Category Archives: Allis-Chalmers Company

Articles that include Allis-Chalmers farm equipment.

The Corn Crib on the Grounds of LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association

The Corn Crib on the Grounds of the LeSueur Pioneer Power Association 

by

Brian Wayne Wells

           This article remains under construction.  Periodically, new blocks of text will appear in the article and/or   current blocks of text will be corrected.

Starting in          the annual show of the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association began to demonstrate the farming chore of shelling ear corn.  This chore was an annual wintertime event on the diversified farms located in the row-crop farming areas of the Midwestern United States in the era prior to the emergence of corn combines on diversified farms.

The corn shelling demonstration at the Pioneer Power Show was initiated by Bill Radil, a member of the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association, who was residing at the time in West Concord, Minnesota, when Bill purchased a Minneapolis-Moline Model D corn sheller.

Although this is not the Bill Radil Model D Minneapolis Moline corn sheller, it is mounted on a two-wheel cart and is powered by a tractor power take-off drive, just like the Bill Radil Model D. Note the very short corn husk blower tube: This is a very quickly observed and distinctive feature that distinguishes the Model D from the Model E corn sheller.

  Weighing 1,660 lbs. and with the capacity of shelling 175 to 300 bushels of ear corn per hour, the Model D was the smaller model of the two main corn sheller models manufactured by the Minneapolis-Moline Company headquartered in Hopkins, Minnesota.  The larger model corn sheller produced by Minneapolis-Moline was the Model E, which was later improved and re-modeled as  the Model EE.

The Minneapolis-Moline Model E pictured here is easily destinguishable from the Model D shown above because of the much longer corn husk blower tube on the Model E.

The Bill Radil Model D brought the annual winter-time chore of corn shelling on the typical family-owned midwestern farm to the viewing public at the annual Pioneer Power Association Show held on the last full weekend in August.

However, the demonstration of corn shelling with a Model D corn sheller, complete with its “drag line”  could be most accurately presented to the public as an authentic shelling field demonstration only by shelling corn out of a traditional corn crib rather than as a shelling of ear corn dumped from a wagon into the drag line of the corn sheller.

Consequently, Bill Radil found a small “single corn crib” on the farm of a neighbor, Bruce Freerkson in the same  West Concord neighborhood in which Bill lived.  Bruce and his wife had lived on their farm since about 1996.  Before them the farm had belonged to the Albert and Golda (Ebeling) Arndt family.  Albert and Golda had moved onto the farm shortly after their wedding in 1935.  Although the little single corn crib on the farm was still in use and was filled in the autumn with ear corn that had been picked in the field, the corn crib was probably build at a generation earlier.  A 1905 Plat book of Dodge County, Minnesota shows that the family of George W. Tabbett owned the farm.  During the early 1900s, the corn on the average family farm in the midwestern United States ripe corn was cut in the autumn and placed in shocks in the field.

Traditionally, corn harvested in the fall of the year, had a moisture content of 22-25%.  However, at the time of harvest, the moisture content of the corn could be as high as 28-32%.   In order to dry the corn down to the ideal 18% moisture content for shelling the corn had to be exposed to the cold  winter air.  This could be done by placing the corn in shocks in the corn  field.  However, all of the corn would eventually have to be hand “shucked” (the removal of the ears of corn from the stalk and the husks.)   This was a labor intensive operation that would employ all the members of the family during large portions of the winter.  The horses would be hitched up to the wagon or sled and taken to the corn field in the cold winter months to pick up another load of corn shocks to be hand shucking by the family.

The Larson wagon owned by Howard and Fred Hanks being employed on the Bagan farm in rural Beaver Township, Fillmore County near LeRoy, Minnesota. Here the wheeled wagon gear has been replaced with a horse drawn sled to perform the wintertime activity of going to the corn field to pick up the shocks of corn which would then be husked by hand and used as feed for the cattle and pigs on the farm. .

During these trips to the corn field to pickup corn shocks for hand shucking, the farmer would carry along a hatchet.  In the heart of winter in Minnesota, the ground froze very hard.  The hatchet was for chopping loose the bottoms of the corn shocks so that the corn could be loaded on the wagon or sleigh.  This chopping of the bottom of the corn shocks was another  tedious part of the back breaking  job of collecting the corn shocks in the field.

Amish farm with field of harvested corn in “shocks” for storage against the winter weather,  The shocks of corn from the stubble ground on the right side of the picture has already been removed from the field and has been taken to the building site to be “shucked.”  The ears of this corn has probably already been stored in a small corn crib on the farm to finish drying down to ha

In order to avoid the inconveniences of working in the cold and on the frozen ground of the corn field, the farmer would work hard earlier in the fall to get as  much of the corn would be “shucked” as possible.  Because this corn was shucked before it had a chance to completely dry in the field, the ears of corn would be stored in a small single corn crib.  The by-product of the hand shucking process (the stalks and husks of the corn) would be fed to the cattle and/or pigs on the farm.

A “single corn crib” like the small Arndt/Freerkson corn crib that was first brought to the Pioneer Power Showgrounds by Bill Radil.

Like typical single corn cribs across the midwestern United States, Arndt/Freerkson single corn crib was no wider than eight (8) feet wide to allow the dry winter air to easily pass through the ear corn stored in the crib.  This cold and dry winter air passing through the corn crib would finish drying the ear corn to 18% moisture content.

However, a couple of years after the Arndt/Freerkson corn crib had been brought to the Pioneer Power grounds, the storms of the winter and spring of 2009-2010 destroyed the small single Arndt/Freerkson corn crib when it was blown off its rock foundation.

Bill Radil working to shell the corn out of the actual Arndt/Freerkson single corn crib which was the original and first corn crib brought to the grounds of the LeSueur Pioneer Power Association to become a part of the corn shelling field demonstration. This picture was taken during one of the early years of the corn shelling field demonstrations held at the annual Pioneer Power Show before the Arndt/Freerkson single corn crib was destroyed by a strong wind blowing the crib off of its rock foundation.  In the background, Bill Radil’s Model D Minneapolis-Moline corn sheller can be seen, doing the shelling job.  The very short corn husk blower tube of the Model D can easily be seen from this angle as the Arndt/Freerkson corn crib is shelled out.   It is the very short length of the husk blower tube that makes the Model D easily distinguishable from the larger Model E Minneapolis-Moline corn sheller.

After a couple of years without a corn crib at all at the annual Show, the Pioneer Power Association obtained another corn crib.  This time a “double corn crib” was purchased from  the Richard Dorzinski family living on a Sharon Township farm located on the south side of Minnesota Highway #26 about a mile east of the site of the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Showgrounds.   Owned at the time by Richard Francis Dorzinski, the farm had been in the Dorzinski family since Richard’s father, Albert Frank Dozinski, obtained the farm shortly before he was married in 1920.  Indeed, Albert Dorzinski may well have built the double corn crib in the 1920s.    The double corn crib  consists of  two eight (8) foot single corn cribs placed about eleven (11) feet apart and both the cribs and the space in between the cribs were covered by the same gambrel roof.

In the summer of 2012, the Dorzinski double corn crib was moved from the Albert and Ida Dorzinski farm to the Pioneer Power grounds.  The short trip of about a mile was planned for the same day in 2012 as the move of the larger St. Joseph’s Church from the unincorporated settlement of Lexington, Minnesota to the Pioneer Power grounds.  Movement of both building in the same day along Minnesota Route #26 would save money and labor by cutting the power and telephone lines along the route only once rather than twice.  Once settled on the grounds, the Dorzinski double corn crib was anchored on top of the cement foundation that had been poured for it and was made ready for filling with corn in the fall of 2012.  In the winter of 2012-2013 the Dorzinski corn crib was once again using the winter air to dry ear corn.

Albert Frank Dorzinski married Ida Veronica Retka on September 28, 1920. Their marriage took place in St. Joseph’s Church which was located in the small settlement of Lexington, Minnesota in LeSueur County. This church was moved to the grounds of the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association in the summer of 2012.  Indeed, the Dozinski double corn crib was moved to the Pioneer Power grounds on the very same day as the St. Joseph’s Church, so that the power lines and telephone lines would only be cut once for both buildings.

 Enlargement of the corn crib on the average family farm in the Midwestern United States of America, became much more common in the 1920s because of the development of the mechanical corn picker.  Mechanical picking of corn left the corn stalks in the field rather than taking them to the building site.  Suddenly, the corn picker made it possible to complete the corn harvest  in the Midwestern United States before the snows fell in the winter.

Following the purchase of Dorzinski double corn crib by the Pioneer Power Association, the building was moved from the Dorzinski farm to the grounds of the LeSueur Pioneer Power Association.  There the double corn crib was given a new cement block pillar foundation to house the new double corn crib, brought to the Pioneer Power Showgrounds, was secured to the foundation by anchor bolds.  The Association was taking no chances that this new double corn crib would not be blown off its foundation.  Then, a cement floor was laid in the alleyway of the corn crib.

Here a double corn crib with a large alleyway between the cribs is moved to a new location and just like the Dorzinski  double corn crib on the LeSueur Pioneer Power Showgrounds, this double corn crib is being fitted on a new cement block foundation and a cement floor in the alleyway in the middle of the double crib.

This is the corn crib that continues to be used on the Pioneer Power Showgrounds through the present day.  In the late autumn of each year, Dave Preuhs, founder of the LeSueur Pioneer Power Association fills the corn crib with ear corn that he grows on his own farm.  This corn is planted by a six-row corn planter that is not ordinarily used for the regular corn planting on the Preuhs farm.  The wide rows of corn planted by the six-row planter allow Dave Preuhs to pick the corn to be stored in the Dorzinski  corn crib with a 1974 New Idea Company corn picker fitted with a 3-row corn head made for picking 38 inch rows.

The New Idea 3-row Super Picker

Once in the Dorzinski corn crib the corn crop dries out during the cold Minnesota winters on the Pioneer Power grounds.   During the cold Minnesota winters, the cold dry air of winter passing through the wood slats of the Dorzinski corn crib will dry the ear corn down to at least 18% moisture content and will be ready for shelling.

The drying process in the corn crib begins as soon as the ear corn in placed in the shed.  That sweet smell of field corn which permeates the air around the newly filled Dorzinski double corn crib in the early autumn is the process of the corn starting to give up its moisture content.

The very efficient husking bed that made the New Idea pull-type corn pickers very popular with the farming public.

To aid in this process of drying, the efficient Model 737 husking bed of the pull-type corn picker owned by Dave Preuhs reduces the amount of “foreign matter” (husks and stalks) to less than 4% of the ear corn stored in the Dorzinski double corn crib.

Introduced in 1927 the New Idea Model 6A  cornpicker became another very popular farm machine with the farming public because of its reputation for being  known as one of the most efficient clean husking corn pickers manufactured in the United States of America.

Like the  alleyways in double corn cribs on diversified farms all across the Midwest, (especially when provided with a cement floor) invites storage of vehicles and farm machinery on the average family farm.  Accordingly, the alleyway of the Dorzinski double corn crib has become the winter storage place of the Bill Radil’s 1939 F-20 and the Wells family’s David Bradley large 126-bushel flare box mounted on a five-ton David Bradley wagon gear.  This 1942 wartime Allis-Chalmers  tractor and the David Bradley wagon are often used as a part of the corn shelling field demonstration at the annual Pioneer Power Show.  (The above-mentioned David Bradley wagon gear and 126 bushel wagon box are taken up as the subject of an article contained at this website called “History of the David Bradley Company (Part II): Tractors and Wagons.”

However, there are some vehicles that should not be stored in the alleyway of the corn crib.  As noted above, at picking time, the corn may have a moisture content as high as 32%.  Accordingly, when the freshly picked corn is first stored in the corn crib will be very fragrant as the moisture in the ears of corn is leaving the corn and escaping into the cool air of the autumn.  If, for instance the family car or the modern farm truck is parked in the alleyway of a freshly filled corn crib, the sweet smell of the corn will permeate the padding of the upholstery of the car or truck.  So strong in the fragrance of corn that the fragrance will remain with the car or truck for many years after.

A row of single corn cribs built to allow the dry winter winds to blow through the ear corn to dry the corn down to about 18-15% moisture content.  This 1935 photograph taken on the Frank Hubert farm near Saybrook, Illinois (near Bloomington-Normal ) shows a corn crib built using pole barn framing and wire mesh. (McLean County Museum of History)

Luckily, as the winter weather sets in,  the ear corn would become less and less fragrant until the moisture content of the corn is only 18-15%.  At this stage there is only a “dry smell” in the corn crib.  At this point the fragrance was largely gone and the family car and/or truck may once again be safely stored in the alleyway of the corn crib.

A typical double corn crib with an alley way in the middle.

The typical corn crib should be no wider than eight (8) feet wide to allow the dry winter air to easily pass through the ear corn stored in the crib.  However most times, two single cribs were built close to each other and connected with a common gambrel roof.  Thus, the crib became known as a “double corn crib.”

After having shelled out most of the corn each year, diversified farmers would save back enough ear corn to grind and feed to cows, pigs and chickens on the farm. However, by late summer and fall of the year, the amount of ear corn left in the corn crib can decrease significantly. In October of the year the ear corn harvest usually begins again.

As noted above, a double corn crib contains an alleyway between the two single corn cribs, which are joined by a gambrel roof to become a single building.  The space above the alleyway might be finished out into grain bins which would store oats until they sold or fed to animals on the diversified farm or for storing soybeans until they were marketed at a nearby grain elevator.

The corn in the Dorzinski corn crib is not shelled out in the late winter or early spring as is the usual practice on diversified family farms all across the Midwestern United States.  Rather the corn in the double corn crib continues to be stored until the annual show of the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association held on the last full weekend in August each year.

Bill Radil’s Minneapolis-Moline Model D corn sheller works on the corn stored in the new Dozinski double corn crib on the grounds of the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association at a recent annual show. Bill Radil can be seen standing on top of the freshly shelled corn in the truck on the right side of the picture.  The Dorzinski double corn crib replaced the Arndt/Freerkson single corn crib when a strong wind blew the single crib off its stone foundation.  As seen in this picture, the new double crib has a cement foundation and a roof covering the entire structure resulting in an alleyway in the middle of the double corn crib.  Note from the picture that the alleyway has a cement floor and is, thus, a good place to store farm equipment out of the rain and snow in the winter time.  In the background of the upper middle of the picture is the green David Bradley 126 bushel wagon flare-box mounted on a red David Bradley 5-ton wagon gear with lime green wheels.  As noted in this article this David Bradley wagon is often stored in the alleyway of the double corn crib on the Pioneer Power Showgrounds in the off season.

     

Allis-Chalmers Farming (Part V): Tractors on the Engstrom Farm

Statistics recorded with Counterize - Version 3.1.4

Allis-Chalmers Tractors at Work on the Engstrom Farm

by

Brian Wayne Wells

(As published in the September/October 2007 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine)

            When the Second World War ended in September of 1945, it was clear that great  changes were being wrought in rural America by the fact that the modern farm tractor was replacing the horse on the average farm in rural America.  During the war, new modern farm tractors had been hard to obtain because of the mobilization of the whole economy of the United States for the war effort.  However, once the war was over, sales of farm tractors skyrocketed.  As use of the farm tractor became universal in rural America, the cost of producing an average bushel of corn began to decrease.  Consequently, there was a long term decrease in the market price of corn which had started prior to the recent war and was now continuing with abandon in the post-war era.  The family farmer needed to raise more bushels of corn to make up for the decrease in the price of each individual bushel.  Thus, the long-term decrease in the price of a bushel of corn, was putting the economic pressure farmer to “get big or get out” of farming altogether.  The effects of this economic trend were evident.   Whereas, in 1940, farming had employed 18% of the North American population, by 1950, just ten (10) years later, this figure had fallen to only 12.2%.  During the same period of time, the number of farms in the United States had decreased by almost 1 million farms, from a figure of 6,102,000 farms to a low of 5,388,000 farms.  At the same time, the average size of the United States farm had increased from 175 acres in 1940 up to 213 acres just ten years later in 1950.

            The trend toward bigger farms had always had its first and most deleterious effect on rental farm agreements.  A rental farm agreement usually meant a division of the crops in half, with one half going to the renter, who performed the work on the land, and the other half going to the landlord, who owned the land.  In other words, two families were attempting to live off the crops of the same piece of land.  Even now in the post-war era, the owner of a small farm of 160 acres or less might be able to make a living.  However, chances of a renter bring able to make a living on his share of the crop of a 160 acre farm were becoming increasingly doubtful.  The story of the Engstrom farm of LeRoy Township, Minnesota is one such story of a post-war farm rental agreement.  Like the previous article in this series, this story begins with a Swedish immigrant to America.

Just like Albert Anderson in the article in the previous issue of Belt Pulley magazine, August Engstrom was born in Sweden and immigrated to the United States.  (See the article called “The Allis-Chalmers Model WC: the Styled Version” contained in the July/August 2007 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.)  However unlike Albert Anderson, who immigrated to the United States in 1909 and came through the immigration process at Ellis Island in New York harbor, August Engstrom was a part of the much larger Swedish wave of immigration which arrived in the United States between 1865-1892, before United States Immigration Service had even opened the Ellis Island facility.

Born in Sweden on April 24, 1874, August Engstrom had immigrated to America with his parents in 1881 as a seven-year-old child.  The family settled near Rockford, in northern Illinois.  In 1900, the age of 24, August married Edna Preston.  Together they moved to a farm near Byron, Illinois, in Winnebago Township in Winnebago County, Illinois.  They entered into a rental agreement to work the farm.  However, they dreamed of saving enough money to purchase their own farm.  On this farm in Illinois, they lived and started their family with the birth of a daughter, Frances (Ruth), in 1902 and a son, Verne H., on January 28, 1904.

This was the “golden age” of farming and by 1905, August and Edna were ready to move to a farm of their own.  They took the money that they had saved and moved to LeRoy Township in Mower County along Minnesota’s southern border with Iowa.  There they purchased and moved onto a large 320-acre farm located in southeastern LeRoy Township in 1906.  On their new farm their family continued to grow with the birth of a daughter, Danna, born in 1907; another daughter, Doris, in 1908; a son, Glenn, born in 1911; another son, Charles, born in 1913 and, finally, a last son, Eugene born in 1917.

Excluding the building site and the small 15-acre permanent pasture located just north of the buildings, the farm consisted of about 300 arable acres.   On this farm, there was about 70 acres of hay and 100 acres of oats were raised each year.  All the hay and nearly all the oats would be consumed on the farm as feed for the horses, chickens and pigs.  Corn was the largest cash crop.  About 70 acres of corn was raised each year.  Initially, barley had served as the farm’s second cash crop.  However, during the prohibition years there had been less demand for barley for malting beer.  Accordingly, August and his neighbors, in Mower County had switched to raising flaxseed.  Flaxseed was predominately processed and used as “linseed oil.”  Linseed oil was used on leather, mainly horse harnesses, to preserve softness and flexibility of the harness.   Each year, the crops were rotated from field to field in order to avoid depleting the soil.  In this rotation, the hay field of the prior year became the pasture land for the current year.  The old pasture land of the prior year had to be plowed and converted into a corn field.

Naturally, August needed help to work such a large diversified farm.  First there were a great number of horses that needed care and feed year around.  Then there were the dairy cows that needed to be milked and fed twice a day, the pigs and the chickens to be fed and cared for.  Accordingly, when Lewis Hatlestad, the United States Census taker, showed up on the Engstrom farm on Friday, April 29, 1910, he found that a 23-year old hired hand, Joe Thelen, was living on the farm with the family.  Joe helped with milking the cows and feeding the pigs in the winter.  During the summer, Joe helped with the field work.  However, the size of the farm required that August hire on even more help, on a temporary basis, during the busy times of the summer.

Nonetheless, these years continued to be good years for the Engstrom family fueled by high commodity prices for farm products during the First World War.  Following the post-war recession which occupied the first few years of the 1920s, good prices for farm cash crops—most importantly corn—returned.  Though the price of corn never reached the high level it achieved during the First World War, there was a return to a decent price which allowed a corn farming family, like August and Edna, made a good living on the farm even after paying the hired help.  Like their neighbors, they suffered through the worst part of the Great Depression and felt the economy start to recover in the mid-1930s.  However, by 1940, August was 65 years of age and Edna was 64 years of age.  Thus, they began to plan for a retirement from farming.  Because none of their children were showing any immediate interest in taking over the farming operation, August and Edna determined to sell the farm.

