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Dairy Farming in Eastern Massachusetts (Part II)

                      Dairying in Eastern Massachusetts (Part II) 

by

Brian Wayne Wells

 As published in the January/February 2004 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

The Farmall F-14 bearing the Serial No. 132603.

 

Dairy farming in Massachusetts and indeed dairying in much of New England involved not only the milking of the cows, but the pasteurization, bottling and the delivery of the milk to the customers by the dairy farmer himself (see the previous article in this series which was published in the November/December 2003 issue of Belt Pulley).  One particular dairy farm located in Concord Town, Massachusetts, (1930 pop. 7,477), was being operated by our Concord Town farmer (as noted in the earlier article,in Massachusetts, the designation “Town” has the same connotation as “Township” in other states.  Our Concord Town farmer lived on this farm with his wife and four children.  By the summer of 1938 his eldest son, who had taken a strong interest in the 80-acre operation, was becoming a real partner in the farming operation.

An aerial view of a farm very much like our Concord Town farmer’s farm.

 

Since the early l930s, our Concord Town farmer had been delivering milk to his customers along his route, which extended over the line from Concord Town into the suburban town of Lexington, Massachusetts (1930 pop. 9,467), just west of Boston.  Like all farmers our concord Town farmer was interested in anything that would save him time in his farming operation.  He had been pleasantly surprised at how his purchase of a new Divco Model S delivery truck in 1936 had saved him time and money on the delivery route in the morning as opposed to delivering the milk with horses.

The Divco truck which our Concord Town farmer drove made his milk delivery route consume much less time than the horse-drawn milk delivery wagon.

 

Now he turned his attention to the small period of time each day between noon-time dinner and the late afternoon when he began the evening milking chores.  It was during this short period of time each day that he was requirede to complete all his field work.  If some economical way could could be found to mechanize this portion of his work then he rally felt that he would be able to put his farming operation on a better financial basis.  He had been considering the purchase of a farm tractor for some time.  Over the last year he had been leaning toward the purchase of a Farmall F-12 tractor, from the Frank Goddard hardware store at 933 Andover Street in Lowell, Massachusetts.  The Frank Goddard Hardware was the local International Harvester Company franchise holder for this area of Massachusetts.

With the growing season already well on the way in the summer of 1938, our concord Town farmer finally found a little time to drive over to Lowell to talk with Frank.  In order for the tractor to pay for itself, our Concord town farmer intended to use the tractor for nearly all his fieldwork.  Thus the tractor wpould require easy access to all areas of the farm.  This would include the field across the road from the homestead and other parcesl of land that were accessed by driving down the roads of his neighborhood.

Sign of the times in the late 1930s which indicated that steel wheeled tractors with spades {steel lugs)would no longer be allowed to travel public roads

 

The steady progress of paving the roads in the communities west of Boston would eventually result in the road past his farm being paved.  As convenient as a paved road would be, it would also mean that the road would be closed to tractors with steel lugs on the rear.  Local government were passing laws and ordinances to protect the the surface of asphault or cement highwaysfrom being torn up and ruined by tractors with steel wheels.  Thus the fields across the road or down the road from our Concord Town farmer’s house could become inaccessible with a steel wheeled tractor.  Accordingly, he concluded that any tractor that he purchased would have to have rubber tire on the front and rear from the start.  Rubber tires would increase the initial cost of any new farm tractor.  Our Concord Town farmer knew that the base price of a new Farmall  F-12 tractor would increase from $655 to $800 merely because of the addition of rubber tires to the front and rear of the tractor.  Nonetheless, he felt that the ability to easily access the fields down the road without trouble would pay off.

After talking with our Concord Town farmer for a short while, Frank Goddard called the International Harverster branch house, located at 61 North Beacon Street in the Alston area of Boston.  Because of its location in Boston, the transport hub for much of New England, the branch house at No. Beacon Street dealt predominately with International trucks.  Only secondarily did the branch house deal with farm equipment and tractors.  Luke E. W. Johnson served as the general manager of both trucks and machines at the branch house.

