Oliver Farming in Mower County, Minnesota (Part II): Soybeans

Oliver Farm Equipment in Mower County Minnesota (Part II): Soybeans

by

Brian Wayne Wells

As noted previously, Mower County in Minnesota is located on the border of Minnesota and Iowa.  (See the previous article in this series called “Oliver Farm Equipment [Part I]: Suffolk Sheep Raising.”)  One of the middle townships in western Mower County is Nevada Township.  (Ibid.)  Also as previously noted, in 1941 Nevada Township was the home of a particular farmer, who worked a 160-acre diversified a farm with his wife and their two sons.  The typical diversified farm was a farming operation that developed income from a number of different sources, crops, (like corn), along with animals (perhaps raising and selling hogs, raising a flock of laying hens for eggs and/or milking cows to sell the milk).  The idea of diversification was that if one of the products raised on the farm was in a price slump the other products raised on the farm might rescue the owner of the farm by providing some income to allow the family to survive the price slump.

Additionally, as previously noted, in 1942, our Nevada Township farmer added a new product to his diversified farming operation.  In 1942, the United States of America was in its first year of involvement in the world war.  Both of his sons were now away from the farm serving in the Pacific theater in the war.  He was back to handling the farm alone just as he had done when his boys were children.  Farm prices had risen across the board, but the war also created some new opportunities for the American farmer.  Raising sheep for meat had been one of those opportunities.  The price of mutton and lamb had risen in 1941 as the Britain began to buy United States lamb and mutton to replace the product they could no longer get from Australia.  This sudden rise in sheep prices encouraged our Nevada Township farmer to obtain a small flock of Suffolk sheep for his own farming operation.  As sheep prices continued to rise because of the the war and United States government buying of lamb to support its armed forces which were stationed around the world, other farmers sought to obtain or expand their own flocks of sheep.  Our Nevada Township farmer found that he could make more money by registering some of his best ewe lambs and best young rams with the National Suffolk Sheep Association and selling them to other farmers for breeding stock, rather than taking them to directly to market.  Whereas, in 1943, our Nevada Township farmer could make $6.80 per hundred weight (about $9.00 lamb on a 130 pound (lbs.) lamb going to Hormel’s meat market in Austin) he could make three times that amount by holding back the ewe lambs which had the best breed characteristics and selling them as breeding stock to other farmers.

Breeders were always trying to improve the breed characteristics of their flocks.  Toward this end breeders might purchase good quality purebred ewes to improve the breed characteristics of their flock.  However, by purchasing a single purebred ram, sheep farmers knew that they could influence half the genes of their flock, because a single ram would be the sire (father) of all the lambs born to the flock.  Accordingly, breeders would pay even more for a young ram than they would for individual ewes.  Thus, organized ram sales became popular as an annual event.  Usually these rams sales were held in early June each year.  One of the nation’s foremost ram sales was the Midwest Stud Ram Sale held in Omaha, Nebraska.  Our Nevada Township farmer drove his 1939 Chevrolet Model JD ¾-ton truck to Omaha with a few sheep to sell.

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The 1939 3/4 ton Chevrolet truck of the JD Master series

He had purchased the Chevy truck from Usem Chevrolet in nearby Austin, Minnesota (1940 pop. 18,306).  Usem’s was a full-line dealership offering cars from all five divisions of the General Motors Company and both Chevrolet and GMC trucks.  The dealership had been founded by Edward G. and Edith Usem.  Born in Ukraine in Russia in 1907, Edward had immigrated to the United States with his parents and settled in Austin, Minnesota in the early 20th Century.  Edward had grown up in Austin and been involved in the car business since the 1920s.

Originally, the truck was fitted with a light stake bed for hauling cargo.  Almost immediately, our Nevada Township farmer took the truck to the Harry Attlesey blacksmith shop in Lyle, Minnesota (1940 pop. 513), for a new heavier bed to be installed on the truck.  Harry D. and Isabel (Webber) Attlesey owned this blacksmith shop on the north end of Lyle on U.S. #218.  Harry Attlesey had operated this blacksmith shop since moving to town in 1932.  Harry Attlesey designed and built a tight grain box bed for the new ¾ ton Chevy truck that replaced the loose-fitting stake-bed that on the Model JD ¾ truck.  Indeed the new bed on the back of the truck was not just a grain box.  It also had a series of heavy racks that mounted on top of the sides of the grain box.  These racks were tall enough to allow our Nevada Township farmer to safely haul livestock, even cattle and horses, in the bed of the truck.

This truck was just the thing for making the trip to Omaha.  Sales of the best young purebred rams and ewes was, he felt, maximized and fully diversified the profit that he received from his flock of sheep.  As noted previously, the profits that he had received from his flock of sheep had allowed him to purchase a used 1935 tricycle-style Hart-Parr/Oliver Model 18-27 tractor at an auction in February of 1943.

The 1935 Oliver/Hart-Parr (dual wheel) Row Crop tractor, like the model that our Nevada Township farmer purchased at an auction in his neighborhood in February of 1943.

 

Only in 1944 did the price of lamb decline.  This decline in the sheep market was the result of the army’s decision in mid-1944 to drop the unpopular “Mutton Stew and Vegetables” unit from the C-ration menu and replace it with the “Beef Stew and Vegetables” unit.  (See the C-ration entry under Wikipedia on the Internet.)  The effect of this decline in the price of sheep was felt immediately as farmers, reduced the number of sheep on their farm or sold off their flocks entirely.

In 1945, the number of sheep across the whole state of Minnesota stood at 995,000 head.  In Mower County the sheep population was 17,500 head in 1945.  The number of sheep in neighboring Fillmore County, to the east of Mower County, stood at 30,500 head.  In 1946, the number of sheep in the whole state of Minnesota the number of sheep fell to 846,000 head as the total number of sheep in Mower County fell to 15,000 head and fell to 26,000 head in Fillmore County.  In the post-war years the population of sheep in Minnesota continued to decline and hit a bottom in 1950 with only 571,000 sheep in the entire state of Minnesota, 10,300 head in Mower County and 18,400 head in Fillmore County.

Young soybean plans planted in a row in the field

 

However, as the war progressed, another farm product was continuing to increase in importance—the soybean.  Our Nevada Township farmer started to hear about soybeans as a profitable farm product over WCCO radio out if Minneapolis.  Research into the soybean had been going on since the early 1900s.  This research discovered a great uses for the simple soybean.  (See the unpublished article, called “Soybean Farming with a Farmall H in Butternut Valley Township”  written by Brian Wayne Wells regarding soybean processing in Mankato, Minnesota.  This article can be seen on this website.)  However, a real economic market for soybeans had never been found until the recent World War.  Now soybeans were used to make plastics which were used in the cowlings and wind screens of the thousands of aircraft that were being turned out by American industry for the war effort.

Soybean prices in World War II rose because of the plastics used in combat airplane windscreens. Although a direct shot would pierce the safety glass of these safety glass windscreens the safety glass would not shatter and cause injury to the air crew just as a result of flying glass.