Among the people who were interested by the news that the Engstrom farm might be up for sale, was Frank Klassy who was living with his father on the farm immediately adjacent to the Engstrom farm to the west.  Consistent readers of the Belt Pulley will recognize that Frank Klassy was the son of Matt and the late Ada (Loveland) Klassy.  (See the article called “The Decline of the LeRoy Equipment Company” contained in the November/December 2006 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.)  As noted previously, Matt and Ada had purchased the present Klassy farm from Hans Rudolph in 1909.  Born on September 10, 1902, Frank had spent most of his young life on this farm.  Along the way there had been much hardship and tragedy.  Frank’s younger brother Frederick was killed in a bizarre accident on October 19, 1922, when he choked to death on a pebble that he threw up into the air and caught in his mouth.  Frank’s mother Ada died on March 16, 1934, after an illness and an unsuccessful operation in Rochester, Minnesota.  To help his father on the farm, Frank had ceased his schooling when he was 15 years of age.  It would take Frank eight additional years to complete his high school education.  Eventually, Frank graduated from LeRoy Public Schools, at the age of 26 years, in the class of 1929 with his younger brother, Wilbur.

A few days after graduating from high school, Frank Klassy married Esther Ann Lamon on June 5, 1929 in an open air ceremony held at the LeRoy Municipal Wildwood Park.  (Wildwood Park has since become Lake Louise State Park.)  Together they moved back into the house on the farm with Frank’s parents.  In May of 1930 Esther gave birth to a daughter Jeanne.  Later, the family was expanded with the birth of a son, Donald F. Klassy, born on April 27, 1932 and another son, Robert E. (nicknamed Buzz) Klassy born on August 4, 1936.

 

Wildwood Park near LeRoy, Minnesota (Now incorporated into the larger Lake Louise State Park).

 

Now in 1943, he and Esther were looking forward to having a home of their own.  The Engstrom farm looked like the perfect opportunity.  They would be living on their own farm, yet they would be close enough to the home farm that Frank would still be able to cooperate with his father in summer field work and share horses and farm machinery.  Accordingly, Frank and Esther began to negotiate the purchase of the Engstom farm.

However, Frank’s father, Matt, had also been thinking about the future.   He was now 68 years of age and he had been widowed for nine years now.  He was tired of living alone.  He had been seeing Doretta Spencer, a widow who lived in the town of LeRoy.  Together they had made plans to marry.  Matt wanted to retire from active farming but did not want to leave farming altogether.  He still had his dairy herd.  He had been selling milk and cream to the LeRoy Cooperative Creamery Association.  Indeed, as late as 1935, Matt had been served as president of Creamery Cooperative. 

the  made plans that when Frank and Esther moved off the farm, he would also move off the farm.  He and Doretta would marry and they would move into her stucco house located at the corner of Luella Street and North Broadway Avenue directly across from the Presbyterian Church in the village of LeRoy.  Matt thought that he and Doretta might live rather comfortably in retirement on the rental income they could receive by renting out the home farm.

As he related these new plans to Frank and Esther, Frank began to think about purchasing the home farm from his father rather than purchasing the Engstrom farm.  In order to remain involved in farming, Matt, in turn, began to think about purchasing and renting out the Engstrom farm.  With the current record high prices that were being received by farmers for their crops because of the World War in Europe and the Pacific, Matt wanted to remain involved in farming to some extent.  Accordingly, in 1943, public records reflect that Matt purchased the 320 acre farm from August and Edna Engstrom.  However, inside the Klassy family the purchase of the Engstrom farm is referred to as a “trade” or “swap of farms” between Matt and his son, Frank.

In actual fact, August Engstrom sold only a 5/6ths interest (or an 83.34%  interest)  in the farming operation to Matt Klassy.  August Engstrom retained the remaining 1/6th interest (or 16.66% interest) in the farm.  Probably, he wanted to keep his options open for the future, in case his own children expressed an interest in purchasing the farm sometime in the future.  If ever Matt Klassy wanted to sell the whole farm to a third party, August would have agree to sell his 1/6% interest to the same third party.  Few buyers would be interested in purchasing only part interest in a farm.  The 1/6 interest retained by August would give him a chance to buy back the 5/6ths interest in the farm, if he so chose, before the whole farm was sold to a third party.

Both Matt and August, hoped to live in retirement on the landlord’s share of the crop from the farm.  So the crops raised in the farming operation were now expected to support three families.  The renting family collected the renters share of the crop and the landlord’s share of the crop would be split between Matt Klassy and August Enstrom.

On October 10, 1944, Matt married Doretta Spencer and he moved into Doretta’s house.  Matt and Doretta planned to live off the proceeds of the Klassy home farm to his son, Frank, and from the rent obtained from his 5/6ths interest in the Engstrom farm.  The degree of comfort that this arrangement allowed for each of the three families rested heavily on the relatively high prices that the farmers of North America were receiving for the crops they raised during the current war.  Matt Klassy and August Engstrom found renters for their farming operation during the war.  However, during the post-war era, the landlords once again needed to find another renter.  They advertised and they found Curt Foster.

Born on December 9, 1921 to James C. and Myrna M. (Gorder) Foster, Curt had been raised on the family farm in Jenkins Township, Mitchell County in northern Iowa.  He married Mary Ellen Aspel and they started a family.  In 1947, a daughter Karen Kay Foster was born.  In the months following the birth of Kay, Curt and Mary became aware of an opportunity to rent the large Engstrom farm located in LeRoy Township about 17 miles northeast of their hometown of Riceville, Iowa.  The Engstrom farm was located just across the Iowa-Minnesota State Line.  Curt and Mary moved their family onto the Engstrom farm on March 1, 1948.  Other changes were afoot in 1948.  On December 8, 1948, August Engstrom died.  Eventually his 1/6th share in the farm was sold, by his widow, Edna, to Matt Klassey.

Moving to the large Engstrom farm, Curt Foster worried about the changes that had been wrought on farming by the recent war.  The much anticipated post-war recession had not occurred because of continued economic aid which the United States had offered to war-torn countries of Europe and Asia including Germany and Japan under the Marshall Plan.  The Marshall Plan pledged the United States to financing the recovery of all these countries.  Based on the demand for corn created by the Marshall Plan, the price of corn remained at around $2.00 per bushel and United States farmers were encouraged to continue to grow crops from “fence row to fence row” just as they had during the war.  Now in early 1948, Curt Foster was still worried, however. The countries in Europe and Asia would, sooner or later, recover and the Marshall Plan would come to an end.  What would happen then?  Perhaps the post-war recession would only be postponed and not avoided altogether.

Before moving to the Engstrom farm, Curt had sold his 1947 crop of corn.  The very wet spring of 1947 had resulted in very late planting of corn in Mitchell County, Iowa.  Consequently, as a result, the average corn yield in Mitchell County was reduced by 31.0% in 1947.  Luckily, the nation-wide production had also been reduced.  This meant that there was no glut of corn on the market and the price remained higher than normal—$2.74 per bushel as an average for the full month of January 1948.  Riceville was located on the border between Mitchell County and Howard County Iowa.  Both Mitchell County and Howard County were heavy producers of corn.  Corn predominated in these two Iowa counties as the major cash crop.  However, in Mower County, Minnesota, where the Engstrom farm was located, significant inroads were being made by a new cash crop—soybeans.

 

An advertisement for the mobilization of United States agriculture for the Second World War

 

Mobilization for the war effort had developed many new products and caused new industries to spring up.  One of these new industries was the plastics industry.  Plastics had been required for the war effort.  However, in the post-war era, plastics had converted easily into many new peacetime uses.  Consequently, the post-war demand for plastics was still broad and growing.  Soybeans were the main raw material used in making plastics.  As a result, the market demand for soybeans, grew proportionately with the demand for plastics.  United States production of the soybeans nearly doubled from 107,197,000 bushels for the 1941 growing season to 187,524,000 in 1942.  However, demand for soybeans remained so strong that the price actually rose from $1.55 per bushel in 1941 to $1.60 per bushel in 1942.  When the war ended, in 1945, despite the continuing increase in production of soybeans during each year of the war, the price of soybeans had actually increased to $2.03 per bushel.  Rather than falling off at the end of the war, as industries converted over to peacetime production, the price of soybeans rose, in 1946, to $2.57 per bushel.

In 1941, only 17,800 acres in the whole of Mower County had been planted to soybeans.  However, during the war, the amount of acreage of the county planted to soybeans had grown to 51,500 acres.  Ever since the end of the war, soybeans continued to grow as a second cash crop on farms in Mower County.  Already in 1947, farmers of Mower County were planting 40% of their cash crop acreage in soybeans.  Because the terribly wet conditions and the late planting had ruined the soybean crop in 1947, soybean prices had continued to soar until now in early 1948 they were reaching $3.33 per bushel.

 

Many peacetime uses for plastics were discovered after the Second World War creating a good market for soybeans in the post-war era

 

In Mitchell County, prior to his move to Engstrom farm, Curt had raised only corn as his cash crop.  However, with the move to the Engstrom farm, Curt had determined to diversify his farming operation by raising soybeans.  The large Engstrom farm would certainly offer Curt Foster opportunities for diversification into new cash crops in ways that were not available if he were renting a smaller farm.  At 320 acres the Engstrom farm was twice the size of the ordinary 160 acre “homestead farm.”  Continue reading Allis-Chalmers Farming (Part V): Tractors on the Engstrom Farm

Allis-Chalmers Farming (Part IV): A 1938 A-C Model WC Tractor No. 63306 at Work

Statistics recorded with Counterize - Version 3.1.4

A 1938 Allis-Chalmers Model WC Tractor Bearing the Serial No. 63306 at Work

by Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the July/August 2007 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine)

            Ever since it’s introduction in 1933, the row-crop, tricycle design-style Model WC tractor had been a very successful sales item for the Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company.  As noted, previously, the sales of the Model WC tractor created a real opportunity for various businesses, like the H.B. Seitzer and Company dealership of St. Peter, Minnesota.  (See the article called the “Allis-Chalmers Two-Row Corn Picker at Work” for the story of the H.B. Seitzer and company dealership, contained in the May/June 2007 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.)   An even more dramatic example of the Model WC tractor creating business opportunities for local franchise owners, is the story of Albert E. Anderson.  It is a story of an immigrant to the United States from Sweden.

Prior to 1880, Sweden had been the leading exporter of oats to the England.  Oats were important, primarily, as feed for horses.  Secondarily, were oats were rolled as oat meal for human consumption.  As England industrialized, the country needed more oats to feed the growing non-agricultural, urban sector of the population and to feed the increasing number of horses employed off the farm.  For decades, Sweden had filled England’s growing demand for oats.  Growing oats for this market had kept money flowing into the provinces of southeastern Sweden best-known for agricultural products.  Indeed, oats were in such demand that even the marginal lands of the southwestern provinces of Sweden—like the province of Smalund—were  plowed and planted to oats.

The province of Smalund is located in the southeastern part of Sweden. In the nineteenth century Smalund became impoverished and a great number of residents of Smalund emigrated out of Sweden and settled in great numbers in Minnesota in the 1880s.

 

However, by 1880 England had begun importing cheaper oats from the United States.  The opening of the upper midwest of the United States after the War Between the States greatly expanded the capacity of the United States to become an inexpensive supplier of oats.  The price of oats from the United States severely undercut the cost of production of oats in Sweden.  Thus, by 1880, Sweden had lost a huge part of its foreign export market in oats to the United States.  This created a long term economic recession in rural Sweden.  Predictably, the young people of rural Sweden began to look for new economic opportunities outside of Sweden.  Emmigration from Sweden, during this time, came largely from southern Sweden and, largely, from those southwestern provinces with more marginal agricultural land.  Large numbers of the immigrants from Smalund in Sweden in the 1880s, settled in the State of Minnesota in the United States.  Certain parts of southern Minnesota  bear a strong resemblance to Smalund in Sweden in terms of climate and soil conditions.

The young Albert E. Anderson.

 

One of those young persons was Albert E. Anderson.  Albert had been born in Sweden on November 15, 1884.  One of the most consistent and pervasive facts of his early life in Sweden had been the steady flow of friends, neighbors and relatives out of Sweden.  Most of these young people left their native land to seek their fortune in the United States of America.  If the letters and messages from relatives already living in the United States could be believed, life was bliss in the New World.

A blacksmith shop located in Smalund Sweden which has been restored back to the 1880s.

 

Albert had training as a blacksmith.  However, the income that he could derive from this vocation in Sweden was so insignificant that he finally decided to leave Sweden for good.  Accordingly, Albert sailed to Copenhagen, Denmark to catch the S.S. Oscar II sailing from Copenhagen to the United States.  The S.S. Oscar II arrived in New York on April 8, 1909.  Sailing past the Statue of Liberty the ship landed at Ellis Island in New York harbor.  From the time that he descended the gang plank of the S.S. Oscar and stepped onto the dock on Ellis Island, Al Anderson found everything was strange and new.

Loaded with emigrants from all over Scandinavia, the S. S. Oscar II leaves one of its regularly stops in Christiana (Oslo), Norway on its way from Copenhagen, Denmark to New York.

 

As he made his way up the large stone staircase in the central hallway of the Ellis Island facility, Albert was considerably anxious about the medical examinations and other processes he would have to undergo on the island.  If he did not pass the physical examination on Ellis Island, he could be sent back to Sweden.  Little did he know that by the time that he reached the top of the staircase, his medical examination was largely completed.  The meager medical staff on the Island was swamped with the large number of immigrants that landed each day.  Consequently, the “medical examinations” of the incoming immigrants were considerably abbreviated and consisted, largely, of the medical staff on Island merely observing the immigrants as they made their way up the long flight of stairs in large central hallway of the main building.

Immigrants on the staircase in the Grand Hall of Ellis Island were unaware that they were being carefully watched as they climbed the stairs. The speed and ease with which they climbed the stairs became the main “medical examination” for most immigrants that passed through Ellis Island.

 

Any individual immigrant that appeared to have trouble climbing the flight of stairs would be pulled aside for further medical tests.  Clearly, Albert Anderson passed his “medical examination” and was leaving Ellis Island much sooner than he expected.  As previously arranged, he started out of New York and headed straight westward toward Verona Township in Faribault County in Minnesota where he expected to meet some of his family members and old neighbors from his old community in Sweden.  Albert hoped to put his experience as a blacksmith to work in the small growing settlement of Huntley, Minnesota located in Verona Township.  Shortly after arriving in Huntley, Albert established a hardware business in a building in the small un-incorporated settlement that was Huntley.

The granary in Huntley, Minnesota is one of the few active buildings existing in the small unincorporated town of Huntley.

 

Within the first few years in Huntley, Albert Anderson met a young lady, named Phoebe G. Skabrud.  They fell in love and were married in 1914.  In August of 1915, Phoebe gave birth to a son, Paul C. Anderson.  Their family was completed by the birth of a daughter, Florence Phoebe, born on November 10, 1917; and finally a son, Albert Elden, born in 1921.

The Albert Anderson family during the Second World War. (left to right) daughter Florence on left, son Paul C., Albert’s wife Phoebe, Albert himself looking down at the dog and then their youngest son Albert Eldon on the right side of the picture. .

 

When the 1920 United States Census taker showed up in Huntley, Minnesota, on January 22, 1920, he listed Al Anderson’s primary language as “Swedish.”  However, in Huntley, Al Anderson was not alone.  The Census report listed a number of heads of household within the settlement of Huntley that also spoke Swedish.  Additionally, the Census report indicated that, in 1920, Al Anderson was already occupied as a “merchant” in the “farm machinery” business.  One would have to surmise that Al Anderson knew enough English to not only make himself understood in English, but could actually make a successful sales pitch to English-speaking customers.  By the time of the 1930 United States Census, Albert Anderson’s occupation was listed as a “proprietor” of a business described as a “hardware/farm implement” business.

Image result for Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company
The Allis-Chalmers “Tractor Works” in West Allis, Wisconsin. The rapid increase in the popularity of the row crop style Model WC tractor, put pressure on the Tractor Works for increased production and also on the sales network for expansion of the local dealerships.

 

As shown previously, the Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company, in the mid-to-late 1930s, engaged in a campaign to build up and extend its nationwide sales network.  (See the history of the Distel Oil Company dealership described in the article called “The Rinehardt/Christian/Boehne Allis-Chalmers Model E Threshermans Special Tractor” in March/April 2007 issue of Belt Pulley magazine and the history of the H.B. Seitzer and Company dealership described in the article called “The Allis-Chalmers Two-Row Corn Picker at Work” contained in the May/June 2007 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.)  This campaign was carried on by Allis-Chalmers sales representatives scouring the countryside of the Midwest looking for local businesses that would be willing to become Allis-Chalmers franchise dealers.  When the sales representatives arrived in Faribault County sometime in the mid-1930s, they must have found the Al Anderson hardware store, which already had a long history of serving as a local farm machinery sales outlet, an attractive prospect.  For his part, Al Anderson knew that by becoming an authorized Allis Chalmers dealer, he would be able to sell farm tractors along with all the other farm machinery he already was offering to the farming public of his community.  Al Anderson realized that, by accepting the offer of an Allis Chalmers dealership, he would suddenly become “full line” farm equipment dealership.  Furthermore, Al knew that the Model WC row-crop tractor was a very popular sales item.  As noted in a previous article, sales of the Model WC tractor had been explosive since the tractor had been introduced in 1933.  (See the article called “An Allis-Chalmers Two-Row Mounted Corn Picker at Work” contained in the May/June 2007 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.)  Nation-wide, sales of the Model WC had reached 17,914 tractors in 1936.

Last year in 1937, nation-wide sales nearly doubled and rose to 29,006 despite the recession of 1937.  This was a record year for the production of the Model WC by the Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company. This was an average of 2,417 model WC tractors per month throughout 1937.  So far in 1938, sales of the Model WC were starting to pick up again as the effects of the 1937 recession started to wear off. However, production of the Model WC tractor was suspended while the Allis-Chalmers Tractor Works in West Allis, Wisconsin was being re-tooled for introduction of the 1938  Model WC tractor.

Because of the spectacular sales of the Model WC tractor, Al Anderson agreed to become the local Allis-Chalmers franchise dealership for Huntley, Minnesota.  He would sell the Allis-Chalmers line of farm equipment out of his hardware store in Huntley, Minnesota.  The sales area covered by his new franchise would include, not only Verona Township where Huntley was located, but included the much larger area of western Faribault County and eastern Martin Counties in southern Minnesota.

The bottom two counties on this map are Faribault and Martin Counties locat3d on the Minnesota and Iowa border. These counties encompassed the marketing territory encompassed by the Allis-Chalmers franchise sold to Albert Anderson of Huntley, Minnesota.

 

Continue reading Allis-Chalmers Farming (Part IV): A 1938 A-C Model WC Tractor No. 63306 at Work

Allis-Chalmers (Part III): The Two-Row Mounted Corn Picker

Statistics recorded with Counterize - Version 3.1.4

The Model 33 two-row mounted on a Allis Chalmers Model WC tractor.

An Allis-Chalmers Two-Row Mounted Corn Picker at Work

by Brian Wayne Wells

(As published in the May/June 2007 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine)

            Throughout the 1930’s in southern Minnesota, wheat production was on the decline as a cash crop on the average family farm.  (This declining trend in wheat production is alluded to in the article called “The Rinehardt/Christian/Boehne Model E Thresherman Special” contained in the March/April 2007 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.)   Taking the place of wheat as the primary cash crop on the average farm was corn.  Corn was preferred as a cash crop to replace wheat because corn had a dual use on the average family farm.  Corn could serve as a cash crop, but could also serve as a feed crop for live stock which could then be sold by the farmer.  On the “diversified” farms which were common in southern Minnesota, pigs and/or beef cattle were raised on the farm together with corn and other crops.  The perfect ideal of the diversified farm was that when pork prices rose higher than corn prices, the number of pigs could be increased and the corn raised on the farm could shifted quickly to feed for the pigs.  Likewise, when pork prices fell in comparison to corn, the pigs might be sold off to save the corn for direct sale on the market.

Aerial view of a ripe corn field heavy with corn and ready for picking.

One county in south-central Minnesota where this dynamic was at work was Nicollet, County.  In 1921, Nicollet County farmers had planted and harvested 31,065 acres of wheat.  By 1931, this figure had fallen to only 13,800 acres.  During the same period of time, total corn acreage in the county had risen from 46,716 acres in 1921 to 62,600 acres in 1931.  As one might expect, this increase in corn acreage was also accompanied by a parallel increase in the hogs raised in Nicollet County.  In 1929, there were already 51,000 head of hogs in Nicollet County.  Over the following decade this number increased by 45.1% to 74,000 head in 1939.