Johnson informed Frank Goddard that the branch house did indeed have a limited number of F-12 tractors.  However, none of them were fitted with a full set of rubber tires—front and rear.  Additionally, the branch house did not have extra tire rims for the rear of the F-12 tractor to swap out some rubber tires on the rea of one of the F-12s that they had in their inventory.  However, Luke Johnson did note that he had a new F-14 in his inventory which was already fitted with rubber tires in the front as well as the rear.  The rear tires on this tractor were mounted on International Harvester’s own 40-inch demountable rims.  This was an F-14 bearing the serial No. 132603.

 

The restored Massachusetts F-14, bearing the Serial Number 132603 at the 2016 LeSueur Pioneer Power Show.

Continue reading Dairy Farming in Eastern Massachusetts (Part II)

Dairy Farming in Massachusetts (Part I)

                               Dairying in Eastern Massachusetts (Part 1)

by

Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the November/December 2003 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

Dairy farming in Massachusetts involves not only milking twice a day but also the bottling of the milk and the delivery of the bottled milk to the doors of consumers.

The small hamlet of Concord, Massachusetts is famous in American history.  In 1775, a British arsenal was located there.  On April 19 of that year, British troops seeking to secure the arsenal from the increasingly rebellious Massachusetts colony, were marching from Boston harbor toward Concord, when they were met in Lexington, Massachusetts by a collection of militia, called Minutemen.  The Minutemen had been roused from their beds early in the morning of April 19 by Paul Revere.  At Lexington, on the road to Concord, a shot rang out which became known as the “shot heard around the world.”  The battle that ensued at Lexington was the start of the American Revolutionary War.

The Minute Men monument in Lexington, Massachusetts which our Concord Town farmer drives by on a regular basis on his milk delivery route to homes in suburban Lexington.

 

In 1775, Concord was one of many small communities that dotted the Massachusetts colony.  Farm families, living in or around the settlement of Concord and the other small villages of this part of Massachusetts raised food and products largely for their own use only—subsistence farming.  Boston had little economic connection with Concord or any of the other villages of the area except in its role as a sea port.  However, as time passed, Boston became more urban and was unable to produce the food required for its citizens.  Thus, the farms of the Concord moved into the “market economy” and began producing goods for sale in Boston.

In its role as one of the major international ports of the United States, Boston grew rapidly into a major metropolitan area.  One of the major food stuffs required by Boston was fresh milk—a great deal of fresh milk.  Because of this demand for milk and because of the rocky and hilly, timbered lands of eastern Massachusetts, it was natural that farmers there specialized in dairying.

Although there was a settlement which was referred to as the village of Concord, the term “Concord Town” referred to the geographical unit, which included the rural area around the village of Concord.  By 1938, Concord (1930 pop. 7,477) was beginning to lose its rural feel and was becoming a suburb of Boston.

An aerial view of a farm very much like our Concord Town farmer’s farm.

 

One of the dairy farms that still operated in Concord Town in 1938 was operated by a particular farmer.  He lived on the 80-acre farm that had been in his father’s family dating back to the early 1800s.  He was married with four children.  Dairying had been a major part of his family farming operation since the beginning.  This job meant not only milking his herd of Guernsey cattle twice a day, but it also meant pasteurizing the milk in a large vat and then bottling the milk and delivering to the door of their customers along the milk route which was largely contained in the village of Lexington.

Purebred Guernsey milking herd lying down in the pasture in mid-morning to chew their cud after having grazed soon after the early morning milking.

 

Chores began at 5 a.m. when our Concord Town farmer would leave the house to check on the fire in the boiler in the milk house prior to heading for the barn.  As he walked to the milk house one January morning in 1938, he noted that this January was having its share of unusually cold mornings.  Arriving at the milk house, he could hardly wait to get inside and close the door behind him.  Once inside, he found that there continued to be some warmth still emanating from the firebox of the boiler.  Good!  The fire wasn’t entirely out.  He carefully removed the ash from the stove, revealing the red embers from yesterday’s fire.  After adding a handful of cedar single kindling and loading up the firebox with an arm load of wood, our Concord Town farmer, adjusted the air vents on the door of the ash compartment.  Both vents controlled the size of the fire in the firebox and, thus, controlled the heat in the boiler.  Early in the morning on a cold winter’s day like this our Concord Town Farmer would open the air vents slightly more than usual to bring the fire quickly up to normal heat.

