Farming with a Coop Tractor (Part 1):
National Farmers Union
Brian Wayne Wells
THIS ARTICLE REMAINS UNDER CONSTRUCTION. PERIODICALLY ADDITIONS WILL BE MADE TO THE ARTICLE. WHEN THE ARTICLE IS COMPLETE THIS PARTICULAR MESSAGE WILL DISAPPEAR.
Throughout the history of North American agriculture, farmers have been attempting to solve their own problems. Farmers have repeatedly joined together in societies and organizations to protect their common economic and political well being. In the United States, one of these attempts of farmers to band together to solve their problems occurred in 1867 with the formation of the National Grange of the Society of the Patrons of Husbandry (or more simply “the Grange). The Grange was formed in the state of Maine in 1867. Following the initial founding of the National Grange, local chapters of the Grange Society sprang up all across the northern rural areas of the nation. At first, Grange meetings were merely social events—community dinners and dances. This was an attempt to solve the problem of loneliness or isolation facing many farm families. However, soon the Grange took a more serious bent and began to protest the political and economic problems faced by farmers.
Chief among the concerns of the Grangers was the exploitation of farmers by private grain elevators and the railroad. Usually the local privately-owned grain elevators exercised a near monopoly over the prices that local farmers received for their crops. Often times this price was much lower than the farmer might have received if some competition in the market had been available to the local farmer. However, such competition was usually not readily available to the farmers. Usually there was only a single grain elevator in each local town. To find competing elevators the farmer would have to carry his grain to more distant elevators. Shipping their products to more distant markets was one means by which the farmers might find a higher price for their farm products. Railroads, the primary method of shipping to those distant markets, but usually railroads also had a monopoly over shipping from local small towns. Usually there was only one railroad in each small town. Thus, railroads could charge what ever they wanted for shipping the farmer’s grain. So railroads, along with grain elevators became the targets of farm protest movements.
The individual farmer felt himself being squeezed between the twin monopoly powers of the railroads and their local privately-owned grain elevators. Accordingly, the political program of the Grange developed into a strong protest against monopolistic price-setting powers of both the railroads and the privately-owned grain elevators. The State of Illinois, reacting to protest agitation on the part of the Grange, passed legislation on April 25, 1871 which required the appropriate state to regulate the rates that local privately-owned grain elevators charged farmers for their services. Regulations for the storage of grain by privately-owned grain elevators were promulgated in January of 1872. In June of 1872, a group of elevators including the Munn & Scott grain elevator of Chicago, Illinois, were sued by the State of Illinois for a violation of these regulations regarding terms and rates of grain storage charged. Munn & Scott appealed the case to the United States Supreme Court to test the constitutionality of the Illinois statute allowing the regulation of grain elevators. This case became the landmark case called Munn v. Illinois, (94 U. S. 113 ). The Grange joined the State of Illinois, in the case. The case was decided by the United States Supreme Court in 1877. This decision upheld the States of Illinois’ right to regulate the rates that grain elevators could charge for the services they rendered. (More broadly, however, the Munn decision recognized the constitutionality of any state government to regulate any private corporations operating within its boundaries. As such, Munn v. Illinois became the foundation of many areas of law including the state’s right to prevent discrimination against people based on race, sex, age or etc.)
The Grange was limited in geographical scope to the northern states of the nation. In the south, the National Farmers Alliance was the most popular farm protest group. Formed in 1876 in Lampasas, Texas, the National Farmers Alliance was political from the start. The Alliance agreed with the Grange in demanding restrictions on the monopolistic power of the railroads. However, whereas northern farmers protested against the monopoly power of grain elevators to set prices, southern farmers had the same complaints against the monopoly power of cotton brokers, banks and local merchants under the crop-lien system of farming. Under the crop-lein system, local merchants and bankers would loan money, seed and equipment to farmers before spring planting. Collateral on this loan was a lien on the expected crop to be harvested in the fall. Since cotton was the only crop that paid well enough to support the principal and interest on these loans, the merchants and bankers required that only cotton be planted by the farmer. Thus the farmer’s fortunes rose and fell economically, each year, on a single crop—cotton. Thus, under the crop-lien system, the farmer had no ability to diversify his crops to protect himself economically from the risk of a bad cotton price in a particular year. If cotton crop prices failed, the farmer would still have to make payments on the loan and the interest charges on that loan continued to pile up.
State government regulation of monopoly power provided some protection from certain unscrupulous actions taken against the farmer, however, farmers eventually began think about working together to market their farm products. The idea was that all the farmers of a given community would be a member of the organization, or cooperative. In the north, this meant that the farmers would own their own grain elevator. They would all become shareholders in this elevator. The farmers would meet once a year in a shareholders meeting and elect a board of directors to operate the cooperative elevator. The board of directors, in turn, would hire all the officers needed to handle the day-to-day affairs of the cooperative elevator.
In the 1890s many of these farmer-owned cooperatives sprang up across the Midwestern United States. These farmer-owned cooperatives built new grain elevators or purchased old ones and built or purchased dairy creameries. Thus, in many rural communities of the Midwest there was true competition for the farmers products—corn, wheat and milk. These early cooperatives faced a widespread opposition from railroads, grain companies, banks and many newspapers. Shortly after the turn of the century, two significant farm organizations were organized in support of the cooperative movement.
