Dave Preuhs and the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association

Dave Preuhs and the LeSueur Pioneer Power Association: Build It and They Will Come


Brian Wayne Wells

As published in an issue of the:

Hart-Parr/Oliver Collectors Magazine

The famous “Wheel Arch” main entrance to the Showgrounds of the modern LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association.  Dave Preuh’s dream came true!

Some dreams begin at a very early age and remain with us all of our lives.  So it was for young Dave Preuhs.  Dave, his sister Barb, and brothers Richard and Elroy grew up on their parents’ farm, the Clarence and Edna (Eichler) Preuhs farm, in Tyrone Township, LeSueur County, Minnesota.  Ever since his earliest years, Dave had been fascinated by antiques.  He turned an old brooder house on his parents’ farm into a “museum”  of sorts by gathering together a grain cradle, butter churn, hand corn planter, and other small antique farm implements and displaying them in the brooder house.  (This brooder house can be seen serving as a backdrop for a Hart-Parr Model 16-30 in the picture located on pages 42 & 43 of the book Oliver Tractors: History of Oliver, Hart-Parr, Cockshutt & Cletrac Tractors, by Robert N. Phipps and Andrew Morland.)

The tower at the main public entrance to the grounds of the LeSueur County Pioneer Power grounds.


Some antique farm implements which interested young Dave were too large for his brooder house museum.  He was also attracted to a large thresher on a neighboring farm.  The 1913 thresher, a 36″ x 60″ Nichols and Shepard Red River Special with Carpenter double wings mounted on the feeder (Serial No. 23410), was owned by the Ziegenhagen brothers and had threshed the small grain crops on many of the neighborhood farms during the first few years following its purchase by the Ziegenhagens in 1913.  Indeed, the Ziegenhagen thresher had been used to thresh grain on the Preuhs farm (then owned by Dave’s grandparents, Carl and Anna [Horrisberger] Preuhs) in the years prior to 1917.

The years following World War I brought about a flurry of road building projects across the nation, with the Ziegenhagen Brothers also becoming involved in the road construction business in LeSueur County, leaving precious little time for them to engage in custom threshing.  As a consequence, the large double-wing Red River Special thresher was employed less and less until it was retired to the machine shed in 1942.

As noted in the Nichols and Shepard article Dave Preuhs wrote for the Fall 1995 issue of the Hart Parr/Oliver Collector, page 8, Dave obtained the Ziegenhagen Brothers’ double-wing Nichols and Shepard Red River Special 36″ x 60″ wooden thresher in 1980.  This was the culmination of the dream that Dave had had ever since childhood.  However, there is more to the story of the Ziegenhagen thresher and the dream of a young boy which began so long ago.

While resting in the machine shed on the Ziegenhagen farm, the thresher was visible from the road and attracted the early attention of young Dave Preuhs.  On every trip to LeCenter, Dave would encourage his parents to take the route which would bring them by the Ziegenhagen farm, three miles east of the Preuhs farm, so that he could catch a glimpse of the large double-wing thresher.  He also listened carefully to the stories the older generation of neighbors told about the large thresher.  Wouldn’t it be fine if that big thresher could once again be put into action for everybody to see?

Although during his childhood on the farm Dave’s parents had used a combine for small grain harvesting, he did have early memories of a thresher in action.  At the age of five, Dave’s parents took him to a local threshing show put on by “Steam Engine Joe” Rynda of Montgomery, Minnesota.  The show was held each year in the 1940s and 1950s on the Rynda farm.  (Readers may have seen this farm in modern days on the western edge of the City of Montgomery, Minnesota, where many old steam engines still sit out in the yard.)  Dave has distinct memories of Joe Rynda feeding an old wooden hand-fed thresher.  At the show, Dave remembers that two women dressed in old-fashioned long dresses stood on the platform, one on either side of Steam Engine Joe, and cut the bands on the bundles as he fed the loose bundles into the thresher.