When our Concord Town farmer arrived at the milk house on his farm in the early morning he found that the fire in the boiler had not totally gone cold. He revived the fire from the coals that had survived the with kindling first and then wood logs.

 

The firebox heated the boiler reservoir water tank located directly above the firebox.  Pipes leading from the reservoir water tank, wrapped themselves around a stainless steel tank in the milk house.  This tank contained the fresh milk from the previous evening’s milking.  Our Concord Town farmer now opened the valve on the water pipe to allow the water to start flowing through the pipes again.  The water from the boiler would flow through the pipes wrapped around the stainless steel tank would slowly begin to raise the temperature of the milk.  Raising the temperature of the milk to 72ºF would “pasteurize” the milk.  Pasteurizing the milk greatly reduces the microbial growth within the milk and prevents diseases that might be caused by drinking “raw” (unpasteurized) milk.  The temperature of the milk must be maintained at 72ºF for 12-15 seconds to be effective.   However, the temperature must not get above 72ºF, or the milk would “cook.”  Ever mindful that he did not want the temperature of the milk in the stainless steel tank to rise above 72º F, our Concord Town farmer positioned the air vents on the boiler to allow for a carefully controlled fire.  Checking the temperature of the milk in the stainless steel tank, he found that it was below 40º F.  On a morning like this there was no trouble keeping the milk cold enough.

The milk tank which was heated to only to 72 degrees Fahrenheit (F). Only just enough to pasteurize the milk and not “cook” the milk.

 

Then he was off to the barn where his son had already begun feeding the cows silage and their ration of feed grain in the bunks in front of their stanchions.  Our Concord Town farmer took the mechanical milkers from their drying racks, where they had been placed after dismantling and washing following the previous evening’s milking chores.  The mechanical milkers were now re-assembled by placing the rubber inserts into each of the teat cups on the mechanical milker.  Then he started the little “hit and miss” engine that ran the vacuum pump.  The vacuum pump was connected to a pipeline that ran down each row of stanchions on either side of the alleyway in the barn.  These pipelines contained valves and nozzles located at each stanchion.  With a hose connected to the nozzle, the mechanical milker was placed on the first cow to be milked.  Vacuum held the mechanical milker on the teats of the cow being milked.  A “pulsator” converted the vacuum into an action of vacuum and release.  This pulsator action when applied to the rubber inserts inside the four teat holders, milked the cow better than if the cow had been milked by hand.  It took only a couple of minutes for the mechanical milker to empty all four “quarters” of the udder on the first cow.  Our Concord Town farmer then turned off the vacuum valve near the nozzle of the vacuum line and then removed the milker from the cow.  He then opened the lid of the milker and dumped the milk into a pail setting in the center of the alleyway of the barn.  Then, he attached the milker to the next cow to be milked.  While the milker was milking the next cow, our Concord Town Farmer took the pail out to the milk room in the barn and dumped the contents of the pail into the milk strainer which sat on top of a 10-gallon milk can.  The strainer would remove any large impurities, like a stems of straw, that may have made its way into the milk during the milking process.

A drawing of the milk pasteurizer with a cut-away view of the mechanism on the inside.  The mechanism inside the tank stirs the warming milk so that the pasteurizing tank so that all the milk in the tank reaches 72 degrees  at the same time and then turns the heat off so that the milk is not over-heated or cooked.

 

Following the milking of the entire Guernsey herd, our Concord Town farmer would take the mechanical milkers up to the milk house.  There he would bleed off some of the hot water in the boiler reservoir tank and begin the process of disassembling, washing and disinfecting the various parts of the milkers.  The milking machines would then be hung up on the racks to allow the water to drain off and completely dry all parts of the mechanical milkers.

Father and son cleaning up the milking machines following the twice daily milking of the Guernsey herd.

 

Meanwhile, his son harnessed up the horses and brought them around to the front of the barn and hitched them to the sled that contained all the milk cans that had been filled during the morning milking.  The sled would then be driven up to the milk house where the contents of each milk can would be dumped into the stainless steel tank with the milk from the previous evenings milking.

Moving milk in 10-gallon milk cans by horse-drawn sled over the winter snows from the barn to the milk house.

