Oliver Farming in Mower County Minnesota (Part VII): Oliver Row Crop Model 77 Bearing Serial No. 4501745

Oliver Farming in Mower County (Part VIII):

The Row-Crop  Model 77 Tractor Bearing the Serial No. 4501745 


Brian Wayne Wells




Subsequent acquisitions by the New Idea Company included the Horn Company of Fort Dodge, Iowa.   In 1963, the New Idea Company bought the Uni-tractor line from Minneapolis-Moline.   In 1984, the Allied Company bought the New Idea Company. In 1985, the Allied Company purchased the White Tractor Company. In 1988, the White-New Idea Company closed the old Tractor Works located in Charles City, Iowa and moved all White tractor production to the New Idea factory in Coldwater, Ohio.

Austin, Minnesota, (1950 pop. 23,100) is the county seat of Mower County. Austin is located in a Township on the a Located in the middle of Mower County is Windom Township which surrounds the small village of Rose Creek, Minnesota (1930 pop. 210). Until 1980, Rose Creek, Minnesota was famous in the surrounding agricultural community for a farm tractor dealership that was far out of proportion with the town’s small size.


Favorable market conditions in the sheep market were reported over the radio—like WCCO radio out of the Twin Cities. Our Nevada Township farmer began think hard about acquiring a small flock of ewes. He was not alone. Many farmers in his neighborhood were doing the same thing. Indeed, for one farm family over in a neighboring township—Austin Township—sheep raising was already a major part of their farm income. Earl Eugene and Margaret (Stormer) Subra owned a farm containing only 60-acres in Austin Township. While, the Subra family milked some cows and raise some pigs, they virtually made all their cash income from sheep—pure bred Suffolk sheep. Born in 1913, Earl Subra grew up on the farm of his parents William J. and Bertha (Dennis) Subra located in Austin Township. Raised on his father’s farm, Earl had moved to his own farm. In 1931, he and Margaret Stormer were married. Earl began raising Suffolk sheep prior to 1940. He chose Suffolk sheep because of the characteristics of breed.

The Suffolk breed was born as a result of the cross breeding of Southdown sheep with old Norfolk sheep in England. Suffolks are not “wool” sheep. They grow only a moderate amount of wool. They were a breed of sheep known for their black faces and legs, which were free of wool. Suffolk sheep were raised primarily as “meat” sheep. Suffolk ewes (female sheep) were prolific in the production of offspring and were “good milkers.” Suffolk lambs grew rapidly; they had more edible meat and less fat than other breeds. Suffolks have excellent feed conversion characteristics which means that Suffolks have the capacity to actively graze and rustle for feed even on dry range lands. However, this characteristic also means that when Suffolk lambs are raised on high quality feeds, the breed has one of the fastest growth rates of any breed of sheep. Consequently, Suffolk sheep were rapidly becoming the most common breed in the Midwestern United States. (Paula Simmons & Carol Ekarius, Storey’s Guide to Raising Sheep [Storey Publishing: North Adams, Massachusetts, 2001] p. 74.)

Earl Subra noted that Suffolks answered the demands of the market at the current time in 1940. Meat, not wool, was the main product that was in demand in the current market. Suffolks had the quality of lean meat that the market demanded. Furthermore, the short five-month (147-153 day) gestation period plus the rapid growth rate of the individual lambs meant that the farmer could make money faster with Suffolks than with other breed of sheep. Earl Subra knew that, drawn by the chance for making a good profit, many farmers would be attempting enter the sheep market by acquiring flocks of their own for the first time. He also knew that many of these farmers would be choosing Suffolks. Accordingly, in addition to raising and selling lambs to the Hormel meat packing plant in Austin, he felt he could also make a profit selling bucks (male sheep) and ewes (female sheep) to those farmers wanting to start their own flocks. In this way he would be working with the rising tide of farmers entering the sheep market. This, Earl Subra thought, was the way he could make a living out of the new situation that was arising.

However, to sell Suffolks to the farmers wishing to start their new flocks, Earl Subra felt that he needed to have a product that would these farmers would buy. If Suffolk sheep had characteristics that would stand out among other breeds of sheep, then the goal should be to raise Suffolk sheep that would adhere closely to those characteristics and avoid any negative characteristics. Indeed, there already was an organization in devoted to promoting the best characteristics of the Suffolk breed by educating Suffolk breeders. This organization was the National Suffolk Sheep Association (N.S.S.A.) which was headquartered in Michigan and later was headquartered in Columbia, Missouri. N.S.S.A. started a registration process by which purebred Suffolks could be registered with N.S.S.A. N.S.S.A. would mail out a certificate of registration to the owner of the individual registered sheep. In order to qualify for registration, both the sire (father) and dam (mother) must also have their own certificates of registration. Theoretically, then every registered purebred Suffolk could be traced back through a paper trail of registration certificates to the original Suffolk sheep which initially defined the breed. Each certificate of registration would document that the individual sheep was direct descendant of these original Suffolk sheep.