 

In 1940, nation-wide production of the soybeans was limited to just 78,045,000 bushels.  However, by 1943, that production figure had grown to 190,133,000 bushels.  Right here in Mower County, Minnesota, our Nevada, Township farmer had seen his neighbors increase their soybean acreage from 17,800 acres in 1941 to 38,000 acres in 1944.

As the acreage in Mower county increased, our Nevada Township farmer found that large fields of growing soybeans were becoming a more common sight as he drove around the neighborhood.

 

Farmers were not reducing the number of acres they devoted to corn.  Indeed, the number of acres of corn planted in Mower County rose from 88,100 in 1941 to 121,000 acres in 1944.  Where were all these extra arable acres coming from?  To be sure, farmers were now placing in production land they had previously considered unprofitable land.  It was part of the national patriotic drive to plant crops from “fence-row to fence-row” to help the war effort.  However, it was also true that farmers were raising less hay and oats than they used to raise.  In Mower County, farmers devoted 100,300 acres to oats, in 1942 oat acreage in the county fell to 89,000 acres in 1942 and fell still further to 61,800 acres in 1944.  Similarly, the acreage devoted to hay fell from 87,100 acres in 1940 to 54,900 acres in 1943.  Both hay and oats are raised as animal food on the average Midwestern farm—a primary food for horses.  Consequently, the reduction of acreage allotted to hay was the result of farmers mechanizing the power source in their farming operations and reducing the number of horses on their farms.  Of course, farmers still needed some hay and oats for the other livestock they raised on their farms, but clearly, Mower County farmers were growing less hay and oats and turning to soybeans as a replacement crop on their farms.

Our Nevada Township farmer had watched soybean production in Mower County set new historical records of production each year from 1941 until 1943 without diversifying into the production of soybeans.  His mind had been already occupied with his current diversification—into sheep raising.  Sheep raising was the bird in the hand.  The promise behind the raising of soybeans was the two birds in the bush.  Our Nevada Township farmer felt in the spring of 1944 that he should clasp closely onto the bird in the hand and neglect the two in the bush.  However, throughout 1944, the price of soybeans continued its slow steady to climb upwards, reaching $2.05 per bushel as a monthly average for each of the months of October, November and December 1944.  So large was the demand for soybeans that, no glut on the market was created when another nationwide record—192,121,000 bushels of soybeans came onto the market in late 1944.  Indeed, this large supply of soybeans did not even dent the high prices that soybeans were bringing.

The high price of soybeans in 1944, finally, caused our Nevada Township farmer to change his mind.  He decided to plant soybeans on his farm in the spring of 1945.  Many of his neighbors reached the same decision.  Accordingly, in the spring of 1945 Mower County farmers planted a record 51,500 acres in soybeans—up from 38,000 acres in 1944.  This was an increase of 35.5% in soybean acreage in just one year.

Like corn, soybeans was a “row crop.”  Soybeans would be planted in rows 40 inches apart, just like corn.  Back in the winter of 1940-1941, our Nevada Township farmer had purchased a new Oliver-Superior No. 9B tractor-drawn corn planter to replace his old Oliver Superior Model No. 5 horse-drawn corn planter which was getting completely worn out.  He had purchased the new No. 9B corn planter from Thill Implement, the local Oliver Farm Eauipment dealership located in Rose Creek, Minnesota, (1940 pop. 261.)  This turned out to be a fortunate turn of events for two reasons.  First, since the United States’ entry into the World War as a result of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, any new farm machinery had been impossible to get due to the wartime manufacturing restrictions.  Secondly, although our Nevada Township farmer had purchased the Model 9B corn planter to plant corn, this planter could with very little adjustment be converted over to the planting of soybeans.  Should he now decide to go into raising soybeans, he could use this new planter to continue planting his corn in the same wire check 40 inch row format as he had been doing with his old No. 5 and he could also use the same planter to drill his soybeans in 40 inch rows.

Oliver corn planter
The Model 9 Oliver-Superior corn planter could be easily be converted from “check planting” of corn to “sowing” soybeans in rows.

Ever since he had obtained his first tractor in February of 1940—a used 1937 Hart-Parr/Oliver Model 28-44 tractor “3-5 plow tractor”—our Nevada Township farmer had been busy shortening the tongues on a lot of his horse-drawn farm equipment so that he could use the tractor doing as much of the field work on his farm as possible.  (See the first article in this series called “Oliver Farm Equipment in Mower County Part I: Purebred Suffolk Sheep Raising” published on this website.)  Accordingly, he had purchased the new Model 9-B planter with the shortened tractor hitch rather than the longer horse-drawn hitch.  Now with minimal adjustments he could convert his No. 9B corn planter from a corn planter which would wire check corn in a 40 inch by 40 inch grid across the field to a “drill” which could plant (or drill) soybeans in 40 inch rows.

In preparation to plant soybeans our Nevada Township farmer opened the seed containers on his Model 9B corn planter and removed these corn plates from each container and replaced then with soybean planting plates. bottom

 

One of these minimal adjustments was to swap the corn planter plates for the bottom of the seed containers to soybean plates.  These soybean plates would allow the planting of soybeans in a continuous stream in the rows rather than “check” planting in hills within the rows, like corn.  The soybean plants did not have to be spread 40 inches apart in “hills” within the rows like corn.

These at the soybean plates that our Nevada Township farmer installed in his Model 9B planter in order to sow his first crop of soybeans in 1944.

 

Thus, he would not have to stretch the check wire across the length of the field when drilling soybeans as he did when he “wire-check” planted his corn.  Instead, soybeans were “drilled” into the rows.  Rather than releasing seeds into the open trench only when the planting units were “tripped,” he could simply adjust the No. 9 planter so that reach planting unit on the No. 9 planter would “sow” a continuous stream soybeans into the small trenches that were opened by the two furrow openers on the planter.  In this way the seeds and later the soybean plants might be only four inches apart within the row.

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The Oliver-Superior Model 9D planter. With the proper planting plates at the bottom of each cylindrical seed box the Model 9D could be made to sow two rows of soybeans each time across the field.

Our Nevada Township farmer needed to purchase a new pair of planter plates for the No. 9B planter.  He did not, currently, have the planter plates that would allow the No. 9 planter to drill soybeans.  Back in 1941, he did not have any idea that he would be using the Model 9B planter for anything other than planting corn, so he had obtained only corn plates when he had purchased the new planter.  The planter plates were circular cast-iron plates that were placed at the bottom of the two cylindrical seed “boxes” or seed containers on the No. 9 planter.  On planting day, the seed boxes were filled with seed.  As the planter moved across the field the furrow openers at the front of each planting unit on the No. 9 planter would open a trench in the ground about 2 inches deep.  The wheels on the planter would power a shaft connecting both planting units on the No. 9 planter.  This shaft would turn the planter plate at the bottom of each seed box.  As they revolved, the slots on the edge of the planter plate would select individual seeds from the seed box and drop them in a tube which led to the lower part of each planting unit.  There the seeds would be released into the small trench that had been opened by the furrow openers.  Corn plates selected individual seeds at a rate that would allow only three seeds to be selected for every 40 inches of progress the No. 9 made as it moved across the field.  Because soybeans were planted only 4 inches apart, soybean plates would need to supply 10 soybean seeds for the same 40 inches of progress that the planter moved across the field.  The plates needed to turn faster and gather more seed.  Thus, a different style of planter plate was needed for the No. 9 planter for use in soybeans.