In the south, the Farmers Alliance was broken by the organized and united power of the cotton brokers, the banks and the railroads. Accordingly, in 1902, the National Farmers Union was organized in Point, Texas by Newt Gresham and a number of other farmers. Newt Gresham became one of the main organizers of the Farmer’s Union. Newt Gresham knew how to persevere in the face of adversity. He had been orphaned at the age of 10 years. Thus, at an early age he had become totally self-reliant. He was self-educated, had worked the land for most of his life and became the chief organizer for the Farmers Alliance.
In 1911, another farmers group was formed—the American Farm Bureau Federation was organized in Binghamton, New York. Both of these farm organizations agreed on the benefit of cooperatives to the average farmer. The American Farm Bureau began forming some cooperatives in the 1920s. (Cockshutt: The Complete Story compiled by the International Cockshutt Club, Inc. [American Society of Engineers Press: St. Joseph, Michigan, 1999] p. 78.) These Farm Bureau affiliated cooperatives were located, mainly, in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana. Farmers Union cooperatives were mainly located further west (Wisconsin, Minnesota and the Dakotas) and extended south as far as Oklahoma and Texas. However the two organizations developed an entirely different philosophy regarding governmental assistance to farmers in distress. The National Farmers Union supported government assistance and government regulation of the farm markets in time of distress. The America Farm Bureau tended to be opposed to all governmental interference in the farm economy.
One of the early cooperatives formed in the Midwest, was the Equity Cooperative Exchange of St. Paul, Minnesota which had been formed in 1908. In 1914, Equity Cooperative built their own grain elevator on the banks of the Mississippi River in St. Paul. However, Equity had trouble finding buyers for its grain because of the discriminatory actions of private grain companies. For example, Equity was denied a seat in the privately-owned Minneapolis Grain Exchange because of this opposition led by the Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce. Accordingly, Equity started their own grain exchange—the St. Paul Grain Exchange in 1914.
The free-wheeling free enterprise economy of the 1920s worked against the cooperatives. Equity Cooperative was forced into bankruptcy in the 1920s and in 1926, Farmers Union Terminal Association took over the assets of Equity, in order to continue the goals of the cooperative movement in North America. True to its Farmers Union philosophy the Farmers Union Terminal Association supported stronger regulations on the inspection of grain and governmental regulation of the weighing and calibration of the scales within elevators to assure honest weighing practices.
The severe economic depression of the early 1930s brought renewed vigor to the cooperative movement in the United States. Farmer-owned cooperatives surged in numbers across the Midwestern states. On June 1, 1938, the Farmers Union Terminal Association re-organized itself as the Grain Terminal Association (GTA).
Leading organizers of the Farmers Union, like Charles C. Talbot founder and president of the North Dakota Farmers Union; Bill Thatcher, a legislative lobbyist for the Farmers Union in Minnesota; and A.W. Richer, now became involved with GTA.
In the early 1930’s, Myron William (Bill) Thatcher became the general manager of the GTA. Over the 30 years that Bill Thatcher served as general manager of the developed contacts and friendships with politicians, including President Franklin Roosevelt, Secretary of Agriculture Henry Wallace, Senator Hubert H. Humphrey of Minnesota and Republican Senator Milton Young of North Dakota. Because of the political philosophy of the Farmers Union which tended to support governmental support of farmers in trouble, most of the political contacts that Bill Thatcher generated on behalf of the Farmers Union/GTA tended to be overwhelmingly members of the Democratic Party. Both in 1932 and 1936, the Farmers Union supported Franklin Roosevelt, while the American Farm Bureau did not. Accordingly, the Farmers Union evolved into a traditional major constituency of the Democratic Party similar to the way the AFL (the American Federation of Labor) and the CIO (the Congress of Industrial Organizations) became major constituent parts of the Democratic Party among urban laboring people.
When the Grain Terminal Association was first organized in 1938, the association’s operating capital consisted of a single loan for $30,000.00. The association’s assets consisted of one “terminal” elevator in St. Paul and a branch office in Duluth, Minnesota. The GTA buyers in St. Paul and Duluth would buy corn and wheat and other crops from local farm elevators. Largely these local elevators tended to be local farmer-owned cooperative elevators. Many privately-owned elevators refused to deal with the GTA, because they were opposed to the cooperative idea. On other occasions, the GTA would buy crops directly from local farmers. All grain purchased by GTA would be shipped to the St Paul “terminal” grain elevator to be sold. The grain would be sold by the terminal elevator to processors who were willing to bid the highest price for the grain. The GTA could sell the grain in lots of whatever size that would demand the best price. All bidding, sales of the grain and transfer paperwork was conducted in the “trading pit” of the St. Paul Grain Exchange.
By means of the sale of the grain from the local cooperative grain elevator to GTA, farmers received the benefits of an efficient stream-lined transfer of their grain crop to the “end-user”/processors which would yield the most money back in the pockets of the individual farmer. At every step of the process of selling his grain crop, the individual farmer could be assured that their crop was being handled by people acting in the interest of the farmers. There was no “middle men” in the process who was seeking to make their own profit out of the sale of the farmer’s grain. Any profits, over and above expenses, made by the GTA or the local cooperative in the transfer of grain would be given back to the shareholders, the individual farmers, in the form of an annual “dividend.”
