton Head, cotton planters over the rest of the state of South Carolina turned to growing “short staple” cotton, particularly Upland cotton.      However, Upland cotton, with fibers measuring from 7/8 of an inch to 1-5/16 inches in length, was much harder to gin.  The Eve gin did not work on Upland cotton.  However, some un-named African slaves in South Carolina came up with a comb that greatly improved the hand process of removing the seeds from Upland cotton.  Hodgen Holmes also developed a saw-tooth designed ginning device to clean Upland cotton.  Eventually in 1793, Eli Whitney introduced his cotton gin which worked successful in Upland cotton.

The mechanization of ginning Upland cotton created a revolution.  Whereas, a single person working by hand, all day, could tear the seeds out of about two pounds of Upland cotton, that same person operating a small gin could clean 50 pounds of Upland cotton in an average day.  Replace the hand crank on the gin with water power or animal power, and the production capacity of the gin was increased to 500 pounds in an average day.

Suddenly, cotton became very profitable for planters all across the South Carolina and Georgia.  Within four years after he completed development of his power gin, Eli Whitney had 30 copies of his gin working in the state of Georgia.  Whereas, in 1790 only 1,567,000 pounds of cotton were raised in the whole of the United States, by 1795, just five short years later, 8,358,500 pounds of cotton were raised and that was just beginning.  By 1800 cotton production reached 36,572,500 pounds, then 73,145,000 pounds in 1805 and 104,493,000 pounds in 1815.

Westward expansion of the United States brought settlers to new Mississippi Territory which had been formed in 1798 from lands stretching from Georgia’s western border to the banks of the Mississippi River.  Settlers flowed down the “Natchez Trace,” a trail through the woods starting in Nashville, Tennessee and ending it the small Mississippi River port town of Natchez.  Although, part of the overall “westward migration” across the North American continent,  the settlement of the Mississippi Territory actually began in Natchez on the west side of the Territory and spread east and north within the Territory.  The settlement became a torrent and by 1817 the Mississippi Territory was divided almost in half and the western portion of the Territory entered the union as the State of Mississippi.  The eastern half soon followed in 1819, entering the union as the State of Alabama.

Settlers coming to Natchez were craving more land on which to plant large amounts of cotton.  To the north of Natchez, Mississippi, the settlers found that the topography of the new state changed a great deal.  The southern piney woods which seemed to cover the entire rest of the state of Mississippi, gave way to the alluvial plains of the northwestern part of the state.  This area, called the Mississippi Delta, was so flat and treeless that a person could see for miles in all direction.  The Mississippi Delta covers the entire northwestern part of the current state of Mississippi—picturesquely described as extending “from the lobby of the Peabody Hotel in downtown Memphis, Tennessee to Catfish Row in Vicksburg, Mississippi.”

On the Mississippi Delta, early cotton planters found everything they needed for growing cotton on a large scale—everything, that is, except for the large amounts of labor.  They needed large amounts of labor for the planting, chopping, cultivation and picking of the cotton.  Although the invention of the cotton gin had brought about the mechanization of the processing of cotton, neither the cotton gin nor any other modern invention had done a thing to mechanize these aspects of the cotton plantation.  To fill this need for labor the cotton planters turned to a vast expansion of the institution of slavery.

This large scale expansion of slavery depended on the sale and exportation of human beings on the coasts of Africa and their importation and re-sale in the United States.  Planters on the Mississippi Delta used slave labor to cultivate wide areas of the Mississippi Delta.  There was another explosion in the production of cotton in the 1830s as cotton plantations sprang up all across the southern United States.  Nationwide, cotton production mushroomed from 365,726,000 pounds in 1830 to 530,355,500 pounds in 1835, then to 673,116,000 pounds in 1840 and finally to 902,111,500 pounds in 1845.  The boom in cotton production was also accompanied by a large scale increase in the enslaved population of the United States.  In many of the counties of the Mississippi Delta the number of African slaves out-numbered the free whites.

Slavery create wealth for the planters, but the institution of slavery had a catastrophic effect on the relations between the individual states of the United States and lead directly to the War Between the States from 1860 through 1865.  Following the Civil War, the legacy of slavery continued to have a corrosive effect on the social relations between the white and black Americans in the north as well as in the south.  Just as, before the war, some counties of the Mississippi Delta contained more black than white people.  Taken as a whole, the Mississippi Delta contained nearly as many black citizens as white citizens.  In the post-war era, the plantation/slave labor system of cotton raising, was replaced plantation/share cropper system.  The share cropper system was also exploitative of the free black families living on the Mississippi Delta.  Rather than being bound to a plantation by the laws protecting slavery, the black families were bound to the plantation by economic ties, including a debt for living supplies at the local general store which may be owned by the same plantation owner for whom they sharecropped.

The sharecroppers and their families supplied labor for working the fields of the plantation on a year-around basis.  However, in the busy times of cotton chopping and cotton picking, even more help was needed.  Thus, there arose a large group of persons lived on the Delta, who lived outside the sharecropping system and received their income only for this part-time employment as a farm laborer in the spring, summer and fall.  Both inside and outside the sharecropping system, life was full of poverty, disappointed ambitions and racism.  As a nostrum, for these problems, many workers sought comfort in the local “juke joint.”  A juke joint served intoxicating drinks.  The choice of drink was usually limited to whatever “moonshine” from whatever local distillery happened to be available at the time.   Drinks were served in pint or quart-sized fruit jars.  Accommodations of the juke joint were rustic and the typical juke joint was hidden away in some remote and inaccessible location in the most rural areas of the Delta.  Being located where they were, in a rural areas, the juke joint sought to avoid attention of local racial hate groups and local law enforcement.  Fights, knifings and shooting were not unknown in juke joints and were a mere reflection of the feeling of hopelessness that permiated the atmosphere of the Delta.