 

Our Concord Town farmer’s son would open the vents on the firebox of the boiler a little more to increase the heat of the fire.  He then added some more wood to the fire and then checked the thermometer in the stainless steel tank.  The temperature of the milk in the stainless steel tank must reach 72º F, but must not rise any higher.  The hot water circulating in the pipes leading from the boiler to the stainless steel tank and returning to the boiler, would gradually raise the temperature of the milk to 72º F.  It would take about three hours.  Time enough for the empty milk cans to be thoroughly, washed, disinfected and placed in a rack upside down to completely dry.

While he washed the milk cans, his son unhitched the sled and took the horses down to the barn, hitch up the Case No. 3 manure spreader, he then let all the cows out of their stanchions and allowed them to walk out of the barn to stretch the legs and to get a drink of water at the stock tank outside the barn.  Then he pulled the manure spreader into alley way of the barn.

A Case No. 3 horse-drawn manure spreader.

 

On such a cold morning, his first task after crawling down from the manure spreader was to immediately close the barn doors behind the manure spreader in order to keep the warmth of the barn inside.  While the horses waited patiently harnessed to the front end of the manure spreader, he would clean out the gutters on either side of the alleyway.  Before loading the manure from the gutters into the manure spreader, our Concord Town farmer’s son slid his fork under each of the steel slats of the apron on the floor of the manure spreader.  He needed to make sure that none of the steel slats was still frozen to the wooden floor of the manure spreader.  He knew from experience that a broken apron chain would mean that the manure would have to be unloaded by hand, and that was something that he did not want to experience again.

After the gutters had been cleaned, he untied the reins of the harness from the left side of the manure spreader and drove the horses and the manure spreader out the doors at the opposite end of the barn into the cow yard.  Then, he returned to barn and put out fresh hay for the cows.  Meanwhile the lactating cows were starting to make their way back into the barn.  They moved by habit to their appropriate stanchion in the barn and began to eat the fresh hay that was being laid out for them.  On a usual morning, the lactating cows would have been in no hurry to get back into the barn.  And he might have to allow them to be outside for a while longer.  However, on this cold morning, the cows were gathered around the barn yard door, anxious to return to the warmth inside the barn.  Their coat of hair was rather thin and compared with the non-lactating cows and the yearlings who were used to the weather outside the barn.   After all the cows were back inside and fastened in their stanchions again, he would head to the fields with the load of manure.

He remembered to swing by the milk house on his way to the fields, just to pick up the pan of wood ashes from the boiler, which his father had places outside the milk house earlier in the morning.  The breath of the horses created visible steam as the horses walked out to the fields.  It was a cold morning, however, the sun was finally beginning to rise in the east.  He looked at the neighbors house on the next farm and saw that the smoke from the chimney was rising up into the clear sky in a tall straight ribbon.

While, our Concord Town farmer’s son was taking the manure to the field, his father was cleaning up around the milk house and kept watching the temperature of the milk in the stainless steel tank.  After about three hours, with the temperature at 72º F, the heating of the milk was stopped and then he began the bottling process.  Now, the newly pasteurized milk was bottled in one-quart bottles.  Our Concord Town farmer had ordered his bottles from the Warren Glasswork Company in New York City.  These glass bottles had been made with our Concord Township farmer’s name embossed on the side of the bottle.

A pasteurizing tank raised on a platform and with a valve on the front bottom of the tank which allows a person to fill milk bottles with the warm milk from the pasteurizing tank following the pasteurizing process.

 

As the individual bottles were filled with milk and capped, they were each placed in a bottle crate.  In summer these crates full of warm milk would have been moved immediately to the ice house on the farm to cool.  The “ice house” on the farm of our Concord Town farmer’s farm was really a cavern excavated out of a nearby hill.  On a winter’s day like this one, however, the bottled milk could merely be placed outside the milk house to be chilled.  On cold mornings like this one, the problem was to avoid having the bottled milk get too cold and to freeze inside the bottle.  Following the bottling process our Concord Town farmer went into the family’s house to get cleaned up and to change clothes.

After changing clothes, he went out to the shed and slid into the seat of his Divco Model S3 delivery truck.  The cream colored truck had his name emblazoned on both sides in bright red letters.

 

The Divco truck which our Concord Town farmer drove made his milk delivery route consume much less time than the horse-drawn milk delivery wagon.

Continue reading Dairy Farming in Massachusetts (Part I)