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

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The  Rinehardt/Christian/Boehne Allis Chalmers Model E Tractor

by Brian Wayne Wells

(As published in the March/April 2007 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine)

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

Victor performed the same task in the winter time when the steam engine was belted up to the Geiser Company sawmill that the Adams brothers owned and operated from February each year until the spring.  The Adams brothers had been involved in sawing wood for most of their lives.  However, in 1928, Rudy purchased his own sawmill which had been manufactured by the Geiser Company of Waynesboro, Pennsylvania.  Geiser manufactured sawmills with sturdy constructed carriages and closely spaced wheels on the carriage.  This made the Geiser sawmill ideal for work with heavy hard wood logs.  Rudy and George operated the sawmill as a “portable” sawmill.  The sawmill would be set up on a site where it was to be used for some time.  Then would be torn apart and moved to another location.  Ordinarily, Rudy would inform the Henderson community by means of an advertisement in the weekly Henderson Independent, where the sawmill was being set up to operate.  Typical of these advertisements is the following announcement contained in the February 8, 1929 issue of the Independent—“We will be sawing logs at the Quast Place.  R. H. Adams.”  Another announcement in 1934 noted that the Adams brothers had “set up near the roller mill site on South Fourth Street” in Henderson and that they would be sawing at that location “from February to springtime.”  The sawmill was moved from location to location in this manner until the sawmill found a permanent home, of sorts, on the farm located just to the south of the town of Henderson that was owned by Knute Nye and, later, his son, Carl Nye.

 

 

Sawing wood in the wintertime had been a means by which the Adams brothers could supplement their annual income.  In recent years, that family income had needed a great deal of “supplement.”  Nationwide, the farm economy had hit bottom in 1933.  Prices for farm products descended to almost nothing.  Farm families across the nation faced financial ruin.  However, now, in the winter of 1936-1937, it looked as though the economy was finally starting to return to normal.  One sign of the return to normalcy was the expansion of Henderson’s annual summer celebration called Sauerkraut Days.  Back when times were hard in 1930, the Henderson Booster Club had initiated the annual holiday weekend event.  In 1936, Sauerkraut Days had included, for the first time, the “Owl Parade.”  The Owl Parade was sponsored by the local Owl Club and held on Saturday night.  Rudy Adams took part in the festivities for the 1936 Sauerkraut Days.  Indeed, a picture of Rudy Adams cooking hot dogs at the 1936 Sauerkraut Days has been included in the beautifully, written and organized 704 page history of Henderson published in 1995.  (Henderson: Then and Now In the Minnesota River Valley [Crow River Press Inc.: Hutchinson, Minnesota, 1995] p. 577.)

At the home of Hank and Irene Reinhardt in Henderson Township, Hank and Irene Reinhardt were also beginning to feel financially stable again for the first time in a long while.  Ever since the late 1920’s the family home had contained a radio.  Gradually, over the years, the battery-operated radio had become more than just a source of entertainment.  Hank could now hear the news and recent farm prices on the radio in the evening.  The news he had been hearing recently regarding farm prices had been welcome good news.  As a result of their confidence in the future outlook, Hank and Irene began planning to improve their farming operation by the addition of a variety of new building structures on their home site.  They were even thinking of making an addition on the family home.

Toward this end, Hank and Victor selectively felled a number of mature trees in the wood lot on their farm.  He knew the native cottonwood and the basswood would make good rafters and studding.  Indeed use of these woods needed to be restricted to “inside” use because of their tendency to rot very fast in the rain and other weather elements.  Nonetheless, cottonwood and basswood were easy to work with and to nail in place.  From prior experience Hank knew that Rudy could cut the logs into lumber in dimensions that would directly match the pine lumber that a person might purchase at the Lampert lumberyard uptown in Henderson or at Standard Lumber across the Minnesota River in the city of LeSueur (1930 pop. 1,897)  For use on the outside of his new buildings Hank turned to the native and abundant elm and white oak trees.  Elm was difficult to work with because the grain of elm was long and crooked which tended to cause the boards, cut from the wood to warp easily.  White oak needed to be cut into lumber and used immediately before the wood had a chance to dry.  Once thoroughly dry (sitting for six months or more), it would be impossible to drive a nail into the white oak lumber.

The optimism on the Reinhardt farm had one other effect.  With the coming of the new year of 1937, Hank Reinhart had became intrigued with the idea of obtaining an internal combustion tractor.  All through the mid and late 1930s, all of the leading national farm tractor manufacturing companies had been scrambling to develop their sales networks.  Toward this end, car dealerships, hardware stores and even gas stations were approached by various sales representatives of those major tractor and farm equipment manufacturing companies.  They were offering these local merchants dealership franchises to sell farm tractors and other farm machinery to farmers in the merchant’s respective communities.  Across the Minnesota River from the Hank Reinhardt farm in LeSueur, the Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company had just recently concluded a dealership franchise agreement with a business called the Distel Oil Company.  The Distel Oil Company had been founded by Norris R. “Doppy” Distel in 1929 when he bought the Tousley Oil Company.  Located at 1300 Commerce Street in LeSueur, the Tousley Oil Company had been formed in 1922, as only the second gasoline service station in the growing small city of LeSueur.  In addition to serving as a Phillips 66 retail service station, the Distel Oil Company, by the mid-1930s had obtained a bulk tank truck and had begun offering bulk delivery of kerosene, gasoline and other oil product to the farms surrounding the city of LeSueur.  Sometime over the winter of 1936-1937, the Distel Oil Company obtained the dealership franchises for selling Allis-Chalmers and Minneapolis-Moline farm equipment.  Within a few months, however, the Distel Oil Company decided to give up the Minneapolis-Moline dealership franchise and concentrate exclusively on their Allis-Chalmers franchise.  (Not to be left out of the LeSueur market, the Minneapolis-Moline Company quickly contracted with the Brandt Brothers Automotive Clinic, a local car repair garage, to become the new Minneapolis-Moline franchise dealership.)

In the March 17 and April 7, 1937  issues of the LeSueur News-Herald, the Distel Oil Company urged farmers of the LeSueur/Henderson community to “become A-C (Allis-Chalmers) minded.”  Allis-Chalmers’ new row-crop Model WC tractor was spotlighted in these and later advertisements by the Distel Oil Company.  The suggested retail price of the WC contained in the advertisement was $747.50 for a WC mounted on steel wheels or $925.00 for the same tractor mounted on “air tires.”  There was a very good reason why the Model WC tractor was highlighted. The row crop WC was a very popular sales item.  Having been introduced in 1933, sales of the Model WC had grown spectacularly—3,097 WC tractors had been sold in 1934, 10,792 had been sold in 1935, 17,913 had been sold in 1936 and before the close of 1937 sales of the Model WC would reach 29,005 tractors.

However, it was not the Model WC that caught the attention of Hank Reinhardt as he visited the Distel Oil Company in the winter of 1936-1937.  When Hank Reinhardt stopped at the dealership, and expressed an interest in a farm tractor, Doppy Distel told him of an Allis-Chalmers Model E tractors that they had for sale.   Some of the early history of the production and improvement of the Model E, up to 1925, is traced in the article called “Dryland Farming in Wyoming with the Model E Tractor” which is carried in the January/February 2007 issue of Belt Pulley.  However, the new Model E, for sale at the Distel Oil Company was quite different from the 1925 Model E described in that article.  In late 1926, some cosmetic changes were made to the Model E.   The “long fenders” over the rear wheels which originally had extended down in the rear to the floor of the operator’s platform, were shortened.  These “short fenders” covered only an arc over the very top of the rear wheel.  Additionally, a dressy hub cap was fitted to the center of all four wheels.  Most visible of all cosmetic improvements was the change of color of the Model E.  In 1930, the Allis-Chalmers Company changed the trademark color for its entire line of farm machinery from the familiar dark green color to the new “Persian orange” color.