The individual farmer could be assured of accuracy in the weighing of his grain crop, because neither the local cooperative elevator and the GTA were not working for a profit and had no incentive to consciously cheat individual farmers. This solved one of the main complaints that farmers had about the privately owned grain buying system.
As noted above, the second major complaint that farmers had about private grain buying system was the high transportation costs of getting the grain to market. There were allegation’s that the railroads used their monopoly position in local communities to exploit the farmers of that locality by charging whatever the railroads wished. GTA recognized this problem and sought to alleviate this problem by seeking alternative means of transporting the GTA grain to the processor.
The GTA terminal elevator in St. Paul was able to use either the railroad connections in St. Paul or the barge facilities along the Mississippi River to transport grain to Chicago, St. Louis or other processing centers. Furthermore, in 1941, GTA began construction on another grain terminal elevator located in Superior Wisconsin. This elevator allowed GTA to have direct access to in-land shipping port of Duluth/Superior. Now, in addition to moving grain by either rail or barge from the St. Paul terminal elevator, GTA could move grain by ship to any port on any of the Great Lakes, e.g. Chicago, Detroit or Buffalo. GTA could move grain from the local elevators to either St. Paul or Superior depending on which mode of transportation from would offer the cheapest rates from the terminal elevator to the various end users.
Also in 1941, construction of GTA terminal elevators in Shelby, Montana and Lewiston, Montana were completed. It may appear odd that GTA built these two terminal elevators so close together and so close to their existing facility at Great Falls, Montana. Shelby is located only 75 miles north of Great Falls, while Lewiston is located only 75 miles east-southeast of Great Falls. However, the true reason for locating these terminal elevators in these municipalities, may have more to do the railroads running through those cities.
Tracks of the Great Northern Railway ran east and west through Shelby, Montana. While Lewiston, Montana was served by the Northern Pacific Railway. There was a north-south connecting rail line between Shelby and Lewiston running through Great Falls that was owned by the Great Northern Railway. Consequently, grain, largely wheat, could be gathered from local community elevators all across Montana and the Pacific Northwest, at either the Shelby or the Lewiston GTA terminal elevator. Then, depending on which railroad offered the cheapest rates, the Great Northern or the Northern Pacific, grain could be easily transferred the short distance between Lewiston and/or Shelby. This way the lowest rates for transport of the grain to St. Paul, Minnesota could be obtained by GTA.
In addition to working to provide the farmer with fair prices for grain and to provide efficient transportation of that grain to market, GTA also sought to become a processor of grain. In 1942, GTA purchased the Amber Mill in Rush City, Minnesota, and began milling durum wheat into semolina for making pasta products. Most of this durum wheat was raised by farmers who were members of local cooperatives in North Dakota.
The Second World War, was a time of relatively high farm commodity prices, as the United States government supported armies around the world. GTA prospered and grew during this time. As GTA grew, many local farmer-owned cooperatives began to associate more closely with GTA and actually became “GTA local cooperatives.” Additionally, competition from cooperative elevators caused some hardship on privately-owned elevators, who were trying to make a profit on the buying and selling of grain. Consequently, many privately-owned elevators went out of business or sold out there interests.
The year, 1943 was a big year of growth for the Farmers Union/GTA, as GTA started its own daily radio program with was syndicated to a number of radio stations across the Upper Midwest. GTA also established The Terminal Agency, Inc. in 1943 and began selling Farmers Union Insurance to GTA-affiliated cooperatives and their employees. Later, Farmers Union Insurance was made available to the public at large. Also in 1943, GTA obtained 100 additional local community elevators when they bought the St. Anthony, Dakota and Winter-Truesdell-Diercks grain elevator lines. Along with the local community elevators, GTA also purchased a number of lumberyards in 1943. The purchase of these lumberyards was the first venture by GTA into the retail supply side of the market.
Having proved to be useful to the farmer on the market side by organizing the farmer—the sale of his farm products at the highest price possible, GTA now thought to in helping the farmer achieve the highest price for his farm the sale of farm productse
Farmer-owned cooperatives had proven themselves to be a real benefit to farmers selling their farm commodities. Consequently, it was natural for cooperatives to begin to thinking about expanding into other areas of the market including offering their services to the farmer by entering the market on the supply or retail side. Starting in the 1930s, farmer-owned cooperatives in Indiana began buying lumberyards in various localities to offer building supplies and coal to local farmers and non-farmers alike. Along with all the other expansions they made in 1943, the Grain Terminal Association also purchased a number of lumberyards which they organized under the name Great Plains Supply Company.
GTA planned to buy consumer building supplies in large quantity and, thus, at low costs, and sell those products to their customers at low prices. The lack of a middlemen and the lack of a need to make a profit would make the cooperative lumberyard very competitive with other retailers. The philosophy behind the GTA and all cooperative’s venture into retail sales was “If you can’t get more for what you grow, then pay less for what you need.” (From a pamphlet called “The Beginning: A History of the Farmers Union Grain Terminal Association” p. 5, found on-line under a search for History of the Grain Terminal Association.)