However, whether used as a cash crop or as a feed crop, growing corn plants needed special treatment, not required for small grains like wheat and oats.  As a row crop, corn needed much cultivation during the summer months to control weeds that might grow up in the corn field and steal the moisture and soil ingredients that were needed for the corn crop.  Long after the development of the internal combustion tractor, cultivation of row crops was still a task that had to be done with horses.  The reason was that the first tractors were of a “four-wheel” or a “standard” configuration or design.  As such these tractors were unable to straddle the row crops in the field in order to be fitted with any kind of cultivating device.  However, in 1924 the “Farmall” tractor was introduced by the International Harvester Company.  The Farmall tractor had a “tricycle” design and was specifically designed for cultivation of row crops.  The Farmall was able to provide all the power needs of the farm; thus, its name—Farmall.  The Farmall was a great sales success from the very beginning.  Soon all the other major tractor manufacturers were scrambling to come out with their own renditions of the tricycle style Farmall.

The Allis Chalmers Manufacturing Company was no different.  Their first foray into the field of row crop tractors was in 1930 with the introduction of the Model UC tractor.  However, production of the Model UC was soon overshadowed following the introduction of the improved Model WC row-crop tractor in 1933.  In 1934, the first full year of production, the WC outsold all other Allis Chalmers tractors.  The Model WC tractor went on to become a very popular sales item for the Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company. There was a huge demand among North American farmers for the Model WC tractor.  By 1935, one business located in St. Peter, Minnesota (1930 pop. 4,811), the county seat of Nicollet County, was already trying to position itself to take full advantage of this growing demand within Nicollet County. This business was the H.B. Seitzer and Company dealership in St. Peter.

The dealership was born in about 1914, when Henry Bernard Seitzer left his parent’s (William and Mary [Borsch] Seitzer) farm in Oshawa Township, Nicollet County, to seek his future in the county seat.  He started a automobile repair garage in St. Peter called the H.B. Seitzer garage.  Soon Henry was selling automobiles from his garage.  It was an opportune time for him for three major reasons.  Firstly, the automobile was just starting to become a popular item with the American public.  Henry was getting into the automobile business on the bottom floor at just the right time.  Secondly, although, at first, Henry Seitzer was selling cars of all makes and models, he soon signed an exclusive dealership franchise agreement with the Ford Motor Company.  In the decade of the 1920s, sales of Ford’s Model T skyrocketed.  The Model T was a very inexpensive car to purchase, and everybody wanted one.  By signing this agreement in 1915, to sell only to Ford cars and, in exchange, becoming the only Ford dealership in the area, Henry Seitzer was able to ride the immense popularity of the Ford Model T to success in business.

The third major advantage that Henry Seitzer had going for him was that St. Peter was going through a period of strong growth just as the H.B. Seitzer and Company dealership was hitting its stride.  In particular, in the 1930s, while neighboring LeSueur County had grown by only 6.9% in population between 1930 and 1940 and while neighboring Sibley County had experienced growth of only 4.8% in the same period, Nicollet County had underwent a population growth of 10.5% during the 1930’s.  Furthermore, St. Peter, itself, experienced a 22.0% growth in municipal population during this period of time.  This rapid growth of population brought even more buyers to the doors of the H.B. Seitzer and Company dealership.

Under these favorable conditions, Henry Seitzer’s business began to flourish.  In the eleven years from 1916 to 1927, Seitzer’s sold an incredible 1,550 Model T automobiles.  With introduction of the Model A Ford in 1928, sales at the H.B. Seitzer continued to be brisk.  Just two years into the production run of the Model A, the dealership had already sold 280 Model A cars.  (Robert Wettergren, A Little Bit of Heaven in St. Peter [St. Peter, Minnesota 2001] p. 13-14.)

In 1917, Henry felt secure enough in his new business that he could start a family.  That year, he married an Oshawa Township girl, Kathryn Austa Boys, daughter of Frank and Mary (Kennedy) Boys.  Together they rented a house in St. Peter located at 429 W. Nashua Street.

In 1919, Kathyrn’s parents, Fred and Mary Boys, retired from farming, sold their farm in Oshawa Township and bought a house at 311 W. Pine Street in St. Peter.  Their 21-year-old son, Russel Boys moved into the Pine Street house.  Later they rented part of the large house to Henry and Kathryn Seitzer and their new infant daughter Marjorie.  In 1921, Henry Seitzer took his brother-in-law, Russel, into the car dealership as a partner.  Signing the agreement with the Ford Motor Company in 1915, the H.B. Seitzer and Company dealership located at 311 South Front Street in St. Peter was to become one of the oldest Ford dealerships in the state of Minnesota.

The Model T brought the automobile within the economic reach of the common man.  This was a revolution in transportation that drastically changed the face of North America.  The Ford Motor Company created another such revolution in the agricultural industry with the introduction of the Fordson farm tractor.  Throughout the 1920s, explosive sales of the small 2,710-pound Fordson tractor sent a panic through all the larger more established farm tractor manufacturers and caused them to scramble to introduce newer, smaller, less expensive farm tractors.  As the exclusive dealership for the St. Peter area, the H.B. Seitzer dealership was also benefiting from this revolution in agriculture.  Prior to 1930 the dealership had also sold 85 Fordsons to the farmers in the St. Peter community.  As the corporate ties between the Ford Motor Company and the Wood Brothers Threshing Machine Company grew, the H. B. Seitzer dealership started selling Wood Bros. threshers also.  (The history of the Wood Bros. Threshing Machine Company is described in the two part series of articles contained in the November/December 2000 and January/February 2001 issues of the Belt Pulley magazine.)

From the very beginning, however, the rural farming public was demanding a wider range of farm machinery than was available than the Ford Motor Company could offer.  To meet this demand, the H. B. Seitzer dealership, obtained a franchise from the Oliver Farm Equipment Company to sell the entire line of Oliver farm implements.  Oliver had only recently become a full-line farm equipment company as a result of the merger in 1929 of the Hart-Parr Gasoline Engine Company, the Nichols and Shepard Company, the American Seeding Machine Company and the Oliver Chilled Plow Works Company; into the new corporate entity called Oliver Farm Equipment Company.  In the early 1930s, the franchise looked like a good fit for the H. B. Seitzer and Company dealership.  The dealership vigorously advertised the Oliver farm equipment and tractors in the St. Peter Herald semi-weekly newspaper which appeared in St. Peter on Wednesday and Friday each week.

With corn raising on the increase in southern Minnesota, H.B. Seitzer and Company placed high hopes in the new Oliver Row Crop tractors which had been introduced in 1930.  The dealership strongly emphasized the Oliver Row Crop tractor in their newspaper advertisements.  Still, nationwide sales of the Oliver row crop tractors remained disappointing.  In 1932, only 298 Oliver row crop tractors were sold.  This was followed by only 420 Row Crops nationwide in 1933, only 811 Row Crops in 1934 and 2,460 in 1935.  The H. B. Seitzer and Company dealership could not help but notice that the Allis-Chalmers Company was enjoying far greater success with its new row crop tractor—the Model WC tractor.  In 1934, in its first full year of production, 3,098 Model WC tractors were sold, nationwide.  The next year, 1935, production of WCs reached 10,743, nationwide.

The success of the Allis-Chalmers Model WC tractor, as opposed to the Oliver Row Crop tractor may have been related to price.  The suggested retail price of the Oliver Row Crop tractor was $1,005.00.  This was the bare tractor with steel wheels.  The power take-off was an option that cost an additional $8.00.  The suggested retail price of the Allis-Chalmers Model WC tractor, on the other hand, was $747.50.  Even when the buyer added rubber tires on the front and on the rear, the price rose only to $925.00.  Another reason for the low sales of the Oliver Row Crop tractor may have been the Oliver Company’s insistence on promoting their “Tip-Toe” design of steel wheels in the face of the growing demand for rubber tires on tractors.  An H. B. Seitzer advertisement contained in the April 6, 1934 issue of the St. Peter Herald shows that the dealership was continuing to valiantly struggle to point out the advantages of the Tip-Toe rear wheels of the Row Crop tractor.

Eventually, however, the dealership came to the realization that rubber tires was definitely the trend of the future.  With that realization, the attention of the dealership turned to the Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  As early as 1929, Allis-Chalmers had been the pioneer in mounting rubber tires on farm equipment—introducing both the Model U (standard) tractor and the original All-Crop Harvester combine on rubber tires in 1929.  Like the Oliver Farm Equipment Company, the Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company had also just finished a series of corporate mergers.  By purchasing companies like the Monarch Tractor Company of Springfield, Illinois, which was bought in 1928; the LaCrosse Plow Company of LaCrosse, Wisconsin purchased in 1929; the Advance-Rumley Thresher Company of LaPorte, Indiana bought in 1931 and the Birdsell Company of South Bend, Indiana also purchased in 1931, the Allis-Chalmers Company was able to offer a full-line of farm equipment for the buying public.  This series of corporate purchases, plus the purchase of the Brenneis Manufacturing Company of Oxnard, California in 1938, provided the Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company immediately with additional tractor technology and factory works, a full line of sulky and tractor plows, a full line of threshers and other tillage and planting farm equipment.  Thus, when the Allis-Chalmers sales representative showed up in St. Peter in the spring of 1935, to sell a franchise to the H. B. Seitzer and Company dealership; little actual persuasion was needed.  Recognizing the advantages offered by the Allis-Chalmers full line of farm equipment, the H. B. Seitzer dealership signed a dealership franchise agreement to sell Allis Chalmers farm equipment.  An advertisement in the July 24, 1935 issue of the St. Peter Herald proudly announced that H. B. Seitzer & Company was the new “distributor” of Allis-Chalmers farm equipment for the St. Peter area.

However, since neither the Allis-Chalmers franchise, nor the Oliver Company franchise were “exclusive” franchises, the H.B. Seitzer dealership held onto the Oliver franchise and became a dealer for both companies.  This was a fortuitous combination of franchises for the H. B. Seitzer dealership.  The dealership had found that the Oliver plow was superior to the Allis-Chalmers plow.  Thus, the company started making package deals to farmer/customers which included the Allis-Chalmers Model WC tractor and the Oliver Plowmaster two-bottom plow.

The economic depression of the early 1930s created havoc with the whole economy of the United States.  Many farmers lost their farms altogether.  Recovery from the depression was agonizingly slow, but the mid-1930s, farmers throughout the St. Peter community had were starting to feel more secure in their economic situations and were even thinking of modernizing and improving their farming operations.  One such farmer was Henry Juberien of Belgrade Township in Nicollet County which was adjacent to the southern border of Oshawa Township.  Henry and Emma (Meyer) Juberien operated a 290 acre farm, eleven (11) miles to the west of St. Peter.  They lived on the farm with their nine children—Marvin Peter born on September 29, 1915; Anna M. born on December 30, 1916; Louise S. born in December of 1918; Lorna E. born in 1919; Ruth M. born in June 17, 1920; Celia Agnes born in 1923; Henry Albert (nicknamed “Sam”) born on July 22, 1924; Elnor (nicknamed “Babe”) born on November 29, 1925; and Wallace born on December 30, 1929. Continue reading Allis-Chalmers (Part III): The Two-Row Mounted Corn Picker

Allis-Chalmers Farming (Part II): The A-C Model E Bearing the Serial #25606

Statistics recorded with Counterize - Version 3.1.4

The  Rinehardt/Christian/Boehne Allis Chalmers Model E Tractor

by Brian Wayne Wells

(As published in the March/April 2007 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine)

This Model E is fitted with the “short fenders” revealing that the tractor is one of the post-1926 model tractor. Additionally, this Model E has been painted the new “Persian orange” color which the Allis-Chalmers Company used for their farm machinery after 1930. If painted correctly, this particular tractor is one of the post-1930 Model E’s.

            Minnesota’s Henderson Township is located in the southeast corner of Sibley County, of the state of Minnesota.  The Minnesota River flows along the eastern edge of the township.  The River’s meandering course forms the political boundary between Henderson Township and Tyrone Township, which is located in neighboring LeSueur County.  To the south of Henderson Township is Lake Prairie Township in Nicollet, County which is also adjacent to the Minnesota River.  Across the Minnesota River from Lake Prairie Township was Sharon Township another LeSueur County township that lay south of Tyrone Township.   Much of land area of these four townships is included in the southern hardwood forest on the state of Minnesota.  As such this area became the home of a considerable, if small scale, hardwood industry.  For decades settlers and farmers have felled the hardwood trees and sawn the logs into lumber to build their homes and barns.  Many local farmers obtained a small circular saw mill rig with the intent of supplementing their farm incomes with wintertime income sawing lumber for their neighbors.

A township map of Sibley County. Henderson  Township  is shown yellow  on this extreme right side of this map, which is the eastern  boundary of Sibley County along the Minnesota River. 

 

In the early 1930s, during what became known as the Great Depression, farmers in the Minnesota River Valley were merely trying to hang onto their farms and were not really worried about constructing buildings on their farm site.  However, as the economy recovered and things started to get back to normal in the mid and late 1930s, farmers began again to think of improving their farming operations by adding additional structures and renovating the structures they already had.  Six (6) miles southwest of the village of Henderson, Minnesota (1930 pop. 672), lived Rudolph and Ernestine (Doerr) Adams.  Rudolph (nicknamed Rudy) and Ernestine lived in the house in the country with their newborn (May 23, 1936) son, Donald Rudolph.  However, they did not farm the land directly.  Instead Rudy and his older brother, George H. Adams worked together to make their living from threshing the small grain in the neighborhood during the summer months and sawing logs and making lumber for their neighbors in the wintertime.  For threshing in the summer Rudy and George owned a Woods Brothers thresher with a 36 inch cylinder and a 58 inch separating table.  Like most threshers of the time, the thresher had a “self-feeder” with a band cutter and with a “double wing” extension fitted onto the self-feeder.  The self feeding mechanism had the capability of cutting the twine string around each bundle of grain and feeding the bundles automatically to the cylinder.  Previously, a crew member had been required to stand on a platform at the front of the thresher and cut the twine on each bundle of grain and “hand feed” the bundle into the thresher by hand.  The “double wing” extension of the self-feeder allowed two elevators attached to the self-feeder to be swung around and extended out at a 90º angle to the thresher on each side of the thresher.  The double-wing self feeder was designed for “stack threshing.”  As opposed to “shocking” their bundles of small grain in the grain field in “shocks” made up of seven to nine bundles each, some farmers of the neighborhood preferred to store their grain bundles in specially designed stacks built from the bundles.  Carefully, constructed, a stack of bundles could be designed to shed rain water and keep the bundles perfectly dry until threshing day.  These stacks were cylindrical and slightly conical in shape and were about 30 feet in diameter.  On threshing day, the thresher would be pulled up to a location between two stacks on a farm.  Then the wings of the self-feeder would be swung out and positioned to located over the center of the stacks of bundles on either side of the thresher.  Crew members then needed only to stand on top of the stack and load the bundles of the stack onto the elevator wing with pitch forks.

A double-wing style of feeder attached to a 36 inch Case thresher working on two stacks of grain bundles. 

 

To power and transport the thresher around the neighborhood, Rudy and George owned a 60 hp. (horsepower) J.I. Case Company traction steam engine.  Helping the Adams Brothers with his threshing and saw mill business was a neighbor– Henry W. (Hank) Reinhardt.  Hank and Irene (Delzer) Reinhardt rented 160 acre farm in Henderson Township.  There they lived and worked with their son, Victor.  Hank worked the land during the summer on his diversified farming operation.  During July and August each year he would travel around the neighborhood following Rudy Adams and the thresher to help with the neighborhood threshing.  Since the time when his son, Victor, became old enough to drive a team of horses, Hank would take Victor along as part of the threshing crew.  Victor had the job of driving a team pulling a water wagon.  He would hand-pump the 500-gallon tank on the water wagon full of water from whatever water source happened to exist on the particular farm where they were threshing.  Then he would drive the team pulling the full tank of water to the grain field where the steam engine was at work.   Then he would, again, hand-pump the water out of the tank on the water wagon into the 260 gallon “on board” water tanks located on the steam engine itself.  Once that tank was full, the water intake hoses from the steam engine would be dropped into the  opening in the top of the tank on the water wagon.  For a while, Victor would have be able to take a rest while the steam engine drew all the water it needed directly from the water wagon.  Once the water in the water wagon was all gone, the intake hoses were withdrawn from the water wagon and the steam engine went back to drawing its water from the on-board water tank.  It was up to Victor to hurry off to fill the water wagon again and return before all the 260 gallons of water in the on-board water tank was used up.  Victor was kept busy all day working on the water wagon just to assure that the steam engine always had water available for the boiler.

Case 60 hp. steam engine like the one owned by brothers Rudy and George Adams.

Continue reading Allis-Chalmers Farming (Part II): The A-C Model E Bearing the Serial #25606

Allis-Chalmers (Part I): Dry-Land Farming in Wyoming

Statistics recorded with Counterize - Version 3.1.4

Allis Chalmers Farming (Part I): Dry-Land Farming

by Brian Wayne Wells

(As published in the January/February 2007 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine)

            Wyoming is divided between the rocky Mountains in the west and the plains of the eastern part of the state.  Ever since the earliest settlers, cattle raising has been a part of the state’s eastern plains.  In the 1870s and ‘80s the cattle industry in Wyoming boomed, as the number of cattle grew from 8,143 head in 1870 to a maximum of 2 million head in 1885. Two counties over which these cattle grazed in the eastern plains of Wyoming were Sheridan and Jonson Counties.

The cattle ranchers were not the only people that were attracted to the Wyoming plains.  In the 1880’s the eastern plains of Wyoming began to attract settlers intent on making a living tilling the soil of the plains to raise marketable crops—especially wheat.  The competition for land and water in the arid environment of the plains of eastern Wyoming, created tension between large cattle ranchers and the farmers who fenced in the open range.  In 1889, this tension exploded into open warfare in what became known as the “Johnson County War.”  While the cattle barons won battles in this conflict, they lost the war.  Wave after wave of settlers coming into eastern Wyoming doomed the large scale cattle ranchers.  Helping the setters was a new federal law passed in the United States congress in 1862—the Homestead Act.

The Homestead Act had, originally, been passed by Congress in 1862 and was signed into law by President Lincoln in the midst of the Civil War on May 20, 1862.  Originally, homesteaders were allowed to take up land under the Homestead Act in tracts of 160 acres.  By moving onto the land, building a dwelling and staying on the land for five (5) years, a settler could “prove up” title on the 160 acre farm and become the owners of the land without spending any money purchasing the land.

The Homestead Act was a popular law.  Vast areas of the Midwest were settled under the provisions of the Homestead Act.  However, whereas the 160 acre allotments were the perfect size for a family attempting to build a farming operation in the rich well-watered soils of states like Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota , 160 acre allotments were simply too small to support farming on the dry lands of Wyoming.  Thus in February of 1909, under the guidance of Wyoming’s own congressman Frank W. Mondell, President Taft signed the Homestead Act of 1909.  This Act revised the Homestead Act of 1862 by doubling the amount of land available to an individual settler to 320 acres.  In 1916, the Homestead Act was revised again to provide 640 acres available to each homesteader as a grazing allotment.  This legislation was again introduced by Frank Mondell and was specifically tailored to promote settlement of the dry Wyoming plains.  Homesteading had first become widespread in Wyoming in the 1890s.  However, homesteading picked up in the first two decades of the new Twentieth Century and the greatest boom years for homesteading proved to be 1919, 1920 and 1921.

One of the largest groups of settlers participating in this boom was the large group of military veterans returning from the war in Europe.  The idea of settling on some land and farming it for five years then becoming the sole title owner of the land without putting down any cash at all was too attractive to be missed.  Among these retuning veterans from the World War were brothers Floyd Harrison Wells and George Cleveland Wells—great uncle and paternal grandfather, respectfully,  of the current author.

Arriving in New York City in late 1918, both George C. and Floyd H. are pictured in a group photo of the entire Company B of the 82nd Infantry Division of the United States Army in which the boys had served.  (This picture still exists in the possession of the current author’s mother.)  While still in the Army, the Wells brothers had planned to homestead some land in Wyoming.  Upon their return to the United States, both Floyd and George C. intended to take a train straight to Roswell, New Mexico to see their parents—George and Ella (McCarthy) Wells.  Originally, the elder George Wells (father of Floyd and George C. and great-grandfather of the current author) had been farming in Butler Township in Calhoun County, in western Iowa.  However he developed breathing problems and in 1904, George and Ella Wells and their entire family of six chidren (five boys and one girl) had been forced to move to the drier climate of Roswell, New Mexico.

The Wells children enrolled at in high school in Roswell High School.  Walter Thomas Wells, the oldest child in the family, graduated from Roswell High School in 1906 and became a telegrapher on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad, in Roswell.  Sometime prior to 1914 and the start of the war in Europe, however, Walter decided to return to Iowa and start farming.  Toward this end he bought a farm from John M. Longeran which was located in Section 32 of Chester Township in Howard County, Iowa.  Later, before the start of the war in Europe in 1914, Walter T. rented out his farm and and moved to Musselman, Montana to  took a new job as a telegrapher for the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul (the Milwaukee Road) Railroad.