A more substantive series of changes in the Model E began in 1927 as the horsepower of the Model E engine was increased.  In the University of Nebraska test labs in Lincoln, Nebraska on June 18-June 26, 1928, Test # 151 of the new 7,095 pound Model E revealed that the tractor now delivered 33.2 horsepower (hp.) to the drawbar and 44.29 hp. to the belt pulley.  Further improvements to the four-cylinder engine of the Model E increased the horsepower of the Model E in 1930 to 47.0 hp. at the belt.  The increase in horsepower, caused the Allis-Chalmers Company to re-designate the Model E as a 25-40 hp. tractor.  Later in the mid-1930s, the engine of the Model E tractor was once again re-bored to be fitted with the 5¼  inch cylinders.  Once again the 6½ inch stroke was retained.  These Model E tractors with the 5¼  inch bore were designated “Thresherman Special” Model E tractors.  These Thresherman Specials tractors are recognizable by the figure “5 ¼” designation which is stamped into the side of the engine block of these Model E tractors.

The Allis-Chalmers Company made these changes in hopes of boosting sales of the Model E.  Sales of the Model E had reached its peak in 1928 when 4,760 Model E tractors had been manufactured.  However, with the coming of the depression in 1929, production of the Model E went into a severe decline.  In 1933, only 37 Model E tractors were made.  In the years since 1933, production of the Model E stood in marked contrast to the Model WC tractor.  Only 246 Model E tractors were manufactured in the year 1934 and only 272 had been made in 1935.

The Midwestern part of the United States was becoming a very big market for farm tractors.  However, the Model E was not selling well in the midwestern part of the United States, because it was not a “row crop” tractor.  Being of a “standard” or “four-wheel” design the Allis-Chalmers Model E tractor was not popular in the Midwestern part of North America.  Row crops, such as corn and beans, are the predominate crops of the Midwest.  With the introduction of the tricycle style tractor in the mid 1920s, the Midwest suddenly had a style of tractor that could perform all the field work on the typical diversified Midwestern farm, including the cultivation of row crops.  Thus, the tricycle style of tractor soon dominated tractor sales in the Midwest.  Standard or four-wheel tractors were popular only in the non-row crop areas of the North America—like the Great Plains region.

Just a few years earlier, in a further attempt to boost sales of the Model E, the Allis Chalmers Company had reduced the price of the Model E from $1,885 to $1,495 and then slashed the price still lower to $1,295.00.  However, sales of the Model E had continued to decline.  Consequently, the Company had discontinued production of the Model E tractor in 1936.  The Company wanted to sell off its remaining inventory of Model E tractors.  The remaining Model E tractors were dispersed among the dealerships and the Distel Oil Company and all of the other newly authorized Allis-Chalmers dealerships across the country were given wide latitude in the price reductions he could offer the farming public for the Model E Thresherman Special.

Accordingly, a Model E Thresherman Special tractors bearing the serial number 25606 arrived at the Distel Oil Company in LeSueur from Minneapolis, Minnesota.   Production of the Model E tractor ended with the tractor bearing the serial number 25611.  Thus, the tractor that arrived in LeSueur was officially the sixth from the last Model E ever to roll off the assembly line at the West Allis Works factory in West Allis, Wisconsin.  Unofficially, there is some indication that 90 additional Model E tractors were made from parts after regular production of the Model E had ceased. These Model E tractors may have born serial numbers from 25612 through 25701.  (See C. H. Wendel, The Allis-Chalmers Story [CrestlinePublishing Co.: Sarasota, Florida, 1988] p. 356.)  Still this information remains unsubstantiated and it would still appear that No. 25606 was the sixth from the last of the Model E tractors ever made.  Like all Thresherman Special versions, No. 25606 has the figure “5¼” stamped into the side of its engine block.  However, despite the fact that the Allis-Chalmers Company was the pioneer in the use of rubber tires on farm equipment, No. 25606 was fitted with steel wheels front and rear.

The economical price that the Distel Oil Company offered for the Model E was a pleasant surprise to Hank Reinhardt when he visited the dealership.  Although advertised as a “new” tractor, Hank felt the tractor had been used by someone else and then partially repainted before its arrival from the Allis-Chalmers warehouse in Minneapolis.  As evidence of this, Hank pointed to places on the tractor where grease had been painted over.  Nonetheless, the low price of the tractor offered by Distel Oil Company was a very strong inducement for Hank to seriously consider making the change to mechanical power on his farm.  Accordingly, Hank signed the sales agreement for No. 25606.

Hank Reinhardt employed No. 25606 on his farm.  He also continued to help Rudy Adams operate the saw mill.  He had visions of obtaining his own saw mill and, indeed, Hank did obtain a sawmill with a 28 inch blade.  He used No. 25606 to power that sawmill.  Starting the internal combustion engine on No. 25606 would be much easier than trying to get a head of steam up on a steam engine.  Furthermore, as one of the Thresherman Special Model E tractors with the 5¼ pistons, the tractor could deliver nearly as much horsepower to the belt as a huge cumbersome steam engine.  Every where in Henderson Township, farmers were seeking to build new wood framed hog houses, pump houses and “lean-to” structures.  Wood framed hog houses would provide better protection for the litters of baby pigs that were born in the winter.  Pump houses which were built around the base of the windmills on the farmsteads of community, would provide better shelter for the pump jack and the water well from the freezing cold winter’s wind.  Various lean-to structures that were attached to the barn or corn crib would provide shelter to the new tractors and power machinery that were starting to appear on the farms of Henderson Township.  (The beautifully written and organized 705 page history of  the town of Henderson written in 1994 quotes Rudy Adams as saying that as more and more corn was raised on neighborhood farms around Henderson “everybody had to have” one of the new ‘overhead’ corn storage facilities.  (Henderson: Then and Now in the Minnesota River Valley (Crow River Press Inc.: Hutchinson, Minnesota, 1995) pp. 538-539.])  To save money on these structures, farmers wished to use the “native lumber” from their own farms.  Thus, during the winter of the year, they would identify ripe trees in the wood lot on their farm, fell the trees, strip the tree trunks of all branches and bring the logs to where ever the Rudy Adams sawmill happened to be set up on that given year.  Once sawn, the new lumber would be taken back to the neighbor’s farm where the boards would be carefully stacked to dry in the cold winter air.  Processing the lumber for these new corn storage units kept not only Rudy Adams busy, but kept all the other small neighborhood sawmills occupied.   Hammering nails into native woods was not easy, but use of the native lumber rather than purchasing commercial lumber from the Lampert Lumber yard located uptown in Henderson or at the Standard Lumber Company across the Minnesota River in the city of LeSueur, Minnesota,  meant a considerable savings.  In the recovering economy of the late 1930s, use of native lumber made the difference between making an improvement on the farm and not making that improvement.

The economy did recover in the years 1934 through 1936 because of federal government (New Deal) spending which stimulated the economy.  Prices for farm products rose.  From its low of 24.0¢ per bushel in February of 1933, the price of corn had slowly risen during the mid-1930s to a high of $1.37 in April of 1937.  At this point some of the economic advisers of the Roosevelt Administration felt that to continue “stimulating” the economy would end in a steep spiral inflation.  They felt that the stimulus should be withdrawn to allow the economy to stand on its own two feet.  It was expected that the economy might run by itself.  However, the economy proved far too weak to stand on its own and a recession occurred in late 1937.  In the agricultural area of the economy, the recession took the form of a reduced demand for farm crops.  To make matters worse, the years from 1937 through 1940 proved to be excellent growing seasons for farm crops.  In Sibley County, as a whole averaged 43 bushels of corn per acre in 1937; 40 bushels an acre in 1938; 51 bushels in 1939 and 50 bushels in 1940.  With the double effect of the withdrawal economic stimulus and the bumper crops of corn hit the market in the autumn of l937, the price of corn sank to only 78¢ per bushel as an average for the whole month of October 1937.  And the price kept on falling to a low of 46¢ per bushel in October and November of 1938.  Nor did the price recover very much in 1939 or 1940.