These early memories of Steam Engine Joe Rynda further stimulated Dave’s thoughts of making the Ziegenhagen thresher the center of a “living museum.”  From these early childhood fantasies would grow the present LeSueur County Pioneer Power Show located on its own grounds within eyesight of the Preuhs farm.

Although Dave could not have consciously foreseen all of the details of the future LeSueur County Pioneer Power Show at the age of ten, and although he would have other experiences with other threshers which would continue to mold his childhood dream, it is significant that he would use the term “museum,” indicating that the public would be invited to come see the exhibits in this museum.  This childhood fantasy was clearly linked to the dream of seeing the Ziegenhagen thresher operating, just as he had seen the threshers operating at the Joe Rynda threshing show.  Together, these ideas indicate that even in childhood the broad outlines of a public threshing show built around the Ziegenhagen thresher were already in his mind.  Although young Dave may not have been totally cognizant of the event, the foundation of the future LeSueur County Pioneer Power Show had already been laid.

As related in his article, Dave’s first opportunity to work on a threshing crew was in 1965.  The thresher being used at that time was a 28″ x 46″ all-steel Red River Special (Serial No. 53290) owned by Paul and Ida Mae (Schultz) Bessel of Belle Plaine, Minnesota (maternal grandparents of Dave’s future wife, Carol [Madlo] Preuhs).  According to the serial number index for Nichols and Shepard threshers in the back of C.H. Wendel’s book, Oliver/Hart Parr, page 295, the thresher is a 1946 model.  In 1965, the Bessel thresher was powered by an Oliver 88 owned by Willy (Sonny) Bessel.  This one experience of actually working around an operating thresher gave another strong boost to Dave’s lifelong interest in threshing.  Unfortunately, 1965 was destined to be the last year that the Bessel thresher would be used in active threshing.

In 1968, Dave married Carol Madlo and together they settled on the Preuhs farm to take over the farming operations.  After six years of talking about a threshing bee with his neighbors, Dave was successful in convincing some of them to help him host the project on his farm in August 1974.  Being unable to obtain the Ziegenhagen thresher, Dave was able to obtain the Bessel 28″ x 46″ Red River Special.  Antique farm machinery at this first threshing bee was rather limited, consisting of a 1926 John Deere D (spoker) owned by Eldon Braun, Dave’s 1928 John Deere D, and a 1929 Model A Ford truck owned by Al Easterlund.  Total attendance at the threshing bee consisted of 22 people from the immediate neighborhood.  However, a good time was had by all, and the neighbors agreed to have another threshing bee the next year.

The 1975 threshing bee was held on the Edwin Reddemann farm. (Readers of the Hart-Parr/Oliver Collector magazine are familiar with the Ed Reddemann farm from the descriptions contained in the article on the Horn Manufacturing Company in the Winter 1995 issue, page 20.)  This Show was advertised for the first time in local newspapers and by means of 8½” x 10″ xeroxed leaflets.  (Copies of these leaflets and posters from subsequent years of the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Show have been lovingly preserved by Pioneer Power member, Mike Bluhm, in frames behind glass.  These framed posters now hang on the north wall of the new Pancake House on the showgrounds of the Association.  Visitors to the show pass by these cabinets as they wait in line for their pancake breakfast each day of the show.)  Featured at this show for the first time was a 1927 Hart-Parr Model 18-36 tractor (Serial No. 27652) Dave had obtained in 1974.  The engine was stuck on the little Hart-Parr when he bought it, but over the winter Dave had restored the tractor in time for it to be shown at the 1975 threshing bee.  Dave’s Model 18-36 was a nice match for the Bessel thresher and produced more than enough horsepower needed to operate the Bessel 28 x 46 Red River Special.  (A Model 18-36 tractor delivered 42.85 hp at the belt pulley as a maximum on kerosene at the Nebraska tests in 1926.  See Test No. 128 on page 54 of Nebraska Tractor Tests by C.H. Wendel.)  Furthermore, because the Hart-Parr and Nicols and Shepard companies were merged with the Oliver Chilled Plow Company on April 1, 1929, the Model 18-36 tractor was entirely appropriate to match with the Bessel all-steel Nichols and Shepard 28″ x 46″ thresher.  In preparation for the 1975 threshing bee, some of the neighbors built a stack from bundles of oats.  This was the first year that grain was threshed from a stack.  The 40-60 persons in attendance saw stack threshing demonstrated with the fine running, but as yet unpainted, Model 18-36 powering the Bessel thresher.  Exhibits at the show also included several stationary gas engines and a few other tractors.