The second and third brothers, Floyd and George C. graduated from Roswell High School in 1909 and 1910, respectively.  Soon after they each graduated Floyd and George moved to Iowa to help Walter operate the farm in Chester Township.  However, when the United States entered the war in Europe in April of 1917, they joined the United States Army.

Meanwhile in Roswell, New Mexico, the fourth child of George and Ella Wells—Byron Emerson Wells—had  graduated from Roswell, New Mexico in June of 1914 and had moved to Musselman, Montana to join his oldest brother, Walter T., in working for the Milwaukee Road Railroad.  In the same month that George C. and Floyd returned from the war, the fifth child of George and Ella Wells and their only surviving daughter—Mabel Mae Wells—graduated from Roswell High School.  (There actually had been another daughter born to George and Ella Wells who was named Myrtle V. Wells.  However, she had died in 1901 at the age of three [3] years of age.)  The sixth and last surviving child of George and Ella Wells was named Roswell McCarthy Wells and was only 13 years of age and was attending school and living at home.

Now that they were home from the First World War Floyd and George C. were anxious to get back to Roswell, New Mexico to see their parents and their sister and youngest brother.  However, before going to Roswell, New Mexico, Floyd and George C. returned to Chester, Iowa (1910 pop. 266).  George C. had an important reason to go to LeRoy before he headed off to New Mexico and then to Wyoming.  On June 24, 1919, George C. Wells married Louise Schwark, the daughter of Carl and Ida (Scharnweber) Schwark from Oakdale Township in Iowa about a mile south and east of Le Roy, Minnesota.  Floyd served as the best man for his brother at the wedding.

The day after the wedding, the wedding party of George and Louise and brother, Floyd, boarded a train of the other railroad which passed through LeRoy, Minnesota, in a north/south railroad—the Chicago,Great Western Railroad.  At the end of the Great Western Railroad line in Kansas City, Missouri the Wells wedding party transferred to a train of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad and rode this train all the way to Roswell.  They were headed for George and Floyd’s parent’s house in Roswell, New Mexico.  The family reunion was a great celebration.  Everybody was there.  Walter and Byron had come down to Roswell from Musselman, Montana to see their two brothers now returned from the war and to meet their new new sister-in-law, Louise.  The family took advantage of the fact that everybody was present at the reunion and scheduled a picture of the whole famly to be taken by a professional photographer.

Following the family reunion at an Roswell, New Mexico, Floyd Wells,  George C. and Louise Wells boarded a train of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad in Roswell to make the journey north to Deaver, Wyoming.  Once in Deaver, each brother filed on tracts of land located in “Election District 20” in Big Horn County, near Wyoming’s border with Montana.

Before the war, both Floyd and George had been involved in farming together with their older brother, Walter Thomas Wells, as on Walter’s farm located in Section 33 of Chester Township, Howard County, Iowa.  However, farming in Wyoming was not like farming in Iowa.

Without doubt the climate of Wyoming is dry.  Wyoming, as a whole, receives an average of only 13.75 inches of rainfall per year.  The counties along Wyoming’s eastern border with Nebraska and South Dakota received the most rainfall of the entire state—as much as 16 to 20 inches per year.  This was far less than the 34.72 inches of rain that the Wells brothers might expect per year in Chester Township, Howard County, Iowa.  However, in Big Horn County, located further west in Wyoming, received only about 10.1 inches of rainfall per year.  Thus, the Wells brothers could not use the same farming practices that they had used on the farm in Chester Township in Howard County, Iowa before the war.

Because of the dryness of the land in Wyoming, any homesteader in Big Horn County, Wyoming, needed to either irrigate his land or he had to practice “dry land farming.”  Dry land farming was based on the theory that the dry soil could be made profitable by cropping the land only once every two years.   Pursuant to the theories of various “dry land farming” exponents including Frank Bond, Hardy W. Campbell, Clarence T. Johnson and Dr. V.T. Cooke, dry land farming homesteaders would collect a crop from only one-half their land in any one year.  The other half of their land would “lay fallow.”  In the next year, the fallow land would be cropped and the present year’s crop land would be allowed to lay fallow for a year.  In this way, only half of the arable land on any dry land farming operation would be growing crops in any one year.  The other half of the arable land would be laid fallow for a year.

This was the rationale for raising the basic homestead allotment from 160 acres to 320 acres in 1909.  The practice of dry land farming was a means by which some extremely “marginal” land could yield a profitable crop.  By growing crops on one half of the land of his ranch one year, while allowing the other half of the land to lay fallow, and then alternating the next year, it was thought that a 320-acre dry land farming operation could be as profitable as any 160-acre farming operation of Midwestern states like Illinois and/or Indiana, where land was continuously cropped each and every year.

The theory of dry land farming rested on the premise that the fallow land would store up a reserve of moisture from the fallow year to be used in the cropping year.  Not only would the rainfall of the cropping year be used to grow the crop, but also the “reserve” of moisture stored in the soil would be use.  Consequently, the rainfall or soil moisture of two consecutive seasons was used to grow one season’s worth of crop.  Additionally, the dry land farmer would till the fallow land only to prevent weeds from growing up on the land and robbing the fallow land of the moisture they would need to raise the crop in the second year.  Consequently, even though there may be less rainfall in  Big Horn County, Wyoming,  than in the eastern counties of Wyoming, under the practices of dry land farming a farmer or rancher in Big Horn County could save up soil moisture in the land by farming the land only one season out of two growing seasons and allowing the land to lay fallow for the second year in order to store up soil moisture in the tore rainave up .

During the six months of April through September of 1918, Wyoming had received 10.1 inches of rain.  For land laying in fallow, this was a good start for the coming year.  However, during the winter of 1918-1919 Wyoming had no significant amount of snowfall and thus, there was no spring snow melt.  The whole of the winter’s precipitation (rain and snowfall), for the six months from October, 1918 through March of 1919, when melted down, amounted to only a 3.4 inches of rain fall.  This led to a dry spring in 1919 and the dry spell continued into the summer.  When Floyd Wells and George and Louise Wells got off the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad train in the town of Deaver in Big Horn County at the end of June of 1919, they found extremely dry conditions.  Furthermore, weather conditions did not improve.  Wyoming, as a whole, received only 10.1 inches of precipitation during the entire calendar year of 1919.  As one of those counties west of the 100°meridian in Wyoming, Big Horn County received less that the average rainfall of the state as a whole during the summer of 1919.

The winter of 1919-1920 brought a great deal of snow.  George and Louise even found it difficult to move around their farm yard to complete the chores because of all the snow.  Thus, it was a considerable surprise to George and Louise Wells to have a knock on the door of their homestead shanty on January 9, 1920.  It was 26 year-old Arthur I. Nelson, a farmer from Murphy’s Gulch over in neighboring Sheridan County.  Arthur Nelson was working temporarily for the 1920 United States Census as an “enumerator” or   census taker.  Arthur Nelson’s report for the 1920 Census found the two Wells brothers living side by side on their respective homestead claims.  Floyd H. Wells was living alone in the shanty on his farm and George and Louise were living in another little shanty on their homestead claim.  Louise was pregnant the time.  On April 22, 1920, she would give birth to their first child, Floyd Charles Wells.

As difficult as it was to get around their farm yard and do the chores in all the snow that winter, the large amount of snow was a blessing.  The snow of the winter of 1919-1920 added 6.2 inches of moisture to the soil in the spring.  With the coming of the spring of 1920, George and Floyd both set to work planting their crops.  Rainfall remained about normal for the summer of 1920.  Indeed, the rainfall for the entire year of 1920 approached the right amount for a normal year.  Ordinarily, this normal rainfall would have been reflected in a normal yield of wheat at harvest time had there been a normal amount of moisture already in the soil.  However, this was not the case.  Because of the drought conditions of 1919, there remained an insufficient reserve of moisture in the soil despite the near normal rains of 1920.  Accordingly, the Wells brothers obtained a yield of down only around 15 bushels of wheat per acre—below average for a normal year.

Like a jig saw puzzle, success in dry land farming was based on a series of separate parts—these parts—the rains of the particular growing season plus the rains of the previous year when the land was lying fallow, plus the spring snow melt of the spring before the fallow year and the spring snow melt before the growing season.  All these pieces needed to be in place in order for the dryland farmer to have a normal yield and make a profit.  The crop year, 1920, in Big Horn County is a very good example of the jigsaw concept of dryland farming.  Even a light snow in one particular winter two years before the growing season could spell the difference between a good crop and a poor crop when the fallow land was cropped.

To make matters even worse for the Wells brothers, a post-war economic recession spread across the whole country in 1920.  When the Wells brothers took the limited amount of wheat they had harvested to the elevator, they found falling prices for their crop.  Dropping from a high of $2.94 per bushel in May of 1920, the price fell to $2.49 per bushel in September 1920, then to $2.10 in October and by December the price fell to $1.69 per bushel.

In the following year, 1921, the drought conditions returned as Wyoming received only 11.7 inches for the whole calendar year of 1921 including the snow melt from the winter of 1920-1921.  Additionally, the post war recession continued into its second year with the price of wheat declining still further to $1.62 per bushel in February 1921, to $1.20 in August of 1921, to $1.08 in October 1921 and finally to $1.04 per bushel in November.

On September 21, 1921, Louise gave birth to a second son, Donald George Wells.  With their family growing and there family income limited by the post-war depression, George knew that he needed to do something to get more regular income.

Despite the return of 13.1 inches of rain to Wyoming in 1922, the wheat harvest that August still reflected a diminished yield of about 19 bushels per acre—only about 64% of the yield of wheat of irrigated land.  In spite of the normal amount of rainfall in 1922, the soil remained too dry to support a normal crop of wheat because of the drought conditions in that had existed the year before in 1921.  Additionally, the price that the Wells brothers received was only $1.05 per bushel, less than they had received the year before.  To save the family’s financial situation George sought work with the local Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad which had tracks passing north and south through Deaver, Wyoming.  With their family growing and their income limited, George and Louise felt the need to move off their homestead in order to find something else to do with their lives.  Then there appeared a possibility on the horizon.  Back in Chester, Iowa, George’s brother, Walter Wells, had been renting out his farm in Section 33 of Chester Township until about 1916.

Where they rented a farm five miles east and a mile south of the village of LeRoy.  The farm was actually just across the state line into Iowa.  About ½ a mile west of Chester, Iowa.

George and Louise Wells continued to rent this farm until 1936 when they purchased a 160 acre farm about 3 miles to the north and west back across the state line in LeRoy Township, Minnesota.  Floyd H. Wells was to remain in Wyoming.  However, he married Bernice Palmer and moved to a new farm nearer a source of water that allowed him cease dry land farming and eventually irrigated his entire land with trenches and then was able to raise row crops—great northern beans—on a yearly basis over his whole farm without laying half the farm aside to collect moisture.  To make a living at agriculture in the dry land of Wyoming, a homesteader needed financial reserves built up during the “good” years to carry the dry land farming operation through the drought years.  A dry land farming operation required a lot of work and sometimes required a good deal of luck to survive.

One particular rancher on a homesteaded ranch in Sheridan County, in 1925, had some reserves—they were not all of his own making.  His father had filed a homestead claim on this 320 acre ranch some 15 years before, in 1910.  Originally from Utah, his father had herded sheep, bringing his flock of sheep into Wyoming each summer to graze on the open range in the Rocky Mountains of Wyoming.  (The story of his father obtaining his own flock of sheep is contained in the article called “Sheep Raising in Wyoming” in the November/December 2006 Belt Pulley magazine and the article is published on this blog as the article that precedes this article.)   Over the years of grazing his sheep in Wyoming, his father had fallen in love with the beautiful land of Wyoming.  Consequently, in 1910, he sold his flock and moved to this farm.  There had been nothing on the land when his father had moved on the land in 1910.  That first summer the family had had to build their own house and barn.  Actually they built the barn first and then lived in the barn with the animals before they built the house.  His parents had labored hard to “prove up” title within the five years required by the Homestead Law.

As a way of earning extra income from their farming operation, his father had joined together with another neighbor to purchase a used Nichols and Shepard wood frame thresher, with a 24 inch cylinder and 47 inch separating tables, and a Nichols and Shepard traction steam engine.  Although designated as an “8 horsepower (hp.) steam engine,” this steam engine actually delivered 25 hp. to the belt pulley.  The 8 hp. designation referred to the drawbar horsepower of the traction steam engine.  The previous owner of the thresher and the 8 hp. traction steam engine was from this very neighborhood.  He was selling the thresher and steam engine, because he was retiring from farming.  All the neighbors around the neighborhood were concerned that the only neighborhood thresher was now being sold.  However, nobody in the neighborhood had the adequate finances to buy the thresher and steam engine except our Sheridan
county rancher’s father.  Consequently, his father and one neighbor had almost been forced into the partnership and into buying the thresher and steam engine in order to rescue the neighborhood.  His father spent the money that he had obtained by selling his flock on his share of the thresher and steam engine.  Additionally, that same year, his father had also built a shed on his farm to house the thresher and the steam engine during the winter months.

His parents had worked very hard.  However, our Sheridan County rancher knew that his parents had also experienced a certain amount of luck in their farming operation.  His father had sold his flock just as sheep raising had become un-profitable in 1910 due to the fall of the price of wool.  Many shepherds were starting to sell off or reducing the size of their herds in 1910.  In 1909, the population of sheep in Wyoming had reached its peak with 6,091,000 sheep grazing in the state.  The next year, in 1910 the sheep population in Wyoming was down substantially—to only 5,397,000 sheep grazing in the state.  By 1914 there were only 3,827,000 sheep in the state.  The wool market was very closely tied to the rise and fall of the tariff on foreign wool imports.  The tariff was the most partisan issue in the history of the United States.  Ever since the 1840s, the tariff was always raised when the Republicans were in control of Congress and the Presidency and lowered when the Democrats were in control the government.   Even prior to the election of 1910, the sheep industry began to fear that the Republican control of the government was nearing an end and with it the high protective tariff on wool.  Anticipating this change in the government, the price of wool began to decline in February of 1910.  Even before the tariff was reformed, sheep herders had begun selling or reducing the size of the flocks.  As expected, the Republican party lost control of the House of Representatives in the election of 1910 and lost the Presidency in 1912.  The Gorman Tariff of 1913 virtually removed the tariff on wool in its entirety.  After that, the wool market was never the same.  The profits obtained in wool had disappeared with the removal of the tariff on foreign wool.

Our Sheridan County rancher also knew that his father had also been fortunate in filing for his homestead in 1910.  Wheat was the main crop of Sheridan County.  Even as early as 1907, three years before his father had filed a homestead on this farm, the price of wheat had risen above its usual range from 60 cents a bushel to 75 cents a bushel.  Starting in 1907 the new range for wheat prices was from 90 cents to a $1.00 per bushel.  The wheat market was expressing anxiety over the war in Europe that appeared to be coming.  War seemed imminent with each newspaper report of some new Balkan crisis.  Once the war actually broke out in August of 1914, our Sheridan County farmer’s father found the price of the spring wheat he was raising each year was fetching prices that ranged from $1.00 to $1.25 per bushel.  Upon United States involvment in the war in April of 1917, the price shot up to $2.38 per bushel for the month.  All through the war and in the period immediately following the war, wheat had ranged from $2.20 to $2.50 per bushel.  Additionally, in the years between 1904 through 1918, Wyoming was blessed by an abundance of rain—an average of 14.74 inches per year—12.5% more rain each year than usual.

As noted above, the end of the war saw a severe drought attacked Wyoming.   Additionally there was a nationwide economic recession that set in end of the recent world war in November of 1918 had brought a contraction of business activity.  Across the nation government contracts for military goods were cancelled and businesses struggled to get back on a peacetime footing.  The economic hard times eventually caught up the farmers too, with a huge decline in farm prices

Our Sheridan County rancher’s parents had suffered through these years just as the Wells brothers had.  But with the income from threshing in the summer and with the prudent management and saving in the good years, his parents had built up reserves to survive the dry year of 1919 and the recession years of 1920-1923.  Without such reserves many of the recent homesteaders had been force into bankruptcy.  His father had remarked, “Their operations folded up and died just like spring flowers under the summer sun.”

In 1923, our Sheridan County rancher had officially taken over operation of the ranch from his parents.  In actual fact, however, he had been gradually assuming more of the decision making on the ranch in the years since the war.  Indeed, the relationship between his father and him had not changed much in its basics since over the last two years since 1923.  He and his father still talked often about the ranch and many of the decisions made about the ranch operations were actually consensus decisions.

As noted above the practice of dry land farming depended on land being cropped every other year and laying fallow during the year between cropping years.  While laying fallow, the land would store up moisture in order to grow a normal crop during the cropping year.  Of course, to prevent the moisture from being leeched away during the fallow year, the fallow land had to be tilled to prevent weeds or other plant life from using up all the moisture that was being stored for the cropping year ahead.  Like his neighbors, our Sheridan County rancher knew that the best practice for preparing fallow land was use a moldboard plow to turn the wheat stubble over entirely.  In this way, all the weeds and other green plant life that had started growing up through the stubble would not only be killed but they would be buried underground to become a source of nitrogen for the crops the following year.

Usually, every spring, after he finished planting all the spring wheat in the tilled land, he would begin the process of plowing last year’s wheat stubble with the single bottom silky plow.  However, working with the horses on the sulky one-bottom plow was a slow tedious process under the scorching sun.  Furthermore, the health of the horses was endangered by doing this heavy field work with the horses during the hottest part of the year.  Most of the time our Sheridan County farmer had to content himself with completing only part of the fallow ground plowed with a moldboard plow.  The rest of the field would have to be worked up with a field cultivator which cover the ground quicker than the sulky plow.  The field cultivator killed the weeds, all right, but it left the weeds on top of the ground where then merely dried up and withered away.  There was very little incorporation of the “green manure”—the weeds—into the soil.  There never seemed to be enough time to complete all the work that needed to be done on the farm during the busy summer season.

This was a problem that continued to bother our Sheridan County farmer as he looked out the window of his frame house over the fields covered with snow in the winter of  1924-1925.  Rather than using horses to moldboard plow the fallow ground, he had thought of using mechanical power.  Just last summer, our Sheridan County rancher had really been introduced to the improvements that could be wrought by mechanical power, when he had an opportunity to operate a 1920 Model E which was owned by a neighbor.  He had used the tractor and a three (3) bottom plow, to till some fallow land on his farm. Being one of the pre-1922 Model E tractors, this particular tractor was fitted with three fuel tanks.  A 7½ gallon tank for gasoline was located just ahead of the operator’s platform.  The tractor was started on gasoline.  Then, when the temperature of the engine coolant reached about 170º F, the operator could reach ahead with his left hand and pull the fuel control lever to close the gasoline fuel line and open the kerosene fuel line leading to the Kingston Model L carburetor on right side of the tractor engine.  Kerosene for the normal operation of the tractor would then come from the 25 gallon tank located just ahead of the gasoline tank.  The third 7½ gallon tank which was located ahead of the kerosene tank just behind the engine was designed to hold water.  This water tank was also connected to the fuel line.  A small valve, located on the pipe leading from the water tank to the main fuel line, had a control that extended back from the water tank, under all three tanks and protruded into the operator’s control area.  A slight twist of the water valve control would allow a slight amount of water to seep into the kerosene flowing toward the carburetor.

Engineers at Allis Chalmers had discovered that when an engine was operating on kerosene or diesel fuel, a slight injection of water would provide a temporary boost in power for the tractor.  The early Model E tractors made from 1918-1922 incorporated this water injection system into the tractor’s fuel system.  The boost provided by water was only a temporary boost.  The valve was to be turned on only slightly by the operator when the tractor began to bog down in heavy going.

Our Sheridan County rancher had even used this water injection system while plowing the fallow ground with his neighbor’s Model E.  He would occasionally hit a spot of hard plowing which started to make the tractor lug harder than usual.  At this point, our Sheridan County rancher reach forward to turn the water value on ever so slightly.  The temporary boost in power provided by the water injection system would carry the tractor and plow through the hard spot.  He learned from that experience, however, that each Model E had its own peculiarities as to how it would react to the water injection feature.  Only a very little water leaked into the fuel line was sufficient.  He needed to quickly turn the valve off again as soon as the tractor emerged from the hard spot.  Too much water all at once or allowing too much water to seep into the fuel line by leaving the valve on too long, would cause the tractor to cease running altogether.