Finally in the spring of 1941 with the price of corn still at only 62¢ per bushel, Hank Reinhardt decided to sell his farm equipment and go to work as a truck driver for the Minnesota Valley (Green Giant) Canning Company of LeSueur, Minnesota.  He figured that he could make a better living driving a truck rather than farming given the current economic situation.  Consequently, a sale bill that appeared in the March 12, 1941 LeSueur News-Herald proclaimed that Hank Reinhardt  was selling his team of horses, 50 Leghorn chickens, his “new” John Deere three-bottom plow with 14 inch bottoms, a Case thresher and a sawmill with a 28 inch blade.  Also listed among the farm equipment to be sold at the Hank Reinhardt auction was an “Allis-Chalmers Tractor, 25-40.”  This was the same Model E bearing the serial number No. 25606.

The auction was held on March 14, 1941.  Present at the sale was Ray Christian, owner of the local John Deere dealership located just across the Minnesota River in Le Sueur, Minnesota (1940 pop. 2,302).  As it turned out, Ray Christian outbid the others at the auction and purchased the big steel wheeled tractor.  No. 25606 was then taken to the Ray Christian Implement dealership, where Ray Christian put the tractor on display on the used machinery lot. In casual conversation with his own younger brother, Bert Christian, Ray happened to mention the large steel wheeled tractor.  Both Ray and Bert Christian had been raised on a farm in Sharon Township in LeSueur County owned by their parents, Harry and Nancy (Morris) Christian.  Currently, Bert and Martha (Widmer) Christian owned and operated another 80 acre farm in Sharon Township.  In addition to working his own farm, Burt operated the largest custom threshing business in Sharon Township.  Married in 1921, their family now consisted of four children, John E. born in 1922; Martha born in 1924; Harry F. born in 1932; and Ronald James born in 1935.

Just as in Sibley County, the amount of acreage devoted to wheat in LeSueur County was decreasing.  Furthermore, as mechanized power replaced horses on the average farm, the amount of acreage devoted to oats continued to decrease.  Bert still had the longest list of customers of any other custom threshing operation in the area.  Bert’s run list included Paul Kehoe, Ed Widmer, Peter Riebel, Ray Schwartz and a number of other Sharon Township farmers.  However, most of the customers on Bert’s threshing “run” list were now growing less wheat and oats.  Consequently, there was less income from every farm for the custom thresher.  As other smaller threshing “rings” or smaller custom threshing operations went out of business, the customers from those rings tended to contact Bert to have him thresh their small grains.  In this way the numbers of customers on the run might offset the reduced amount of threshing done on each farm.  However, this meant that Bert’s large Avery Company “Yellow Fellow” thresher with its 32 inch cylinder and 52 inch separating tables, would have to be moved from farm to farm faster and be set up faster to squeeze in all the threshing jobs he needed to complete during the busy threshing season.  Currently, Bert was using a Model 45-25 Advance-Rumley “Oil Pull” tractor to deliver the 40 horsepower required by the big “Yellow Fellow” thresher.  Bert realized that the four-cylinder Model E sitting on the used machinery lot at his brother’s dealership would be lighter, more maneuverable and easier to use than the big bulky two-cylinder Oil Pull tractor.  Accordingly, Bert purchased No. 25606 and began using the tractor on his threshing run to transport and power the thresher.

Among the Sharon County farmers who were customers of Bert Christian was William Boehne.  William and Augusta (Groebler) Boehne were both German immigrants who had come to the United States from Germany as children with their parents.  Then had married each other in 1900 and settled on the small farm in Sharon Township that they owned and operated and where they had raised a family of eight children.  Now in the early 1940s, William and Augusta were basically retired from active farming.  The day-to-day operation of the farm was in the hands of their oldest son Frank Theodore Boehne.  Born in 1901 Frank Boehne had never married and devoted himself to farming on his parents farm.  During the summer he traveled the neighborhood helping Bert Christian with the threshing run.  While working with Bert, Frank took a special interest in the big Oil Pull.  Because he was constantly tinkering with the large Oil Pull to make the tractor run more efficiently, Frank was nicknamed “the Engineer.”   Indeed, when the Oil Pull was not in use, Frank would occasionally borrow the large tractor to do some road grading for the Township government.  One time he was operating the Model 45-25 grading the township road past the one-room country school in Sharon Township.  Young Kenny Braun heard the large two-cylinder Advance-Rumley slowly coming closer and closer.  Finally, he jumped up out of his seat to run to the window to see the Frank and the tractor go by.  For this infraction of order in the classroom, Kenny Braun was disciplined by the teacher.  However, the love of old iron is life-long and Kenny Braun continues to be intrigued by old tractors and is an active member of the Le Sueur County Pioneer Power Association.  Indeed, Kenny’s older brother, Glendon Braun, actively collects Advance-Rumley tractors to this day.

When Bert purchased No. 25606, Frank turned his interest to the new tractor.  He did not have long to enjoy working with the Model E.  The Japanese unexpectedly attacked Pearl Harbor and the United States was suddenly involved in the World War II.  Frank Boehne, enlisted in the United States Army and was sent to the European theater for the duration of the war.  Knowing his love of tractors, we can reasonably expect that Frank whiled away many hours in the Army thinking about working with No. 25606 when the war ended and he returned home to Sharon Township.

The war in Europe finally ended in May of 1945 and Farnk Boehne did return home and did start working with No. 25606 on the threshing run with Bert Christian.  However, the post-war period saw a flood of buying on the part of farmers seeking new farm machinery.  One of the popular sales items in the post-war period was the small combine.  The Allis-Chalmers Company set the pace in this trend when they introduced the small All-Crop Harvester in 1935.  Although introduced in pre-war period, the All-Crop Harvester had been unavailable during the war due to the economic restrictions the government imposed on manufacturing as part of the war effort.  Now in the post war period, sales of the All Crop Harvester, the Massey-Harris “Clipper” combine, the John Deere Model 12A combine and the various small International Harvester combines, were all being manufactured again and were being snapped up almost as soon as they came off the assembly line.  This huge infusion of small combines onto the farming scene spelled the doom of the stationary grain thresher and of the custom threshing business in general.  Thus, Sharon Township to which Frank Boehne returned at the end of the war was a drastically, rapidly changing world.  Even Bert Christian, once owner of the largest custom threshing business in the township was now finding it hard to justify continuing the custom threshing business with so few customers left on his run list.  Consequently, by about 1950, Bert had made the decision to sell the thresher and No. 25606 and cease the threshing business.  Frank Boehne was attached to No. 25606 and so agreed to buy the tractor from Bert.

Buying No. 25606, Frank also had an idea in mind.  Much like Rudy Adams across the Minnesota River in Henderson, Minnesota, Frank planned to obtain a saw mill and make a living by making building lumber out of native hardwoods of the area.  Indeed, Rudy Adams, was still operating the his saw mill in Henderson.  He now operated the sawmill without his brother, George.  George Adams had become a carpenter by trade and made some income by doing carpentry for people in the neighborhood.  Now since the end of the war, George had moved to the state of Colorado to take advantage of the housing boom that was occurring there, which had created a huge demand for carpenters at high wages.  Back in Henderson, the Rudy Adams sawmill no longer migrated from location to location to saw wood as had been done before the war, the Rudy Adams sawmill had now found a relatively permanent location on some land located  south of Henderson, owned by Carl Nye.  In exchange for allowing Rudy to use his land for the sawmill, Carl Nye received the “slab wood,” or waste wood, from the logs that could not be used for lumber.

In like manner, when Frank Boehne obtained a sawmill from Leo Selly of LeCenter, Minnesota.  He located the sawmill, for a number of years, on a lot, just west of the Le Sueur County Courthouse in the village of Le Center, Minnesota (1950 pop. 1,314).   Later the sawmill was moved to Frank Boehne’s own farm.  Eventually the sawmill was sold to Allan Wilmes who, currently, lives next door to the Frank Boehne farm.  The sawmill was moved about the distance of a city block and set up again on the Wilmes farm where it is currently in use and recently sawed all the wood needed to build a machine shed/shop on the Wilmes farm.