However, in this environment of seeming absolute despair something beautiful arose.  The juke joint became the birth place of a new form of music called “Blues Music” or the specifically that variant of the blues called the “Delta Blues.”  (A typical juke joint complete with blues music and a fight is portrayed in the 1985 movie The Color Purple.)  Only later, did blues music make it way north, first to Memphis, Tennessee, where W. C. Handy began transcribing, writing and orchestrating the Delta Blues.  (For this work, W.C.Handy became known as the Father of the Blues.)  Later, blues music made its way north to Chicago, Illinois; Detroit Michigan and Harlem in New York City.  These communities also became the favored destinations for the tide of of Afro-Americans seeking a better living than they had on the Mississippi Delta in the years following World War I.

Blues music of has long been the music of life in Memphis and the juke joints of the rural Mid=South region around Memphis.
Blues music of has long been the music of life in Memphis and the juke joints of the rural Mid=South region around Memphis.

There is considerable debate over whether the mechanization of cotton harvesting and the resultant loss of jobs on the Mississippi Delta forced Afro-Americans to move out of the Delta, or whether the reverse was true—that the huge out-migration of Afro-Americans from the Delta to northern cities caused the agricultural industry to seek a mechanical means of harvesting cotton.  (See the September 2001 article called “Technological Unemployment in Agriculture: Cotton Harvest Mechanization in the U.S.” written by Craig Heinicke and Wayne Grove located on the Internet.)  Whatever the truth of this chicken or egg problem, development of the cotton picker in the post-World Ward II period introduced vast changes in the demand for farm labor in Mississippi.  Early in the 1950s, it was the threat of these changes that created a real fear in some quarters of the South.  Worrying about the social upheaval that might be incurred by the introduction and widespread use of the cotton picker in the South, the Jackson (Miss.) Daily News editorialized that the cotton picker “should be run out of the cotton field and sunk in the Mississippi River.”

Several different cotton harvester designs were being used experimentally, in the 1930s.  However, only two designs were to successfully mass produced—the cotton stripper design and the spindle-type cotton picker design.  The cotton stripper combed the entire cotton plant with brushes to remove the cotton bolls.  Thus, the cotton stripper basically destroyed the cotton plant as it harvested the cotton bolls.   Therefore, the cotton stripper would make only one pass over the cotton field harvesting the cotton.  The spindle-type cotton picker on the other hand, removed the cotton bolls while leaving the unopened bolls unharmed. These unopened bolls would be allowed additional time on the cotton plant to mature and open for harvesting at a later date.  The cotton stripper has become popular in the western end of the cotton belt—Oklahoma, Kansas and west Texas—where growing season was too short to allow for any more than a single pass over the cotton field.

Among all the competing designs for a spindle-type cotton picker, three patented designs drew the most attention.  The first was the Price-Campbell spindle-type design.  The second was the spindle-type cotton picker designed by brothers, James Daniel Rust and Mack Donald Rust.  Thirdly, there was the spindle-type cotton picker patented by Hiram M. Berry of Greenville, Mississippi.

Since 1880 Angus Campbell of Chicago, Illinois had been working on a spindle-type cotton picker.  In 1912, Campbell joined with Theodore H. Price to form the Price-Campbell Cotton Picker Corporation.  In the mid-1930s, the International Harvester Company purchased the Price-Campbell patents.  In 1940, Chief Engineer for the International Harvester Company changed the Price-Campbell cotton picker from a pull-type machine to a cotton picker which mounted on the rear end of a row-crop tractor.  The tractor and mounted picker was designed to move across the cotton field in reverse while picking cotton.  In 1942, the International Harvester Company successfully tested this spindle-type cotton picker.  Because of the wartime economic restrictions, the International Harvester Company could not get the cotton picker into production.  Finally, in 1949, the Company completed its new facility on the north side of Memphis, Tennessee and began mass production of the cotton picker.

Meanwhile, the Rust brothers who had been born in Texas moved to Memphis, Tennessee in the mid-1930s and began work on their own spindle-type cotton picker design.  All spindle-type cotton pickers removed cotton from the hulls of the cotton plant by snagging the cotton fibers of the boll with rotating spindles.  The rotating spindles on the Price-Campbell design and the Hiram M. Berry design were barbed spindles.  The barbs on these spindles snagged the cotton fibers.  The Rust brothers cotton picker featured smooth spindles which were slightly moistened as they rotated.  The moist spindles snagged the cotton bolls as effectively as the barbs.  In 1936, the Rust cotton picker was successfully demonstrated at a public exhibition at the Delta Experiment Station near Leland, Mississippi.  After the successful exhibition of their cotton picker the Rust brothers continued to make improvements to their cotton picker all through the Second World War.  In 1949, the Rust brothers signed an agreement with the Allis Chalmers Manufacturing Company to allow Allis Chalmers to mass produce a two-row cotton picker based on the Rust patents.  The manufacturer’s suggested retail price was  $17,500 for this two-row cotton picker.

Meanwhile, the John Deere Company had been working on various cotton stripper and cotton picker designs since the 1920s.  In 1931, the Company suspended all work on cotton harvesting equipment.  However in 1944, the company purchased the Hiram M. Berry patents and soon began manufacturing the single-row Model No. 1 cotton picker which could be mounted on any of the full-sized John Deere row crop tractors.  In 1951-1952, the John Deere Company built a warehouse/branch house at     2095 Lantham Avenue in northern Memphis, Tennessee (1950 pop. 400,000), specifically to aid in the distribution of the new cotton picker and the other John Deere tractors and farm equipment to all the local John Deere dealerships in Mid-South area—western Tennessee, eastern Arkansas and northern Mississippi.  In the fall of 1956, the John Deere Company announced that the Model No. 1 mounted cotton picker would be replaced with the new improved version, Model No. 22 cotton picker for the 1957 season.

