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

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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 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 at Work

Statistics recorded with Counterize - Version 3.1.4

A 1938 Allis-Chalmers Model WC Tractor 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.

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.

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.

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.  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.  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.

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.

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.

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 29,006 tractors in 1936.  Last year in 1937, nation-wide sales had dipped, somewhat, to 14,426 tractors because of the recession of 1937.  However, 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.  Accordingly, Al Anderson agreed to become the local Allis-Chalmers franchise dealership for Huntley, Minnesota.  His sales area would cover not only Verona Township where Huntley was located, but also the larger area of western Faribault County and eastern Martin Counties in southern Minnesota.

Continue reading Allis-Chalmers Farming (Part IV): A 1938 A-C Model WC at Work

Raising Sheep in Wyoming

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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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 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.

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.

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.)

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 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 an 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.)

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 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.

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.        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.

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.

Alton and Alice Jacobson farmed 80 acres west of St. Peter in Oshawa Township in Nicollet County.  This farm had been owned by the Jacobson family ever since it was homesteaded by their ancestors in 1875.  (The farm would become a registered “Century Farm” in 1975.)  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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

To 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” continues, Wells family members are already casting an eager eye toward another tractor which is still in use on the Westfall farm–an Oliver 77.  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.”

The PAPEC Company of Shortsville, New York (Part 2): A Model 127 PAPEC Silo Filler at Work

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The PAPEC Company of Shortsville, New York (Part 2):

A Model 127 PAPEC Silo Filler at Work

by

 Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the January/February 1996 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

This is a PAPEC Model127 silo filler that was restored by former employees of the PAPEC factory in Shortsville, NY. in 1987.
This is a PAPEC Model127 silo filler that was restored by former employees of the PAPEC factory in Shortsville, NY. in 1987.

            By 1931, the Pneumatic and Propeller Ensilage Company, or Papec for short, was well established at its site in the small up-state town of Shortsville, New York. Model 158, Model 127, Model 81 and Model R Papec stationary silo fillers, as well as various models of hay choppers and hammermills, were rolling out of the Papec facilities in Shortsville. (For a history of the Papec Company, see the November/December, 1995 issue of Belt Pulley, Vol. 8, No. 6.)

            One particular Model 127 Papec stationary silo filler complete, with its shiny new color coat of red, black and two shades of green paint, a Rockwood pulley, and a galvanized feeder, rolled out of the Papec’s Shortsville, New York, facility in early 1931. By prior arrangement with Deere and Webber Company, wholesale distributor of Papec equipment in Minnesota, this particular silo filler was equipted with an optional large pulley for use with tractors with a high rpm. belt pulley. The Model 127 was “knocked down” (KD’ed) or taken apart, into its component parts and put in a waiting boxcar of the New York Central Railroad destined for Beske Implement of Minnesota Lake, Minnesota. The New York Central steam locomotive pulled the train containing the boxcar with the KD’ed silo filler out of Shortsville, through Buffalo, New York, across Pennsylvania’s Erie Triangle, and into the broad plains of Ohio and Indiana, arriving at the end of the New York Central line in Chicago, Illinois. Once in Chicago, the boxcar with the KD’ed silo filler was transferred to another train on the Chicago-Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad for the next phase of the trip to Minnesota. On the Chicago-Milwaukee and St Paul line, the silo filler made its way north to Milwaukee, across Wisconsin to La Crosse, and into southern Minnesota to the little junction town of Wells (1940 pop. 2,517). At the Wells junction, the boxcar with the silo filler was connected to the train that was headed north to Mankato. The first stop on that railroad line was the town of Minnesota Lake, Minnesota (1940 pop. 526). At this stop, the Model 127 Papec silo filler was unloaded onto a truck for the short trip to the Beske Implement dealership, where the KD’ed Papec silo filler was put back together by the employees. The silo filler was soon sold to two area farmers, John T. Goff and Ernest More, of Mapleton, Minnesota (1940 pop. 1070).

            Beske Implement was a very old John Deere dealership, founded by Gus Beske in about 1912. Gus Beske operated the dealership until his son, Woodrow W. Beske, took over its operation upon Gus’ retirement. Minnesota Lake was a small town, serving a rural area which included the larger town of Mapleton, Minnesota. South of Mapleton was the farm of John T. Goff. The picturesque Goff farm was known in the surrounding neighborhood as “the farm with the round barn.” John T. Goff (or “John T.” to friends and associates) had built the round barn to ease the feeding of livestock. The milking cows were placed in stanchions in a circle in the barn. All calf pens were located in the center of the barn. Hay was fed to the calves and cattle from the center of the barn.

A very tall man, himself, John T. Goff takes a break from binding his very tall crop of sorghum on his farm in Mapleton Township, Blue Earth County, Minnesota in 1937.
A very tall man, himself, John T. Goff takes a break from binding his very tall crop of sorghum on his farm in Mapleton Township, Blue Earth County, Minnesota in 1937.

Continue reading The PAPEC Company of Shortsville, New York (Part 2): A Model 127 PAPEC Silo Filler at Work