Because of his interest in old farm tractors, Frank Boehne, participated in a local neighborhood group of antique farm machinery enthusiasts called the “Dresselville-Tyrone Threshers.”  This group started from a single threshing bee in August of 1974.  The participants had such fun at the 1974 bee that they repeated the threshing bee in 1975 and 1976.  During the winter of 1976-1977, the participants felt they should incorporate into a formal non-profit organization.  On March 7, 1977, the Dresselville-Tyrone Threshers held their first organizational meeting at which they took minutes, elected officers and officially adopted the name, Le Sueur Pioneer Power Association.  The organization elected a six-member Board of Directors.  Three of the directors were elected to two-year terms while the other three directors were elected to three-year terms.  Frank Boehne was elected to one of the two-year terms at this first organizational meeting.  In the following August, the group hosted its first annual show under its newly incorporated and formalized structure.  The threshing show was held at the Dave Preuhs farm.  Frank Boehne and his tractor, No. 25606 were there.  (The current author attended this annual show in August of 1977.  Scenes of that show recorded on Super 8 film, and transferred to VHS video tape and DVD, can be seen on the “Second Hour” portion of Disc/Tape No. 2 of the International Harvester Promotional Movie Collection.  Indeed, among the scenes contained in that short Super 8 film was a scene of No. 25606 powering the Orbe Reddeman portable saw mill.)

The wider publicity generated by the Association of its annual show brought more spectators to the show as years went by.  The crowds would gather each day of the three-day show to watch the parade of tractors.  Frank Boehne was already known as a antique tractor and farm machinery enthusiast to his friends, but to this wider public that attended the annual show each year he became a consummate showman.  Normally Frank Boehne smoked a pipe.  However, during the show he always a lit up the biggest cigar that he could find.  People maintained that he must have looked all year to find a big enough cigar to smoke at the Show.  The crowd loved it.  Frank aboard the operator’s seat of No. 25606 with his huge cigar was captured many times on VHS tape or in still pictures.  Frank’s showmanship made No. 25606 the most photographed tractor of the Show for many years.  In 1994, Frank’s picture with his trademark large cigar was carried on the annual Show button.

One picture from the 1989 LeSueur Show captures Frank Boehne’s flare for showmanship and the reaction of the crowd to that showmanship.  The picture was taken on the grounds of the LeSueur Pioneer Power Association at the 1989 annual show.  The 1PM daily parade is just getting started.  Frank Boehne is sitting in the operator’s seat of No. 25606 while the tractor is waiting in line to enter the parade.  The tractor is still “offstage,”   In the last few moments before appearing “on stage,” Frank is trying to get the huge cigar fully lit.  The cloud of smoke that appears over the hood of the tractor is from the cigar and not from the engine!  Helping Frank steer No. 25606, until he gets the cigar lit, is Donny Riebel oldest son of Robert J. Riebel, current owner of No. 25606.  Particularly, interesting about this picture is the reaction of the on-lookers that are smiling and thoroughly enjoying the scene and are taking pictures of Frank and his tractor—and this is before the tractor has even jointed the actual parade route.  Something that the picture does not convey however, is that when moving, No. 25606 with its steel wheels and high-profile steel lugs provided quite a bumpy ride for the operator, especially when trying to smoke a large cigar while operating the tractor.  However, Frank was of the opinion that an antique tractor was not a true “antique” tractor unless it had steel wheels!    Rubber tires on a tractor were regarded as being “too modern.”  Frank Boehne remained a beloved member of the LeSueur Pioneer Power Association and a favorite part of the annual threshing show for the public until his death on August 24, 1993—the eve of yet another annual LeSueur Pioneer Power threshing show.

Antique tractor collectors are constantly in the process of learning.  The inability of having adequate knowledge at a particular time when it was needed can lead to mistakes—sometimes quite sizeable mistakes.  So it was with Frank Boehne.  In 1980, the Zeigenhagen Bros. of Lexington Township sold their large Nichols and Shepard thresher with its 36 inch cylinder and a 64 inch separating table to Dave Preuhs.  (The story of this thresher becoming a permanent exhibit at the LeSueur Pioneer Power Association is contained in the article called “Build It and They Will Come” included in the Summer 1996 issue of Hart-Parr/Oliver Collectors magazine p. 33.)  Fitted with Carpenter Company double wings attached to its self-feeder, the huge thresher had been used in the largest custom threshing operation of its time in Lexington Township (the township that borders Sharon Township to the east in LeSueur County).  The large thresher had, however, not been operated since 1917 and had been stored safely in a shed on the Zeigenhagen farm.  The Zeigenhagen family also owned a model 35-70 Nichols and Shepard tractor which the family used to transport and to power the huge thresher back when the family was engaged in custom threshing.  At the same time the Zeigenhagen family decided to sell the big thresher to Dave Preuhs, the family also decided to sell the large Nichols and Shepard model 35-70 tractor.  They offered the tractor for sale at a very inexpensive price.  Frank Boehne purchased this tractor.  The tractor started and ran, but had a leak in the fuel tank.  Frank Boehne obtained a 55 gallon barrel full of fuel and fitted the fuels lines of the tractor to this barrel.  He then proceeded to drive the tractor from the Zeigenhagen farm to his own farm in Sharon Township.  This was a slow process because of the limited speed of the large tractor.  However, most discouraging to Frank was the fact that the large tractor used every bit of the fuel in the 55-gallon barrel even before he reached home on the big tractor.  Faced with the prospect of overhauling and storing the large tractor, Frank got out the cutting torch and cut up the large tractor and sold the pieces off for salvage.  This was a tragic mistake, because Nichols and Shepard tractors are extremely scarce today and the Model 35-70 Nichols and Shepard is even more rare.  Had the huge tractor only been preserved until it could be restored later, or sold intact to another collector to be restored, another very rare specimen of early custom threshing could have been made a part of the permanent exhibits at the LeSueur Pioneer Power Show.  Such are the variabilities of life.

In the last years of his life, Frank Boehne rented out his own farm and worked part time for a neighbor of his Robert J. (Bob) Riebel, Past President of the LeSueur Pioneer Power Association and long time antique tractor collector and restorer.  Frank helped Bob with many tractor restorations during these years.  Consequently following Frank’s death Bob Riebel obtained Frank’s main tractor—No. 25606—from Frank’s estate and continued to show the tractor and to drive the old Model E Thresherman Special in the daily parades at the annual LeSueur Pioneer Power Show.  Frank Boehne was one of the very first inductees into the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association’s Hall of Fame.  Thus, attendees at the annual show since 1993 have continued to be able to see No. 25606 sitting on the show grounds during the show, being driven in the parade and have been able to walk into the Hall of Fame and have been able to see a picture of Frank Boehne sitting on No. 25606 with his characteristic huge cigar.

No. 25606 was seen and photographed by more people during the years that the big Allis-Chalmers was owned by Frank Boehne than at any other time in its life.  This is true because many members of the public were attracted to the personality of Frank Boehne himself.  Since the death of Frank Boehne the No. 25606 has maintained at least some of its popularity as a public attraction.  However, now, at this time, it was the intrinsic characteristics of No. 25606 that attracted admirers.  No. 25606 is somewhat exceptional already by the mere fact that it is the sixth from the last Model E ever to roll off the assembly line, but the mere fact that No. 25606 is one of those Model E’s which is designated a “Thresherman Special” makes No. 25606 remarkable because not many of them are found even at Allis Chalmers Collectors shows around the nation.  Even more extraordinary is the history of No. 25606, which reveals that it is a tractor designed for use in the Great Plains area of North America, but yet No. 25606 was used all its life in the Midewestern “row crop” area of the continent.  In this regard No. 25606, adds another important and unusual chapter to the continuing story of North American agriculture.