The building in Rose Creek, Minnesota that housed the "Thill Implement Dealership."
The building in Rose Creek, Minnesota that housed the “Thill Implement Dealership.”

Accordingly, our Nevada Township farmer made a trip to the Thill Implement dealership in Rose Creek, Minnesota to purchase these new plates.  He made this trip early in the year.  Ever since United States’ involvement in the war, he had learned that nothing should be taken for granted.  Nothing was predictable.  Simple parts like new plates for a planter may have to be ordered.  This would take time.  He wanted all his equipment ready when the field work started.  He could not afford delays while he waited on parts.  Besides in March of 1945, he and his wife were anxious to find a reason (any reason) to get off the farm for a little while.

The winter of 1944-1945 had been basically snowless until a series of snow storms in mid-January, 1945 combined to deposit about 4-to-8 inches of snow on the ground.  Cold temperatures which persisted mid-until March of 1945 would not allow the snow to melt.  Thus, chores like the daily hauling the manure to the field had become cold, laborious jobs even using one of the tractors.  (In addition to the 1937 Model 28-44 standard tractor, our Nevada Township farmer had obtained a 1935 tricycle-style Hart-Parr/Oliver Model 18-28 tricycle-style tractor in late February of 1943.  [See the prior article in this series called “Oliver Farm Equipment in Mower County Part I: Purebred Suffolk Sheep Raising” published on this website.]  It was the Model 18-28 tricycle-style “row crop” tractor that allowed our Nevada Township farmer to mechanize every field task on his farm and eliminate the need for horses on his farm.)

Fighting the snow and trying to keep up with the chores on his farm all winter had given our Nevada Township farmer and his wife a bad case of “cabin fever.”  Accordingly, when the weather became unseasonably warm in late March, 1945, and the snow had melted, our Nevada Township farmer and his wife were more than willing to leave the farm for a short while.  They got into their old 1941 Chevrolet sedan and drove the 12 miles north to visit his local Oliver Farm Equipment dealership—Thill Implement  of Rose Creek, Minnesota.  Rose Creek (1940, pop. 261) was located in center of Windom Township.  Windom Township was the township located immediately adjacent to Nevada Township’s northern border.

 

 

The Thill Implement dealership had been originally founded by John Peter and Marie (Lindsay) Thill in 1938.  Born in Chicago, Illinois, on August 17, 1895, John Peter, at the age of seven-years of age, had moved with his parents, Nicholas and Margaret Thill, in 1903, to a farm located in Windom Township about three (3) miles north of Rose Creek.  Growing up on this farm, John Peter had met Marie Lindsay.  In 1916, they had fallen in love and were married.  They started a family on January 1, 1918 with the birth of Robert Lindsay Thill.  In 1921, a daughter, Dorothy Thill was born to the couple and, finally, in 1925, a second son, John (Jack) Thill Jr, was born.

John Thill Jr. took over operating the Thill Implement dealership from his father–John Peter Thill.

 

John Peter and Marie established their own farming operation and operated the farm through the hardest years of the Great Depression and when the economy started to recover in 1938, John thought he saw an opportunity to gain some extra income by starting a farm tractor dealership in the town of Rose Creek.  Mechanical power on farms was in its infancy, but tractors were already replacing horses on farms at a furious rate.  It already seemed that tractor power was the wave of the future.  Perceiving a large demand for Minneapolis-Moline corn shellers, John Peter Thill obtained a franchise from the Minneapolis-Moline Company of Hopkins, Minnesota.  However, John Peter soon obtained second franchise from the Oliver Farm Equipment Company of Charles City, Iowa, because he had been very impressed by the easy draft of Oliver plows.

Thill Implement in Rose Creek obtained a franchise to sell Minneapolis-Moline corn shellers as well as the entire line of Oliver farm equipment.
Thill Implement in Rose Creek obtained a franchise to sell Minneapolis-Moline corn shellers as well as the entire line of Oliver farm equipment.

In its first year in business, Thill Implement had no building for its dealership.  Thus, Thill Implement dealership began as a few new tractors parked under a under a shade tree in Rose Creek.  Only in 1939 was John Peter able to obtain an old grocery store building in Rose Creek, and convert it to a dealership building.  At the same time as he operated the dealership, John Peter Thill also continued his farming operation.  It was this farm that caused a close relationship to arise between Thill Implement and the Oliver Farm Equipment Company.

The Oliver Farm Equipment Company had been formed in a merger of four companies in 1929–the Hart-Parr Tractor Company of Charles City, Iowa, the American Seeding Company of Richmond, Indiana, the Oliver Chilled Plow Works of South Bend, Indiana and the Nichols and Shepard Company of Battle Creek, Michigan.  Since 1929, more companies had been purchased by and merged into the new Oliver Company.  Thus, by 1939, the Oliver Company was a large sprawling corporation with factories spread all across the nation.

Among the oldest and most distinguished of these companies under the Oliver corporate umbrella was the Hart-Parr Tractor Company.  The Hart-Parr Company had been the first company to mass produce an internal combustion engine-powered farm tractors starting in 1903.  Following the merger in 1929, the new corporate headquarters for the sprawling Oliver Farm Equipment Company was established in Chicago, Illinois.  However, much of the research and management staff dealing with tractor production remained in Charles City, Iowa, the old home of the Hart-Parr Company.  Indeed much of this staff was composed of former Hart-Parr employees and, whatever isolated tractor manufacturing operations were contained in other companies involved in the merger (Nichols and Shepard for an example) were eventually consolidated in Charles City.

Oliver Tractor Works factory in Charles City in 1948
An Aerial view of the Oliver Farm Tractor Works factory in Charles City, Iowa.

The Charles City plant was located 35 miles south of Rose Creek.  Actually, the driving distance to Charles City was 43 miles because John Peter Thill could drive  6 miles west on County Road #4 to pick up U.S. Highway #218.  But the drive was pleasurable because once having reached U.S. #218 was the remaining drive to Charles City was on a smooth concrete paved road.  The new Thill Implement dealership was fortunate in this close proximity to Charles City, Iowa, because over the years, Thill Implement developed a strong relationship with the managerial staff at the Charles City plant.  The benefits of this relationship flowed both ways.  The Charles City engineering staff found that they could count on John Peter readily agreeing to offer land on his farm on which to test their new Oliver tractors.  John Peter agreed to allow these tractor tests and demonstrations to be conducted on his farm because of the public attention these tests and demonstrations attracted.  This public attention was the best possible advertisement for Thill Implement.