This experience of working with his neighbor’s old Model E and the three bottom plow had been an epiphany for our Sheridan County rancher.  Plowing of the fallow ground was always conducted during the busiest time of the year summer.   Just when the hay was ready to be cut and gathered and saved for the winter, plowing of the stubble ground on the fallow ground surely seemed like a was was a time consuming task which took weeks of steady grinding work to accomplish in May and June each year.  Progress in the field was measured in terms of 14 inches with each crossing of the field when using the single moldboard sulky plow behind horses.  Most times, the hay crop was usually ready to harvest long before the fallow ground had been altogether plowed.  However, using the Model E with the three-bottom plow took days off the time required to plow the fallow land.  It was simply a matter of measuring your progress 42 inches at a time plowing with three bottoms as opposed to a single bottom with the silky plow.  It was also the added difference in using mechanical power rather than horses.  Using the tractor, meant that he did not have to pause at the end of the field after each journey across the field to allow the horses to rest before starting out again.

Using his neighbors’ Model E, had made a believer of our Sheridan Township rancher.  It certainly was fun to look back at the field at the end of a round and see all the progress that had been made.  Not only could a tractor save time in plowing the stubble ground each year, but our Sheridan County rancher also anticipated that the Model E could be employed on the belt to power the Nichols and Shepard thresher when he and his neighbor threshed the wheat in their neighborhood.

Besides the farming operation itself, our Sheridan County farmer also had taken his father’s place in the neighborhood threshing partnership.  During the war, his father and the neighbor had upgraded their threshing operation by retiring their old thresher and investing in the purchase of a new Nichols and Shepard “Red River Special” thresher from their local farm machinery outlet—Diefender and Dunwiddie Hardware, located at 45 through 51 North Main Street in Sheridan.  The new thresher had been an improvement over the old thresher.  With its 28 inch cylinder and 40 inch separating tables, the new Red River Special was larger than its predecessor.  Furthermore it was fitted with the modern “Farmer’s Friend Wind Stacker” blower-style straw stacker made by the Indiana Manufacturing Company.  Since about 1914, Nichols and Shepard had been under contract with Indiana Manufacturing to buy enough Wind Stackers to fit nearly all of the Red River Special threshers made by Nichols and Shepard.

The new thresher was a good improvement for the partnership, but they were still using the old steam engine for powering and transporting the thresher across the prairie to the various neighbors’ homesteads.  However, the old steam engine was beginning to show its age and shortcomings when compared to tractors powered by internal combustion engines.  First, the horsepower output of the old steam engine was less that what was needed to efficiently operate the new thresher.  The new thresher required 35 horsepower on the belt to operate efficiently, the old steam engine delivered only 25 hp. to the belt.  Thus, the entire time they had been working with the new thresher it had not been able to operate at full capacity.  The persons feeding the thresher had to take care not to over-load the threshers by placing too many bundles on the self-feeder at any one time.

Secondly, steam engines had always presented a fire hazard especially while operating the thresher.  Every partially burned ash that came spewing out of the smoke stack contained the potential for a disastrous fire.  If ever a burning piece of ash were to start the straw stack on fire, the thresher would soon be engulfed.  Thirdly, steam engines were costly to maintain.  The tubes and fire box hood needed to be inspected each year in the off-season.  This particular old steam engine seemed always in need of repair.

Furthermore, the supposed “benefits” of the steam engine using natural products such as wood, was greatly offset by the fact that on the prairie land of Sheridan County, wood was not an abundant item.  To be sure the steam engine could burn straw, during the threshing season.  A natural by product of the threshing process, straw was cheap.  However, this did not eliminate the need to have sufficient supply of either wood or coal on hand when the straw was unavailable; for example, while the steam engine was transporting the thresher from homestead to homestead.  Thus their was a need to either find wood on the prairie or purchase coal to fire the steam engine during these times.  Thus, in actual fact, there was little difference between steam power and internal combustion engine power in regard to fuel expense.  Additionally, there was the problem of the having to carrying water to the steam engine while it was operating.  In operation, the steam engine used a great deal of water which, in dry land Wyoming, was not all that easy to obtain.  Thus, the purchase of a tractor appealed to our Sheridan County
rancher as a sourced of belt power for the thresher as well as a source of power in the fields.

Nichols and Shepard was the brand name to which he related to most closely, because of their good experiences with the old thresher and now the new “Red River Special” thresher.  Consequently, when the idea of obtaining a new internal combustion engine tractor first occurred to him, our Sheridan County rancher thought first of Nichols and Shepard internal combustion tractors.  The Nichols and Shepard Company had been manufacturing internal combustion engine tractors since 1911.  There were three models of tractor available, the huge Model 35-70 (meaning the tractors delivered 35 horsepower [hp.] to the drawbar and 70 hp. to the belt pulley); the Model 25-50 and the Model 20-42.  These tractors were powered by huge two-cylinder engines.  Indeed everything about these tractors was huge.  Each cylinder on the Model 35-70 had a 10½ inch bore and a 14 inch stroke.  All three models weighed considerably in excess of 10,000 pounds.  They were really just steam traction engines with an internal-combustion engine replacing the boiler for power.  Like steam traction engines, these huge behemoths were designed for the task of standing in one place and delivering belt power rather than performing any kind of field work.  For this single task, however, the farmer paid a high initial price—almost $3,000.00 dollars for “intermediate” sized Model 35-50  Nichols and Shepard internal combustion tractor.

The current Nichols and Sheppard thresher had been purchased from at Diefender and Dinwiddie Hardware in the city of Sheridan, the county seat of Sheridan County.  Thus, it was natural for our Sheridan County rancher to talk with Alfred Diefender about tractors when he was in Sheridan.  On one of these trips to Sheridan in the winter of 1924-1925, Alfred informed him that Nichols and Shepard had entered into an agreement with the Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company that, starting in 1925, all local Nichols and Shepard dealers would now be offering Allis-Chalmers tractors for sale in addition to all the regular Nichols and Shepard line of equipment.  This meant that the famous Allis-Chalmers Model E (18-30) would now be available from his local dealer.

When the Model 18-30 had, originally, been tested at the University of Nebraska tractor test site in Lincoln, Nebraska from August 23 through September 6, 1920, the tractor was found to actually deliver 20.19 hp. to the drawbar and 30.58 hp. to the belt.  However, when the Model E (18-30) was tested again a year later from September 15 through September 24, 1921, a few minor improvements had been made in the tractor.  First and most importantly, the tractor was tested on gasoline rather than kerosene.  The speed of the engine was also increased from 830 revolutions per minute [rpm] to 930 rpm.  The result was that the tractor now yielded 23.62 hp. at the drawbar and 38.62 hp. at the belt.  Indeed, with some further adjustments at the test site, the tractor’s maximum horsepower was boosted to 43.73 hp.!  Following this test the tractor was re-named the Model E (20-35) and throughout 1922 and 1923, the Allis-Chalmers Company advertised the Model E aggressively.  Despite the advertising, however, the post-war depression caused a decline in sales of the Model E.  After selling 853 Model E tractors in 1920, the Company sold only 145 Model E’s in 1921 and production of the Model E was suspended all together in 1922.  In 1923, production of the Model E was resumed and 235 Model E’s were sold that year.  Last year, in 1924, the Company had sold 357 Model E’s.

Thus, when our Sheridan County rancher actually went in town, in early 1925, to see Alfred Diefender at Diefender and Dinwiddie Hardware, he was already favorably disposed to the large dark green Allis-Chalmers tractor.  Alfred told him that, just last fall, in August of 1924, Allis-Chalmers reintroduced the Model E for the coming year as the Model E (20-35) “Special.”  This new 7,095 pound Model E retained the same two-speed transmission with 2½ miles per hour (m.p.h.) first gear and a 3¼ m.p.h. second gear.  The new Model E also retained the same four cylinder tractor engine with a 4¾ inch bore and a 6 ½ inch stroke, with an Eisemann Model G-4 magneto.  However, Alfred told him, the compression in the cylinders had been increased by some 10-15 pounds per square inch (psi.) to 74-78 psi.  This small improvement boosted the belt pulley horsepower output of the Model E to more than 45 hp.  The water injection system had been done away with on this new version of the Model E, however.  The tractor was now just a straight kerosene burning tractor which used gasoline to get the engine started.  There was only a single large fuel tank mounted ahead of the operator.  This tank held the kerosene.  The small gasoline tank was mounted on the right fender.

The suggested retail price for the Model E was $1,885.00.  However, Alfred Diefender offered a contract price for the Model E that was much better that the suggested retail price.  So it was that our Sheridan County rancher signed a sales contract with Alfred Diefender for the purchase of a new Model E (20-35) Allis-Chalmers tractor.  Because the Allis-Chalmers Company did not manufacture their own plows, the company made arrangements with the La Crosse Plow Company to market LaCrosse plows together Allis Chalmers tractors.  Thus, the sales contract signed by our Sheridan County rancher and Diefender and Dinwiddie Hardware also included the purchase of a three-bottom La Crosse tractor plow.

Consequently, the big dark green tractor was brought into Sheridan by one of the Chicago Burlington and Quincy Railroad trains that passed through Sheridan early in the spring of 1925.  The tractor was off-loaded at the large warehouse owned and operated by Diefender and Dinwidindie Hardware.  This warehouse had been built in 1904 by Diefender and Dinwiddie Hardware specifically for the farm machinery side of their business.  Inside the warehouse, the Model E tractor was “prepped” for delivery and finally delivered to the farm of our Sheridan County farmer.  Delivery of the La Crosse three-bottom plow was taken by Diefender and Dinwiddie Hardware a few weeks later.

Spring in Wyoming in 1925 arrived in April with fairly normal rainfall—1.5 inches for the entire month.  Because of the heavy rain in October of 1924 (2.05 inches), the average snowfall in November (amounting to 0.75 of an inch of rain fall when melted down) and the above-average snowfall of December of 1924 ( amounting to 0.85 of rainfall), the total soil moisture was above average and prospects for the coming growing season of 1925 looked promising. Our Sheridan County rancher was able to use the Model E to work the ground of the plowed ground of the fields that had laid fallow all last year with two field cultivators.  Both of these field cultivators were small horse-drawn cultivators.  However, he was able to use an “evener” hitch arrangement which allowed him to pull both cultivators at the same time.  Once the fallow ground had been turned into seed bed, it was time to sow the ground to wheat and oats.  For this light duty job of pulling the grain drill our Sheridan County rancher, used the horses.

By early May the wheat and oat sprouts were starting to peak up above ground, aided by the 1.8 inches that fell on Wyoming during the month of May.  This was a normal amount of rainfall for May.  In order to save the moisture in the soil for the next year, our Sheridan County rancher knew that he needed to get the wheat and oat stubble ground turned into fallow ground.  Green plants and grass were becoming visible in the stubble ground.  These plants were stealing away the moisture in the soil every day they were allowed to grow.  He needed to work the stubble ground to kill the green plant life.  He was looking forward to using his own new tractor and plow to turn the entire stubble ground in short order.  He would be able to assure that all the green plant life would be incorporated into the soil this year.  With his new three bottom plow he knew this process would not take nearly as long to accomplish as it had in the past with horses and the single bottom sculky plow.

Thus, one morning in late May, our Sheridan County rancher walked out to the shed where the Model E was parked.  He hoped to get an early morning start on the plowing of the last year’s wheat and oat ground.  He checked both the main kerosene tank and the small gasoline tank on the fender to make sure he had fuel enough for the day’s work ahead.  Then he turned off the fuel line leading to the carburetor from the kerosene tank and turned on the line leading from the small gasoline tank on the fender.  When he was sure that all the kerosene was drained from the carburetor and nothing but gasoline filled the bowl of the carburetor, our Sheridan County rancher applied the choke to the carburetor and moved to the front of the tractor to engage the starting crank at the bottom of its range of its arc of motion.  He then grabbed the crank handle and made sure that his thumb was located on the same side of the crank handle as the rest of his fingers.  Although it was summer and the tractor was less likely to back fire, he did not want to take any chances on injuring his thumb if the engine did accidentally back fire.  Out of the same fear of a back fire, our Sheridan County rancher only pulled up on the crank one-half a turn at a time while trying to start the tractor.  He did not push down or try to make the complete 360º turn of the crank while starting the tractor.  He knew that a broken wrist could result from such a practice if the engine backfired.

Today, our Sheridan County Rancher needed only to “pull up” once on the crank, completing 180º of the arc of the crank before the engine fired.  The engine fired but did not start.  At this point, he opened or disengaged the choke, and situated the crank at the bottom of the arc again and pushed in on the crank to again fit the claw of the crank into the receptacle on the pulley at the front of the crankshaft.  Then he pulled up on the crank again to give the engine crankshaft another 180º clockwise turn.  With this second attempt the engine sputtered to life.  This was the “two ups and a start” that every tractor owner wanted to brag about.

He then hitched the tractor to the three-bottom plow and headed to the field.   Pulling the tractor up to the end of the field where he wanted to start his first plowing land” he reached around pulled the trip rope and tripped the plow bottoms.  Simultaneously the bottoms plunged into the ground and began to roll the ground over.  He had begun making his first trip across the field about one-third of the way across the width of the field.  While the back two bottoms of the plow rolled the soil into a furrow created by the plow bottom immediate ahead, the front bottom had no ready made furrow to roll soil into.  Thus, the first bottom rolled soil up onto the top of the ground next to the furrow that bottom was creating.  Upon reaching the other end of the field, our Sheridan County rancher reached around and pulled the trip rope again and the clutch on the right side wheel of the plow engaged to pull all three bottoms up out of the ground.  He then turned the big Model E around to line the first bottom up with the soil that had been rolled up on top of the ground in the first crossing of the field.  He would now pull the plow back across the field such that the first bottom would roll the soil over onto the overturned soil that already was lying on top of the ground from the previous trip across the field.  As he did so, the plow tended to create a mound of dirtthat stretched across the length of the field.  This mound of dirt is called a “dead furrow.”  This dead furrow designated the center of the plow land as our Sheridan County farmer kept moving out from the dead furrow with each complete round he made with the plow—up along one side of the dead furrow and back only the other side of the dead furrow.  Each time he crossed the field he rolled over 42 inches more of stubble ground.  Each complete round added 84 more inches of the width of the field plowed.

As the plowed land became wider and wider, the “turn-arounds” by the tractor and plow became longer and longer.  To keep from wasting too much time on these turn arounds, our Sheridan County rancher had purposely started making his dead furrow about one fourth of the way across the width of the field.  When the plowed land reached all the way to the edge of the field on that side, then he would begin another dead furrow on the other side of the field about a quarter of the width of the field from the other edge.  As he completed the field the two plowed areas of the field should meet about in the center the field.  Where the two plowed areas of the field met, there would be another “dead furrow.”  However, instead of being a composed of a mound of soil rolled together from both sides, this dead furrow was the opposite.  This dead furrow was a small trench with the soil rolled away in both directions.  All dead furrows are undesireable.  However, they were an unavoidable imperfection which result from the mold board plowing process.  These dead furrows would have to be worked out when the field was tilled the following year when our Sheridan County rancher returned to the field to prepare the ground for seed.

The Model E moved along in first gear at 2½ mph., our Sheridan County rancher was again amazed at the speed with which he was able to dispatch the fallow ground plowing.  Plowing that might have taken weeks to complete with the horses and the sulky plow could now be completed in a matter of days.  This year, he was able to complete the fallow ground plowing well before the wheat started to ripen.  Once he did get the plow put away at the end of the plowing.  He was able to get the grain binder out and greased up and ready to enter the fields.  This was another lighter duty job for which he used the horses.

He had, of course been watching the price of wheat.  The price of wheat had finally risen to $1.23 per bushel as a monthly average in July of last year (1924).  Over the winter the price had risen to a high of $1.85 as a monthly average for January of 1925.  Wheat growers had not seen prices this high since October of 1920.  Although prices had cycled downwards in a predictable way during the spring and summer, the price for the month of June, 1925 was $1.57 per bushel.  It did look as though the post-war recession was finally over.

The annual threshing of the small grains in the neighborhood began in late July.  Our Sheridan County rancher used his new Model E, to pull the large thresher from place to place around the neighborhood.  With the Model E on the belt, the large 28” x 40” was finally powered up to the recommended 35 hp. and then some.  With 45 hp. delivered to the belt, the Model E had power to spare to run the thresher.  Most times the thresher was fed from two wagons of bundles parked on either side of the self feeder.  In years past years, he used to watch carefully to make sure that the men working on top the two bundle wagons did not pitch to many bundles onto the self-feeder at any one time.  The thresher would become over-loaded, the speed of the thresher would slow down because the steam engine had no reserve of power.  Then the straw would clog up on the separating tables located behind the cylinder in the thresher rather than passing all the way through the thresher to the straw blower in the rear.  Then the whole threshing operation would have to be stopped while the clogged straw was pulled from the thresher by hand.  Clogging of the thresher usually happened when the workers up on top of the two wagons happened to be boys who were relatively inexperienced in working on a threshing crew.  With the Model E on the belt, however, the big four cylinder engine would lug under a heavy load, but would keep the belt turning at a high enough speed to keep the straw moving toward the blower at the rear of the thresher.

While operating the thresher on the various ranches of the neighborhood, our Sheridan County rancher found that the Model E was easier to operate that the steam engine and did not need the constant care and attention that the steam engine needed while operating on the belt.  At the end of the season, despite having to purchase kerosene and a small amount of gasoline to fill the small starting tank located on the fender, our Sheridan County rancher found that the Model E had actually cost less in operating expense when one figured in things like employing a boy or young man with a team of horses merely for the task of hauling water all day from a nearby stream or cow watering tank, just to keep the steam engine from running out of water.

With all the wheat coming onto the market in July the price of wheat sagged somewhat to $1.51 a bushel as a monthly average.  However, nationwide the demand for wheat was still robust and in August the price rose to $1.63 as a monthly average.  Thus, by the time that our Sheridan County rancher got around to threshing his own wheat in August, he was able to sell the wheat and receive a decent price immediately without having to store the wheat and wait for the price to rise.  He used the cash received from the wheat to pay off some of his machinery debt at Diefender and Dinwiddie Hardware.  It had been a successful year.  Like many dry land farmers of the Great Plains of North America, our Sheridan County rancher found that by getting the whole of his fallow land plowed in a timely manner, the Model E tractor had placed him in advantageous position for the following year.  Not only was the moisture captured in the oil for the next year, but the plant life that had started to grow on the land was now decomposing under the soil and releasing nitrogen that would help the wheat crop that was to be planted on the fallow ground in the coming year.

Dry land farming on the Great Plains of North America was just one of the applications for which the big horsepower of the Allis-Chalmers Model E tractor was used.  The Model E is just one of the many different models Allis Chalmers farm tractors and farm equipment that will be celebrated when the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association will host the Allis-Chalmers Collectors Club at its annual show held on August 24-26, 2007 in rural LeCenter, Minnesota.  We hope to see you there

Raising Sheep in Wyoming

  Today Last 24 hours Last 7 days Last 30 days Total
Hits 357 499 2402 12613 1624864
Pages views 194 276 1090 7962 1252145
Unique visitors 9 10 261 1303 263544
Unique visitors ‪(1h interval)‬ 28 87 761 3787 655529
Unique visitors ‪(30 min interval)‬ 31 93 855 4347 701972
Hits per unique visitor 39.67 49.9 9.2 9.68 6.17
Pages per unique visitor 21.56 27.6 4.18 6.11 4.75

Sheep Raising in Wyoming

       by Brian Wayne Wells

(As published in the November/December 2006 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine)

            The 100° longitude meridian line runs north and south over the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.  This longitude line is more than a man-made global positioning line.  The 100º meridian coincides to a remarkable degree with the climatological boundary between the Midwestern area of the United States and the Great Plains.  East of the 100º meridian is the Midwest with its plentiful annual rainfall amounts.  To the west, in the much drier land of the Great Plains.  Whereas farming in the Midwest is diversified and includes row crops like corn and soybeans, farming in the Great Plains is specialized—limited to the growing of small grains, predominately wheat.  Wheat is grown in abundance in the Great Plains.  Thus, the Great Plains has been called the “bread basket” of the United States.

The entire state of Wyoming is located in the Great Plains.  Situated along the eastern escarpment of the Rocky Mountains, the climate of Wyoming tends to be very dry, even by the standards of the Great Plains.  Because of the extremely dry conditions of the state, Wyoming was, at first, considered unsuitable for crop raising.  Wyoming seemed fit only for grazing cattle—and Wyoming had grazing land available.  Over 80% of the land of the state of Wyoming was publicly owned (federal and state) land.  This public owned land was called “open range.”  The open range had long been freely available for grazing by the cattle by ranchers that settled in Wyoming.