 

The  Rinehardt/Christian/Boehne Allis Chalmers Model E Tractor

 

by Brian Wayne Wells

 

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

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

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

Victor performed the same task in the winter time when the steam engine was belted up to the Geiser Company sawmill that the Adams brothers owned and operated from February each year until the spring.  The Adams brothers had been involved in sawing wood for most of their lives.  However, in 1928, Rudy purchased his own sawmill which had been manufactured by the Geiser Company of Waynesboro, Pennsylvania.  Geiser manufactured sawmills with sturdy constructed carriages and closely spaced wheels on the carriage.  This made the Geiser sawmill ideal for work with heavy hard wood logs.  Rudy and George operated the sawmill as a “portable” sawmill.  The sawmill would be set up on a site where it was to be used for some time.  Then would be torn apart and moved to another location.  Ordinarily, Rudy would inform the Henderson community by means of an advertisement in the weekly Henderson Independent, where the sawmill was being set up to operate.  Typical of these advertisements is the following announcement contained in the February 8, 1929 issue of the Independent—“We will be sawing logs at the Quast Place.  R. H. Adams.”  Another announcement in 1934 noted that the Adams brothers had “set up near the roller mill site on South Fourth Street” in Henderson and that they would be sawing at that location “from February to springtime.”  The sawmill was moved from location to location in this manner until the sawmill found a permanent home, of sorts, on the farm located just to the south of the town of Henderson that was owned by Knute Nye and, later, his son, Carl Nye.

Sawing wood in the wintertime had been a means by which the Adams brothers could supplement their annual income.  In recent years, that family income had needed a great deal of “supplement.”  Nationwide, the farm economy had hit bottom in 1933.  Prices for farm products descended to almost nothing.  Farm families across the nation faced financial ruin.  However, now, in the winter of 1936-1937, it looked as though the economy was finally starting to return to normal.  One sign of the return to normalcy was the expansion of Henderson’s annual summer celebration called Sauerkraut Days.  Back when times were hard in 1930, the Henderson Booster Club had initiated the annual holiday weekend event.  In 1936, Sauerkraut Days had included, for the first time, the “Owl Parade.”  The Owl Parade was sponsored by the local Owl Club and held on Saturday night.  Rudy Adams took part in the festivities for the 1936 Sauerkraut Days.  Indeed, a picture of Rudy Adams cooking hot dogs at the 1936 Sauerkraut Days has been included in the beautifully, written and organized 704 page history of Henderson published in 1995.  (Henderson: Then and Now In the Minnesota River Valley [Crow River Press Inc.: Hutchinson, Minnesota, 1995] p. 577.)

At the home of Hank and Irene Reinhardt in Henderson Township, Hank and Irene Reinhardt were also beginning to feel financially stable again for the first time in a long while.  Ever since the late 1920’s the family home had contained a radio.  Gradually, over the years, the battery-operated radio had become more than just a source of entertainment.  Hank could now hear the news and recent farm prices on the radio in the evening.  The news he had been hearing recently regarding farm prices had been welcome good news.  As a result of their confidence in the future outlook, Hank and Irene began planning to improve their farming operation by the addition of a variety of new building structures on their home site.  They were even thinking of making an addition on the family home.

Toward this end, Hank and Victor selectively felled a number of mature trees in the wood lot on their farm.  He knew the native cottonwood and the basswood would make good rafters and studding.  Indeed use of these woods needed to be restricted to “inside” use because of their tendency to rot very fast in the rain and other weather elements.  Nonetheless, cottonwood and basswood were easy to work with and to nail in place.  From prior experience Hank knew that Rudy could cut the logs into lumber in dimensions that would directly match the pine lumber that a person might purchase at the Lampert lumberyard uptown in Henderson or at Standard Lumber across the Minnesota River in the city of LeSueur (1930 pop. 1,897)  For use on the outside of his new buildings Hank turned to the native and abundant elm and white oak trees.  Elm was difficult to work with because the grain of elm was long and crooked which tended to cause the boards, cut from the wood to warp easily.  White oak needed to be cut into lumber and used immediately before the wood had a chance to dry.  Once thoroughly dry (sitting for six months or more), it would be impossible to drive a nail into the white oak lumber.

The optimism on the Reinhardt farm had one other effect.  With the coming of the new year of 1937, Hank Reinhart had became intrigued with the idea of obtaining an internal combustion tractor.  All through the mid and late 1930s, all of the leading national farm tractor manufacturing companies had been scrambling to develop their sales networks.  Toward this end, car dealerships, hardware stores and even gas stations were approached by various sales representatives of those major tractor and farm equipment manufacturing companies.  They were offering these local merchants dealership franchises to sell farm tractors and other farm machinery to farmers in the merchant’s respective communities.  Across the Minnesota River from the Hank Reinhardt farm in LeSueur, the Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company had just recently concluded a dealership franchise agreement with a business called the Distel Oil Company.  The Distel Oil Company had been founded by Norris R. “Doppy” Distel in 1929 when he bought the Tousley Oil Company.  Located at 1300 Commerce Street in LeSueur, the Tousley Oil Company had been formed in 1922, as only the second gasoline service station in the growing small city of LeSueur.  In addition to serving as a Phillips 66 retail service station, the Distel Oil Company, by the mid-1930s had obtained a bulk tank truck and had begun offering bulk delivery of kerosene, gasoline and other oil product to the farms surrounding the city of LeSueur.  Sometime over the winter of 1936-1937, the Distel Oil Company obtained the dealership franchises for selling Allis-Chalmers and Minneapolis-Moline farm equipment.  Within a few months, however, the Distel Oil Company decided to give up the Minneapolis-Moline dealership franchise and concentrate exclusively on their Allis-Chalmers franchise.  (Not to be left out of the LeSueur market, the Minneapolis-Moline Company quickly contracted with the Brandt Brothers Automotive Clinic, a local car repair garage, to become the new Minneapolis-Moline franchise dealership.)

In the March 17 and April 7, 1937  issues of the LeSueur News-Herald, the Distel Oil Company urged farmers of the LeSueur/Henderson community to “become A-C (Allis-Chalmers) minded.”  Allis-Chalmers’ new row-crop Model WC tractor was spotlighted in these and later advertisements by the Distel Oil Company.  The suggested retail price of the WC contained in the advertisement was $747.50 for a WC mounted on steel wheels or $925.00 for the same tractor mounted on “air tires.”  There was a very good reason why the Model WC tractor was highlighted. The row crop WC was a very popular sales item.  Having been introduced in 1933, sales of the Model WC had grown spectacularly—3,097 WC tractors had been sold in 1934, 10,792 had been sold in 1935, 17,913 had been sold in 1936 and before the close of 1937 sales of the Model WC would reach 29,005 tractors.

However, it was not the Model WC that caught the attention of Hank Reinhardt as he visited the Distel Oil Company in the winter of 1936-1937.  When Hank Reinhardt stopped at the dealership, and expressed an interest in a farm tractor, Doppy Distel told him of an Allis-Chalmers Model E tractors that they had for sale.   Some of the early history of the production and improvement of the Model E, up to 1925, is traced in the article called “Dryland Farming in Wyoming with the Model E Tractor” which is carried in the January/February 2007 issue of Belt Pulley.  However, the new Model E, for sale at the Distel Oil Company was quite different from the 1925 Model E described in that article.  In late 1926, some cosmetic changes were made to the Model E.   The “long fenders” over the rear wheels which originally had extended down in the rear to the floor of the operator’s platform, were shortened.  These “short fenders” covered only an arc over the very top of the rear wheel.  Additionally, a dressy hub cap was fitted to the center of all four wheels.  Most visible of all cosmetic improvements was the change of color of the Model E.  In 1930, the Allis-Chalmers Company changed the trademark color for its entire line of farm machinery from the familiar dark green color to the new “Persian orange” color.