Recent public attention by area farmers was directed toward the demonstrations of “row crop tractors.”  These row crop or tricycle style tractors were specifically designed for cult**ivation  of corn and other row crops.  This was the last remaining field task on the average Midwestern farm that was still done by horses.  The entire line of tractors offered to the farming public by the Hart-Parr Tractor Company had been “standard” or “four-wheel” style tractors.  These standard tractors had wheels set at fixed tread widths.  Thus, the tractors were suited for every farm field job except cultivation of row crops.  However, Hart-Parr had been researching and developing a tricycle-style “row crop” tractor at the time of the merger in 1929.  In 1930, Hart-Parr (now the Oliver Company) introduced their new Oliver /Hart-Parr Row Crop Model 18-28 tractor.  This was the Oliver Farm Equipment Company’s first row crop tractor.  This tractor had adjustable tread width for the rear wheels and a single front wheel.  The front wheel attached to a single bolster, like a child’s tricycle.  This “fifth-wheel” type of steering by means of a single bolster allowed the tricycle–style tractor to turn very sharply in the field while cultivating corn and/or other row crops.

The Oliver/Hart-Parr Model 18-28 Row Crop tractor emerged from the energy developed from the 1929 corporate merger that formed the Oliver Farm Equipment Company.  The Model 18-28 was the first Oliver tricycle style tractor.

 

Substantial changes were made to the Model 18-28 tractor and the following year, in 1931, a new improved Oliver Model 18-27 tricycle style tractor replaced the 18-28 Hart-Parr Row Crop tractor.  This new Model 18-27 was designated “dual wheel” to emphasize its most obvious difference from its single-front wheeled predecessor.

The Oliver/Hart-Parr Model 18-27 (dual wheel) Row Crop tractor as a much improved replacement of the first Oliver/Hart-Parr row crop tractor–the Model 18-28 Row Crop tractor.

 

The 18-27 (dual wheel) tractor featured differential foot brakes for each rear wheel.  These differential brakes allowed the tractor operator to apply the brake to the appropriate wheel to assist in turning the 180° turns at the end of the rows while cultivating corn and other row crops.  The 18-27 (dual wheel) also featured a full pressure oiling system and a oil filter.  This helped prolong the life of the four-cylinder engine.  The 18-27 (dual wheel) remained in production from 1931 until 1936.  The peak of annual production of the tractor was reached in 1935, when 748 individual Model 18-27 (dual wheel) tractors were turned out at the Charles City plant.  It was one of these 748 tractors that our Nevada Township farmer had purchased as a used tractor in late-February of 1943.

An advertisement of the newly improved Oliver Row Crop tractor which was designated as the Model 80 Row Crop.

 

In 1936, the Model 18-27 (dual wheel) row crop tractor was replaced with the Oliver Model 80 row crop tractor.  (When the new four cylinder Model 80 tractor was tested at the University of Nebraska from May 16 through May 26, 1938, using low-octane distillate fuel, the results showed that the Model 80 delivered 23.32 horsepower [hp.] to the drawbar and 35.24 hp. to the belt pulley.  [See C.H. Wendel, Nebraska Tractor Tests: Since 1920 (Motorbooks International Pub.: Oseloa, Wisc., 1985) p. 95.])

In 1936, the Oliver Farm Equipment Company again upgraded their Row Crop tractor. This tractor was designated as the Oliver Model 80 Row Crop tractor.  This particular Model 80 was made in 1939. 

 

The unstyled Model 80 was a new tractor, but it was Oliver’s other new (and smaller) row crop tractor that was to become especially important to Thill Implement and other Oliver dealerships across the Midwestern section of the United States.  In 1935, the Oliver Company, introduced their new, revolutionary and very popular smaller tractor—the Model 70.  The Model 70 was offered in a variety of formats—the “standard” style, the “industrial” style and row crop style.  However, the most common format of Model 70 was the row crop version.  Externally, the Oliver Model 70 was unique among tractors on the market.  The tractor was painted dark green with orange accents and red wheels.  When introduced in 1935, the Model 70 had been “styled” with a sheet metal hood, grill and side curtains covering the engine entirely.  During the initial period of production, the Model 70 was offered to the public equipped with a Waukesha four-cylinder engine.

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The “early styled” Model 70 was the first tractor in the Oliver Company line of farm tractors to by “streamlined” with sheet metal. The early styled Model 70 was produced from 1935 until 1937 and was fitted with a four-cylinder engine manufactured by the Waukesha Motor Company of Waukesha, Wisconsin.

However, in 1937, the Model 70 was further improved and “streamlined.  The streamlining gave the Model 70 an even more sleek appearance.  The new improved Model 70 was offered to the public with optional rubber tires, electric start and electric lights.  However, the must unique feature of the new 1937 Oliver Model 70 was the tractor’s new 6-cylinder engine.  The new 6-cylinder engine featured in the new Oliver Model 70 had been researched and developed by the Oliver Company, itself.  The engine was now in full production at Oliver’s South Bend No. 2 Works in South Bend, Indiana.  When this new six-cylinder Model 70 was tested at the University of Nebraska from August 23 until August 29, 1940, the new 6-cylinder engine in the Model 70 delivered 22.72 horsepower (hp.) to the drawbar and 30.37 hp. to the belt pulley.  (See C.H. Wendel, Nebraska Tractor Tests: Since 1920 [Motorbooks International: Oseola, Wisc., 1985] p. 128.)

From the very first, the row-crop style Model 70 tractor led all other models of Oliver tractors in sales.  The tricycle style row crop version of the Model 70 itself, actually, outsold all the other styles and models of Oliver tractors.  During the first two years of production the 4-cylinder Model 70, Oliver made and sold 684 row crop versions of the Model 70 in 1935 and 8,042 row crop versions in 1936.  When the new 6-cylinder Oliver Model 70 was introduced in 1937, sales of the row crop Model 70 rose to 10,915 Model 70 row crop tractors.  By contrast, only 14 Model 80 tractors were built and sold in 1937.

When the Thill Implement opened in 1938, the national economy was just recovering from the recession of 1937-1938.  This recession had caused a downturn in business nationwide.  This business slowdown also affected the Oliver Farm Equipment Company as the company produced only 780 Model 70 row crop tractors in 1938.  However, Thill Implement was able to sell enough of these popular tractors to weather the recession.  In 1939, with the recession over, the Oliver Company produced 7,860 Model 70 row crop tractors.  Thill Implement supported itself on the back of strong sales of the Model 70 until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor involved the United States in the Second World War.  From that point on production of the Oliver Model 70 dwindled to only 1,070 row crop tractors in 1943.  Not because of any lack of demand for the Model 70, rather the decline in production was caused by the scarcity of raw materials for making the tractor.  All raw products for civilian production were now being severely restricted by the United States government and directed to production for the war effort. Thus, production of tractors and large farm implements by all farm manufacturers was severely curtailed by the war effort.  During the middle of the war, even the manufacture of repair parts were restricted by the war effort and it was hard for farmers to obtain any repair parts from their local dealerships.  Farmers found that even parts for the tractors and farm machinery they already owned were in short supply.