Adopting the name “Dresselville-Tyrone Threshers” for the first time, the 1976 threshing bee was moved back to the Preuhs farm located on the southern boundary of Tyrone township.  Desselville was the name of an old community located southwest of the Preuhs farm.  Although Dresselville was largely a memory by 1976, the unincorporated village had at one time consisted of a school, church, post office, and creamery.  (The building that housed the Dresselville creamery was moved to the LeSueur County Pioneer Power showgrounds in 1980 where it became part of the permanent collection of exhibits.  Indeed, prior to 1993, the Dresselville creamery was used each morning of the annual show to house the pancake breakfast.)  The 1976 Dresselville-Tyrone threshing bee was advertised by means of a limited number of posters which were circulated locally.  About 100 people attended the August 8, 1976 threshing bee.  The crowd was treated to the first appearance of the 45-65 Avery tractor owned by the Budenski brothers of West Concord, Minnesota, and treated for the first time to field demonstrations of corn shredding and plowing.  In addition, Orbe Reddemann of rural LeSueur, Minnesota,  operated his Ottawa cross-cut log saw for the first time.  In all, 15 tractors, 20 stationary gas engines, and 4 antique cars and trucks were exhibited.  A donation box was used to collect contributions from those in attendance.

Finally, on March 1, 1977, seventeen neighbors interested in the Dresselville/Tyrone threshing bee met in the large farm shop on the Eldon Braun farm and decided to incorporate into a non-profit association.  Upon the suggestion of Ivan Guertin, the association was called the “LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association.”  It was thought that the name would enlarge the appeal of the association beyond the immediate Dresselville/Tyrone area to all of LeSueur County.  Little did the founders realize, but the Association would soon have national appeal.  (There is an interesting interview captured on tape by Patti Lehner of LeSueur, Minnesota, of a man attending the 1988 show who was from Santa Marie, California.  During the interview, the man stated that even though he was from California, he and his wife had attended the Pioneer Power Show in the years prior to 1988, noting for the camera that the 1988 show had “grown a lot” over the previous Pioneer Power Shows that he had attended.)  At the founding meeting of the Association, Dave Preuhs was elected president; Eldon Braun, vice-president; Ivan Guertin, secretary; and Bill Thelemann, treasurer.  Also elected as members of the Board were Frank Boehne, Ken Braun, John Pollack, Brian Guertin, Glendon Braun, and Wayne Schwartz.  Other charter members at the first meeting were Monty Braun, Jim Schultz, LeRoy Thelemann, and Maurice Thelemann.  All necessary papers were filed with the State of Minnesota for non-profit, tax-exempt status.  The 1977 show was scheduled for the first full weekend in August, with advertising greatly expanded.  Many large posters were printed and distributed over a much larger area than the year before and admission/advertising buttons were ordered and sold to the public for the first time.  The 1977 show was advertised nationally in Gas Engine magazine, Engines and Engineers magazine, and Iron Man magazine.  With that, the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association was finally born.  Membership grew at a steady rate.  Monthly meetings of the Association were held at various places; sometimes even the granary on the picturesque Preuhs farm was employed for this purpose.