A more substantive series of changes in the Model E began in 1927 as the horsepower of the Model E engine was increased.  In the University of Nebraska test labs in Lincoln, Nebraska on June 18-June 26, 1928, Test # 151 of the new 7,095 pound Model E revealed that the tractor now delivered 33.2 horsepower (hp.) to the drawbar and 44.29 hp. to the belt pulley.  Further improvements to the four-cylinder engine of the Model E increased the horsepower of the Model E in 1930 to 47.0 hp. at the belt.  The increase in horsepower, caused the Allis-Chalmers Company to re-designate the Model E as a 25-40 hp. tractor.  Later in the mid-1930s, the engine of the Model E tractor was once again re-bored to be fitted with the 5¼  inch cylinders.  Once again the 6½ inch stroke was retained.  These Model E tractors with the 5¼  inch bore were designated “Thresherman Special” Model E tractors.  These Thresherman Specials tractors are recognizable by the figure “5 ¼” designation which is stamped into the side of the engine block of these Model E tractors.

The Allis-Chalmers Company made these changes in hopes of boosting sales of the Model E.  Sales of the Model E had reached its peak in 1928 when 4,760 Model E tractors had been manufactured.  However, with the coming of the depression in 1929, production of the Model E went into a severe decline.  In 1933, only 37 Model E tractors were made.  In the years since 1933, production of the Model E stood in marked contrast to the Model WC tractor.  Only 246 Model E tractors were manufactured in the year 1934 and only 272 had been made in 1935.

The Midwestern part of the United States was becoming a very big market for farm tractors.  However, the Model E was not selling well in the midwestern part of the United States, because it was not a “row crop” tractor.  Being of a “standard” or “four-wheel” design the Allis-Chalmers Model E tractor was not popular in the Midwestern part of North America.  Row crops, such as corn and beans, are the predominate crops of the Midwest.  With the introduction of the tricycle style tractor in the mid 1920s, the Midwest suddenly had a style of tractor that could perform all the field work on the typical diversified Midwestern farm, including the cultivation of row crops.  Thus, the tricycle style of tractor soon dominated tractor sales in the Midwest.  Standard or four-wheel tractors were popular only in the non-row crop areas of the North America—like the Great Plains region.

Just a few years earlier, in a further attempt to boost sales of the Model E, the Allis Chalmers Company had reduced the price of the Model E from $1,885 to $1,495 and then slashed the price still lower to $1,295.00.  However, sales of the Model E had continued to decline.  Consequently, the Company had discontinued production of the Model E tractor in 1936.  The Company wanted to sell off its remaining inventory of Model E tractors.  The remaining Model E tractors were dispersed among the dealerships and the Distel Oil Company and all of the other newly authorized Allis-Chalmers dealerships across the country were given wide latitude in the price reductions he could offer the farming public for the Model E Thresherman Special.

Accordingly, a Model E Thresherman Special tractors bearing the serial number 25606 arrived at the Distel Oil Company in LeSueur from Minneapolis, Minnesota.   Production of the Model E tractor ended with the tractor bearing the serial number 25611.  Thus, the tractor that arrived in LeSueur was officially the sixth from the last Model E ever to roll off the assembly line at the West Allis Works factory in West Allis, Wisconsin.  Unofficially, there is some indication that 90 additional Model E tractors were made from parts after regular production of the Model E had ceased. These Model E tractors may have born serial numbers from 25612 through 25701.  (See C. H. Wendel, The Allis-Chalmers Story [CrestlinePublishing Co.: Sarasota, Florida, 1988] p. 356.)  Still this information remains unsubstantiated and it would still appear that No. 25606 was the sixth from the last of the Model E tractors ever made.  Like all Thresherman Special versions, No. 25606 has the figure “5¼” stamped into the side of its engine block.  However, despite the fact that the Allis-Chalmers Company was the pioneer in the use of rubber tires on farm equipment, No. 25606 was fitted with steel wheels front and rear.

The economical price that the Distel Oil Company offered for the Model E was a pleasant surprise to Hank Reinhardt when he visited the dealership.  Although advertised as a “new” tractor, Hank felt the tractor had been used by someone else and then partially repainted before its arrival from the Allis-Chalmers warehouse in Minneapolis.  As evidence of this, Hank pointed to places on the tractor where grease had been painted over.  Nonetheless, the low price of the tractor offered by Distel Oil Company was a very strong inducement for Hank to seriously consider making the change to mechanical power on his farm.  Accordingly, Hank signed the sales agreement for No. 25606.

Hank Reinhardt employed No. 25606 on his farm.  He also continued to help Rudy Adams operate the saw mill.  He had visions of obtaining his own saw mill and, indeed, Hank did obtain a sawmill with a 28 inch blade.  He used No. 25606 to power that sawmill.  Starting the internal combustion engine on No. 25606 would be much easier than trying to get a head of steam up on a steam engine.  Furthermore, as one of the Thresherman Special Model E tractors with the 5¼ pistons, the tractor could deliver nearly as much horsepower to the belt as a huge cumbersome steam engine.  Every where in Henderson Township, farmers were seeking to build new wood framed hog houses, pump houses and “lean-to” structures.  Wood framed hog houses would provide better protection for the litters of baby pigs that were born in the winter.  Pump houses which were built around the base of the windmills on the farmsteads of community, would provide better shelter for the pump jack and the water well from the freezing cold winter’s wind.  Various lean-to structures that were attached to the barn or corn crib would provide shelter to the new tractors and power machinery that were starting to appear on the farms of Henderson Township.  (The beautifully written and organized 705 page history of  the town of Henderson written in 1994 quotes Rudy Adams as saying that as more and more corn was raised on neighborhood farms around Henderson “everybody had to have” one of the new ‘overhead’ corn storage facilities.  (Henderson: Then and Now in the Minnesota River Valley (Crow River Press Inc.: Hutchinson, Minnesota, 1995) pp. 538-539.])  To save money on these structures, farmers wished to use the “native lumber” from their own farms.  Thus, during the winter of the year, they would identify ripe trees in the wood lot on their farm, fell the trees, strip the tree trunks of all branches and bring the logs to where ever the Rudy Adams sawmill happened to be set up on that given year.  Once sawn, the new lumber would be taken back to the neighbor’s farm where the boards would be carefully stacked to dry in the cold winter air.  Processing the lumber for these new corn storage units kept not only Rudy Adams busy, but kept all the other small neighborhood sawmills occupied.   Hammering nails into native woods was not easy, but use of the native lumber rather than purchasing commercial lumber from the Lampert Lumber yard located uptown in Henderson or at the Standard Lumber Company across the Minnesota River in the city of LeSueur, Minnesota,  meant a considerable savings.  In the recovering economy of the late 1930s, use of native lumber made the difference between making an improvement on the farm and not making that improvement.

The economy did recover in the years 1934 through 1936 because of federal government (New Deal) spending which stimulated the economy.  Prices for farm products rose.  From its low of 24.0¢ per bushel in February of 1933, the price of corn had slowly risen during the mid-1930s to a high of $1.37 in April of 1937.  At this point some of the economic advisers of the Roosevelt Administration felt that to continue “stimulating” the economy would end in a steep spiral inflation.  They felt that the stimulus should be withdrawn to allow the economy to stand on its own two feet.  It was expected that the economy might run by itself.  However, the economy proved far too weak to stand on its own and a recession occurred in late 1937.  In the agricultural area of the economy, the recession took the form of a reduced demand for farm crops.  To make matters worse, the years from 1937 through 1940 proved to be excellent growing seasons for farm crops.  In Sibley County, as a whole averaged 43 bushels of corn per acre in 1937; 40 bushels an acre in 1938; 51 bushels in 1939 and 50 bushels in 1940.  With the double effect of the withdrawal economic stimulus and the bumper crops of corn hit the market in the autumn of l937, the price of corn sank to only 78¢ per bushel as an average for the whole month of October 1937.  And the price kept on falling to a low of 46¢ per bushel in October and November of 1938.  Nor did the price recover very much in 1939 or 1940.