Accordingly, our Nevada Township farmer did not know what to expect when he visited Thill Implement in February of 1945.  He did not know whether the corn planter plates he wanted would be in stock or whether he would have to order the parts and then wait on the delivery of the parts some weeks in the future.  However, our Nevada Township farmer was pleasantly surprised to learn that now in the spring of 1945 with the end of the war was in sight, the United States economy had grown to the level that it was able to meet the vast demands of the war and simultaneously meet some of the demands of civilian economy.  Thus, while in the spring of 1945, new Model 70 tractors remained in very short supply, our Nevada Township farmer was assured that Thill Implement had the planter plates in stock.  The salesman behind the repair parts counter at Thill Implement  took no more than a couple of minutes to walk back into the parts bins behind the counter and emerge with two of the particular planter plates for the Oliver-Superior Model 9 planter which he had requested.  The salesman reminded our Nevada Township farmer of another part he would need to convert his corn planter into a soybean drill.  This was a small link that connected between the frame of the planter and the tripping mechanism on the planter.  This link would disable the tripping mechanism so that the shaft turning the soybean plates would operate continuously.  This would allow the soybeans to be drilled in a steady stream along the row rather than being planted in hills planted in the row.

The salesman related that there had been big demand for these soybean plates and the link over the last few weeks.  Because of this demand, Thill Implement had ordered and received a large number of the soybean planter plates and conversion parts for all of the older Oliver-Superior planters.  It seemed that everyone was planting soybeans this year.  Indeed, the salesman reported that he had heard over KATE radio from nearby Albert Lea, Minnesota, (the county seat of neighboring Freeborn County) that preliminary news reports of spring planting in Freeborn County from the Extension Service of the United States Department of Agriculture found that soybean acreage was up by 20% this spring over the year before.  (In Mower County the results would eventually reveal a more staggering figure.  The Mower County Extension Service would report that the number of acres planted in soybeans in Mower County in the spring of 1945 would be up 35.5 % over the previous year.)

Having obtained the proper planter plates for his Model 9 planter, our Nevada Township farmer was ready for the spring field work well before the winter weather warmed sufficiently for him to get into the fields.  Warmer than usual weather in late-March helped dry and warm the soil in his fields.  Thus, spring field work could begin in April, earlier than usual.  The oats were drilled first.  However, this year, our Nevada Township farmer drilled only part of the field in oats.  Since obtaining the Oliver Row Crop Model 18-28 (dual wheel) tractor, two years before, he had totally mechanized the power sources on his farm.  Although he had retained one team of horses on his farm out of a feeling of tradition, he really had no need to employ horses in any aspect of his field operations—including the cultivation of row crops.   Thus, with far fewer horses on his farm he no longer needed a large quantity of oats on the farm as he had done in the past.  Accordingly, the remainder of the oat field was worked up and left unplanted for the time being.  This was the area on the farm where he would plant the soybeans.

Before planting his new crop of soybeans, however, he needed to plant his corn.  Corn was traditionally planted prior to soybeans.  While corn can be planted in ground that is between 50º to 55ºF in temperature, soybeans required soil temperatures of 55ºF to 60ºF in order to prosper.  It turned out that there was no need to worry, this year.  The sunshine of early May, 1945 warmed the ground sufficiently, such that our Nevada Township farmer could start planting his soybeans immediately after he had finished planting his corn in mid-May.

Dramatic world news was broadcast in May of 1945, as Germany surrendered and the war in Europe came to an end.  This was good news, but our Nevada Township farmer and his wife still had their eyes on the war in the Pacific, where both of their sons were serving.  The war in the Pacific was still in progress.  For him and his wife the really big news, they wanted, was to hear that the war in the Pacific had ended.  This would mean the safe return of their two sons.  However, our Nevada Township farmer could not help being anxious over the end of the war.  What would happen to the prices of both corn and soybeans with the return to peace.  In particular, he wondered if it was the wrong time to expand into soybeans—a crop that seemed to be so closely tied to war production.  Still he had already obtained the soybean seed from the Hunting elevator in Lyle, Minnesota.  It was too late to turn back now.  He might as well proceed as planned and accept the risk.

Consequently, after wire-check planting his corn, our Nevada Township farmer unscrewed the thumb screw in the back of both planter seed boxes and tipped the boxes forward.  The cylinder-shaped seed boxes were hinged in the front, which allowed the box to be tipped forward until all the contents of each seed box could be poured out.  This way he removed the seed corn that had been left in the boxes at the conclusion of the corn planting.  Then, he removed the corn seed plate at the bottom of each seed box and replaced the corn plate with the new soybean plate that he purchased at Thill Implement.  Next, he had attached the small metal link he had purchased from Thill Implement which converted the planter into a soybean drill by disabling the tripping mechanism on the planter.

The control lever on the Oliver-Superior two-row corn planter that shifted the planter from planting corn to sowing soybeans
The control lever on the Oliver-Superior two-row corn planter that shifted the planter from planting corn to sowing soybeans

This link held the tripping mechanism in abeyance and allowed seeds to flow down both planter units continuously, rather than being released periodically along the row only when the planting unit was “tripped.”  This way the soybeans would be drilled into the rows rather than planted in hills within the rows like the corn.  Finally, our Nevada Township farmer greased the moving parts of the planter at every location where there was a grease zerk.  Thus, the planter was all ready to go the next morning, when he completed the milking and the other morning chores.

All he needed to do was to climb up into the operator’s seat of the Model 18-28 and drive the tractor and planter to the field.  The long dry spell at the beginning of May had allowed our Nevada Township farmer to get all his corn planted and now it looked as though weather would continue to hold while he planted his soybeans.  Indeed in the back of his mind was a worry that the dry weather spell might portend a dry growing season.

The sacks of soybean seed he had purchased were accompanied by a small packet of “inoculant.”  The inoculant was a black powder which acted as a natural fertilizer for the soybeans, encouraging early sprouting and growth of the soybeans after the seed was in the ground.  On planting day, our Nevada Township farmer poured the seed out of the sacks into his “triple box” wagon.  Then he opened the packet of inoculant and poured the contents of the packet over the pile of soybeans in the wagon.  Then he shoveled the soybeans to mix the inoculant evenly throughout the entire pile of soybean seed.  He hitched the wagon to his 1937 Hart-Parr/Oliver Model 28-44 tractor and drove it to the oat field.  The oats, with only a month’s worth of growth so far, appeared like a light green fuzz just visible on the surface of the ground– on the portion of the field that had been drilled in oats, but they had not yet completely covered the ground with green color.  Our Nevada Township farmer parked the wagon and the Model 28-44 tractor at the end of the field on the portion of the field where the new growth of oats were starting to grow.  Then he walked back to the homestead and started up his other tractor—the Oliver Row-Crop Model 18-28 (dual wheel)—and hitched this tractor up to his Oliver/Superior Model 9 corn planter.