The enlarged two-day Show in 1977, now re-scheduled for the last weekend in August, was again held at the Dave Preuhs farm.  An estimated crowd of 300 people attended.  Among the 50 tractors exhibited at this show were both of Dave Preuhs’ Hart-Parrs–the Model 18-36 and the new Model 15-30 (Serial No. 17892) which Dave had purchased in December of 1976 as his second Hart-Parr restoration project.  The 1977 show was the first to feature a sawmill demonstration with Mike Kovich (now deceased) of Jordan, Minnesota, bringing his portable sawmill.  During the day he demonstrated the process of sawing logs for all those in attendance.  Two steam engines were operated and paraded for the first time.  In addition to the 50 tractors, 75 gas engines were exhibited in the grove on the Preuhs farm.  (Many of the exhibits at the 1977 Show, including the Mike Kovich sawmill, can be seen in the movies contained in the second hour portion of Tape #2 of the International Harvester collection.)

By 1978, the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Show was rapidly becoming a fixture.  Regularly scheduled each year on the last weekend of August, the Show competed for the public’s attention with the first weekend of the Minnesota State Fair.  However, as the State Fair and its prime attraction “machinery hill” metamorphosed from a rural orientation of tractors and combines to a more suburban orientation of lawn mowers and snow blowers, the Pioneer Power Show represented an attractive alternative to many State Fair attendees.   As a result, there was a boom in attendance and exhibits at the 1978 show.  This large crowd was all the more remarkable considering the fact that four to five inches of rain fell on Saturday night, turning the Preuhs farm ground into a sea of mud for the second day of the show.

With the tremendous growth, it was clear that the show had outgrown the Preuhs farm.  Accordingly, a 20-year lease agreement was made with Ervin Dahn, a local farmer, to rent his large wooded grove about two miles south of the Preuhs farm as the permanent site for the show.  In preparation for the 1979 Show, the members constructed loading docks on the west side of the Dahn grove near the main entrance to the prospective show grounds.  Additionally, a building with a kitchen was constructed on the property by Orbe Reddemann.  This shop became known as Orbee’s Eat Shop, serving food to the public beginning in 1979.  (This same building houses the kitchen which is currently operated by the LeSueur Lions Club.)  The year 1979 was another year of large growth for the Pioneer Power Association.  Although attendance remained at about the 500 figure, exhibits were 50% higher than they had been at the 1978 Show.  Memberships in the Association rose by about 50%–from 55 to 75 dues-paying members.

Following the Show in 1979, Dave traded a Model T Ford truck for his third Hart-Parr–a 1929 Model 28-50 (Serial No. 71313).  Still, as the Show grew from year to year, it became apparent that people were attracted by the opportunity to see big antique machinery at work.  For Dave this meant a big thresher, and the thresher that he had in mind was the Ziegenhagen 36″ x 60″ wooden Red River Special thresher.  He had attempted earlier to restore an all-steel 36″ x 60″ Red River Special thresher with Garden City double-wings on the feeder; however, this thresher was found to be too rusted for restoration.  Thus, another all-steel 36″ x 60″ Red River Special thresher was found and brought to the Pioneer Power grounds.  This thresher also had Garden City double-wings and was used in field demonstrations at the Pioneer Power Shows immediately preceding 1980.  It threshed well; however, it was not as old as the wooden Ziegenhagen thresher and its history was not as related to the neighborhood around the Pioneer Power grounds as was the history of the Ziegenhagen thresher.  Accordingly, Dave still sought the proper opportunity to purchase the Ziegenhagen thresher.  This opportunity finally arose in the summer of 1980, when Dave was able to purchase the Ziegenhagen thresher.

After concluding a deal with Arnie Ziegenhagen, the day finally arrived when Dave would retrieve the big wooden thresher that had first caught his attention so many years before.  With the help of his friend, neighbor, and fellow-founding member of the Pioneer Power Association John Pollack, Dave set out to get the large thresher from the machine shed where it had rested since 1942.  As related in Dave’s article, he and John Pollack first had to cut down the tree that had grown up in front of the machine shed since the thresher had first been put there for storage.  After that task was accomplished, the thresher was pulled out of the shed and secured for transfer down the road to the Preuhs farm.