Finally in the spring of 1941 with the price of corn still at only 62¢ per bushel, Hank Reinhardt decided to sell his farm equipment and go to work as a truck driver for the Minnesota Valley (Green Giant) Canning Company of LeSueur, Minnesota.  He figured that he could make a better living driving a truck rather than farming given the current economic situation.  Consequently, a sale bill that appeared in the March 12, 1941 LeSueur News-Herald proclaimed that Hank Reinhardt  was selling his team of horses, 50 Leghorn chickens, his “new” John Deere three-bottom plow with 14 inch bottoms, a Case thresher and a sawmill with a 28 inch blade.  Also listed among the farm equipment to be sold at the Hank Reinhardt auction was an “Allis-Chalmers Tractor, 25-40.”  This was the same Model E bearing the serial number No. 25606.

The auction was held on March 14, 1941.  Present at the sale was Ray Christian, owner of the local John Deere dealership located just across the Minnesota River in Le Sueur, Minnesota (1940 pop. 2,302).  As it turned out, Ray Christian outbid the others at the auction and purchased the big steel wheeled tractor.  No. 25606 was then taken to the Ray Christian Implement dealership, where Ray Christian put the tractor on display on the used machinery lot. In casual conversation with his own younger brother, Bert Christian, Ray happened to mention the large steel wheeled tractor.  Both Ray and Bert Christian had been raised on a farm in Sharon Township in LeSueur County owned by their parents, Harry and Nancy (Morris) Christian.  Currently, Bert and Martha (Widmer) Christian owned and operated another 80 acre farm in Sharon Township.  In addition to working his own farm, Burt operated the largest custom threshing business in Sharon Township.  Married in 1921, their family now consisted of four children, John E. born in 1922; Martha born in 1924; Harry F. born in 1932; and Ronald James born in 1935.

Just as in Sibley County, the amount of acreage devoted to wheat in LeSueur County was decreasing.  Furthermore, as mechanized power replaced horses on the average farm, the amount of acreage devoted to oats continued to decrease.  Bert still had the longest list of customers of any other custom threshing operation in the area.  Bert’s run list included Paul Kehoe, Ed Widmer, Peter Riebel, Ray Schwartz and a number of other Sharon Township farmers.  However, most of the customers on Bert’s threshing “run” list were now growing less wheat and oats.  Consequently, there was less income from every farm for the custom thresher.  As other smaller threshing “rings” or smaller custom threshing operations went out of business, the customers from those rings tended to contact Bert to have him thresh their small grains.  In this way the numbers of customers on the run might offset the reduced amount of threshing done on each farm.  However, this meant that Bert’s large Avery Company “Yellow Fellow” thresher with its 32 inch cylinder and 52 inch separating tables, would have to be moved from farm to farm faster and be set up faster to squeeze in all the threshing jobs he needed to complete during the busy threshing season.  Currently, Bert was using a Model 45-25 Advance-Rumley “Oil Pull” tractor to deliver the 40 horsepower required by the big “Yellow Fellow” thresher.  Bert realized that the four-cylinder Model E sitting on the used machinery lot at his brother’s dealership would be lighter, more maneuverable and easier to use than the big bulky two-cylinder Oil Pull tractor.  Accordingly, Bert purchased No. 25606 and began using the tractor on his threshing run to transport and power the thresher.

Among the Sharon County farmers who were customers of Bert Christian was William Boehne.  William and Augusta (Groebler) Boehne were both German immigrants who had come to the United States from Germany as children with their parents.  Then had married each other in 1900 and settled on the small farm in Sharon Township that they owned and operated and where they had raised a family of eight children.  Now in the early 1940s, William and Augusta were basically retired from active farming.  The day-to-day operation of the farm was in the hands of their oldest son Frank Theodore Boehne.  Born in 1901 Frank Boehne had never married and devoted himself to farming on his parents farm.  During the summer he traveled the neighborhood helping Bert Christian with the threshing run.  While working with Bert, Frank took a special interest in the big Oil Pull.  Because he was constantly tinkering with the large Oil Pull to make the tractor run more efficiently, Frank was nicknamed “the Engineer.”   Indeed, when the Oil Pull was not in use, Frank would occasionally borrow the large tractor to do some road grading for the Township government.  One time he was operating the Model 45-25 grading the township road past the one-room country school in Sharon Township.  Young Kenny Braun heard the large two-cylinder Advance-Rumley slowly coming closer and closer.  Finally, he jumped up out of his seat to run to the window to see the Frank and the tractor go by.  For this infraction of order in the classroom, Kenny Braun was disciplined by the teacher.  However, the love of old iron is life-long and Kenny Braun continues to be intrigued by old tractors and is an active member of the Le Sueur County Pioneer Power Association.  Indeed, Kenny’s older brother, Glendon Braun, actively collects Advance-Rumley tractors to this day.

When Bert purchased No. 25606, Frank turned his interest to the new tractor.  He did not have long to enjoy working with the Model E.  The Japanese unexpectedly attacked Pearl Harbor and the United States was suddenly involved in the World War II.  Frank Boehne, enlisted in the United States Army and was sent to the European theater for the duration of the war.  Knowing his love of tractors, we can reasonably expect that Frank whiled away many hours in the Army thinking about working with No. 25606 when the war ended and he returned home to Sharon Township.

The war in Europe finally ended in May of 1945 and Farnk Boehne did return home and did start working with No. 25606 on the threshing run with Bert Christian.  However, the post-war period saw a flood of buying on the part of farmers seeking new farm machinery.  One of the popular sales items in the post-war period was the small combine.  The Allis-Chalmers Company set the pace in this trend when they introduced the small All-Crop Harvester in 1935.  Although introduced in pre-war period, the All-Crop Harvester had been unavailable during the war due to the economic restrictions the government imposed on manufacturing as part of the war effort.  Now in the post war period, sales of the All Crop Harvester, the Massey-Harris “Clipper” combine, the John Deere Model 12A combine and the various small International Harvester combines, were all being manufactured again and were being snapped up almost as soon as they came off the assembly line.  This huge infusion of small combines onto the farming scene spelled the doom of the stationary grain thresher and of the custom threshing business in general.  Thus, Sharon Township to which Frank Boehne returned at the end of the war was a drastically, rapidly changing world.  Even Bert Christian, once owner of the largest custom threshing business in the township was now finding it hard to justify continuing the custom threshing business with so few customers left on his run list.  Consequently, by about 1950, Bert had made the decision to sell the thresher and No. 25606 and cease the threshing business.  Frank Boehne was attached to No. 25606 and so agreed to buy the tractor from Bert.

Buying No. 25606, Frank also had an idea in mind.  Much like Rudy Adams across the Minnesota River in Henderson, Minnesota, Frank planned to obtain a saw mill and make a living by making building lumber out of native hardwoods of the area.  Indeed, Rudy Adams, was still operating the his saw mill in Henderson.  He now operated the sawmill without his brother, George.  George Adams had become a carpenter by trade and made some income by doing carpentry for people in the neighborhood.  Now since the end of the war, George had moved to the state of Colorado to take advantage of the housing boom that was occurring there, which had created a huge demand for carpenters at high wages.  Back in Henderson, the Rudy Adams sawmill no longer migrated from location to location to saw wood as had been done before the war, the Rudy Adams sawmill had now found a relatively permanent location on some land located  south of Henderson, owned by Carl Nye.  In exchange for allowing Rudy to use his land for the sawmill, Carl Nye received the “slab wood,” or waste wood, from the logs that could not be used for lumber.

In like manner, when Frank Boehne obtained a sawmill from Leo Selly of LeCenter, Minnesota.  He located the sawmill, for a number of years, on a lot, just west of the Le Sueur County Courthouse in the village of Le Center, Minnesota (1950 pop. 1,314).   Later the sawmill was moved to Frank Boehne’s own farm.  Eventually the sawmill was sold to Allan Wilmes who, currently, lives next door to the Frank Boehne farm.  The sawmill was moved about the distance of a city block and set up again on the Wilmes farm where it is currently in use and recently sawed all the wood needed to build a machine shed/shop on the Wilmes farm.