An individual cow requires forty acres of grazing land to sustain itself.  Thus, even a small herd of cattle requires a great deal of land for grazing through out the year.  Thanks to this free grazing policy on federal and state owned lands, individual ranchers did not need to “own” (and pay taxes on) the large amount of land required to support there cattle.  They needed only own a small site for their house, barn and other buildings.  The cattle could be grazed on the open range for most of the year.  Even though the winter snows presented a feeding problem for the cattle rancher in Wyoming, this problem could be overcome by the rancher putting up hay in the summer to feed in the winter when the grazing became too scarce.  The ranchers could even cut hay on the publicly-owned open range and store the hay in their barns to supplement the grazing during the winter months.

Wyoming has proudly nicknamed itself as the “Cowboy State” in recognition of the vast cattle herds (and the men on horseback that handled those herds) that still graze the land of Wyoming.  At first, cattle raising had a monopoly on the open range of Wyoming.  However, in the mid-1880s, sheep were introduced into Wyoming and began to compete with cattle for the grass on the open range.  A struggle between sheep ranchers and cattle ranchers, over grazing rights on the open range, resulted.  This struggle or “range war” between the sheep men and the cattle men has been a popular subject for Hollywood movies.  However, the overwhelming reality of the introduction of sheep into the Great Plains is a bit more prosaic.  Sheep gradually replaced cattle on the open range of Wyoming, because sheep simply offered a more profitable means of making a living than did beef cattle following the mid 1880s.

Since the end of the American Civil War, beef prices had ranged from a normal high of about $6.30 per hundred pounds to a normal low of about $4.00.  However, in February of 1886, the price of beef fell to $3.85 per hundred pounds and from that time down through 1896, beef prices began to fluctuate within a range from a normal high of about $4.00 per hundred pounds and a normal low of $3.30 per hundred pounds.  Raising cattle had become less profitable as time went on.  On the other hand, the price of wool presented a different story.

Traditionally, United States wool growers had benefited from the protective tariff duties which were imposed on the importation of foreign wool into the United States.  High duties on imported wool, assured domestic growers of wool within the United States of a high price for their product without foreign competition.  Protective tariffs had been a highly charged and much debated political issue throughout much of United States history.  The tariff issue had, traditionally, divided the two major political parties of the United States.  Since the time of President Andrew Jackson, the Democratic Party had stood in opposition to the policy of high protective tariffs.  The Republican Party, and before them, the Whig Party, had traditionally supported high tariffs to protect United States industries.  Predictably, when the Republicans were in control of the presidency and the Congress, high tariffs were the enacted.  Conversely, when the Democrats were in power tariff reductions were enacted.  Recently, this dynamic had resulted in the passage of the McKinley Tariff Act in the autumn of 1890 by the Republican-controlled during the administration of Republican President Benjamin Harrison.   Then in the summer of 1894, during the second administration of Democratic President Grover Cleveland, the Democrat-controlled Congress passed the Wilson-Gorman Tariff.  The Wilson-Gorman Tariff Act had removed all duties on imported wool.   Consequently, wool prices sagged to a new low of 34.8 cents per pound in June of 1895.

The Panic of 1893 which began in the east hit Wyoming hard when the Union Pacific Railroad became bankrupt in October of 1893.  Sheep ranchers struggled under the double effects of the lack of any protection from cheap imported wool and the further  restriction of markets for their wool imposed by the economic recession which followed the Panic of 1893.  Still, despite the economic hardships faced by the sheep ranchers, the beef industry was harder hit economically.  In Wyoming, the number of sheep had long since surpassed the number of cattle in the state.  However, the Panic if 1893 and the depression that followed the Panic widened this gap between the number of sheep and the number of cattle in the State.  By 1898, there were 1,940,021 head of sheep in Wyoming as opposed to only 706,000 head of cattle.

As the economic depression which followed the Panic stretched into it third year the public became disenchanted with the incumbent Democratic (Grover Cleveland) Administration.  As the presidential campaign started in 1896, it seemed clear that the public was in a mood to turn the Democrats out of office.  All indications pointed to a Republican victory in November of 1896.  In anticipation of the return of the Republican party, and the expected return of the high protective tariff, the price of wool began to climb.  If any further indication were needed, the Republican National Convention held in June 1896, voted in support of a platform that strongly favored a high tariff.  Senator William McKinley, author of the 1890 high tariff Act which bore his name, was nominated by the same convention as the Republican nominee for president of the United States.  In October, 1896, the price of wool rose to 39.1 cents per pound as a monthly average for the entire month.  On election day in November of 1896, McKinley won the presidential race.  Wool climbed to 41.3 cents per pound as a monthly average for November 1896.

In 1897, Congressman Dingley of Maine became the new chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.  Additionally, Chairman Dingley introduced a a tariff bill that would bear his name.  The Dingley Tariff bill proposed to raise duties on imported wool higher than the duties had ever been under the McKinley Tariff of 1890.   Ordinarily, wool prices operated in an annual cycle, dropping in June or July as the sheep flocks across the nation are shorn of their wool and all the shorn wool makes its way into the market and rising again in the fall and winter.  However, as the spring of 1897 yielded to the months of summer, the price of wool did not drop.  Rather, the price of wool continued to rise to 42.4 cents per pound as an average for March and to 45.6 cents a pound in April, 1897.

Bands of sheep herders had always moved across the landscape of Wyoming. Wandering along in pursuit of the next patch of good grazing for the sheep, these flocks of sheep, accompanied by sheepherders, dogs and camp wagons, averaged in size about 2,500-3,000 head.  Thus, the average band needed to cover a great amount of land area to find adequate grazing.  Many of the bands crossing the State of Wyoming did not originate within the borders of Wyoming.  Many flocks of sheep actually originated from Colorado, Utah or other neighboring states.  In 1897, the high price of wool and the anticipation of still higher prices supported by a new Republican protective tariff, brought even more flocks of sheep into the state.

In the spring of 1897, one particular sheepherder and his brother were tending a flock of 2500 head of Rambouillet sheep on the plains adjacent to the western escarpment of the Wasatch Mountain range in the State of Utah.  This was their home.  They lived here with their families.  However, every spring our Wasatch Range sheep herder and his brother rounded up the sheep in their flock and started to drive them north across these plains known as the Wasatch Plateau.  Leaving their families behind, our Wasatch Range sheep herder bid his family goodbye and told his young son to obey his mother and “be the head of the family” while he was gone.  Our Wasatch Range sheep herder would be gone all summer grazing the sheep in the Wyoming Rocky Mountains. He and his brother would not see their respective families again until the coming September.  He and his brother spent nearly as much time in Wyoming as they did in their “homes” in the Wasatch Range.      Continue reading Raising Sheep in Wyoming

Navy Bean Farming (Part III): The Innes Company

 

 

       Navy Bean Farming (Part III): The Innes Company of Bettendorf, Iowa

by

Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the May/June 2005 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

The Innes Company logo

As noted previously, a revolution in edible bean farming occurred in 1937. (See the article called Navy Bean Farming [Part II] in the March/April 2005 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.) The effect of that revolution can be seen in the harvest production figures for 1937. Also as noted previously, across the nation that spring, 1,911,000 acres of edible beans were planted. (From the National Agricultural Statistics Service page of the United Sates Department of Agriculture website.) In the fall of that year, 88.7% of this acreage was harvested. (Ibid.) The yield per acre was a record 934 pounds per acre. (Ibid.) This was a 23.7% increase in the average yield of 712 pounds per acre of 1936. After 1937, the average yield never again fell below 800 pounds per acre. (Ibid.) As noted previously, this dramatic and permanent increase in the average yield of navy beans was due in large part to the introduction of the small combine to navy bean harvesting in place of the stationary thresher.

 

Stationary threshing of navy beans resulted in a great deal of loss of the valuable beans.

 

The year 1948 was another revolutionary year in the per acre yield of edible beans. Nationwide, there was a nearly 11% increase in the average per acre yield of edible beans. For the first time the average per acre yield of edible beans rose above 1000 pounds per acre (1,074 pounds per acre). In 1949, the per acre yield rose another 6% to 1,134 pounds per acre. After 1949, despite some growing seasons with adverse weather conditions and mediocre harvests, the average annual yield of edible beans never again fell below 1,100 pounds per acre. If the drastic improvement in the per acre yield of 1937 was the result of the invasion of the combine into the edible bean threshing market, the further drastic improvement in yield in 1948 was the result of the small combine finishing the job of total domination of the edible bean market.

 

The introduction of the Allis-Chalmers Model 60 All-Crop Harvester small combine really spelt the end of the stationary style threshing.

 

In both cases, the improvement in yield was largely due to the reduction of loss of beans in the harvesting and threshing operation wrought by the combine as opposed to the losses incurred by the stationary thresher method of harvesting and threshing edible beans. The savings in losses were twofold in nature. First, savings in loss of beans were obtained by the fact that combining edible beans resulted in much less “handling” of the beans. Secondly, combining sped up the harvest. Thus, there was less chance of the navy beans being affected by mildew and the resultant discolorization.

 

A fine example of some “pearly white” navy beans without discolorization or mildew.  Even the single navy bean near the middle/top of this top picture shows a single navy bean with a yellow stain. However this stain is so minimal that even this bean passed inspection.

 

As noted earlier, navy beans grown in the state of Michigan composed the largest part of the United States edible bean harvest. In years past, upwards of 80% of the nation’s crop of navy beans were grown in Michigan. Within Michigan, Huron County, lead all other counties in production of navy beans.

 

A map of Michigan showing the location of the “thumb” in Michigan with Huron County at the tip of the thumb. .

 

The navy bean plant grows to only about 18 inches in height as compared to the 36“ height of a good crop of soybeans. Consequently, every pod of navy beans on the plants in the field becomes important. Thus, whereas the soybean farmer may cut soybeans off at a level 1½ inches above the ground and consider the loss of any pods attached to this 1½ inch stubble left in the field as a very negligible loss, the navy bean farmer, on the other hand, would suffer a considerable loss of yield by leaving 1-½ inch stubble in his navy bean field.

 

Navy bean plats are so short and the bean pods grow so low to ground that the sometimes touch the ground.

 

Furthermore, prior to the introduction of the first hybrid bush style navy bean variety (the Sanilac variety in 1956), all navy bean varieties were “vining” plants that grew along the ground. Thus, navy beans were harvested by “pulling” the plants. The process of “pulling” involved cutting off the navy bean plants below the ground. Traditionally, this was accomplished with a horse-drawn one-row cultivator fitted with “knives” that would pass under the ground and cut the row of navy bean plants off at the root below the ground. The navy beans vines would then be left lying on top of the ground. After the navy bean crop had been pulled, the farmer would return to the field with a pitch fork and stack, or “cock” the vines into conveniently located piles spaced throughout the field.

The vines would, then, await the day that the neighborhood thresher arrived on the farm before they were forked onto the wagon and hauled to the thresher and then forked into the thresher. Each handling of the vines would result in a further loss of beans as the pods either fell off or were cracked open letting the beans fall on the ground. Furthermore, additional handling of the beans occurred if a rain fell while the vines were cocked in the field, as the farmer would have to return to the navy bean field with his pitchfork and turn each pile of navy bean vines to allow the vines to dry thoroughly without mildewing.

Even the navy beans which successfully, made it through the harvesting process were not necessarily saleable. Once delivered to the grain elevator, the navy beans were inspected by hand. All discolored navy beans were removed. Only the pearly white beans that passed inspection were then marketed. Generally, the farmer would “buy back” the discolored, or “cull,” beans from the elevator. Usually, the cull beans were fed to the pigs or other livestock on the farm. The farmer’s purchase of the cull beans paid for the process of hand inspection of the total bean crop.

All over Huron County, Michigan, the inspection of the navy bean crop was done by workers hired by the grain elevator. These workers sat at specialized machines designed to allow navy beans to flow past the eyes of the worker. The cull beans would then be removed by worker one bean at a time. (These machines have since been discarded in favor of faster more efficient automatic machines. However, some of the old machines are kept as antiques of a by-gone era. One such machine is, currently, owned by Dave MacDonald of Bad Axe, Michigan. The machine is kept in his garage and is used to entertain visiting children and grandchildren. Today, instead of separating cull beans from good beans this old machine in the MacDonald garage is used to separate red marbles from white marbles.)

The inspection of navy beans at the elevator had serious consequences for the navy bean farmer . A navy bean farmer could find that 50% of his crop was lost through discolorization. Discolorization was caused by mildew. It was bad enough that the navy bean vines grew so close to the ground, but the hand cocking of the navy beans in the field left the vines lying on the ground and susceptible to mildew. A rain falling on the cocked beans would add even more exposure to mildew.

 

The elevator at Bad Axe Michigan which, as the sign on the building reflects, is a buyer of navy beans in Huron County.

 

No wonder then that the combine became so popular in the navy bean fields. The harvesting process was reduced to “pulling” the beans two rows at a time with a tractor. The tractor mounted bean puller would fold the two rows into a single windrow lying on top of the ground. After pulling the entire field of navy beans the farmer would then return the next day, or maybe even the same day to combine the navy beans. As a result there was very little “handling” of the beans. Additionally, after the navy bean vines were “pulled,” the vines spent very little time on the ground in a windrow, exposed to rain and weather, before being threshed by the combine. Thus, mildew and discolorization would have less chance to form on the navy beans.

 

A two-row bean puller mounted on a Model “M” tractor. The long “knives” of the puler can be seen just ahead of the rear wheels of the tractor.

 

As noted earlier, the Allis Chalmers All-Crop harvester was the pioneer small combine that led the way in crowding the stationary thresher out of the navy bean field. (See the article called “Navy Bean Farming in Huron County [Part II]: The All Crop Harvester” contained in the March/April 2005 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.) The All Crop Harvester was introduced in 1935. Although by 1947, the suggested retail price of an All Crop Harvester had risen to $885.00 farmers continued to flock to their Allis Chalmers dealers to purchase the little orange combine. The Allis Chalmers Company was turning out 150 All Crop Harvesters per day at the LaPorte, Indiana plant, just to keep up with the huge demand. This was the peak year of production for the All-Crop Harvester. Allis Chalmers had a 40% share of the small combine market. (From the 1954 Allis Chalmers promotional movie called “The All-Crop Story” available on VHS video tape from Keith Oltrogge, Post Office Box 529, Denver, Iowa 52622-0529. Telephone: [319] 984-5292.)

 

A tractor mounted bean puller at work in a navy bean field, leavin the bean vines lying on o. The tractor moun top ot the ground in a “windrow” to be picked up by a combine.

 

Just one indicator of the role the All Crop Harvester played in this revolutionary change in farming in Huron County, Michigan, was the number of Allis Chalmers dealerships that sprang up all across Huron County. First was the H.A. Henne & Son of Bay Port, Michigan. As noted earlier, although addressed 8982 Henne Road, Bay Port; the Henne dealership was actually located in McKinley Township, 1½ miles east of the city limits of Bay Port. (See the article, cited above, called “Navy Bean Farming in Huron County [Part II]) Henry A. Henne and his son, Floyd, organized this Allis Chalmers dealership business in 1932.

Meanwhile, the privately owned grain elevator in the small town of Ruth, Michigan, had re-organized itself as a farmer owned co-operative elevator in 1933. In 1938, the Ruth Cooperative Elevator also obtained a franchise to sell Allis Chalmers farm equipment and Roman Booms began his long tenure as the chairman of the board of the cooperative. (Roman Booms is mentioned in this capacity in the book called Plow Peddler written by Walter M. Buescher [Glenbridge Pub. Ltd.: MaComb, Illinois, 1992] p. 100.) Over the years, the machinery dealership side of Ruth Co-operative employed a number of local citizens including LaVern Hanselman as service manager and Earl Edwards as parts manager. Also in 1938 Harold Leese obtained an AllisChalmers dealership franchise. Harold established the dealership on the 60 acre farm that he and his wife, Gertrude (Champagne) Leese owned in Gore Township. Located on Kaufman Road, near the village of Port Hope, the Leese farm was just one mile north of the country school/Gore Township Hall on route #25. In 1940, Al Bowron and his son, Harold, started the Al Bowron and Son dealership in the county seat of Huron County—Bad Axe, Michigan. These new dealerships and, indeed, all the Allis Chalmers dealerships in Michigan were served by the AllisChalmers warehouse and branch office at Toledo Ohio. Personnel from the Toledo Branch Office including Ed Howe, Branch Service Manager, often traveled to the individual dealerships to provide any assistance required by the new dealerships.

The post-World War II era, brought forth a new generation of farmers who had new ideas about farming. One of the young farmers walking into the Henne dealership to inquire about the an All-Crop Harvester in 1947 was John Prich. John was the second son of George Prich, of rural Bach, Michigan. As noted earlier, the 80 acre Prich farm was located in Brookfield Township in Huron County. (See the article, cited above, called “Navy Bean Farming in Huron County [Part II].) John’s older brother, George Jr., took over the farming operations from their father, George Sr., on the home farm. Although he continued to live at home, John Prich struck out on his own and started renting and farming what land he could find in the neighborhood. He raised wheat, oats, sugar beets and of course, navy beans. In addition to the horses, John and his brother George Jr. shared ownership of an unstyled model A John Deere tractor as a source of power in their respective farming operations. The tractor had rubber tires and, thus, the Model A could be driven down the public roads to the fields that John rented in the neighborhood. For planting his wheat and oats John and his brother used a 9-foot grain drill made by the Ontario Drill Company of Despatch, New York. This grain drill contained fifteen planting units. By closing off some of the holes in the bottom of the grain box of the drill, John could also use the Ontario grain drill to plant his navy beans in 30-inch rows.

Just like their father, both John Prich and his brother, George Jr., employed the Kuhl family for threshing their crops. Bill Kuhl Sr. lived on a farm north of Bath, Michigan in Huron County. Along with his sons, Bill Jr., Floyd, Don and Robert, Bill Kuhl owned a 36” x 62” Keck and Gonnerman thresher which they used to do custom threshing in the neighborhood. To power the large Kay-Gee thresher, the Kuhls owned a 30-60 Model S two-cylinder Oil Pull tractor manufactured by the Advance-Rumley Thresher Company of La Porte, Indiana. (The Kuhl family has continued to maintain an interest in Oil Pull tractors to this day. Carol Kuhl, daughter of Floyd Kuhl, later married Duane J. Deering, now of Unionville, Michigan in Huron County. Duane purchased, restored and currently owns a 1929 Model X 25-40 Oil Pull tractor.)

However, in the late fall of 1947, John Prich was able to withdraw from the hand labor and responsibilities involved in stationary threshing when he contracted with Heene Implement in Bay Port, Michigan, for the purchase of an Allis Chalmers All-Crop Harvester. Thus, John Prich became one of the 20,825 purchasers of an Allis Chalmers Model 60 All Crop Harvester combine in 1947. The combine purchased by John Prich was not fitted with any windrow pickup at all. It was too late in the season to use the All-Crop Harvester for the harvest of 1947. Consequently, John returned to Heene Implement in the summer of 1948 to purchase a windrow pickup for the new combine. From their experience the Heene Implement dealership knew that the Innes pickup made by the Innes Company of Bettendorf, Iowa , was superios to any of the Allis Chalmers windrow pickups. Therefore, John purchased a new Innes stiff finger windrow pickup from Heene Impliment in the summer of 1948 for the price of $95.00. (John Prich still has the receipt from this purchase made more than 55 years ago.

By 1947, the Innes name was becoming quite well known in the navy bean farming areas of Michigan. The Innes Company of Bettendorf, Iowa, actually began in 1914 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania as the brainchild of George Innes. George and his wife, Edith, were happily living in Philadelphia which at that time was a bustling city of 1,549,008 (1910 census). Thus, Philadelphia was, at the time, the third largest city in the United States. George Innes was of Scottish ancestry and had an inquisitive mind. He could not stop thinking about how to improve things. Toward this end he used his ability to think in mechanical terms to try many new inventions. On December 12, 1914 a son, Donald, was born to George and Edith. The Innes family would eventually have three boys with the addition of Robert and Brainard Innes to the family.

Perhaps it was the restlessness of George’s inventive mind or the social changes that were being wrought on the United States economy in the post-World War I era, but in 1923, George and Edith moved out of Philadelphia to settle in the town of Bettendorf, Iowa (1920 pop. 2,178). Bettendorf is the smallest of four cities which all border each other at the confluence of the Rock River and the Mississippi River. These four cities, Rock Island and Moline, Illinois, and Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa are commonly referred to as the “Quad Cities” because of their close proximity to each other. Adapting himself rather quickly to the rural Midwestern community to which he had decided to settle, George was soon at work on a new invention.

As noted earlier, combines, especially small combines, were just making there appearance in the Midwestern part of the United States. (See the article called “Navy Bean Farming (Part II) in the March/April 2005 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.) The “combine” had originally developed in California. A big bulky apparatus, the combine was profitable for use only in the “horizon to horizon” farming of the western states. Use of combines in the diversified farming areas of the Midwest, had to await development of the small combine, starting with the Allis-Chalmers All-Crop Harvester. (Ibid.)