Once in the field, he pulled the planter up to the rear of the wagon and loaded each seed box with soybeans.  Then he lined the planter up with the end of the field and released the row marker on the side of the planter.  This row marker was set to make a small mark in the dirt as he moved along.  He would follow this mark with the front wheels of his tractor on his return trip across the end of the field.  In this way he could be sure that the spacing between all the rows remained at 40 inches.  He would drill eight rows of soybeans across the end of the unplanted portion of this field.  These eight “end rows” would allow him room to turn around at the end of the field when cultivating the soybeans.  Before he went very far, however, he dismounted the tractor seat and went around behind the planter and uncovered a portion of the rows he had just planted.  He checked to see if the seeds were actually being correctly planted in the rows.  He found that everything was performing the way it should and the soybeans were being planted about two inches under the surface and the seeds were being placed about 4 inches apart within the rows.

Before making his first trip across the length of the field, our Nevada Township farmer “topped off” each seed box with soybean seed.  He wanted to be sure he could make a full trip across and back without running out of seed.  Additionally, while he was at the far end of the field he wanted to drill eight more end rows across the far end of the field as he had done at this end of the field.  He knew that the seed in each seed box would be used up at a much faster rate than when he had planted his corn.  Then he released the row marker on the side of the planter facing the unplanted portion of the field.  When he returned from the other side of the field he would be using the row marker on the opposite side of the planter.  Then he would fill the seed boxes and proceed again to cross the length of the field.  In this manner he completed the planting of his first soybean crop.

In late-May, after the soybeans had been planted, there were several light rains.  None of the rains, individually, delivered more than ¾ of an inch of rain and taken together all the rains were still insufficient for the crops, especially the corn.

EPSON MFP image
The Oliver Row Crop Model 18-27 with its mounted two-row cultivator worked as well on soybeans as the tractor did on corn.

Cultivation of the corn and soybeans to prevent weeds from competing with the crop for moisture and soil nutrients is important in any year.  However, this year, with less moisture to go around, cultivation of the row crops was even more crucial.  Unlike corn, however, soybeans did not have to be “cross cultivated.”  Our Nevada Township farmer tried to cultivate his corn lengthwise and then cross wise and then re-cultivate lengthwise.  He tried to cultivate the soybeans twice.  Among the periodic rains of mid-June through early-July, none really measured up the good soaking series of rains that were needed to give a boost to the row crops.  All the crops suffered from a lack of rain.  However, the corn seemed to be the hardest hit by the drought conditions.  The individual corn plants began to appear as little spike plants as the leaves of the individual corn plants curled up to preserve moisture under the hot July sun.  The soybeans were somewhat stunted in their growth.  Yet the individual soybean plants seemed to be bearing up better under the dry conditions.

Normally, the soybeans grew to about three feet in height and bushed out to cover completely the 40 inch space between the rows.  This year as the dry season continued the soybeans were not as luxurious as Mower county farmers had seen in the past, yet by late-July of 1945, the soybeans were starting to flower.  Our Nevada Township farmer ceased his cultivation of the soybeans just as flowering of the soybeans began.  Disturbing the soybeans at this stage with further cultivation, risked knocking off a great number of flowers on the individual soybean plants.  Less flowers would mean less seed pods, which would greatly reduce the per-acre yield of the soybean crop.  Consequently, our Nevada Township farmer stopped cultivation of the soybeans when before flowering started.  From that time on the soybeans were on their own in competing with the weeds.  Only one good rain occurred in August, 1945, as the dry conditions continued throughout the whole month.  By early September of 1945, the soybeans leaves had changed color to brilliant yellow as the crop began to ripen.

September of 1945, brought the long awaited news that the war in the Pacific had ended with the surrender of Japan.  Our Nevada Township farmer’s two sons would soon be heading home.  It was great news.  However, our Nevada township farmer had some trepidation to see what the end of the war would mean for farm crop prices.  Corn prices had already fallen from their wartime high of $1.22 per bushel in May of 1945 to $1.16 per bushel in September of 1945.  Our Nevada Township farmer was pleasantly surprised that prices had not fallen more during that time.  However, he suspected that prices were being buoyed by the prospect that there would be a poor harvest of corn in the fall of 1945 because of the drought during the growing season.  His own corn looked pretty bad.  However, soybean prices, on the other hand fell off by only a nickel from their steady wartime price of $2.10 per bushel in September of 1945 to $2.05 per bushel in October of 1945.  Our Nevada Township farmer noticed that the soybeans appeared in better condition as the harvest neared.

The first killing frost of the season occurred in the last days of September, which caused the leaves on the soybean plants turn brown and then to fall off the plant altogether. With no leaves, the plants were just sticks protruding up out of the ground to a height of about two feet.  Off these sticks were branches of the original plant.  Every branch was heavy with dark brown pods.  Each pod generally held three soybeans.  The dark brown color of the pods indicated that the soybeans were ready for harvesting.  Inside the pods, the soybeans were drying more and more as each day passed during the hot dry summer growing season.  The optimum moisture content for harvesting of soybeans was 14%.  Harvesting soybeans at a higher moisture content would risk mold on the soybeans.  These soybeans were called “rubbery” soybeans because of their rubber-like consistency.  Rubbery soybeans would develop mold and spoil before they could be sold.  Harvesting soybeans at a lower moisture content than 14% would cause a great number of the individual soybeans to split in two during the harvesting process.

Our Nevada Township farmer had no combine of his own to harvest the soybeans, so he hired a neighbor to come over and combine the soybeans for him.  The neighbor had obtained an Oliver Model 10 “Grainmaster” combine prior to the war.  The Grainmaster combine was manufactured in the old Nichols and Shepard factory on the 40 acre site at Marshall and Michigan Streets in Battle Creek, Michigan.  However, during the Second World War, 37% of the work performed by the Oliver Farm Equipment Company was taken up with fulfilling government contracts.  The resources needed for the production of combines was almost non-existent.

Right side view of Oliver Model 10 Grain Master combine
The Oliver Model 10 Grainmaster combine was a “pre-war” combine recognizable because of its high profile caused by the high gravity style unloading grain tank.

Accordingly, Grainmaster combine production was severely restricted.   Thus with no combines available during the war, this neighbor had virtually, the only combine in the neighborhood.  The neighbor had almost no competition for the custom combining soybeans around the neighborhood.  Consequently, this neighbor was now kept very busy doing custom combining of soybeans around the neighborhood and he had a long list of customers.  Our Nevada Township farmer would have wait for the combine to arrive on his farm.  This put him in a bind.  He knew that it was necessary that he get as much of his soybean crop harvested before the soybeans dried out to 12% moisture content or less.  At 12% moisture content the mere threshing of the soybeans would cause excessive splitting of the soybeans.  Split soybeans could not be processed as efficiently as whole soybeans.  Consequently, he would be “docked” in the price he received at the Hunting Elevator for his beans if there was an excessive amount of splitting in the crop that he delivered to the elevator.

The danger was that, as he waited for the combine to arrive on his farm, the soybeans could dry out to only 8% to 10% moisture content.  At this level of dryness, soybeans would tend to split in half with any form of rough handling.  So, here he was, stuck waiting for the custom combine to arrive on his farm.  He felt he was losing money on his new crop with every day that passed.