Also in the summer of 1956, Deere and Company announced a new line of tractors for the 1957 season—the 20 series tractors.  These new 20 series tractors were, on average, 20% more powerful than their predecessors.  For an example, when the new Model 620 row crop tractor was tested at the University of Nebraska on October 10-15, 1956, the new tractor was shown to deliver a maximum of 48.68 horsepower (hp.) to the belt pulley and 44.16 hp. to the drawbar.  This compared with the 41.57 hp. to the belt and the 36.94 hp. to the drawbar of its predecessor—the John Deere Model 60 row crop tractor.  With this increase in horsepower, the Model 620 was advertised as a full four-plow tractor.  The suggested retail price of the basic Model 620 tractor without any optional equipment was $2,640.00 Continue reading Cotton Farming on the Mississippi Delta

The Willmar Thrun 1937 John Deere Model B (Short Frame) Tractor (Part II)

The Mankato Implement Dealership (Part 2 of 2 Parts):

     Wilmar Thrun 1937 John Deere Model B (Short Frame) Tractor

by

Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the May/June 2002 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

In the spring of 1937, a farmer living in Rapidan Township in Blue Earth County, Minnesota, started working in the fields of his 80-acre farm with his newly purchased John Deere Model B tractor bearing the serial number 34081.  Just the previous February he and his family had attended the annual open house at the Mankato Implement Company the local John Deere dealership located in Mankato, Minnesota.  (See the March/April 2002 issue of Belt Pulley Vol. 15, No. 2, p. 16 for the history of the Mankato Implement Company dealership and story of the 1937 open house.)  At the open house, our Rapidan Township farmer had acted on a dream that had occupied his thoughts for some time.  He had purchased his first farm tractor.

Being a tractor that was manufactured prior to Serial No. 42200, No. 34081 was one of the “short frame” John Deere Model B tractors.  Our Raidan Township farmer found that No. 34081 was a vast improvement for his farm in all seasons.  However as time passed he found that some improvements were needed to the tractor.  As noted in the earlier article in this series, our Rapidan Township farmer replaced the seat on No. 34081 with an after-market Easy-Ride seat.  The Easy Ride seat was made by the Monroe Automobile Equipment Manufacturing Company of Monroe, Michigan and was composed of a large coil spring and a Monroe shock absorber.  The Easy Ride seat was much more comfortable than the original John Deere seat—especially on a tractor with steel wheels and 3” high lugs.  As noted in the earlier article in this series, International Harvester had begun installing the Easy Ride seat on its Farmall tractors in 1939.  The seat was a factory-installed option and became such a commonly requested option on the Farmall “letter-series” tractors—the Model M and Model H etc.—that the Easy Ride seat might just as well been standard equipment.

Although no evidence exists that the Monroe Easy Ride seat was ever a factory-installed option for John Deere tractors.  However as noted previously, a surprising number of un-styled and early styled Model B tractors were fitted with the Monroe seat.  Accordingly, it is not surprising that our Rapidan Township farmer had No. 34081 fitted with the Easy Ride seat which he purchased from a third-party short-line farm tractor parts business in Mankato.  When he purchased the Monroe seat, he found that the seat had already been painted green in color for John Deere buyers.  The Monroe Easy Ride certainly made No. 34081 much smoother to ride.

When the United States became involved in the Second World War, our Rapidan Township farmer found that prices for his farm products rose higher than he had ever remembered.  No. 34081 sped up his ability to complete the field work on his farm.  Because of this increase in efficiency, he was able to take full advantage of all the arrable land on his farm planting from “hedgerow to hedgerow” for the war effort.  He even was able to add a couple of cows to his milking herd of Holsteins.  With a modern tractor-powered and, by now, electrified farm our Rapidan Township farmer was well positioned to take full advantage of the of the rise in prices which accompanied the nation’s attempt to feed the armies around the world.  The John Deere Model B, now with rubber tires on the front wheels worked very well for him all through the Second World War.  During this period, he found that the tractor allowed him to complete much more field work each day than in the past and he was still able to get the milking done at a decent hour in the evening.

By his figuring, in the new environment of higher farm prices, our Rapidan Township farmer figured that the tractor had paid for itself many times over by the time that the war ended.  Now, with the return of peace in 1945, he, like the rest of his neighbors, now thought of trying to upgrade the tractor further by putting rubber tires on the rear of the tractor.

The most popular way of converting the rear wheels to rubber tires was to have a local blacksmith shop cutting the flat spokes of the steel wheels and removing the steel band on the outside of the wheel and then welding on a new rim designed for rubber tires.  Local blacksmith shops all across the Midwest were doing a brisk business in the post-war era in cutting down steel wheels and welding on tire rims.  Indeed, just seven miles south in Good Thunder, Minnesota, the welding shop owned by Dick Scheur was doing a good deal of this work.  To our Rapidan Township farmer having the steel wheels cut down seemed the most prudent way to mount rubber tires on the rear of his tractor.  Consequently, in the early spring of 1946, just as the last traces of snow left in the ditches and shady areas, our Rapidan Township farmer placed No. 34081 securely up on blocks and removed both rear wheels.  He loaded the steel wheels into the back of his new 1946 Chevrolet pickup and headed out his driveway and down the township road toward County Road No. 9.  It certainly wasn’t cold enough for the heater to be turned on.  Indeed he reached up and turned the little crank o the center of the dash board that opened the bottom of the windshield.  He opened the bottom of the windshield just a crack to let in some fresh air.  His new pickup was one of the “Art Deco” Chevrolet pickups which had a great deal of chrome running up and down the front grill.  It was a design that had appealed to him ever since these Art Deco trucks had been introduced in 1941.  Continue reading The Willmar Thrun 1937 John Deere Model B (Short Frame) Tractor (Part II)