Unlike the western states, combining of oats and other small grains in the Midwest could not easily be accomplished by harvesting the grain as it stood in the field. Generally the grain needed to be cut and laid into windrows to allow the grain to “sweat” as it would in the shock and to allow any extraneous “green” material to wither and dry up and pass through the small combine in an easier manner. (Jeff Creighton, Combines and Harvesters [Motorbooks International: Osceola, Wisc, 1996] pp. 69 and 113.)

To allow the grain to sweat and dry properly, it was generally suggested that grains be cut into wind rows, leaving stubble 6” to 8” tall. (From the “Operating Manual for the John Deere 12A Combine,” p. 80.) “A stubble of this height will allow free circulation of air under the windrow.” (Id.) With stubble of this height and with the windrow resting on top of the stubble, the feeder unit of the combine containing the cutter bar, could easily be slid under the windrow and the harvesting of the grain could be accomplished without the need of any special pickup attachment. However, in reality the stubble would not always be of this height and, in reality, the windrow might well be resting on or near the ground and on top of the stubble. Thus, need required the invention of a windrow pickup attachment. (J.R. Hobbs, writer for the Green Magazine has written a nice history of the development of windrow type of grain harvesting and the development and patenting of the “traveling combine” and the pickup by the Hovland brothers of Ortley, South Dakota in 1907, and the in the article called “Amber Waves of Grain Laid Down by John Deere Windrowers.” J.R. Hobbs also reflects on the improvements that were made to the technology of the windrow style of combining in 1926 and 1927 by Helmer Hanson and his brother. This article is contained in the July, 2003 issue of Green Magazine.)

Typically, before mounting the windrow pickup to the feeder unit of the combine, both the reel used in standing crops and the sickle in the cutter bar were removed. The most common pickup attachment that evolved and became universalized throughout the industry generally consisted of rows of wire teeth set on an axle. The teeth protruded through slots in a stationary piece of sheet metal. The teeth would pick up the windrow and raise it up into the feeder unit. The stationary piece of metal would “comb” the windrow off the pickup attachment and allow the windrow to proceed into the feeding unit of the combine. The combing action of the stationary portion of the pickup was intended to prevent the teeth from hanging on to the straw in the windrow and causing the windrow to wrap around the axle of the pickup attachment. Despite the partial success of the combing action of the typical windrow pickup, “wrapping” of the windrow around the pickup attachment remained a problem. This is problem that caught George Innes’ attention.

Sometime after moving to Bettendorf, Iowa, George began working on a new type of pickup attachment. The Innes designed pickup consisted of a metal cylinder which contained a number of holes. Inside the cylinder was a shaft to which stiff metal teeth were attached. Because the shaft was not located in the very center of the cylinder, but rather was located “off-center” to the front inside the cylinder, the stiff teeth attached to the off-center shaft emerged and withdrew from the slots in the cylinder as the cylinder turned. Both the axle to which the teeth were attached and the metal cylinder in the Innes designed windrow pickup would revolve at the same speed. With each revolution of the cylinder the teeth would protrude out of holes of the cylinder to full extension to pickup the windrow and then withdraw back into the cylinder as the cylinder continued to revolve bringing the windrow up to the feeding unit. Combing action in the Innes designed windrow pickup was eliminated by this extension and withdrawal of the teeth into the cylinder as the cylinder revolved. Thus, the Innes design greatly reduced “wrapping” of the grain around the pickup. The design of this cylinder style of windrow pickup was and would remain George Innes’ greatest invention.

George Innes, determined to mass produce and market his new pickup for the farming public. In this endeavor, George received some help from his son, Donald. Donald Innes graduated from Augustana College located in neighboring Rock Island, Illinois and in 1937 joined with his father in an attempt to manufacture and market the new pickup in mass numbers. Toward this end George and Donald Innes, incorporated the Innes Company in 1938 to manufacture his new pickup attachment. Although located in the state of Iowa, the Innes Company was incorporated as a Delaware Corporation to take advantage of the tax benefits and other benefits traditionally accorded Delaware corporations. (Harry G. Henn and John R., Alexander, Laws of Corporations (West Pub.: St. Paul, Minn., 1983) pp. 187-189.) Incorporation under the laws of Delaware was a common practice for many corporations. However, since the corporation’s manufacturing facilities were to be located in Bettendorf, George filed Articles of Business Activity with the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office on February 7. 1938. On this original document the Company reported $10,000 as initial “startup” capital. About a year and a half later, on September 7, 1940 the company was reporting capital of $84,000. The Company obtained a manufacturing site located in rural Bettendorf. The new company was thus able to take advantage of the excellent railroad connections that the Quad Cities enjoyed—especially the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railway which served the Quads to the east and to the west. The new Innes factory site came alive with activity. The Company chose dark blue as their trademark color. Soon the dark blue Innes pickups were pouring out of the factory. Each pickup was carefully packaged up and loaded onto waiting boxcars for shipment to all parts of the nation. Continue reading Navy Bean Farming (Part III): The Innes Company

Navy Bean Farming in Michigan (Part II): The All-Crop Harvester

                    Navy Bean Farming in Huron County, Michigan (Part II)

by

Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the March/April 2005 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

            As noted earlier, the lower peninsula of Michigan is shaped in the form of a winter mitton.  Huron County, Michigan lies at the tip of what is called “the Thumb” of the State of Michigan.  (See the article on called “Navy Bean Harvesting in Huron County Michigan [Part I]” in the January/February 2005 issue of Belt Pulley.)  Although navy beans had been raised in in Huron County and the Thumb since 1900, the production of navy beans in really became a major crop in Michigan only in 1915.  Spurring that growth in production was the high prices that all edible beans were fetching in the market starting in 1914 due to the war in Europe.  Additionally, in 1915 the Michigan State University released its newly researched and developed “Robust” variety of navy bean.  The Robust variety had been bred to have genetic features which made this variety of navy bean adapted for commercial growing in Michigan.  By the 1920s, production of navy beans on the Thumb and in the neighboring Saginaw River Valley, located at the base of the Thumb, was sufficient to push Michigan into first place among all states in the United States in the production of field beans.  (Willis F. Dunbar, Michigan:A History of the Wolverine State [Eerdmans Pub. Co.: Grand Rapids, Mich., 1980] p. 578.).  Within the State of Michigan, Huron County became the leading county in the state for the production of field beans.  Indeed Bad Axe, Michigan, the county seat of Huron County, began to identify itself as the “Navy Bean Capital of the World.”

Following the First World War, the map of Europe changed following the disintegration of four empires—the Ottoman Empire, the Russian Empire, the German Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  A series of newly independent nations sprang up Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Romania, Hungary, Czechslovakia and Poland.  The economic dislocations caused by this new order set off another wave immigration to the United States.  In 1920, George Prich immigrated from the newly formed nation of Czechslovkia to Detroit.  His parents, George and Marie (Sliacky) Prich remained in Czechslovakia.  However, the family did have relatives living in Detroit.  However, George did not remain long in Detroit.  He moved out of the city and up to the Thumb.  Settling in the western part of Huron County on the Thumb, he rented a farm and commenced farming winter wheat, corn, hay, sugar beets and navy beans and raising some hogs and beef cows.  In August of 1924, he married a local German girl by the name of Martha Haag.  They began were blessed by the birth of a son—George Jr. (really the third George) born in June of 1925.  On March 1, 1926, they purchased an 80-acre farm in a low-lying area of Brookfield Township in western Huron County.  However, the farm was on the county line road between Huron County and Tuscola County.  Consequently, the Prich family still had strong contacts with western Huron County.  The Prich family farm was located in a low liying area called the “Columbia swamp.”  On their new farm they had three more children—John born in 1926, Florence born in 1929 and Albert born in 1933.  The main crops raised on the farm were hay, oats and corn.  However, each year about 10 acres were planted to sugar beets and about 10 to 15 acres were planted to navy beans.

During the same time another family was living on a farm in southwestern Seigel Township located east of Bad Axe and north west of the settlement of Parisville.  Even before the sun rose, one morning in October of 1935, activity was brewing on this 160 acre farm.  Our Siegel Township farmer was taking a team of horses to the field towing a one-row “Albion Bean Harvester.”  The bean harvester or “puller” that he was towing behind the team of Percheron horses—Pete and Moll—was really a horse-drawn a cultivator with the shovels removed and horizontal long knives bolted onto the cultivator frame.  The Albion line of bean harvesters were made by the Gale Manufacturing Company of Albion, Michigan.

Our Siegel Township farmer arrived in the field were the navy beans were stood.  Although planted in rows, the 18” yellow/brown vines had grown out along the ground and blurred the 30” pathways between the rows.  Our Siegel Township farmer “drew up” the horses to a halt with the reins at the start of the first row in the field of navy beans that he and his father had grown during the summer.

He and his father raised navy beans as part of a diversified farming operation that included oats and wheat on their farm.  However, the summer of 1935 had been a difficult growing season.  Indeed the past couple of years had seen drought conditions all across the United States.  Nationwide the dry condition, which was coming to called the “dust bowl” on radio, had begun in 1932.  (William E. Leuchtenburg, Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal [Harper and Rowe Pub.: New York, 1963] p. 172.)  In Huron County the dry conditions had started in June 1933, when only 1.91 inches of rain fell during the whole month.  (From the monthly average historic rainfall for Saginaw Michigan on the web page for Saginaw, at the NOAA weather web site on the Internet.)  A normal June would have seen 2.9 inches of rainfall. (From the Bad Axe average rainfall page of the Worldclimate.com web site.)  July and August of 1933 had followed with only 1.13 inches of rain in each month.  2.9 and 3.3 inches of rain was normal for those months.

Last year’s growing season had continued to be extremely dry.  May of 1934 had yielded only 0.76 inches of rain for the whole month, whereas 3.3 inches would have been normal.  June, July and August of 1934 all continued to be dry with rainfall amounts of 1.7 inches, 1.29 inches and 1.43 inches of rain falling in those months, respectively.  Although normal rains had returned in September of 1934, this was too late to help the crops and the rains only succeeded in making harvesting of the crops difficult.  As a result of the drought conditions in 1934, only 1,461,000 acres or only 75% of all the acreage planted to edible beans nationally were actually harvested.  Generally, 90% of all acres planted were harvested in a normal year.

The drought conditions returned last April with only 0.86 inches of rainfall for the entire month of April 1935.  However, suddenly in May, the weather reversed itself.  Last May (1935) had been the coolest month of May on record since 1925.  This was largely due to the 4.5 inches of snow had fallen in May.  (Ibid. on the historic monthly snowfall page.)  Snow in May!  It was not a good beginning to the growing season.  Spring planting had been delayed because of the cold spring in 1935.  Once June did arrive, the rains would not abate.  The radio reported that the Thumb had had 5.09 inches of rain in month of June whereas only 2.9 was average for June.  (From the Bad Axe average rainfall page of the Worldclimate.com web site.)

As a result, spring planting development of all the crops were delayed.  Only the winter wheat which had been planted in September of the prior year (1934) was growing according to schedule.  Following the heavy rains of June, the drought conditions returned throughout July and August with only half the usual amount of rainfall for those months.  (Ibid.)  Usually, our Siegel Township farmer began pulling the navy beans in mid-September.  However, the beans were still growing and maturing in September.  Now here he was in October just getting started with the task of pulling the beans.

Across Huron County to the west and indeed, just across the county line in Elmwood Township of Tuscola County township the George Prich family was also struggling to get the navy bean crop harvested.  George had planted the navy beans in rows with his 7½ foot Van Brunt grain drill.  This grain drill had 13 planting units.  However, by closing off the proper amount of holes in the bottom of the seeder box of his Van Brunt grain drill he could use the old grain drill to plant navy beans on his farm also in 30 inch rows.

The 30-inch rows meant that there was room for a horse to walk down the pathway between the rows without stepping on the rows of growing beans.  This would allow the navy beans to be cultivated.  However as the navy bean plants grew, they began to “vine” along the ground and to tended to cover over pathway between the rows.  Thus, the navy beans could only be cultivated a couple of times before the bean plants became too viney and covered too much of the 30 inch pathway.  By harvest time in the fall, the beans had become a tangled mass of plants in the field.

Now in October of 1935, our Siegel Township farmer lowered the cultivator on the first row of navy beans the newly sharpened knives lay horizontally on top of the ground over the hilled up row of beans.  As he urged the Pete and Moll forward with a shake on the reins and uttering a “giddap” the knives slid under the ground and moved along through the hill of beans, cutting off the beans from their roots just below the surface of the hilled up row of beans.

Our young Siegel Township farmer regreted loss of navy beans that he knew was occurring during this harvesting process.  All he needed to do is to look down on the ground and see the naked white beans laying on the ground to know that some loss was occurring because of the cracking of bean pods under Pete and Moll’s feet.  Although Pete and Moll walked down pathways between the rows, they could not help treading on the vines.which tended to cover over the 30 inch pathways.  This caused a loss of some of the navy beans on the ground as the horses’ feet cracked open the pods of the beans.  Indeed the mere manipulation of the bean plants by the cultivator tended to crack open the dry pods on the vines spilling the pearly white navy beans onto the ground.  To avoid this type of cracking of dry pods, our young Siegel Township farmer had begun pulling beans with the team early in the morning while the dew was still heavy on the plants.  In this way it was hoped that they would complete a great deal of the bean pulling while the dew lasted.  The dew tended to moisten the dry pods and to prevent cracking.  Once the dew had lifted under the sun of the mid-morning, our young Siegel Township farmer would cease his work in the navy bean field.  This meant that work in the navy bean field was limited to early morning work.

Looking down at the little white beans that lay on the ground, our young Siegel Township farmer was struck by a feeling of digust.  He had always felt that way.  Ever since he was a child he had felt a repugnance against waste that had caused him remorse over the loss of even a single good bean.  As a child, his father had attempted to assure him that the losses were usually of “cull beans” which were too discolored or too immature to pass inspection at the grain elevator anyway.  However, out in the field he could see that these beans, lying on the ground, were pearly white and were certainly good beans.  While reading some articles in the Michigan Farmer, he was gratified to find that his feelings about waste were reflective of the modern trend in scientific farming.

In addition to noting the waste on the ground, our Siegel Township farmer was beginning to doubt the value of having navy beans in the crop rotation on his farm.  Despite the passing of the worst part of the depression, prices of all edible beans last year (1934) had averaged only $3.52 per 100 pounds.  (From the National Agricultural Statistics Service page of the United Sates Department of Agriculture website.)  This was only 52% of the average price of 1929, the year before the depression.  (Ibid.)  Continue reading Navy Bean Farming in Michigan (Part II): The All-Crop Harvester

An Oliver 100 Series Two-bottom Plowmaster

An Oliver 100 Series Two-bottom Plowmaster

with 14-inch Bottoms at Work in Nicollet County, Minnesota.

by

Brian Wayne Wells

as published in the Spring of 1995 issue of the

Hart-Parr Oliver Collectors Magazine

 

 

In South Bend, Indiana, among the other industrial plants located there, were the Oliver Corporation’s Plant #1 and Plant #2.  Plant #1 had been devoted to the production of the famous Oliver chilled steel-bottom plows since 1853.  (See C.H. Wendel, Oliver/Hart-Parr [Motorbooks International: Oseola, Wisconsin, 1992], p. 107.)  Since about 1938, Oliver had been manufacturing the 100-Series Plowmaster plows at its South Bend factories.  These plows had the patented Raydex bottoms which had been designed by Herman and Rudolph (Rudi) Altgelt, brothers, who were employed as engineers by the Oliver Company from the 1920s through the 1940s.  (See “The First Oliver Tractor” on page 18 of the November/December 1990 issue of Antique Power for the story of the Altgelt Brothers.)

An Oliver Plowmaster 100 plow on steel wheels.

 

Prior to the Second World War, Plowmaster plows were manufactured with steel-wheels.  However, after the war, production of the rubber-tire version of the Plowmaster boomed.  Oliver 100-Series Plowmaster plows contained a number of unique features.  Besides the patented Raydex bottoms and “radius curved” plow shares, the plow had a rack and pinion style mechanical lift (sometimes called a “cock’s comb”), a hand crank style of height adjustment, and an optional clasp hitch with a special rigid clevis which was sold with each plow.  This clevis had to be bolted to the drawbar each time before plowing.  However, once the rigid clevis was in place on the drawbar, hitching the plow to the tractor was much easier.  Detaching the plow was as easy as pressing down on a button on the clasp hitch and driving the tractor forward.

The Oliver clevis for the Plowmaster 100 plow bolted to the swinging drawbar of a tractor.

 

The 100-Series Plowmaster plow was painted red with green wheels, even though the color scheme of the Oliver Fleetline Model 77 and Model 88 tractors introduced in 1948 was green with red wheels.  Later, however, the color scheme of the plow was reversed to green with red wheels to match the tractors.  Indeed, Bob Tallman, a former Oliver dealer from Tower City, Pennsylvania, from 1946 through 1969, relates that the color scheme of the Oliver 100-Series Plowmaster plows changed three times while he was operating the dealership.

The red Oliver Plowmaster 100 plow with green wheels which was manufactured together with the early Fleetline tractors.

 

In 1947, a particular 2-bottom 100-Series Plowmaster plow with 14-inch bottoms, the optional caster-type rubber-tired rear trailing wheel, and the optional clasp hitch rolled out of the production department at Plant #1.  Before the plow was shipped, however, the plow was “knocked down,” or KD’ed (disassembled), by the shipping department at Plant #1.  The plow was then placed in a railroad boxcar together with several other KD’ed plows which had been factory-ordered by various southern Minnesota Oliver dealerships.  The plow orders for southern Minnesota had been collected by the Oliver district manager at the Oliver branch house in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  These orders were then  grouped together in railroad boxcar-sized groups to save shipping expenses.  Each railroad boxcar loaded with plows was scheduled to arrive in a centrally located town within different regions of the State of Minnesota.  All of the Oliver dealers within each region were informed of the date on which the boxcar would arrive at some central location in their region.  Each dealer would then make arrangements to pick up the plows they had ordered.

An advertisement of the green Plowmaster 100 plow with red wheels.

 

In this particular case, the boxcar was headed for Mankato, Minnesota, centrally located in the southern region of the state.  The train left South Bend, Indiana, on the Penn Central tracks headed to Chicago.  At Chicago, the boxcar was transferred to a Chicago and Northwestern train headed north to Minnesota.  It then arrived at the Chicago and Northwestern railroad station in Mankato, Minnesota, where it was spotted to await the next day when the plows would be unloaded.

Among the Oliver dealers scheduled to receive a plow was the H.B. Seitzer Implement dealership of St. Peter, Minnesota, ten miles north of Mankato.  St. Peter, a town of about 6500 at that time, was the county seat located on the eastern edge of Nicollet County in the colorful Minnesota River valley.  Seitzer’s Implement was a family-owned business which had been founded in 1915 as the local Ford car and tractor dealership.  In about 1930, they also became the local Allis-Chalmers dealership.  At about the same time, they obtained the local franchise of the Oliver Company.  This was a convenient combination of franchises because throughout the 1920s Ford and Oliver cooperated to sell Fordson tractors together with Oliver chilled-steel plows.  In 1946, the H.B. Seitzer Company was split into two separate entities.  The Ford car dealership continued at the same location in the 100 block of South Minnesota Avenue in St. Peter while the Allis-Chalmers and Oliver franchises moved to a building at 311 South Front Street in St. Peter.  Both of the companies continued to be known as Seitzer’s.   Mark Seitzer, son of H.B. Seitzer, founder of the company, became the operator of the Oliver and Allis-Chalmers dealership.

Mark Seitzer, now retired, noted that the 100-Series Plowmaster plow was a popular product with area farmers.  The Oliver plows had a good reputation in the area around St. Peter.  Ivan Reddemann, who farms northeast of St. Peter across the Minnesota River in Tyrone Township in LeSueur County, remembers that his father, Edwin Reddemann, found that the Oliver plow was the only plow that would scour easily in the rich black gumbo soil of Nicollet and LeSueur Counties.  Edwin Reddemann had previously tried a McCormick-Deering Little Genius 2-bottom 14-inch plow on steel wheels and a Case 2-bottom 16-inch plow on rubber tires behind the Reddemann family’s Farmall H before settling on an Oliver 100-Series Plowmaster 2-bottom 16-inch plow on rubber tires.

The two bottom Plowmaster on rubber tires.

