Category Archives: Allis-Chalmers Company

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

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

by

Brian Wayne Wells

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

The New Idea 3-row Super Picker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

     

 

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

Statistics recorded with Counterize - Version 3.1.4

Allis-Chalmers Tractors at Work on the Engstrom Farm

by

Brian Wayne Wells

(As published in the September/October 2007 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

However, Frank’s father, Matt, had also been thinking about the future.   He was now 68 years of age and he had been widowed for nine years now.  He was tired of living alone.  He had been seeing Doretta Spencer, a widow who lived in the town of LeRoy.  Together they had made plans to marry.  Matt wanted to retire from active farming but did not want to leave farming altogether.  He made plans that when Frank and Esther moved off the farm, he would also move off the farm.  He and Doretta would marry and they would move into her stucco house located at the corner of Luella Street and North Broadway Avenue directly across from the Presbyterian Church in the village of LeRoy.  Matt thought that he and Doretta might live rather comfortably in retirement on the rental income they could receive by renting out the home farm.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

by Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the July/August 2007 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine)

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

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

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

 

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

The young Albert E. Anderson.

 

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

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

 

Albert had training as a blacksmith.  However, the income that he could derive from this vocation in Sweden was s