Soon after entering the retail sector of the market, GTA, like other farmer-owned cooperatives across the nation began retail other consumer products, like tin, fuels, tires, home appliances, furniture, beds, tables and chairs. (From a pamphlet called, “American Farmers and Ranchers: Oklahoma Farmers Union” p. 10, found on-line under a search for History of the Farmers Union.) Some local cooperatives also began to sell farm tractors and farm equipment under the “Coop” name.
The beginnings of farm equipment sales under by cooperatives was begun in 1926 when one local cooperative affiliated with the Farm Bureau signed an agreement with the Dunham Company of Berea, Ohio, to sell the “Dunham Cultipacker.” (Cockshutt: The Complete Story, p. 78.) In 1930, pursuant to a contract with the Allis-Chalmers Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, some Allis-Chalmers tractors were marketed through a group of cooperatives. (Ibid.) However, by 1931, the Allis Chalmers Company had decided to drop their contracts with the cooperatives because of a lack of sales.
Later in the early 1930s, another larger-scale contract was signed between a large group of Farm Bureau cooperatives and B.F. Avery and Son of Louisville, Kentucky. Under this contract, the cooperatives were to market an entire line of Avery farm machinery through individual local cooperatives located in Ohio, Indiana and Michigan. (Ibid.)
In 1934, another contract was signed with the Huber Tractor Company of Marion, Ohio, to market the “narrow front” (tricycle style) “Model L” tractor and a “four wheel” or “standard” style of tractor called the “Model S” tractor. Huber manufactured both of these tractors with the word “COOP” embossed in the cast iron top of the radiator. (Ibid.)
The Farmers Union Grain Terminal Association, and their affiliated cooperatives, began to market farm tractors in 1935. (The Beginning, p. 2.) At first, GTA and other farmer-owned cooperatives contracted with the Duplex Machinery Company of Battle Creek, Michigan, to market three (3) different models of “Coop” farm tractors. Two models these tractors were of the “four wheel” or standard type design, while the third model of tractor was of the tricycle style design. The two standard models were known as the Coop Model No. 2 and the Coop Model No. 3. (C.H. Wendel, The Encyclopedia of American Farm Tractors [Crestline Publishing: Sarasota, Florida, 1979] pp. 78 & 94).
The first Coop tractor rolled off the assembly line at Duplex factory in March of 1936. The tricycle style tractor attracted the most attention because the tricycle design of the tractor allowed the tractor to perform all the field work on the farm—including the cultivation of the row crops. The tricycle Coop tractor was known as the Coop Model No. 1 tractor. The Coop Model 1 featured an eight foot turning radius which made the tractor extremely maneuverable in the field while cultivating corn. The tractor had a transmission that offered speeds from 1.4 miles per hour (mph) up to a road speed of 22.8 mph.
The Coop No. 2 was fitted with 11.25 x 28 inch rear tires and was equipped with a Chrysler four-cylinder engine with a 3-1/8 inch bore and a 4-3/8 inch stroke. When tested at the University of Nebraska in the fall of 1936, the Coop No. 2 was found to deliver 22.7 horsepower to the drawbar and 29.44 hp. to the belt. (Cockshutt: The Complete Story compiled by the International Cockshutt Club, Inc. [American Society of Engineers Press: St. Joseph, Michigan, 1999] p. 82.)
The Coop No. 3 was identical to the No. 2, but was equipped with a six-cylinder Chrysler engine with a 3-3/8 inch bore and a 4-1/2 inch stroke. The Coop No. 3 was found to deliver 28.75 horsepower (hp) to the drawbar and 37.09 hp to the belt. (Ibid. p. 80.)
Discord between Duplex and GTA led to a canceling of the contract in May of 1938. In 1938, the cooperatives banded together to start the Cooperative Manufacturing Company which was also located in Battle Creek Michigan. By controlling the manufacture of the tractor, the cooperatives felt that they could ensure the highest possible quality and the lowest price. “Built for Service—Not for Profit” was the advertising slogan of the tractors.
Farmers from all over the United States were enthusiastic about selling the crops co-operatively to obtain the best price for the products they raised on their farms now began to buy lumber, seed and farm equipment from cooperatives at very competitive prices compared to privately-owned lumberyards, seed dealers and farm equipment dealerships.
In 1951, one of these farmers who was enthusiastic about cooperatives was a particular farmer working a farm in Sterling Township in Whiteside County, Illinois. Our Sterling Township farmer was actually a relative “newcomer” to the community. He had actually been raised on a farm in Troy Town in Sauk County, Wisconsin. (Troy was not actually “town” as in a settlement of houses. In Wisconsin, the local townships are called “towns.”) Our Sterling Township farmer’s father still farmed in Troy town, although, by 1951, his father was beginning to pass off the most of the farming activities to the younger brother of our Sterling Township farmer. His father had always been a “true believer” in farmer owned cooperatives. He was a long-term member of the Farmers Union in Sauk County Wisconsin. He sold all his crops to the Sauk County Farmers Union Cooperative elevator in Baraboo Wisconsin. Our Sterling Township farmer’s father also belonged to a separate local farmer-owned cooperative creamery. Our Sterling Township farmer remembered, as a child on the home farm, helping skim the cream from all the milk of their dairy herd. The cream was then sold to the cooperative creamery.