 

To the west of St. Peter, in New Sweden township in Nicollet County, Gerald and Ruby (Quist) Wise farmed a 160-acre farm which had originally been homesteaded by Ruby’s mother’s family (Ostrom) in 1869.  In 1947, this farming operation also used an Oliver 2-bottom 100-Series Plowmaster with a 1942 John Deere B.  The Wise family also found that the Plowmaster, which had been purchased at Seitzer’s Implement, worked well in the same type of soil on their farm.  The Plowmaster plow would continue to be used on the Wise farm through the time that Warren Rodning (who married Marilyn Wise, daughter of Gerald and Ruby Wise) took over the farming operation in 1956.  Warren continued to use the Plowmaster plow until he traded the John Deere B and the Plowmaster for the larger and more modern John Deere 630 with a mounted 3-bottom John Deere plow in 1958.

The termination of war-time production quotas, plus the rise in farm commodity prices fueled by the sale of United States foodstuffs in Europe under the Aid to Greece program which was signed into law on May 22, 1947 (Truman, Harry S., Years of Trial and Hope [New American Library, New York, 1956], p. 131) and the tantalizing promise of much wider sales to Europe under the Marshall Plan which was outlined to the public on June 5, 1947 (McCullough, David, Truman [Simon & Schuster, New York, 1950], p. 562) created a large demand for farm machinery in 1947.  Because of the demand and the Plowmaster’s good reputation in the St. Peter area, the management at Seitzer’s knew the Plowmaster they had ordered would not be in the dealership warehouse very long before it would be sold.

After being informed by the Minneapolis branch house of the date on which the plows in the boxcar would be unloaded at Mankato, the Seitzer management made arrangements with a local farmer, who had a truck with a grain box, to go to Mankato to pick up the plow.

Expectations of the management at Seitzer’s proved correct.  Shortly after the Plowmaster arrived at the dealership, it was sold to Alton and Alice (Miner) Jacobson.  At this point, the plow was re-assembled by the employees at Seitzer’s.

A 1937 Allis-Chalmers Model WC tractor, like the one owned by Alton Jacobson, pulling an Oliver Plowmaster 100 plow in the fields.

 

Alton and Alice Jacobson farmed 80 acres west of St. Peter in the northeast 1/4 section of Section 27 of Oshawa Township in Nicollet County.  This farm had been owned by the Jacobson family ever since it was homesteaded by Alton Jacobson’s grandparents, Hans Carl August Jacobsson and Anna Lisa Pettersdotter Jacobson in 1875.  (Alton’s parents,    The farm would become a registered “Century Farm” in 1975, which means the farm was owned and operated by the same family for 100 years .)

Alton Jacobson was a part  of the wedding party of his uncle, Charles W. Lange married Margaret Bertha Holtz in 1927.  Here Alton Jacobson is pictured in the back row on the left side of the photo. Next to Alton in the second row is Anita Holtz sister of the bride and next to Anita is Fred Holtz, brother of the bride and on the right in the second row is Holteen.    

In 1947, the Jacobson’s and their two sons, Warren and Raymond, were milking cows and raising sheep, hogs, and chickens on their diversified farming operation.  They used nearly all of the corn, oats, and hay they raised as feed for their livestock, but they did sell soybeans each year.  Although they continued to farm with horses in the post-World War II period, they had purchased a new WC Allis-Chalmers tractor on rubber tires from Seitzer Implement in 1940.  It was this tractor that pulled the Plowmaster for most of its productive life on the Jacobson farm.

The Oliver Plowmaster was used on the Jacobson farm until 1985 when Alton Jacobson died.  An auction of the farm machinery was held that year.  Attending the auction was Fred Netz, who had married Jan Miner, niece of Alton and Alice (Miner) Jacobson.  Fred and Jan were both teaching at the elementary school in Nicollet, Minnesota.  In addition, they had just bought a 220-acre farm in the same vicinity, keeping a small parcel for the horses they intended to raise and renting the remaining acreage to Fred’s brother.

Wayne A. Wells, on left, attaching the hitch of the trailer holding the Oliver Plowmaster 100 plow after the purchase of the plow and the Farmall Model H bearing the serial number No. 173093, seen here on the extreme left side of the picture.  Both the tractor and the plow were purchased from from Fred Netz in 1993.  Here Fred Netz is seen on the right side of the picture, holding the Alton Jacobson Oliver Plowmaster 100 plow.

 

Fred arrived late to the Alton Jacobson auction because he had been busy that morning purchasing a 1944 Farmall H for use on their new farm.  At the conclusion of the auction, he found that with the remaining small amount of property that did not sell was the trusty little Oliver 100-Series Plowmaster plow.  The plow was in very good shape and the two 14-inch bottoms were still shiny with their “land polish” which had been carefully varnished with grease.  The special clevis that had been purchased with the plow was still connected to the hitch.  The auctioneer, however, had been unable to raise a bid on the plow because by 1985 moldboard plowing had fallen out of style in favor of minimum tillage.  Furthermore, the 2-bottom plow was much too small for modern farming requirements.  Therefore, Fred bought the little plow for a nominal price at the conclusion of the sale as a convenience to the estate and the auctioneer.

Fred took the plow to his new farm.  Despite the fact that the 2-bottom plow was outdated on most modern farms, he found that the plow allowed him to get closer to fence rows and ditches than the new larger plows.  Because of this capability, he was able to find a niche for the little Plowmaster in his farming operation and also in the modern farming operations of his brother and other area farmers.  On occasion, Fred performed some “end-row” plowing in some neighborhood fields; however, this work was infrequent and the plow was used less and less as the years went by.  Finally, in 1993, Fred decided to sell both the Farmall H and the Oliver 100-Series Plowmaster plow.

A former Nicollet elementary school principal, Wayne Wells, now of LeSueur, Minnesota, answered his advertisement.  Wayne Wells, definitely a Farmall man, was interested in purchasing the Farmall H, but was not interested in the Oliver plow.  Fred insisted, however, that the plow be part of the package and so the agreement was made.  The tractor and plow were loaded up and transported the short distance to LeSueur, Minnesota.

Mark Wells, of Billerica, Massachusetts, and myself, both sons of Wayne Wells, first saw the little Oliver 2-bottom plow sitting in the backyard of the Wells home in LeSueur, Minnesota, in August of 1993 when we arrived for our annual visit to attend the LeSueur Pioneer Power Show.  As usual, plans had been made to do some work on one of the Wells family’s restoration projects for the Show.  The primary project for this particular Show was to be the restoration of the pre-war McCormick-Deering Little Genius 2-bottom plow.  (The story of this restoration was carried in the September/October 1994 issue of Belt Pulley magazine and is shown in the “second hour” portion of Tape #6 from the International Harvester Promotional Movies Collection.)

During the restoration of the Little Genius, there was plenty of opportunity to compare the Oliver 100-Series Plowmaster plow with the Little Genius side by side.  Wayne Wells noted that the angle of the Raydex bottoms on the Oliver plow was reduced such that it appeared the bottom would slide through the ground easier and that the sod could be turned over more gently than on the Little Genius.  He thought that this must have been the key to Oliver’s reputation for easy scouring in the rich black gumbo soil in the area.

The 100-Series Plowmaster plow was a heavily decaled plow as opposed to the McCormick-Deering plows.  There was a “Plowmaster” decal on the leveling lever, a green and yellow “Oliver” decal on the support beam between the bottoms near the rear of the plow, and then there were the curved “Oliver/Raydex” decals on the backs of the moldboards.  (Actually, on this particular plow, only the rear bottom had the “Oliver/Raydex” decal.)  The front bottom, unlike the rear bottom, was green and had no decal.  It looked as though the front bottom had been replaced sometime during the life of the plow.  As we began to examine the plow closely and to hear other members of the LeSueur Pioneer Power Association talk about the plow, the more we began to warm to the idea of restoring the Plowmaster plow.  However, we determined that the Oliver plow would be long-term project needing a lot of research, definitely not something that was going to be completed even in 1994.

The diagonal crank shaft can be easily seen in this picture. Unfortunately the upward slope of the crank catches the rain in the in the collar into which the crank fits. This usually means that the crank rusts tight in the collar.

 

First there were some mechanical problems that needed to be addressed.  The height adjustment crank was rusted tight at one setting.  (This is a typical problem for Plowmasters which are stored outdoors.  Because the crank is designed such that the top part screws into a lower pipe, the lower-end pipe catches all the rain water running down the upper portion of the adjustment crank.)  Also, the correct shade of paint and the making of custom-made decals indicated that much time would pass before the plow was completely restored.  Furthermore, the bottoms had lost their shiny “land polish” due to a lack of use and it would take time in the field to get the land polish back.

The arrow on the left side of this picture highlights the unique lift system of the Oliver Plowmaster 100 Series plow. This lift mechanism is called the “cocks comb” lift mechanism and is unique to the Oliver Plowmaster 100 Series plow.

 

At the August 1993 Threshing Show of the LeSueur Pioneer Power Association, the plow was used to plow a few rounds.  (These first few rounds performed by the as-yet unpainted Plowmaster, pulled by the Wells family’s 1953 Super M, can be seen in the second hour portion of Tape #8 available from International Harvester Promotional Movies.)  This work did wonders for the little 100-Series Plowmaster plow. After one round, the height adjustment crank had broken loose to allow partial height adjustment.  After a couple more rounds, full range of motion had returned to the height adjustment crank.  Furthermore, the land polish on the bottoms started coming back.  At the conclusion of the 1993 Show, the bottoms on the 100-Series Plowmaster plow were varnished with grease and the plow was stored away under a shelter for the winter.

Upon returning to West Virginia, I began to research the 100-Series Plowmaster plow and found that support services for the Oliver plow were very far advanced.  Usually reprints for implements are rare and we have to rely on Swap Meets to find an original implement parts manual or operator’s manual.  However, I was pleased to discover that an Operator’s Manual for the 100-Series Plowmaster plow was available from McMillian’s Oliver Collectibles, Dept. B, 9176 U.S. Route 36, Bradford, Ohio 45308, Telephone: (513) 448-2216.  Contacting Kurt Aumann, Editor of Belt Pulley magazine and a member of the Hart-Parr/Oliver Collectors Association, I was put in touch with Lynn Polesch, 926 Watson St., Ripon, Wisconsin  54971-1761, Telephone: (414) 748-2366 or (414) 748-3996.

The Oliver Plowmaster 100 Series plow s one of the most heavily decaled plows in the farm industry.

 

Lynn Polesch had just restored an identical 100-Series Plowmaster plow and had made all of the necessary decals.  He had the two-color “Oliver” decal, the “Plowmaster” decals, and the special curved “Oliver/Raydex” decals for the back of the plow bottoms.  He even had the three U.S. Patent numbers which are mounted on the back of the plow bottoms under the curved “Oliver/Raydex” decal and above the plowshare.  Lynn Polesch had made a set of these decals for a friend of his and was willing to sell me a set also.  We have not always found implement decals so readily available.  Indeed, Lynn Polesch is attempting to develop a proper copy of the “McCormick-Deering/ Little Genius No. 8” decal so that restoration of our Little Genius plows may be completed.  Although two different toy models of this plow are currently available from Ertl with the proper decals on them, there is as yet no source for a decal for the full-sized Little Genius plow.

Using C.H. Wendel’s Notebook, the author found that the proper Oliver green paint was Martin-Senour 99L-8746 and the proper red paint for the Oliver tractor wheels was Martin Senour 99N-3752.  These paints can be found at any NAPA store by supplying them with the Martin-Senour numbers.  Although, the Oliver red noted above is the paint recommended for the tractor wheels, I was informed that the red used on the plows made at the South Bend plant may have been slightly different from the red used on the tractor wheels manufactured at the Charles City, Iowa, Oliver tractor plant.  Although this difference is very small, the exact shade for implements is easily obtained by using True Value “Tractor Red” paint which is very inexpensive and available at any True Value hardware store.

A picture taken of the Alton Jacobson Plowmaster 100 Series plow after painting and in the middle of decaling.

 

The gathering of this information proceeded much more rapidly than the author had anticipated and we began to have expectations that the 100-Series Plowmaster plow could be completed by the time of the 1994 LeSueur Pioneer Power Show.  We ordered the decals and had them sent to LeSueur, Minnesota.  Once again, Mark and I gathered at our parents’ home in LeSueur prior to the show to work on the restoration projects.  This time the Oliver plow was at the top of the list, together with another McCormick-Deering Little Genius (this one a 2-bottom plow of the post-war variety).  Cleaning, wire brushing, and priming of the Oliver plow went as planned.  We obtained paints from the local NAPA store and the local True Value building supply store, and the painting and decaling were completed without difficulty.  The tires on the plow looked to be original equipment, and although they were worn, they appeared to be good tires.  In other words, the restoration of the Oliver plow was a dream.  (This is the way that all restorations should proceed–without difficulties or unexpected problems.)  The plow was finished ahead of schedule and was very flashy in appearance with the extensive number of decals.  However, the plow needed to do more than just look good, it needed to perform.  It needed to be worked in the fields to further polish the bottoms and to bring back the land finish to the surface of the bottoms.  Accordingly, the plow was hooked up to the 1944 Farmall H and taken on a few rounds.  The little plow won much praise at the 1994 Pioneer Power Threshing Show.

 

The restored Alton Jacobson Oliver Plowmaster Series 100 plow ready to go to the 1994 LeSueur Pioneer Power Show.

 

Only one problem regarding the Oliver plow arose at the 1994 Show:  what tractor would we use to tow the Plowmaster in the parade held each day of the Threshing Show?  The plow looked somewhat like an orphan among the many Wells family Farmalls.  Despite the fact that the plow had never in its entire life been coupled with an Oliver tractor, it looked incomplete being towed by any tractor other than an Oliver tractor–preferably an Oliver 77 which would be an exact match for the 100-Series Plowmaster plow.  (Miles Zimmerman was quick to suggest to the author that the Cletrac HG would also be an exact match for the 100-Series Plowmaster plow!)  As a partial solution to this problem, it was towed behind a 1930 Model A (22-40) Oliver/Hart-Parr tractor owned by Dave Preuhs of LeCenter, Minnesota.  Although this tractor was a predecessor of the Fleetline Oliver tractor, the Model A Oliver/Hart-Parr was seventeen years older than the 100-Series Plowmaster plow and was not an exact match.

From the author: the Plowmaster still appears to be an orphan waiting for a post-1947 Fleetline Oliver tractor.  Recent developments, however, suggest that this wait may be over sometime in the foreseeable future.  In the summer of 1994, the Wells family obtained a “family heirloom”–a 1938 F-20 which had belonged to the late Robert Westfall, brother-in-law of Wayne Wells.  Robert Westfall had farmed with this tractor until 1978 when it was abandoned in the grove on their farm near Dexter, Minnesota.  While work on this “family heirloom” F-20 tractor continues, Wells family members are already casting an eager eye toward another tractor which is still in use on the Westfall farm–a 1954 Oliver 77 tractor bearing the Serial Number 451745.  As Kurt Aumann has said to the author on many occasions:  “Wait until you start hearing the smooth sound of that six-cylinder engine on a regular basis.  Those Farmalls may have some company.”

Not long after this article was published in the Spring of 1995 issue of the Hart-Parr Oliver Collectors magazine, the 1954 Oliver Model 77 tractor bearing the serial Number 4501745 was purchased by the Wells family from Lorraine Wesfall family.

Long after the death of Robert Westfall and the renting out of the arable land on the Westfall farm, Lorraine (Hanks) Westfall (widow of Robert Westfall and sister of the current author’s mother, continued to live in the building site of the farm. During this time, Oliver Model 77 with the mounted Farmhand loader and the snow bucket had been used by the Westfall adult children for snow removal in the Westfall farm. Finally, in 2006, Lorraine sold the Oliver tractor to the Wells family. In this picture, Mark Wells is seen, on the extreme left side of the photo, admiring No. 4501745 after it has been loaded on the David Preuhs trailer for the trip to LeSueur.

 

The Robert Westfall family had been renting the Olson farm west of Dexter,Minnesota since March of 1959.  However, in March of 1968, the family purchased another farm in the Dexter neighborhood.  In December of 1968 to Robert Westfall purchased No. 4501745 complete with a Farmhand tractor-mounted loader with a snow bucket for use in the coming winter for snow removal on the farm.  No. 4501745 continued to be used on the Robert and Lorraine Westfall farming operation until Robert passed away on January 13, 1992. Since Lorraine rented out the acreage, she sold the most of the farm machinery on the farm.  However, since she intended to continue living on the farm, she kept No. 4501745 on the farm for her adult children to use for snow removal on the farm.  In 1996 she sold No. 4501745 to the Wells family.  In August of 1996, Mark Wells, brother of the current author, contracted with David Preuhs of LeSueur, Minnesota to take his pickup and trailer from LeSueur, Minnesota to the Westfall farm in near Dexter, Minnesota to pickup the Oliver tractor and bring it back to LeSueur Pioneer Power.

No. 4501745 was taken to LeSueur and eventually taken out to the Kyle Lieske farm in rural Henderson, Minnesota for mechanical work.  Kyle Lieske worked on the Oliver tractor over the winter of 2008-2009.

The Oliver Model 77 tractor bearing the Serial No. 4501745 spent the winter of 2008-2009 at the Kyle Lieske farm where a mechanical overhaul of the engine was performed.  This view of the right side of No. 4501745 shows the tractor’s original configuration of being without a belt pulley drive.

 

Later in the Spring of 2009, with the mechanical overhaul of the engine complete No. 4501745 was ready to be painted.  Loaded up onto the current author’s new trailer, the tractor brought to West Virginia by the current author and his wife, Sally Robinson Wells.

Purchased in the summer of 2006, the author’s trailer was only two and a half years old in the spring of 2009, when it was used to transport No. 4501745 to West Virginia.

 

In the Spring of 2009, Jake Lovejoy of Red House, Virginia prepared the tractor for painting later in the Spring.

Jake Lovejoy sits in the operator’s seat of No. 4501745 following the preparation of the tractor for painting.  This picture reveals that the belt pulley drive has still not been added to the tractor.

 

Over the entire preparation period, a careful review of the tractor was made to determine what other features should be added to the tractor to complete the restoration of the tractor.  Originally, all Fleet Line Oliver tractors had been equipped with a offset “football shaped” muffler which was fitted under the hood of the tractor.  Because of the offset design of this muffler, the inlet of the muffler from the manifold was not inline with the outlet of the muffler leading through the hood of the tractor.  As a result, the opening of the manifold and hole in the hood for the exhaust pipe did not line up.  Consequently, when the tractor needed an new muffler the farmer/owner would have to buy the special offset football-shaped muffler.  To avoid this, some Fleet Line tractor owners would simply cut another hold in the hood directly over manifold outlet and then install a straight muffler as on other brands of tractor.  Sometimes farmer/owners of the Fleet Line series tractors would spent the money to have the offset hole in the hood covered by a sheet metal patch soldered into place.  This had been done to No. 4501745.  (Note the pictures above of the tractor while still on the farm of Kyle Lieske to see the straight muffler on the tractor.)

For the convenience of restorers of the kit to reverse the holes cut in the hood of the tractor is available, as are exact reproductions of the offset football-shaped muffler and the original exhaust pipe which protrudes through the hood to the proper height and includes a raincap.

A second consideration had to be given to whether a belt pulley should be added to No. 4501745.  The tractor had never been fitted with the belt pulley or even the belt pulley drive which had to be fitted the power train of the tractor.  Unlike the power take-off shaft on the tractor which was operated by “live-power” independent  of the drive train, the belt pulley was directly connected to the power train and the clutch of the tractor.

 

With its Forest Green color, yellow grille and lettering and red wheels and red “chin strap” under the grille, the Fleet Line series of Oliver tractors remains the most complicated and colorful of all tractors produced in the Uniited States.  During June of 2009 No. 4501745 underwent its complicated paint job done by

vejoy of Red House, West Virginia.

Considered as a whole, the story of the Alton Jacobson 100 Series plow is quite a spectacular story.  The entire history of the plow from its sale as a new plow to Alton Jacobson to its current status as being matched to the Westfall Oliver Model 77, means that the plow that has the most complete and dramatic history of any equipment in the Wells family collection has been matched to the most colorful easiest starting and smoothest running of all the tractors in the Wells family collection. The plow compliments the tractor on the basis of the plow’s history on a Century Farm in Nicollet County and the tractor compliments the plow based on its colorfully and beautifully restored paint job and its easy starting and smooth running and its ease of operation.

and r f from tr Defrom   drove his trailer and and she sold the Olver Row Crop to Mark Wells.   Wesvat this The Oliver continued to be used on the farm for u r Retired from farming in tithe Model and Fa;;l V s ;V. The the

 

By 2010, the Robert Westfall Oliver Model 77 tractor had been obtained and had been beautifully painted and restored in West Virgina and was matched to the Alton Jacobson Plowmaster 2-bottom plow. tractor