While he waited, our Nevada Township farmer made arrangements to have his corn picked.  As usual, this was done by another neighborhood farmer who had a corn picker who performed custom corn picking in the neighborhood.  There were many such farmers in the neighborhood, who were available for custom corn picking.  Thus, it was much easier to get the corn picked without the long wait.  Consequently, our Nevada Township farmer was able to harvest his corn and get it in the crib in October before the soybeans were harvested.  As predicted, the corn was a poor crop.  Since 1938, farmers in the area had been using “certified hybrid” seed which was purchased from seed corn dealers rather than some of their own shelled corn to plant in the spring.  The result had been an improvement in the number of corn plants that sprouted from each hill and an increase in the size of the ears that were produced by those corn plants.  This meant an improve yield of bushels per acre in production on the average farm in Mower County.  Consequently, whereas prior to 1938, farmers in Mower County had averaged about 34.1 bushels per acre, in the years from 1938 until last year, 1944, Mower County farmers had averaged 45.4 bushels per acre.  This was the “new norm” and represented a 33.1 % increase in yield per acre or more simply a one-third increase in profits for the average farm because of the use of certified seed corn.

As he counted up the 1945 corn harvest, however, our Nevada Township farmer found that the yield of corn in 1945 was considerably less than normal.  Across Mower County the average yield of corn per acre in 1945, was only 32 bushels per acre.  This was 29.1% less than the new norm yield.  Corn was usually stored in the corn crib on the farm until February of the next year when it had a chance to thoroughly dry in the cold winter air.  Usually in February the corn in the crib would be shelled out and sold to the Hunting Elevator.  Accordingly, the income from corn was usually obtained in February.  Usually, this was one of the big payoffs from his farming operation.  The income derived from corn was used to pay off big annual debts in the farming operation.  This year, our Nevada Township farmer knew that this substantial income received in February would be reduced by about 30%.  That created a big hole in the family finances.  Under usual circumstances, one might expect that the scarcity of corn coming onto the market as a result of the poor harvest, might drive the price of corn up.  In such a case the farmer might be able to recover more income because he would receive more for each bushel of corn he sold, even if he had less than the normal number of bushels to sell to the elevator.  However, in 1945, the reduced demand for corn as the United States armies came home and the fact that the drought conditions was a local phenomenon rather than a nationwide epidemic meant that the price of corn did not rise.  Our Nevada Township farmer was faced with the fact that he would have 30% less crop to sell and he would receive any additional money for that crop on a per bushel basis than he had the previous year.

Finally in November of 1945, the combine arrived on the farm of our Nevada Township farmer.  Our Nevada Township farmer could finally harvest his first soybean crop.  Earlier in November of 1945 the weather had turned colder than usual and the ground had frozen.  Furthermore, an inch and a half of snow fell in the early November.  Luckily, however, the weather warmed enough to allow the soybeans to be harvested by the middle of November.  By this time our Nevada Township farmer’s two sons had made it back to the United States from the war in the Pacific.  They were now back on the farm and were able to help get the crop harvested and hauled straight to the Hunting Elevator.  On top of the problem of dried and split soybeans, our Nevada Township farmer also worried about the timing of his crop coming to the Hunting Elevator.  He was worried that the price of soybeans would fall as more and more of the soybean crop came onto the market across the nation.  WCCO radio out of Minneapolis/St. Paul had reported that the 1945 harvest of soybeans appeared to be a new record harvest.  (This report would later be substantiated by the Department of Agriculture, who would officially report that 193,167,000 bushels of soybeans would be harvested in 1945, setting another new record for the fifth straight year.)  Our Nevada Township farmer worried that the price of soybeans would fall as more of this large harvest came to market.  If the price fell too much, he would have to store the soybeans on the farm to wait for a higher price.  He needed to get as much for the soybeans as he could to offset the losses he expected in February from the sale of his corn.

The Model 10 Grainmaster combine, used by the neighbor, was a large combine, weighing 5,950 pounds.  This combine was really just a portable threshing machine with a ten-foot cutter bar protruding out the right side of the combine.  At ten-feet (120 inches), the cutter bar was wide enough to comfortably harvest three rows of soybeans (planted in 40 or 42 inch rows) with each pass across the field.  This was the configuration of the Model 10 combine in the field.  However, the combine in this configuration was too wide for transport down the road or even through the narrow gates into the fields of the typical post-war farm.  Thus, the cutterbar/feeder was built to be detached from the combine.  Mounted on its own auxiliary transport wheels, the cutterbar/feeder could be towed behind the combine for transporting down the road and through the gates of the individual soybean fields.  This meant that as the neighbor transported the Model 10 combine from farm to farm in the neighborhood, he appeared somewhat as a train moving down the narrow country roads of Nevada Township.

To pull the combine the neighbor used his own 1936 Hart-Parr/Oliver Model 70 Row Crop tractor.  This tractor was the early “streamlined” Model 70’s which contained a Waukesha-made four-cylinder engine.  The neighbor had purchased this Model 70 as a used tractor from Thill Implement of Rose Creek.  This particular tractor was fitted rubber tires front and rear, which was a convenient feature for a tractor involved in custom farming.  Model 70 tractors fitted with rubber tires at the factory were usually also fitted with the optional six-speed transmission including a road gear allowing the tractor to cruise along at 13¼ miles per hour (mph).  This speed certainly hastened the tractor’s ability to move from farm to farm as he towed the Model 10 Grainmaster combine around the neighborhood to harvest the soybean crop.  Additionally, rubber tires on the tractor were becoming a necessity.  The steel lugs on steel-wheeled tractors naturally tore up and ruined the surfaces of graded roads.  As a consequence, county and local governments were starting to ban all tractors with steel lugs from operating on the public roads.

When the neighbor pulled into the farm of our Nevada Township farmer with his “long train,” he immediately headed out of the yard and down the lane to the soybean field.  He pulled the long train into the soybean field where, he began to unhooked the cutterbar/feeder from the rear of the combine and moved it around to its operating position on the right side of the combine.  This whole process of setting up the combine was conducted right on top of the soybean plants located near the gate of the field.  Our Nevada Township farmer cringed as he saw the maneuvering around was running down some of the soybean plants.  Disturbing these dried soybean plants allowed some of the dried pods to crack open and the soybeans inside to fall out onto the ground.  This was a waste of the crop that would reduce the per acre yield of the soybean harvest, but it seemed unavoidable.

Once the cutterbar/feeder was attached to its operating position and all the chains, belts and rubberized aprons were back in place, the neighbor started the four-cylinder Continental engine on the Grainmaster combine.  Once the engine was warmed up he engaged the clutch on the combine and everything on the combine can alive and began to work.