When in the late 1930s, the Sauk County Farmer’s Union Cooperative in Baraboo had started selling Coop tractors at their store located on Street in Baraboo, our Sterling Township farmer’s father bought a Model 1 tricycle style Co-op tractor. It was a 1937 Model 1 Coop tractor. At the end of the same year in which he had purchased this bright red tractor he really received a nice dividend check from the cooperative. This tractor had rubber tires on the rear and one large rubber tire in the front and was powered by a four-cylinder Waukesha engine. The Model 1 allowed him to perform all his field work mechanically without the need for horses. Because of the three wheeled design of the Model 1, he could even cultivate his corn mechanically. Owners of standard (four-wheeled) tractors could do all the field work in their fields except the cultivation of corn. Consequently, they had to keep their horses to perform the cultivation of their row crops. With the Model 1, our Sterling township farmers father had not needed to worry about keeping any horses on his farm to perform any field work.
The 1937 Model 1 Co-op tractor carried the family into the war years that followed during the early 1940s. During these years, the price of all farm crops soared to new heights. All farmers were scrambling to grow as much corn on their farms as they could. Of course, some of this corn had to be used as animal feed on diversified farms, as our Sterling Township farmer’s father had done on his farm. He used oats and some corn to feed his dairy herd. However, he also raised pigs for market and had to feed a great deal of the corn to his feeder pigs, but he and his neighbors did sell the remainder of the corn as a cash crop. So they were raising more corn and cultivating more corn than in the past. Furthermore, a new row crop—soybeans—had become very popular on farms in southern Wisconsin during the war. This crop also needed to be cultivated. While the family’s neighbors continued to cultivate their row crops with horses—one row at a time—during the war, our farmer was able to cultivate two rows at a time with the Co-op Model 1 and front-mounted two-row cultivator.
At harvest time, the Model 1 Co-op tractor was not only handy to use in the field, but could even speed the wagons of soybeans and corn down the road to the grain elevator at a top speed of 22. 8 mph. This saved wear and tear on the family car—a 1936 Oldsmobile with a hitch attached to the rear bumper. Along with the high crop prices that the war and brought about, there was also the economic restrictions imposed on nearly all industrial production for civilian use. Nearly all industrial production was funneled into the war effort for the duration of the war. This meant that during the war very few of his neighbors were able to obtain any new tractors and because of the restrictions on the use of rubber for civilian use any tractors that were available were mounted on steel wheels rather than rubber tires. Accordingly, what equipment any farmer had at the beginning of the war was the equipment that he would have to use for the duration of the war. Therefore, our Sterling Township farmer’s parents felt that they had obtained an advantage by purchasing the Co-op Model 1 tractor when he did. His father felt that his support for the cooperative movement had been vindicated by the advantageous position he had occupied during the war.
Our Sterling Township farmer’s father always felt the prices that he paid for these products was lower than he could buy from privately owned dealers. However, even if the prices were merely the same as the prices at privately-owned stores, he knew that more savings would accrue to him at the end of the year. At the end of each year, he would receive a dividend check from the Sauk County Cooperative which was based on the amount of purchases he had made from the cooperative throughout the year.
All during the recent war, our Sterling Township farmer had been working with his father on the home farm. He had been helping as much as he could while attending school. However, since graduating from the high school in Sauk City, Wisconsin in 1943, he had been working full time on the farm. He knew that he wanted to make a life for himself as a farmer, but he had not really been looking for an opportunity to start his own farming operation of his own until in the fall of 1945, when he met a girl from Baraboo, Wisconsin.
She had just graduated from Baraboo High School the previous June of 1945. Although her family lived on a farm in Excelsior Township over near the village of Rock Springs, Wisconsin, she had not lived all her life in Sauk County. Prior to 1943, she and her family had rented a farm in Hale Township in Warren County, near the town of Kirkwood, Illinois (pop. 747). She still talked frequently and fondly of her childhood years in Illinois before moving to Wisconsin. Indeed. many of her cousins and grade school classmates still lived in Warren County, Illinois.
In 1943, the previous owner and landlord of the farm which her family rented had died. Attracted by the high war time prices for land, the wife and children of the deceased landlord had decided to sell the farm. Accordingly, her family had been forced to move off the land and they moved to Wisconsin and settled on the farm in Excelsior Township. She spent her last two years of school at the high school in Baraboo, the county seat of Sauk County. She had hated to leave all her friends in Illinois. At first she had found it hard to break in to the new high school in Baraboo, but she had surprised herself by developing new friendships and obtaining some degree of popularity in her new high school class. She had never realized how outgoing she could actually be.
Our Sterling Township farmer had dated his girl friend throughout the fall and winter of 1943-1944. He used the family’s 1936 Oldsmobile to drive the nine (9) miles to Baraboo on most Saturday nights to see her. They had made tentative plans to marry. He had even met her parents and she had met his parents over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays of 1945. However, they did not announce any definite plans to their parents or anyone. They really did not have any plans. They talked of the future in a desultory manner. They both wanted to set up farming on some farm their own. Indeed, our Sterling Township farmer feared that she was only half involved in marriage plans. Furthermore, ever since graduating from Baraboo High School in the spring of 1945, his girl friend had been dreaming of moving back to Illinois to be near her cousins and extended family.