The Willmar Thrun 1937 John Deere Model B (Short Frame) Tractor (Part I): The Mankato Implement Company

The Mankato Implement Company (Part 1 of 2 Parts):

                    Wilmer Thrun 1937 John Deere Model B (Short Frame) Tractor

by

Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the March/April 2002 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

            As has been noted on previous occasions most farm equipment dealorships grew out of the traditional small-town general store or hardware store.  (See the article “The Grams & Krautkremer Hardware: John Deere Dealor in Jordan Minnesota” in the July/August issue of Belt Pulley Vo. 13, No. 4, p. 16 and the article “Ray Christian/Easterlund Impliment of LeSueur, Minnesotaand the Wagner/Wacker 1947 John Deere A” in the September/October 2000 issue of the Belt Pulley Vol. 13, No. 5, p. 18.)  These early “dealorships” sometimes held the franchises to multiple competing farm equipment companies.  (Regular readers will remember the fact that the Miles Supply in the small settlement in Clear Creek Township in Eau Claire, Wisconsin had both a John Deere franchise and an International Harvester franchise.  (See the article “The Rosenthal Cornhusker Company of Millwaukee, Wisconsin [Part IV]: the Cornbine” in the November/December 2001 issue of is Belt Pulley Vol 14, No. 6.)  Indeed, some small towns would have two franchises from the same company.  Two John Deere dealors in the same town would create as much competition between John Deere and  John Deere as it would between John Deere and International Harvester within that town.  Barbara Marsh, A Corporate Tragedy: The Agony of International Harvester (Doubleday: Garden City, New York, 1985) p. 99.)  This situation was not conducive to the efficient sales network that the farm equipment companies wished to establish.

Both International Harvester and the John Deere Company began to change this situation.  John Deere initiated a plan for “key dealorships” program.  Realizing that farmers in the 1920s were willing to drive further (over the increasing number of newly paved roads) to find large dealerships which would serve their entire farm machinery needs, John Deere sought to establish larger dealorships in larger towns–especially county seats of the various counties across rural America.  Ibid.

One such county seat was Mankato, Minnesota (1920 pop. 12,469), located on the Minnesota River on the northern edge of Blue Earth County.  Because John Deere had no franchise holder in Mankato, the Company decided to establish a Company-owned dealership in Mankato–Mankato Implement Company.  (This was not Mankato’s first experience with a company-owned dealership.  International Harvester had established a company-owned dealership at 301 So. Second Street in Mankato in 1905.  Later this company-owned dealership was moved to 426 No. Front Street where it stayed for nearly 60 years.  Long-time readers of the Belt Pulley will remember that in the article “Deering and McCormick Grain Binders” in the May/June 1995 issue of Belt Pulley Vol. 8, No. 3, p. 21, was accompanied by a small reproduction of a poster from the International Harvester Company dealership located at 426 No. Front Street in Mankato, Minnesota.  It was implied in that article the John and Mary Depuydt 10 foot McCormick-Deering grain binder had been purchased from that dealership in the 1940s.  Additionally, readers may remember that in the article “The Wartime Farmall H” contained in the July/August 1994 issue of Belt Pulley Vo. 7, No. 4 p. 14, it was noted that Fred and Bruce Hanks had made their way to Mankato for some shopping in the winter of 1944-1945.  There they purchased a pair of new drop center cast iron wheels and matching rims for the 1942 Farmall H they had just purchased.  Although the name of the dealership was not mentioned in that article, the wheels and rims for the Farmall H were purchased at the International Harvester company-owned dealership in Mankato.)

In 1930, John Deere also decided to establish a company-owned dealership in Mankato, Minnesota, originally it was planned that the dealership would also serve as a “branch house” or a distribution center for the other smaller John Deere dealerships around southern Minnesota.  For the purposes of establishing this dealorship/block house, John Deere sent Joseph Rolstad to Mankato in the spring of 1930.  He took a room at a boarding house located at 328 Center Street and served as the first general manager or “branch manager” of the new company owned dealership which became known as the Mankato Implement Comany.  A building was purchased at 212 North Front Street and the new dealership was initiated.  Later the premises next door, at 210 North Front Street were also acquired and merged with the dealership and the address of the Mankato Implement Company dealership was officially changes to 210 No. Front Street.  Later it was decided that the branch house for the entire state of Minnesota would be the Deere and Webber Company distributorship located at 800-828 Washington Avenue North in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Thus, the Mankato Implement Company lost its destination as a branch house and became a straight dealership.

The building at 800-828 Washington Avenue North which housed the Deere and Webber Company in Minneapolis, Minnesota the branch warehouse for John Deere dealerships all over the State of Minnesota.