Pulling up into the yard of the Preuhs farm, the grand old wooden thresher was once again on a farm it had left some 63 years before.  As a result of the relatively low number of actual operational hours on the thresher and its storage indoors, the thresher remained in very good condition.  Therefore, only a minimal amount of work needed to be performed on the thresher in the weeks before the 1980 Show.

At the 1980 Show, the large Ziegenhagen thresher took the primary role of doing the stack threshing during the field demonstrations.  Standing on top of the Ziegenhagen thresher in front of the 500 people who attended, Dave must have felt that his childhood dream had come true in a way that exceeded any expectations.

The Melounek-Deutsch sawmill in its new building was added to  the grounds of the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association in time for the 1983 Annual Show.


The large Red River Special thresher continued to occupy a primary role at the Show until 1991, when it yielded that position to the 36″ x 58″ Case thresher with a double-wing feeder donated to the Association by the Baumgard Brothers of Good Thunder, Minnesota. The Baumgard thresher had been newly restored by LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association member, Doug Hager, of Good Thunder, Minnesota, in anticipation of the fact that the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association would be hosting the  J.I. Case Collectors’ Summer Convention during the August 1991 Threshing Show.

The seventh page of the article on Dave Preuhs and the Pioneer Power Association as published in the Oliver/Hart Parr Collection magazine.  Dave Preuhs can be seen standing on top of the “Bessell thresher.”


At some future date when the Hart-Parr/Oliver Collectors come to LeSueur for their summer convention, they are sure to see the Ziegenhagen Red River Special occupying the center stage between the stacks on the Showgrounds.  With the help of this article, readers may also understand the additional significance of the large thresher to the history of the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association itself.

The Horn Manufacturing Company of Fort Dodge Iowa

The Horn Manufacturing Company of Fort Dodge Iowa


Brian Wayne Wells

as published in an issue of

Hart-Parr/Oliver Collectors Magazine

The Horn Manufacturing Company of Fort Dodge, Iowa.

The winter of 1994 issue of the Hart-Parr/Oliver Collectors Magazine carried an excellent article by Bob Tallman on the various “short line” distributors or manufacturers of farm equipment which the Oliver Corporation used to fill out their line of equipment available at local Oliver dealerships.  (Bob Tallman, “Allied Equipment,” Hart-Parr/Oliver Collectors Magazine, Volume 5, No. 3, [Winter 1994] p. 9.)  One of the short line companies mentioned in that article was the Horn Manufacturing Company, manufacturers of the famous Horn-draulic loader.  The Horn Company story is one that needs elaboration.

A Horn Manufacturing Company loader mounted on a Farmall Model F-20 tractor.


Paul Horn had immigrated from Germany in 1902 and worked at the Fort Dodge Planing Mill until 1904 when he married.  After living in Minneapolis, Minnesota for three years, the couple returned to Fort Dodge in 1908 and built the house that later became known as the “Horn Home”–a local landmark located at Sixth Avenue South and Twelfth Street.  The couple had six children.  In 1909, Paul Horn founded the Paul Horn Cabinet Works.  The Paul Horn Cabinet Works flourished and later became incorporated as the Horn Manufacturing Company.  In 1922, Paul Horn invented the “Horn Folding Partitions” for use in schools and other public buildings.  These partitions were a handy way of temporarily dividing large gymnasiums for practice sessions and physical education courses in schools across the nation.  In 1938, Horn also invented “Horn Folding Bleachers” for use in school gymnasiums.

The Horn Manufacturing Company expanded its line of products to include folding gymnasium bleachers and folding room partitions.


The Horn Company manufactured their products in two Quonset buildings that they built on a 23-acre site west of Fort Dodge, Iowa.  This triangular-shaped piece of property had originally been owned by Martin Fireworks Company.  Safe storage of fireworks required dispersion of the fireworks into several small storage facilities.  Consequently, when the Horn Company bought the property they found many small buildings scattered around the site.

An aerial view of the Horn Manufacturing Company 23-acre factory site located in Fort Dodge, Iowa.