One day in February of 1946, while they were shelling all the ear-corn in the corncrib on his father’s farm in Troy Town Wisconsin, our Sterling Township farmer was taking a load shelled corn to the Sauk County Cooperative grain elevator in Baraboo, Wisconsin. In years passed, he might have used the tractor and a wagon to make this trip.
However, during the war, his father had obtained a used 1939 Dodge 1-½ ton Model TF-37 truck which he was driving on this day. Upon reaching Baraboo, he pulled around the corner and onto the street where the elevator was located and in saw a long line of farm trucks waiting to pull onto the scales in the alleyway of the elevator and be weighed. Our Sterling Township farmer pulled the old 1939 Dodge 1-½ ton truck up into his position at the end of the line and got out to see if there were any neighbors that he knew in the line and to talk with the elevator workers that he knew.
As each truck pulled into the elevator and was weighed our Sterling Township farmer would return to his truck and move the Dodge forward one place in line. Once each truck had been weighed, the driver of the truck would back up the truck up and allow a lift frame to be moved into position on the floor in front of the front wheels of the truck. The driver of the truck would then pull the truck ahead until the front tires of the truck rested in the carriage of the lift.
At this point, the tailgate of the truck would be located directly over a heavy wooden door in the floor of the alleyway of the grain elevator. This door would now be opened revealing a grate covering a hole in the floor. Now, the tailgate in the rear of the truck could be opened and the shelled corn would begin to flow out of the grain-box on the truck. The shelled corn would fall down through the grate in the floor. Under the grate, a large auger would begin to move the shelled corn underground off to another site where a series of augers and elevators, all enclosed in sheet metal housing, would lift the shelled corn high above the series of grain storage silos of the Cooperative. Another auger moved the shelled corn, inside a sheet metal tube, along the top of the series of grain silos and would deposit the shelled corn in the proper silo. Once in the silo, the shelled corn would be stored by the Sauk County Cooperative until the corn had been sold to a GTA terminal elevator. Then the grain would be loaded up into the grain hauling railroad cars of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul (Milwaukee Road) Railroad for transport to its destination.
Once the shelled corn had ceased flowing out the back of the truck on its own, the elevator worker would walk over to the lift controls in the alleyway of the elevator and pull a lever that operated the overhead winch. This winch was connected to four cables which were connected to the four corners of the lift frame on the floor which was now under the front wheels of the truck. The overhead winch would simultaneously begin winding up all four of the cables connected to the frame on the floor under the front wheels of the truck. This would raise the frame and the front end of the truck, causing the shelled corn to once again start flowing out the tail gate of the grain box on the back of the truck. This system of raising the front end of trucks or wagons made unloading quick and easy without a great deal of manual labor.
Something occurred on this day that had a major effect on the future of our Sterling County farmer. In future years he would look back on this particular day in wonder. It was almost as if it were planned that there would be a long line at the elevator on this particular day. While waiting at the elevator for the trucks in front of him to be unloaded, our Sterling Township farmer walked into the office at the elevator to stay warm. Better that than wasting gas in the truck by running the engine just to keep warm. There was nothing new in this. He had done this many times before. However, this time, for no good reason at all, he decided to peruse some of the notices on the bulletin board of the Cooperative office. He had never really shown interest in notices on any billboard previously. However, on the bulletin board he saw a particular announcement of a farm more sale in Illinois. At first he scanned the notice with little interest. It seemed odd that a farm sale in Illinois should be advertised clear up here in Wisconsin. However, then he thought he should write down the address and telephone number of the real estate firm handling the sale and show the information to his girl friend. Even this had not seemed to be significant. He did not even know, at the time, where the farm was located in Illinois. Illinois was a big state and this farm could be anywhere in the state. He merely thought that she would get a good laugh out of the notice—nothing serious.
They had another date on the following Saturday night. When he told her about the sale bill, she was surprised and excited about the prospect—much more seriously interested than he had anticipated. She insisted that he call the telephone number as soon as possible on Monday morning. In the telephone call, he learned that the farm was located in Sterling Township in Whiteside County, Illinois.
The owner was anxious to sell the farm. The renter of the farm had already moved off the farm and was living in Chicago and working at the Armour and Company meat packing plant near the Union Stockyards located in Chicago. The owner of the land told them that he had originally wanted to sell the farm and transfer the land on March 1, 1946, but arrangements could not be worked out quickly enough. So he had rented the land to a neighboring farmer. This rental contract which was due to end on March 1, 1947. The owner expressed the wish to honor the rental contract to the end. Consequently, the arable land would not be available until March 1, 1947. However, the owner stated that the building site on the farm was available in case our Sterling Township wanted to move into the house and the building site on the farm a year ahead of time.
With this information, his girl friend went to the local Carnegie public library located at 230 4th Avenue in Baraboo and found that Whiteside County was in northern Illinois and only about 100 miles from her old home near Kirkwood in Warren County. She became quite animated about making plans to attempt to purchase the farm. She wanted to find out the price of the land and find some way to arrange financing for the farm. It seemed very audacious to pick up and leave his home state for a future in another state which at the time seemed so far away. He was reluctant to leave the rich land of the Wisconsin River Valley and he was worried about the size of debt that they would be piling up just to purchase the farm. However, the enthusiasm of his new fiancé was contagious. The more that he thought about the farm, however, the more the thought began to appeal to him. He had many new ideas that he wanted to try in farming. On his own farm he would he would be able to had do things just as he pleased with no interference. He began to catch her enthusiasm.