Even prior to 1939, Earl Subra had been working on developing a flock of Suffolk sheep that reflected superiority in any number of individual features. Soon his ewes and rams were winning a number of blue ribbons at the Mower County Fair which was held in the first week of August each year. Earl also began to make a name for himself at the Minnesota State Fair. Soon breeders from outside the Midwest, and even from Canada, were searching him out to purchase rams and ewes from the Subra flock. These other breeders saw traits in the Subra sheep that they wished to include in the blood lines of their own flocks. Consequently, Subra sheep were sold far and wide and Earl Subra became quite famous among Suffolk breeders across the nation.

Accordingly, when our Nevada Township farmer began to think seriously about obtaining a flock of sheep for his own farm, he though of the Subra farm located in the next township to the west. Accordingly, in the fall of 1941, after watching the dramatic increase in the price of sheep over the summer (reaching $7.10 per hundred weight in August of 1941), our Nevada Township farmer purchased eight (8) purebred Suffolk ewes from Earl Subra in September of 1941 and brought them to his farm. He hoped that adding sheep to his farming operation would be another diversification of the farming operation and the farm income. He hoped this diversification would further strengthen his family’s financial position.

Introducing the ewes to his farm for the first time required that some changes be made to the farm. The farm on which our Nevada Township farmer and his family lived was established in a series of concentric circles, each area fenced off from the next larger circle. The immediate area around the house contained the lawns, the outhouse, dog house and family garden. This was the inner yard. A legal term for this area is “the curtilage.”   The next largest encircled area included most of the rest of the building site of the farm, the grove, the orchard and the windbreak running along the north and west sides of the building site. This area was also called the “yard,” but the term was meant to be used in a larger sense than the mere curtilage around the house. The area behind the barn was fenced off from the yard to keep the cows out of the yard. Likewise the areas on either side of the hog house were fenced off to keep the pigs out of the yard and the chicken yard next to the hen house was fenced off to keep the chickens out of the yard. All animals were kept out of the yard except the family dog and any cats from the barn. These animals were actually encouraged to patrol the yard and keep rodents under control. However, the yard was intended to be the main home for the small flock of sheep that he was now acquiring.

One of the benefits of a flock of sheep would be the fact that they would keep the grass and weeds in all area of the yard under control. This would save labor and time that the family had, in the past, spent trying to keep these areas mowed and trimmed. This was one of the advantages that our Nevada Township farmer looked forward to about having sheep on the farm. However, there were also disadvantages. One of the most important disadvantages was that all the fences around the yard had to be improved and reinforced. Sheep were curious and would explore every portion of the area they occupy in order to find vegetation to eat. First, the fence between the yard and the cartilage needed to be made more secure to keep the sheep from invading the cartilage and most importantly out of the family garden. In the garden, the sheep could make quick work of the young succulent plants the family was trying to grow there. The lawns inside the cartilage would continue to be mowed by the family, just as in the past. Likewise the fences around the outside of the yard needed to be strengthened to prevent the sheep from getting into the fields where the farm crops were being raised.

In 1945, the number of sheep across the whole state of Minnesota stood at 995,000 head. In Mower County the sheep population was 17,500 head in 1945. The number of sheep in neighboring Fillmore County, to the east of Mower County, stood at 30,500 head.

The sale lambs to the Hormel’s, the sale y


This s   During the the esheltolocation to la Farm withwhich had been the foread merged with r headed southw dd On the one hand, being just e Minnesota that sm wee.n a on o t

October Sr. John and (A short profile of Robert Thill and a short history of Thill Implement is contained in the       issue of Oliver Collector magazine


Until the dealership closed its doors in 1965, Thill Implement served as the a local Oliver Farm Equipment dealership. However, over the years they were in business, Thill Implement grew in reputation and fame until they served much more than just Windom Township and the immediate Rose Creek community. The dealership eventually became the premier Oliver dealership of all Mower County and, began to serve the entire southern Minnesota and northern Iowa area.