During the Second World War, the Horn Company was commissioned to make large airplane hanger doors for military installations around the United States.  Indeed, for the duration of the war, these doors were the only product that the Horn Company could make.  Use of steel was regulated by the United States Government and could only be purchased for use in products directly related to the war effort.

The Chicago Great Western Railway served Fort Dodge, Iowa and, thus, was the Horn Manufacturing Company’s connection with their customers across the Midwest.



Although the 23-acre Horn Company site was served by a spur from the Great Western Railroad line which ran along the east side of property, during this time the Company found that it was much more efficient to have their own trucks deliver the doors to their locations rather than rely on the railroads.  Therefore, twenty IHC K-8 trucks were purchased along with thirty Freuhauf flatbed trailers for transporting the big hanger doors to military airfields as far away as Alaska.  At the peak of production, the Company was making a set of doors each day.  The trucks would return from a trip, be unhooked from the empty flatbed, attached to a loaded flatbed and ready to go again within hours.

In 1943, Paul Horn retired and left management of the Company to his four sons–Herbert (born in 1906), Frederic (born in 1909), Walter (born in 1912) and Robert (born in 1914).  Herbert became president of the Company.

Amid the celebration of the end of the war in 1945, there was the harsh realization for the Horn Company that soon there would be no more contracts for hanger doors from the government.  Indeed, one Friday in late 1945, after V-J Day on September 2, a telephone call from Washington, D.C. informed them that no more purchases of hanger doors would be forthcoming.  It was a pretty gloomy day for the management and employees of the Horn Company.  Production of the only product for which the Company had been tooled for the last three-and-a-half years was to end as soon as all current contracts were filled.  Furthermore, the return to production of gymnasium partitions and bleacher seats was not a promising prospect given the fact that the economy immediately following the war showed little hope that a great number of new schools were going to be built in the near future.  Many companies were unable to re-tool and find a niche in the peacetime market and went out of business.  This same prospect was a very real possibility for the Horn Company in the late fall of 1945.  Frederic Horn, who now lives in San Marcos, California, remembers that following this gloomy Friday he had a chance to be uptown in Fort Dodge.  He stopped in at a familiar meeting place for the citizens of Fort Dodge at that time–the local Sears and Roebuck Company outlet store.  Reflecting on the problems facing the Horn Company, he asked the manager of the Sears store, in an off-handed way, whether there were any products which the Horn Company could make for Sears.  The manager replied that there was a terrific demand for wagon boxes.  This started the Horn brothers thinking about a new product for their company.

An advertisement of the farm products that were being manufactured by the Horn Manufacturing Company including the new flare-style wagon box.


During the pre-war period, grain boxes for wagons had changed from the very narrow straight-sided “triple box” design to the “flare box” in which the top part of the wagon box flared outward at an angle over the wheels of the running gear.  The flare box offered greatly increased volume inside the box while retaining a low center of gravity.  However, the boxes continued to be made exclusively of wood and continued to be painted green no matter who the manufacturer happened to be.

The discussion undertaken by the Horn brothers about the production of wagon boxes soon centered around whether an all-steel flare-type grain box would sell in the domestic farm market which had been accustomed to only wooden boxes.  Frederic and his brother Robert, who now lives in Florida, were in favor of building a prototype and testing the waters of the domestic farm market.  Their brother Herbert was opposed, but soon changed his mind and prototypes of the proposed 105-bushel all-steel flare-type wagon box were built.

In anticipation of the entry of the Company into production of farm equipment, the Company was divided down the middle.  The two new companies were the Horn Brothers Company, which continued with the production of gymnasium dividers, folding bleachers and hanger doors, and the Horn Manufacturing Company, which was to make the new all-steel flare-type wagon box.  Additionally, the 23-acre site was also divided right down the middle.  The western part, where the two Quonset buildings were located, was to belong to the Horn Brothers Company, while a new larger facility was erected on the eastern half of the property for the Horn Manufacturing Company.