 

It had never been the intent of Joseph Rolstad to serve as the permanent manager of the new dealership.  He was merely assigned the duty of coming to Mankato to get the dealership up and running and then move on to another assignment as soon as a permanent manager had been hired.  A couple of permanent managers were tried but eventually, in the spring of 1934, Lore E. Smith was hired as permanent manager of the Mankato Implement Company.  Lore and his wife, Marie, moved into a house at 918 No. Second Street in Mankato. In addition to the new dealership at 210 North Front Street, John Deere had purchased a building at 1101 North Broad Street in Mankato to serve as their warehouse.  Continue reading The Willmar Thrun 1937 John Deere Model B (Short Frame) Tractor (Part I): The Mankato Implement Company

St. Peter Implement Company& the Holmberg/Weyl John Deere Model G Tractor

          

                                        St Peter Implement Company and

the 1948 Holmberg/Weyl John Deere Model G

                                                                            by

Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the November/December 2000 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

 

Along with the celebration of V-J Day which brought an end to the Second World War in 1945 was the anticipated ending of rationing of new farm machinery.  During the war, farmers had been called upon to raise crops from fence-row to fence-row in order to meet the needs of the nation.  In addition, farmers had been expected to operate under the restrictions of having to keep their old pre-war farm machinery functioning.  Most of the iron, rubber and other raw materials which would have gone into the production of new farm machinery had been diverted into war production.  Now, with the end of the war, there was a tremendous demand for new farm machinery.  This demand created new opportunities in sales of new farm equipment.  Among the businesses that felt this change was the Nicollet County Hybrid Seed Company of St. Peter, Minnesota (1940 pop. 5870).

St Peter is another of the small communities on the Minnesota River, located 29 miles up river from Jordan, Minnesota, the home of the Grams and Krautkremer Hardware store (see the article on page 16 in the July/August 2000 issue of Belt Pulley), and 10 miles up river from LeSueur, Minnesota, home of the Ray Christian/Easterlund Implement dealership (see the article on page 18 in the September/October 2000 issue of Belt Pulley).  St. Peter is a beautiful town with wide main street (Minnesota Avenue) and its Minnesota Square Park betraying the marks of its early, well-planned development when it was anticipated that St. Peter would be the capital of the entire state.  That anticipation, however, was thwarted in 1857 when the territorial legislature reconfirmed that St. Paul would be the capital of Minnesota when the state entered the union in 1858, and St. Peter had to content itself with being the county seat of Nicollet County.

Nicollet County stretches westward from the Minnesota River.  Thus, although St. Peter is the county seat, the town is situated on the very eastern edge of the county.  Across the Minnesota River to the east of St. Peter lies southwestern LeSueur County.

Served by a main branch of the Chicago Northwestern Railroad running along the east bank of the Minnesota River from Mankato, Minnesota, through St. Peter and on through the small towns of LeSueur, Belle Plaine and Jordan before arriving in Minneapolis/St. Paul, St. Peter was connected with the rest of Nicollet County to the west by a branch line of the Chicago Northwestern Railroad.  Although now abandoned, the branch line ran out along Ninth Street just below the hill from Gustavus Adolphus College before leaving St. Peter to the northwest, arching around and heading off to the southwest, passing through the small village of Nicollet, Minnesota (1940 pop. 434), before passing over into Brown County at the German settlement of New Ulm (1940 pop. 8,743).

From its location on land leased from the Chicago Northwestern Railroad just south of the current location of South Elementary School, the Nicollet County Hybrid Seed Company had expanded over the years.  Early on, it had obtained a franchise for selling Chrysler/Plymouth automobiles and a franchise for selling John Deere farm equipment in addition to hybrid seed.  The Nicollet County Hybrid Seed Company was owned and operated by Lyle Churchill.  Now, with the huge explosion of demand for new farm equipment, Lyle Churchill suddenly found that the business he was operating had become too large and unwieldy to be operated as a sole proprietorship.  Further complicating his business affairs was the fact that he also owned the Arlington Implement Company of Arlington, Minnesota (1940 pop 1,222), approximately 30 miles to the north, which was the John Deere dealership franchise for that community.  Therefore, some simplicity was needed to run the business efficiently.  Consequently, in 1946, Lyle Churchill sold off the hybrid seed part of the Nicollet County Hybrid Seed Company, which then moved to a new location on the corner of Third Street and Broadway in St. Peter and continued under that name.  Further, Lyle and his wife also sold off the Chrysler/Plymouth franchise part of the dealership, which was then relocated in a building at the corner of Broadway and Minnesota Avenue, and it became St. Peter Auto Sales.  Retaining what he felt would surely be the most lucrative part of the business–the John Deere dealership franchise–Lyle Churchill then moved across the Minnesota River to the LeSueur County side.

Because of its location on the Minnesota River, some of St. Peter’s development spilled over into LeSueur County, on the east side of the river.  This location had special appeal to Lyle because of its close proximity to the main north and south tracks of the Chicago Northwestern railroad and the Chicago Northwestern freight depot.  Also located on the east side of the river were Hanson Silo Company, the Cargill grain drying and storage facilities, the Hormel livestock buying station, and the large Peavy Company grain elevator.  These businesses brought a heavy amount of rural farm customers to this particular area of St.Peter; especially, the Peavy grain elevator which bought a great deal of the farm products–including sugar beets–grown in the rural St. Peter area during this time.  It was the vacant lot between the elevator and Highway #99 that caught Lyle’s eye.  This location was sure to be convenient for the farm traffic which was headed to the grain elevator.  Thus, he purchased the lot for the new John Deere dealership which he was to name the St. Peter Implement Company.