The Second World War had had a large impact on the population of the United States. In 1940, still 43.5% of the population of the nation lived on farms. In 1950, this figure had dropped to 36.9% of the total population. (See the U.S. Census on-line.) Still with more than one third of the nation making their money from farms, the United States remained a “rural nation.” Thus, many of the returning United States veterans from both theaters of the war were from farms and upon their return to home. When they did return they had many new ideas on how to modernize the family farm. First and foremost, in the improvements sought by returning veterans, was to replace slow, inefficient horse power on the family farm with mechanical power supplied by a farm tractor. Thus, a large demand for tractors was created at the end of the war. Furthermore, this demand for tractors was made worse by the fact that no new tractors had been available during the whole course of the war. Accordingly, even the farmers that might have bought a new farm tractor during the war were prevented from doing so by the wartime restrictions on the economy which curtailed civilian tractor production. With the return of peace, these wartime restrictions on the economy were suddenly ended. There was a tremendous surge of buyers released into the new farm machinery market. This surge of buyers caused new local dealerships to spring up all over the Midwestern United States.

One of these new implement dealerships, was the Thill Implement dealership in Rose Creek, in Mower County, Minnesota. John Thill started this dealership in   . John Thill remained a farmer in Windom Township. In     , with his brother Jack. Thill Implement had a dealership franchise agreement with the Oliver Farm Equipment Company of Charles City, Iowa, to sell the full line of Oliver farm equipment from the. Since 1937, the line Oliver of tractors had been distinguished by the six-cylinder Model 70 tractor. The Model 70 was the most popular selling tractor in the line of Oliver had a sales reputation that stretched far beyond the rural Rose Creek community. The dealership became an important regionally severing a multi-county area in southern Minnesota and Northern Iowa. The dealership With the return of peace following the Second World War, the In the post-war was uniques line, were In the pos

dealership grown into a .   Rober achad not yet reached its full capacity . The dealership had been was

thaof the the South Bend, Indiana is famously known as the home of Notre Dame University. However, the economic basis for the small Indiana city is build on the processing of iron and the manufacture of farm machinery. Two particular examples of the farm equipment manufacturing basis of the South Bend economy are the two factories owned by the Oliver Farm Equipment Corporation—South Bend No. 1, located on the large industrial lot at the corner of Chapin and Sample streets and extending to Indiana Street, and South Bend No. 2 located at Walnut Street.   South Bend No. 1 is the Oliver Chilled Plow factory and contains a foundry. While South Bend No. 2 is the “Tractor Works” is basically a large machining works where the various castings molded in South Bend No. 1 are drilled with the necessary bolt holes and and where edges on those castings are shaved down under huge milling machines to the proper tolerances to be fit together with other castings during the assembly of Oliver tractors and engines. (Scenes of the operations inside both South Bend No. 1 and South Bend No. 2 can be seen on the movie Acres of Power [1948]. This movie is available on VHS video tape from the Floyd County Historical Society.)

On Friday morning , December 11, 1953, the work force at the South Bend No. 1 foundry works of the Oliver Farm Equipment Company changed some numbers on the mold for the transmission and rear-end housing for Oliver’s most popular tractor—the Row Crop Model 77 tractor. Each casting l the casting rought the date on the mould of their castings up to date. All transmission and rear end housing that would be cast today would bear the current date—December 11, 1953.   a particular casting for the transmission and rear end housing was cast. As usual, all the molds used for casting this e on this the mold was All the cast iron used in the assembly of the famous Oliver tractor are “cast” right here in South Bend No. 1. that fit together and form Oliver tractors are made in bMost famously milled. ade in the uplants s the basic xiand town s The 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



In December of 1968, Robert and Lorraine Westfall and their family of eight children moved from the Jimmy Olson farm, located northwest of Dexter, Minnesota (1960 pop. 313), to their own farm which they purchased in December of 1968. This farm was located in the same neighborhood and was situated east of the village of Dexter. east of thev of rural which they had been renting since 1959 to their own farm which th. No. 4501745 was again sold through Thill Implement in the December of 1968 to Robert Westfall of Dexter, Minnesota. Robert and Lorraine Westfall used No. 4501745 on their farm until Robert passed away on January 13, 1992. Lorraine continued to live on the farm and rent out the acerage until she sold the farm in October of 1996. In 1996 she sold No. 4501745 to Mark Wells. In August of 1996, David Preuhs pickup and trailer from LeSueur, Minnesota to the Westfall farm in near Dexter, Minnesota to pickup the Oliver tractor and bring it back to LeSueur Pioneer Power. Kyle Lieske worked on the Oliver over the winter of 2008-2009 and the tractor was brought to West Virginia by Sally and Brian Wells where the tracor was painted during June of 2009 by Jake Lovejoy of Red House, West Virginia.     and r f from tr Defrom   drove his trailer and and she sold the Olver Row Crop to Mark Wells.   Wesvat this The Oliver continued to be used on the farm for u r Retired from farming in tithe Model and Fa;;l V s ;V. The the



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