Because of his interest in old farm tractors, Frank Boehne, participated in a local neighborhood group of antique farm machinery enthusiasts called the “Dresselville-Tyrone Threshers.”  This group started from a single threshing bee in August of 1974.  The participants had such fun at the 1974 bee that they repeated the threshing bee in 1975 and 1976.  During the winter of 1976-1977, the participants felt they should incorporate into a formal non-profit organization.  On March 7, 1977, the Dresselville-Tyrone Threshers held their first organizational meeting at which they took minutes, elected officers and officially adopted the name, Le Sueur Pioneer Power Association.  The organization elected a six-member Board of Directors.  Three of the directors were elected to two-year terms while the other three directors were elected to three-year terms.  Frank Boehne was elected to one of the two-year terms at this first organizational meeting.  In the following August, the group hosted its first annual show under its newly incorporated and formalized structure.  The threshing show was held at the Dave Preuhs farm.  Frank Boehne and his tractor, No. 25606 were there.  (The current author attended this annual show in August of 1977.  Scenes of that show recorded on Super 8 film, and transferred to VHS video tape and DVD, can be seen on the “Second Hour” portion of Disc/Tape No. 2 of the International Harvester Promotional Movie Collection.  Indeed, among the scenes contained in that short Super 8 film was a scene of No. 25606 powering the Orbe Reddeman portable saw mill.)

The wider publicity generated by the Association of its annual show brought more spectators to the show as years went by.  The crowds would gather each day of the three-day show to watch the parade of tractors.  Frank Boehne was already known as a antique tractor and farm machinery enthusiast to his friends, but to this wider public that attended the annual show each year he became a consummate showman.  Normally Frank Boehne smoked a pipe.  However, during the show he always a lit up the biggest cigar that he could find.  People maintained that he must have looked all year to find a big enough cigar to smoke at the Show.  The crowd loved it.  Frank aboard the operator’s seat of No. 25606 with his huge cigar was captured many times on VHS tape or in still pictures.  Frank’s showmanship made No. 25606 the most photographed tractor of the Show for many years.  In 1994, Frank’s picture with his trademark large cigar was carried on the annual Show button.

One picture from the 1989 LeSueur Show captures Frank Boehne’s flare for showmanship and the reaction of the crowd to that showmanship.  The picture was taken on the grounds of the LeSueur Pioneer Power Association at the 1989 annual show.  The 1PM daily parade is just getting started.  Frank Boehne is sitting in the operator’s seat of No. 25606 while the tractor is waiting in line to enter the parade.  The tractor is still “offstage,”   In the last few moments before appearing “on stage,” Frank is trying to get the huge cigar fully lit.  The cloud of smoke that appears over the hood of the tractor is from the cigar and not from the engine!  Helping Frank steer No. 25606, until he gets the cigar lit, is Donny Riebel oldest son of Robert J. Riebel, current owner of No. 25606.  Particularly, interesting about this picture is the reaction of the on-lookers that are smiling and thoroughly enjoying the scene and are taking pictures of Frank and his tractor—and this is before the tractor has even jointed the actual parade route.  Something that the picture does not convey however, is that when moving, No. 25606 with its steel wheels and high-profile steel lugs provided quite a bumpy ride for the operator, especially when trying to smoke a large cigar while operating the tractor.  However, Frank was of the opinion that an antique tractor was not a true “antique” tractor unless it had steel wheels!    Rubber tires on a tractor were regarded as being “too modern.”  Frank Boehne remained a beloved member of the LeSueur Pioneer Power Association and a favorite part of the annual threshing show for the public until his death on August 24, 1993—the eve of yet another annual LeSueur Pioneer Power threshing show.

Antique tractor collectors are constantly in the process of learning.  The inability of having adequate knowledge at a particular time when it was needed can lead to mistakes—sometimes quite sizeable mistakes.  So it was with Frank Boehne.  In 1980, the Zeigenhagen Bros. of Lexington Township sold their large Nichols and Shepard thresher with its 36 inch cylinder and a 64 inch separating table to Dave Preuhs.  (The story of this thresher becoming a permanent exhibit at the LeSueur Pioneer Power Association is contained in the article called “Build It and They Will Come” included in the Summer 1996 issue of Hart-Parr/Oliver Collectors magazine p. 33.)  Fitted with Carpenter Company double wings attached to its self-feeder, the huge thresher had been used in the largest custom threshing operation of its time in Lexington Township (the township that borders Sharon Township to the east in LeSueur County).  The large thresher had, however, not been operated since 1917 and had been stored safely in a shed on the Zeigenhagen farm.  The Zeigenhagen family also owned a model 35-70 Nichols and Shepard tractor which the family used to transport and to power the huge thresher back when the family was engaged in custom threshing.  At the same time the Zeigenhagen family decided to sell the big thresher to Dave Preuhs, the family also decided to sell the large Nichols and Shepard model 35-70 tractor.  They offered the tractor for sale at a very inexpensive price.  Frank Boehne purchased this tractor.  The tractor started and ran, but had a leak in the fuel tank.  Frank Boehne obtained a 55 gallon barrel full of fuel and fitted the fuels lines of the tractor to this barrel.  He then proceeded to drive the tractor from the Zeigenhagen farm to his own farm in Sharon Township.  This was a slow process because of the limited speed of the large tractor.  However, most discouraging to Frank was the fact that the large tractor used every bit of the fuel in the 55-gallon barrel even before he reached home on the big tractor.  Faced with the prospect of overhauling and storing the large tractor, Frank got out the cutting torch and cut up the large tractor and sold the pieces off for salvage.  This was a tragic mistake, because Nichols and Shepard tractors are extremely scarce today and the Model 35-70 Nichols and Shepard is even more rare.  Had the huge tractor only been preserved until it could be restored later, or sold intact to another collector to be restored, another very rare specimen of early custom threshing could have been made a part of the permanent exhibits at the LeSueur Pioneer Power Show.  Such are the variabilities of life.

In the last years of his life, Frank Boehne rented out his own farm and worked part time for a neighbor of his Robert J. (Bob) Riebel, Past President of the LeSueur Pioneer Power Association and long time antique tractor collector and restorer.  Frank helped Bob with many tractor restorations during these years.  Consequently following Frank’s death Bob Riebel obtained Frank’s main tractor—No. 25606—from Frank’s estate and continued to show the tractor and to drive the old Model E Thresherman Special in the daily parades at the annual LeSueur Pioneer Power Show.  Frank Boehne was one of the very first inductees into the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association’s Hall of Fame.  Thus, attendees at the annual show since 1993 have continued to be able to see No. 25606 sitting on the show grounds during the show, being driven in the parade and have been able to walk into the Hall of Fame and have been able to see a picture of Frank Boehne sitting on No. 25606 with his characteristic huge cigar.

No. 25606 was seen and photographed by more people during the years that the big Allis-Chalmers was owned by Frank Boehne than at any other time in its life.  This is true because many members of the public were attracted to the personality of Frank Boehne himself.  Since the death of Frank Boehne the No. 25606 has maintained at least some of its popularity as a public attraction.  However, now, at this time, it was the intrinsic characteristics of No. 25606 that attracted admirers.  No. 25606 is somewhat exceptional already by the mere fact that it is the sixth from the last Model E ever to roll off the assembly line, but the mere fact that No. 25606 is one of those Model E’s which is designated a “Thresherman Special” makes No. 25606 remarkable because not many of them are found even at Allis Chalmers Collectors shows around the nation.  Even more extraordinary is the history of No. 25606, which reveals that it is a tractor designed for use in the Great Plains area of North America, but yet No. 25606 was used all its life in the Midewestern “row crop” area of the continent.  In this regard No. 25606, adds another important and unusual chapter to the continuing story of North American agriculture.

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