Because there were no buildings at the new site, a new one had to be constructed.  Even though he had sold off two parts of his St. Peter business, Lyle Churchill soon found that his ownership of the Arlington Implement Company as well as the new St. Peter dealership stretched his resources near the limit.  In Arlington, although he owned the Arlington Implement Company together with Jack Barnard, Jack was working full-time as an agronomist for the Green Giant Canning Company in LeSueur, Minnesota, and served only as a “silent partner” with Lyle in that business.  As a silent partner, Jack had invested some of the capital that was needed for the dealership, but left the day-to-day management to the active partner–Lyle Churchill.  Now finding himself in need of more capital for the St. Peter dealership, Lyle turned again to Jack, who agreed to put up the additional capital needed to buy the land and construct the building.  Once again, Jack would serve as a silent partner and leave the active running of the affairs to Lyle. Continue reading St. Peter Implement Company& the Holmberg/Weyl John Deere Model G Tractor

Ray Christian/Easterlund Implement in LeSueur, Minnesota

            Ray Christian/Easterlund Implement of LeSueur, Minnesota,

                       and the Wagner/Wacker 1947 John Deere A

by

Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the September/October 2000 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

 

LeSueur, Minnesota (1920 pop. 1,795) is a small town located in the colorful Minnesota River valley, where canning of corn and peas has long been a part of the economy.  LeSueur is famous for having been the location of the corporate headquarters of the Green Giant Corporation.  Readers familiar with advertising of LeSueur brand peas and Green Giant peas and sweet corn will remember the musical jingo, “+*…in the Valley of the Jolly (ho ho ho) Green Giant *+.”  The Minnesota River valley around LeSueur is known as the Valley of the Jolly Green Giant.

           Green Giant Corporation began in the James Cosgrove Harness Shop at 106 South Main Street in LeSueur.  On April 2, 1903, James Cosgrove and his brothers C.N. and John R.S. Cosgrove and C.N.’s son Robert H. Cosgrove gathered with others to form the Minnesota Valley Canning Company.  From this very inauspicious start, the company grew into a large concern known as the Green Giant Company.  (Margaret Block et al., LeSueur:Town on the River [Walsworth Publishing Co.: Marceline, Miss., 1977] p. 148.)  In 1903, the company used the crops from a mere 200 acres of the surrounding community; twenty-five years later, in 1928, the company was contracting with area farmers for the crops from 20,000 acres.  Ibid.  The effect the Minnesota Valley Canning Company (later the Green Giant Corporation) would have on the progress of farming in this area was pivotal.  Many farmers in the northwest corner of LeSueur County and eastern Sibley County grew large quantities of sweet corn and English peas for Green Giant.  Contracts between Green Giant and area farmers for growing sweet corn and peas supplied a financial floor, of sorts, on which LeSueur area farmers could bank as they risked the expense of new farm machinery.

C. N. Cosgrove came to LeSueur in 1872 at the age of 18 years, and that same year he opened a hardware store at 112 North Main Street.  C.N. had always been interested in modern farming methods.  Consequently, from a very early date, his hardware store had sold farm implements.  (A 1910 picture clearly shows that the Cosgrove Hardware Store was the local dealer for Kentucky grain drills.)  C.N. did well enough at selling horse-drawn machinery that in 1890 he built the first of the “Cosgrove” houses in LeSueur.  (This historic house, located at 228 South 2nd Street, is currently owned by Wayne and Marilyn Wells and is operated as a bed and breakfast.)  C.N.’s interest in progressive agriculture led to his appointment to the Minnesota State Fair Board where he served for many years.  (Visitors to the Minnesota State Fair will note that the street on the east side of the fairgrounds, in front of the Administration Building, the 4H Building, the Educations Building, the Creative Activities Building, and the Fine Arts Building, is named Cosgrove Street in honor of C.N. Cosgrove.)  In 1918, C.N. took on additional community responsibilities with his election to the Minnesota State Senate.  C.N. continued to serve on the board of the Green Giant Corporation and would eventually become president of the corporation in 1925.  In order to devote adequate time to his other responsibilities, C.N. Cosgrove sold his hardware store/implement dealership to R.T. Bryan in 1919.  In 1924, after just five years of ownership, R.T. Bryan sold the hardware store/implement dealership to a young man by the name of Ray Christian. Continue reading Ray Christian/Easterlund Implement in LeSueur, Minnesota

The Grams and Krautkremer Hardware: John Deere Dealer in Jordan, Minnesota

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The Grams and Krautkremer Hardware:

John Deere Dealer in Jordan, Minnesota

                                                                          by

Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the July/August 2000 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

 

No. 83894 in its newly painted condition.
The 1940 John Deere model B bearing the Serial No. 83894 in its newly painted condition.

 

General stores have a unique place in the history of small town Americana, where people would gather to hear the news of the community and beyond.  A visit to a general store would not only supply people with their material needs, but would also nourish their spirits with good neighborly discourse and interaction while they were there.  This was so, because outside of the livery stable, train depot, and church on Sunday, there were precious other locations for people to gather.  What’s more, anything a person could possibly need could be obtained from the general store.  If the exact product were not available, the storekeeper would simply try his best to order whatever the customer wanted.  Hopefully, the product would arrive in some future delivery, aboard a train or on a Wells Fargo wagon or an Overland stage.  Chances are the slogan that hung in many a small town general store was more than apt: “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it.”

As small towns grew, however, grocery stores sprang up to specialize in food products, dry goods stores specialized in clothing, and lumberyards were started as independent businesses.  All of these businesses offered the public a much larger selection and variety within their particular economic market than did the old general store.  Usually, in the course of this small town diversification, the general store, stripped of all other products, was left with the hardware business, e.g., nails, bolts, pipes, plumbing supplies and hand tools.  Needless to say, customers of the hardware store still found the old fashioned comradeship and neighborly atmosphere in most small town hardware stores.  For travelling salesmen, this atmosphere was a welcome environment, with a potbellied stove pouring out heat in the wintertime and an overhead Casablanca fan offering cool refreshing breezes in the summer.

img057
John Deere advertising highlighted the differential foot brakes that could aid in turning the Model B in the soft dirt of the corn field.