The neighbor adjusted the combine header to a height as low to the ground as possible so that the cutter bar would “shave” the ground leaving a stubble of no more than 1½ inches above the surface of the ground.  He wanted to get all the soybean pods into the combine—even the lowest hanging pods, which may only be about 2 inches above the ground.  The frozen ground was actually a help in this attempt to get as close to the ground as possible.  The skids under the cutterbar/feeder would ride along harmlessly on top of the frozen ground.  Had the ground not been frozen, the skids and the cutterbar might have plunged into the soft ground.  Dirt and mud would then have been picked up and gotten into the combine.

Oliver Model 10 Grain Master Combine front view
The Oliver Company Model No. 10 combine with its 5-batt reel mounted over the cutter bar.

Over the cutter bar of the Grainmaster combine was a reel which consisted of five (5) “bats” that were long enough to reach entirely across the cutter bar.  The cylindrical reel rotated a little faster than the anticipated forward speed of the combine.  As the reel turned each of the five bats would sweep down over the cutter bar and bend the soybean plants over the cutter bar as they were being cut.  This would assure that all of the cut beans plants would fall safely onto the header where a series of rubberized canvas aprons (or drapers) would carry the soybean plants across the platform of the header and up the to the feeder where they would then be fed into the cylinder where the actual threshing of the crop took place.  For harvesting soybeans, the neighbor had slowed the speed of the cylinder down from around 1400 revolutions per minute (rpm), the speed used for threshing wheat and/or oats, to a speed of 700 rpm for gentle threshing of the soybeans.  Once threshed the soybeans fell through the grain screens to the grain pan at the bottom of the No. 10 Grainmaster combine.  There an elevator would pickup the soybeans and carry them to the top of the 50 bushel grain tank located at the very top of the combine.  This grain tank was a gravity flow tank.  Therefore the tank needed to be located above the level of wagons or grain truck beds.  As a consequence, the grain tank gave the No. 10 combine a very high profile.  Indeed, the overall height of the combine from the ground to the top of the grain elevator was in excess of 12 feet.  Usually a very high shed with a high door needed to be built to house the No. 10 Grainmaster combine on farm of every farmer that owned one of these tall combines.

Oliver Model 10 Grain Master combine unloading inO
An Oliver Model No. 10 combine unloading its grain tank into a waiting truck with a grain box.

Once in operation in the field, the No. 10 Grainmaster offered unsurpassed efficiency in the threshing and separation of all crops including soybeans.  However, getting the field “open” enough for efficient operation was another matter.  First the end rows of the near end of the field had to be combined.  The neighbor steered the Model 70 tractor so that the front wheels rolled down the pathway between the first two rows nearest the fence.  The left rear wheel of the tractor passed along in the space between the first row and the fence.  During this first pass across the end of the field only the third, four and fifth rows of soybeans were harvested.  The first two rows nearest the fence were not harvested, but rather were straddled by the tractor pulling the combine.  The soybeans in these rows were disturbed which resulted in further losses of soybeans on the ground as the tractor and the hitch of the combine passed over the dried soybean plants.  Once he reached the side of the field with the front end of the tractor almost touching the fence along the side of the field, the neighbor needed to back the tractor and combine up and turn it around so that he proceed the opposite way across the end of the field.  The process backing the large bulky combine around meant that some more soybean plants were run over by the tractor and combine.

On the return trip back across the field, the neighbor was able to harvest the two rows near the fence, the same rows he had driven over on the first turn across the end of the field.  He reached the other side of the field and turned around to harvest the three remaining rows of the end rows on the near end of the field.  Once all the end rows were harvested, our Nevada Township farmer could drive his Model 28-44 Oliver tractor and his double box wagon onto the stubble of the near end of the field.  Before attempting to combine the long lengthwise rows of the soybean field, the neighbor pulled the combine over near the wagon and stopped.  He, then, dismounted his tractor and walked back to the grain bin of the combine and lowered the chute of the combine over into the wagon.  He then raised the lever of the door of the grain tank and all the soybeans began flowing out of the grain tank and dropping into the wagon box.  The neighbor wanted to empty the 50-bushel grain tank before he headed across the length of the soybean field.  Once reaching the far end of the field, the neighbor would harvest the end rows of the far end before returning to the near end again.  He wanted to make sure he started out with an empty grain tank to be sure that he could make it all the way back with out overflowing the grain tank.

As he headed out across the length of the field, he, again, steered the tractor down the first two rows and harvest only the third, fourth and fifth rows from the fence.  After combining the end rows on the far end of the field, the neighbor made his way down the opposite side of the field harvesting the third, fourth and fifth rows from the fence on that side of the field.  With a very full grain tank he made it once again to the near side of the field.  After emptying the grain tank again he reversed his direction around the field and harvested the two rows nearest the fence that he had run over with the tractor on his first lengthwise round of the entire field.  Now with plenty of room to turn around at both ends of the field the neighbor could complete the harvesting of the soybean crop at top efficiency, without running down any more rows of soybeans.  With every return to the near end of the field, the neighbor would empty his grain tank before heading out again on another trip across the field.

Much as he had worried over the price of soybeans, our Nevada Township farmer was pleasantly surprised to find that the price of soybeans had not fallen.  Indeed the price of soybeans in November had risen to $2.10 per bushel.  Consequently, our Nevada Township farmer hauled his whole soybean crop straight from the field to Hunting elevator in Lyle, Minnesota.  He and his sons were busy hauling the wagon loads of soybeans out of the field with the tractors.  In the yard, the wagon was hitched to his car the soybeans were driven to Lyle.  To prevent the any delays in the harvesting, our Nevada Township farmer also made arrangements with a couple of neighbors with trucks to help haul the crop straight from the field to the Hunting elevator.

Our Nevada Township farmer and his neighbors found that the amount of their soybean crop had been reduced somewhat because of the dry weather conditions during the growing season.  However, this reduction in yield for soybeans was not as serious as it was for corn.  The average per acre yield of soybeans fell to 12 bushels per acre in Mower County as a whole.  This was not as high as the 14 bushels per acre in 1944, nor as high as the 15 bushels per acre county-wide average in 1943.  However, both 1944 and 1943 had been exceptional years for growing soybeans.  In each of those years, Mower County farmers had set a new record for production of soybeans.  Since 1941, the average soybean yield per acre in Mower County had been 13.25 bushels per acre.  Accordingly, despite the dry growing season, the 1945 soybean harvest was only 9.4 % less than the normal harvest.  Clearly, soybeans could sustain dry weather condition better than corn.  This decline in the yield did not prevent Mower County farmers from setting another new record for total production for the third year in a row, with 618,000 bushels of soybeans produced in 1945.

Furthermore, as noted above, when our Nevada Township farmer sold his soybeans he received about $2.10 per bushel for his soybeans.  Thus, the soybean crop largely filled the hole in his yearly budget created by the poor corn harvest.

Thus, soybeans had saved the day on our Nevada Township farmer’s farm.  In 1945, soybeans proved their worth as a cash crop on a diversified farm—a cash crop which could save the family budget when the major cash crop failed.  In his very first year of raising soybeans our Nevada Township farmer had seen the advantage of diversifying his farming operation to include the cash crop of soybeans.  Diversification of his farming operation had worked the way it was supposed to work.

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