One benefit of this whole thing was the warm glow that our Sterling County farmer felt from the fact that she now seemed fully engaged in making more precise plans about their marriage. He no longer sensed any reticence on her part about their future relationship. No longer did he have that nagging fear that he might lose her in the end. That was a welcome relief. Indeed she wanted to plan a wedding for June of 1946 and wanted to move into the house on the farm and start setting up house on the farm before they took over the whole farm.
In March of 1946, they made their first trip to Illinois, to take a look at the farm. She checked in with her cousins. Her female cousins were excited about the prospect of her return to the area. One of the cousins was actually working in the burgeoning town of Sterling. She invited our Sterling Township farmer’s fiancé to stay with her during the visit. The cousin also offered to make arrangements for our Sterling Township farmer, himself, to stay with two of her brothers who had also moved up from Warren County to work at the Northwestern Steel and Wire Company foundry in Sterling.
Upon reaching Sterling, they contacted the owner of the farm, who gave them a tour of the farm including the building site and the house. The building site was actually removed from the gravel county road by a long driveway. Our Sterling Township farmer liked the idea of the privacy and lack of noise they might expect from a homestead that was close to the road. However, now in the spring with the melting snows and the recent rains and the driveway was hard to negotiate because of the mud. The house was large enough for them and any future additions they might have to the family. Furthermore, the house had some modern features that they liked. The large house was heated in the wintertime by a large coal-fired boiler located in the basement of the home. The boiler provided hot water heat which made it way by a series of pipes to radiators located in every room in the house. This would provide much more even heat throughout the house. There would no more getting up in a freezing cold bedroom upstairs on a cold winter’s morning and dressing quickly to run down stairs to huddle over the kitchen stove to warm up.
While staying with his fiancé’s cousins, during this trip, he had almost immediately hit it off with these two brothers. They were fun to be around and he became very close with to them. It was thru them that he heard about a job that was open at Northwestern Steel. He immediately applied for this job. He thought he might raise some money to buy some things that he might need for the farm. He was actually was quite surprised by the fact that he got the job and by the fact that he would have abruptly start work. He, now, really needed to get back to the owner of their land todtake really had no provisions for a permanent place to live. It was almost dizzying, just how fast changes were occurring. Now he would have to get back in
Still, he and his fiancé reveled in the idea of a new life together in this—their new home town .
While they were on this short vacation to Sterling Illinois, the couple shopped for an engagement ring and actually purchased a new ring from in a jewelry store in Sterling, Illinois.
This, then, is how they had come to be married in his fiancé’s childhood church in Kirkwood, Illinois during June of 1946 and set up housekeeping in their own house on their own farm in Sterling Township in Whiteside County in Illinois in June of 1946 even before they could start working the land. .
Even prior to the wedding in 1946, our Sterling Township farmer’s father and younger brother had purchased a new Coop tractor. This was one of the new orange colored Cockshutt tractors that were now being sold by cooperatives in states like around the nation. Unlike their old red 1937 Model 1 Coop tractor which had been made in Battle Creek Michigan by the Duplex Company, the new orange Coop tractors were actually made in Brantford, Ontario, Canada by the Cockshutt Farm Equipment Company. There was only one model of Coop tractor sold by the Coop tractor outlets in the United States. This model was the Model E-3 tractor. The Model E-3 tractor was a 2-plow tractor fitted with a four cylinder 153 cubic inch (c.i.) engine made by the Buda Engine Company of Buda, Illinois. In Canada, the Model E3 fitted with this same Buda engine was known as the Cockshutt Model 30 tractor. In Canada, the Cockshutt line of tractors was augmented by the addition of a smaller Cockshutt Model 20 and a larger Cockshutt Model 40. Later the Cockshutt line was completed by the addition of the Cockshutt Model 50. All the Cockshutt tractors in the new post-war tractor line shared the same sleek new look of a “rounded nose” grill and a smooth sheet metal hood leading back to a “bullet” shaped gas tank.
Rather than trade in the old 1937 Coop Model 1 tractor toward the purchase of the new tractor, our Sterling Township farmer’s father intended to give the Coop tractor to his son—our Sterling Township farmer. Toward this end he had the old tractor repainted and re-decaled to look like it did when it was brand new. He then loaded the old tractor on board the 12-foot bed of his old Dodge 1-½ ton truck to take the all the way to Sterling, Illinois, to his son’s new farm. Some family members had expressed concern that the old pre-war truck may not make it all the way to Sterling with the farm tractor on board, but our Sterling Township farmer’s father sought to still all their concerns by stating that some loads of shelled corn that he had carried in the bed of the truck were probably heavier than the old tractor. Knowing that our Sterling Township farmer was living a life of a bachelor in the farm house, his mother determined to travel alone with her husband on this trip and do some house cleaning. She gathered a few cleaning supplies and other household items to take to Sterling. As to the distance that he had to drive with the truck, from Baraboo, Wisconsin to Sterling, Illinois, her husband reminded them that the Model TF-37 was the heavy duty model of the Dodge 1- ½ ton truck. He said, “It may take me longer to get to Sterling, but you don’t have worry about a breakdown on the way. The engine in that old truck is the 228 cubic inch “big six” heavy duty engine. It will make it through anything we are liable run into even with the tractor on board.”