At first, in most communities, farm machinery companies sold their grain binders, plows and cultivators through the general store.  Later, specialized hardware stores became the natural outlet for farm machinery.  In the beginning, all farm equipment companies, as well as automobile manufacturers, would share the same hardware store in the small town, where Overland-Willys’, Studebakers, and Chevrolet and Ford cars and trucks might all be sold together with Case steam engines, Buffalo-Pitts threshers, and horse-drawn farm wagons from the Bain Wagon Company of Kenosha, Wisconsin, or from the Brown Manufacturing Company of Zanesville, Ohio.  Later, as the farm equipment business became more competitive, companies like International Harvester and Allis-Chalmers began to offer only exclusive franchises to retail outlet stores.  Pursuant to these exclusive franchise contracts, the “franchisee” would agree to sell only the farm equipment products of the franchisor company.  In exchange, the company agreed not to establish any other franchise dealer in that town or in the surrounding community.

In many a rural community, a chance to get into the farm equipment business offered a real opportunity to many hardware (general) stores that were looking for ways to avoid the decline they were headed into as they lost their exclusive market to food products, dry goods, lumber, etc.  In the mid 1920s, as farmers created more and more demand for new farm equipment, the prospects of doing well in the farm equipment business appealed to many an ambitious young man.  Two such young men were Joe Grams and Herman Krautkremer from Jordan, Minnesota (1920 pop. 1,106).  Jordan, a flourishing German-American village, was the economic hub for west-central Sand Hill Township and for the area immediately across the Minnesota River in southeastern Carver County.  Sand Hill Township and neighboring Carver County were part of the rich black soil area of the lower Minnesota River Valley, with small, diversified farms.  Year after year, the soil consistently produced good harvests.  In other areas of the state, the insecurity of growing crops on poorer soil compelled farmers to expand their landholdings and forced them to take on large amounts of debt to pay for additional land and any modern farm machinery they might need to farm these larger tracts of land.  Here in the lower Minnesota River Valley, however, farms could remain small and still provide a good living.

Farmers in this area were conservative in nature.  Recognizing that the black soil could yield a family a good living if the farmer did not overextend himself financially, modern farm machinery was slow to be accepted by the farmers in townships like Helena  Township and Sand Creek Township in Scott County.  However, in the mid-1920s, it was hard to resist the temptation to borrow money so as to buy more land and grow more crops.  Still, older farmers remembered that just after the Great War of 1914 to 1918, there had been a sharp depression which caused many farmers to go into bankruptcy.  Nevertheless, by 1923, the worst of the post-war depression was over and the farm economy had once again started to rise.  By 1928, optimism was in the air and it was infectious.  Joe Grams and Herman Krautkremer were among those people who looked hopefully to the future.  It was in this spirit and time of optimism that Joe Grams and Herman Krautkremer decided to go into business for themselves. Continue reading The Grams and Krautkremer Hardware: John Deere Dealer in Jordan, Minnesota

Al Fulcher and the Cresco Implement Company, Cresco, Iowa

  Al Fulcher and the Cresco Implement Company

                                                                       by

Brian Wayne Wells

                                                            with the assistance of

Mary Ann Townsend of Charles City, Iowa

As p[ublished in the May/June 2000 issue of

           Belt Pulley Magazine

EPSON MFP image
The 1935 John Deere Model D purchased by Howard Hanks (seen standing by the rear tire of the tractor in the picture) in 1950, is seen here pulling the John Deere Model 7A combine.

Fredericksburg, Iowa (pop. 1,075), is a small town located in southeastern Chickasaw County, about six miles south and five miles east of New Hampton (pop. 3,940), the county seat of Chickasaw County. The mere name “Fredericksburg” in and of itself breaths the town’s German ancestry. Among the many German-American settlers in the rural Fredericksburg area were Fred and Mable (Johnson) Fulcher.   Fred and Mable had four daughters–Ada, Amy, Hazel and Mildred–and four sons–Vernon, Lester, Everett and Alfred Lee.

Alfred Lee Fulcher was born on November 12, 1891 and raised on the farm. Like most farm boys, he was very much interested in farming for himself when he came of age. As part of growing up, farm boys’ thoughts diverge only temporarily from farming–when they discover girls. So too did the thoughts of Alfred Fulcher when he met Julia C. Lensing and fell in love. At the age of 24, Alfred figured he had been a bachelor long enough, so he asked Julia to marry him. On August 15, 1915, they were married at St. Mary’s Church in New Hampton. Al and Julia immediately started farming in the New Hampton and Charles City area. On November 17, 1917, a daughter Delores was born. Delores was followed by three sons–Al J., Raymond and Donald.

During the United States involvement in the First World War, farming the basic staples was good. “Food will win the war!” was a popular slogan. Leland Sage in his book titled History of Iowa stated the following regarding those times: “Government spokesmen urged the farmers in Iowa and other states to produce to the limit, and bankers begged them to borrow money and buy more land for this purpose. Experts showed them how to increase yields and urged them to plow under pasture-lands and roadsides and put them into production. The government announced guaranteed minimum prices for wheat, corn, cotton, and other products needed for the war effort. No one could lose.” (Leland L. Sage, History of Iowa [Iowa State University Press: Ames, 1974], p. 253.) Nobody much cared that the price of land went up to $800 to $1,000 per acre. With wheat prices as high as $3.60 per bushel and corn at $3.00 per bushel, it certainly would not take long to pay off any debt that might be accumulated by buying more land. (Ibid.)

At the end of the war in 1918, Europe was devastated and faced with mass starvation of its citizens. Thus, President Woodrow Wilson appointed an Iowa native, Herbert Hoover from the town of West Branch in Cedar County, Iowa, to head the American Relief Administration (A.R.A.) in an attempt to avert a catastrophe. Under Hoover’s direction, the A.R.A. shipped 19 million tons of food and supplies worth $3.5 billion to Europe. (Joan Hoff Wilson, Herbert Hoover: Forgotten Progressive [Little Brown and Company: Boston, 1975], p. 46.) To support this post-war effort, the United States government left the war-time price supports on farm commodities in place during 1919 and into 1920. Wheat was particularly profitable for United States’ farmers. With government supports, the price of wheat ran well over $2.00 a bushel for all the wheat a farmer could produce. (John D. Hicks, Republican Ascendancy: 1921-1933 [Harper Bros. Publishers: New York, 1960], p. 18.) By this quick action, a disaster was averted and it looked by early 1920 that Europe would be able to stand on its own.  Consequently, on May 31, 1920, the United States Government announced that the price supports for wheat were being removed. The price of wheat fell immediately, and started dragging all other farm commodity prices downward also. By July of 1920, the index of farm prices was ten points below the June level. August brought another 15 point drop, and September meant yet another drop of 15 points. By the end of the year, wheat was selling for 67¢ a bushel. Bankruptcies and foreclosures exploded into an avalanche, as 435,000 farmers lost their farms in the economic collapse. (Ibid. p. 19).

For Alfred and Julia Fulcher, this time was an extremely bitter time. They had been farming well together and raising their family since 1915. They had managed to make some improvements to their farming operation and had even put aside some assets. However, they too finally had to quit farming, as the economic crash swamped the fruits of five years of hard work. Suddenly, with growing family, Alfred and Julia not only had to face the problem of an uncertain future, but the more immediate problem of finding housing for their family. To this end, the family moved back into New Hampton, Julia’s home town. After a long while of looking for a mere opportunity to work, Alfred found employment as a welder at the Hart-Parr/ Oliver factory in nearby Charles City, Iowa. In late 1920, Alfred and Julia and their family moved to Charles City to be closer to work, and rented a house at 607 South Iowa Street. In 1925, they moved to a house at 708 Freeman. Later, in 1928, they moved to yet another rental house at 1808 Bailey; and still later, in 1931, they rented a house at 1203 Waller.

 

 

The Hart-Parr Company was an old and established company in the farm equipment industry–having been the first developer of the gasoline powered tractor. Alfred continued to work at the Hart-Parr/Oliver plant in Charles City throughout all the 1920s and 1930s as a welder. Because he was working in the farm equipment industry, Alfred was in an excellent position to notice the increasing demand for farm machinery. Consequently, Alfred became intrigued by the possibility of going into business for himself in the retail end of the farm equipment business. He got this opportunity in 1939 when he was given a chance to start an implement dealership in partnership with R.L. Atkinson of New Hampton, Iowa. The opportunity to go into business for themselves arose in Cresco, Iowa (pop. 3,860). Cresco was the county seat of Howard County, located in northeastern Iowa, with Chickasaw County on its southern border and the Iowa-Minnesota state line on its northern border. After some investigation into the tractor market and the town of Cresco, Alfred and R.L. Atkinson had determined Continue reading Al Fulcher and the Cresco Implement Company, Cresco, Iowa

Survivors from the Past

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Survivors from the Past

by

Fred Hanks

As published in the January/February 1994 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

Volume 7, Number 1

The enclosed picture (on the back cover) has some links with the past.  In the foreground are two of the “beauties” which we have restored and plan to preserve.  Another “link with the past” is the grand old maple tree in the background.

We have lived on this farm in Southeastern Minnesota for nearly forty-nine years now.  However, to some people, the farm continues to be known as the “Bagan place.”  The Bagan family moved here over one-hundred years ago.  During their first years on the farm, they planted a series of trees in the front yard.

During the time that we have lived here, Bagan family descendants have recounted the story of a neighbor who stopped by with their team of horses and buggy, to pay a visit to the Bagan.  In the course of the visit the team succeeded in breaking off the trunk of one of the young saplings.  Undaunted, the branches of the broken sapling re-sprouted below the break in the trunk and the tree continued to grow.  Today the tree has become a giant.  This is the maple tree that you see in the background of the picture.  The wound created by the broken trunk is still evident today.

All of the machinery currently in use on our farm is John Deere with the exception of a 1950 Massey Harris 22 (Serial No. GR 6729, pictured on the cover of the February, 1993 issue of Fastline, Minnesota edition, Vol. 6, No. 7) and a newly acquired 1951 Massey-Harris 30 (serial number 15095, the purchase of this tractor is the subject of an article in Wild Harvest May/June 1993, Vol. 10, No. 3).  Though the John Deeres pictured along with the two Massey-Harris tractors are collector items, they continue to be used on the farm on a regular basis in haying season and for grain and manure hauling.

The 1958 John Deere 630 (serial number 1692) was purchased in 1972 and has been used on the farm since that time.  The 1957 John Deere 620 (serial number 10752) was purchased in 1987.  The 620 has dual hydraulics and an air stack.  The 620 came with a 3-point hitch which can be transferred to the 630 as required.

We are very much excited about another restoration project purchased at an auction in September of 1992.  It is a 1943 John Deere H (serial number 46683).  It has an electric starter, lights, hydraulics, and fenders.  We hope to restore it to show-room condition so that it can join our other units at shows and parades.

These tractors as well as the old maple tree are truly survivors!