Our Sterling Township farmer’s father and his wife headed out in the truck with the tractor on board reached Sterling, Illinois in the afternoon of the same day. When they reached the Sterling he found that his son was already done with his shift at Northwestern Steel and Wire. He followed his son out of Sterling and onto the gravel county road which led to the new farm, where our Sterling Township farmer had been living alone. Still wet from a recent dream was a slippery mess. However, the old Dodge truck successfully made it down the long driveway to the building site. Together he and his son, our Sterling Township farmer dove the Dodge truck into the ditch beside the driveway and backed the rear end of the truck up against the driveway. Now with the driveway and the bed of the truck at roughly at the same level they could easily back the truck off the truck onto the driveway and drive it to the machine shed where it could be stored.
The next morning after our Sterling Township farmer was pleasantly reminded of old times as he woke up to smell of breakfast cooking on the stove. His mother had gotten up early and had fixed breakfast. After eating breakfast our Sterling Township farmer headed off to town for his shift at Northwestern Steel and Wire. His father then drove the old Dodge truck into Sterling to the concern of Thomas McCue and Sons. He had been directed to this business as a place where he could buy some gravel for the driveway of the farm. He also made arrangement with a dump truck driver to haul the gravel to the farm. He knew that it would take more than one load of gravel but he hoped to have the whole driveway graveled with the “screened river gravel” sold by McCue before his son returned home from work that evening. After each load It wlasa . find somehad and st
This was the first
Even after theiOver the next year until March 1, 1947, our Sterling township farmer and his, now, wife were visited by both his and her parents who would drive down from Baraboo. Both families did what they could to help the young couple get started on the new farm. They supplied the couple with old furniture that they either had or obtained from neighborhood farm sales and auctions in Baraboo. and bfather and mother who would the
Our Sterling Township farmer was attracted by the modern styling of the new Cockshutt-made Coop tractors. rcand line s eThis e 200 cubic inch ewith made in red The .
Now as part of their wedding present to our Sterling Township farmer, they gave their used Model 1 tricycle style Coop tractor to our Sterling Township farmer along with the matching two-row cultivator. This is how our Sterling Township farmer and his wife had gotten their start in farming on their new farm in Whiteside County, Illinois.
. , Our Sterling Township farmer had obtained much of his philosophy regarding the Farmer Union and their affiliated farmer-owed cooperatives from his father. His father had experienced high prices for farm products during the Second World War. The reason for these high prices was the fact that the United States government was feeding the armed forces fighting in two major theaters in the war. Farmers were extremely anxious about the end of the war. They strongly felt that there might be an economic recession at the end of the war, just as there had been at the end of the First World War in 1919 through 1921. Of course, nobody could stand the thought of more loss of young men in the war merely to continue the high wartime prices for farm products, but farmers remained apprehensive about the future, nonetheless.
During the war, the United States also sold aid and foodstuffs to the country’s allies in the war effort—Britain, France, China and the Soviet Union. Immediately at the end of the war, this aid was continued because of the need for our allies to reconstruct their countries following the devastation war. This was particularly true of the Soviet Union which had borne the brunt of the war against Nazi Germany and had suffered greatly because of the Nazi invasion and occupation of large portions of their country by the Germans. Much of the pre-war agricultural land in Ukraine had been overrun by the Germans. Thus, for most of the war, this land was unavailable for agricultural production. Crop yields in Soviet Russia, for the entire period of time from 1940 until 1945, were off by a whole 50%. (Warren B. Walsh, Russia and the Soviet Union [University of Michigan Press; Ann Arbor, 1958] p. 516.) Numbers of cattle in the country were reduced by 16% over pre-war levels. Even worse, numbers of pigs were reduced by 64% from pre-war levels. (Ibid. p. 526.) Clearly, At first aid and assistance to Soviet Russia from the United States was a trickle. However by 1943, once the United States got their wartime industry going, the aid and assistance to the Soviet Russia became a flood. From 1943 until the end of the war in 1945, Soviet Russia received 11 billion dollars worth of aid and assistance from the United States.
In the pre-war era, America by and large was suspicious of the new communist government that had been formed in Soviet Russia as a result of the Russian Revolution in 1917. Diplomatic relations between the United States and Soviet Russia had never been established with the new government in Russia flowing the Bolshevik coup of November 7, 1917 Only November 21, 1933 were diplomatic relations been restored. However, because of their position as allies during the Second World War, relations between the two countries warmed. Polls taken in the United States in 1943, just as the flood of aid and assistance was starting to flow toward Russia, indicated that 45% of the American public thought that Soviet Russia was helpful toward obtaining world peace. From that point on until the end of the war in 1945, this feeling of cooperation between the United States and Soviet Russia grew, until in 1945, polls were indication that 55% of the American public felt the Soviet government was aiding the United States in obtaining world peace.
This feeling of cooperation was reflected in the farming community of the United States in an official way by the National Farmers Union. .