Word of the new all-steel wagon boxes being made in Fort Dodge spread, and soon Sears and Roebuck Company contacted the Horn Manufacturing Company to have a look at the new prototypes.  When the Sears representatives arrived in Fort Dodge in February of 1946, they asked if they could test one of the prototypes.  Horn Manufacturing Company officials agreed, and the Sears team set about putting the box on a steel-wheeled running gear, loaded the box to the top with sand, and proceeded to pull the wagon over the frozen rough ground as fast as the tractor would go.  The Horn Manufacturing Company management watched nervously from a car following the wagon full of sand on that cold February day.  After pulling the wagon full of sand over the frozen roads around their Fort Dodge plant, the Sears team then pulled the loaded wagon into a ditch and out again!  This was much more than normal abuse for a wagon box!  Then the Sears team unloaded the sand and proceeded to look for cracks in the box.  They did not find any cracks, and soon the Sears and Roebuck Company signed a contract to purchase a large number of the all-steel boxes to be included in their David Bradley line of farm equipment.  Sears immediately discontinued the wooden barge-style box they had advertised in the Spring/Summer 1946 catalogue and introduced the all-steel flare-type 570-pound wagon box in the Fall/Winter 1946 catalogue.  The price for the box was $91.90.  The advertisement in the Sears catalogue stressed the ruggedness of the wagon box and showed a drawing of the wagon box being severely twisted as the wagon gear was being pulled over a rock.  The Horn Company management probably thought this was considerably understating the facts, given the severity of the test they had witnessed the previous spring!

The Sears contract was the saving grace for the Horn Company in the period immediately following the war.  Sears was later to renew the contract on an annual basis and would eventually buy 10,000 all-steel wagon boxes per year under the contract.  In accordance with the tradition that wagon boxes were painted green, the all-steel flare-type grain boxes which were sold to Sears for the first year of the contract were painted lime-green.  The particular shade of lime-green was chosen to match the David Bradley color scheme of red and green.   Paint numbers to this lime-green paint exist, but cannot be easily cross-referenced to NAPA (Martin-Senour) numbers or to current DuPont numbers.  W.G. Humphreys, editor of the David Bradley Newsletter, reports that best results in reproducing this lime-green paint have been obtained by mixing equal parts of the old style John Deere green (Martin-Senour 90R-3737) with John Deere yellow (Martin-Senour 90T-3739).

Sales of the wagon box by Sears was so successful that after that first year Sears felt confident enough to defy custom and they changed the color of the wagon box to David Bradley red.  Consequently, all wagon boxes sold by Sears under the David Bradley name, after the first year, were painted David Bradley red.  David Bradley red is correctly emulated these days by use of Massey-Ferguson tractor red (Martin-Senour 4763).  Although the overwhelming number of David Bradley wagon boxes seen today are red in color, a few samples of the green David Bradley wagon boxes dating from that first year of production can still be found around the midwest.

            Horn also sold the identical all-steel flare-type wagon box under their own name.  This box was painted red, stenciled with the Horn Manufacturing Company name and trimmed with some pin-striping.  The Horn Company used “International Red” for all products sold under the Horn name.  This paint is now known as “Farmall Red” (Martin-Senour 99-4115) to distinguish the paint from the newer darker shade of red used on current IHC equipment.  International Red became the company’s standard paint which was used on all the farm equipment manufactured under the Horn Company name.

In 1947, the Horn Manufacturing Company expanded their line of farm equipment to include the farm tractor loader which became known as the “Horn-draulic” loader.  The Horn-draulic loader had two hydraulic cylinders which were mounted vertically on either side of the tractor.  These cylinders were connected to a 3/8-inch steel cable which did the lifting of the loader.  The result, as Bob Tallman wrote in his article “Allied Equipment,” was “a loosely connected arrangement that was like the ears of a flopsy mopsy cottontail rabbit.” (Ibid., p. 10.)  Nonetheless, in the post-war farm market there was much pent-up demand for new products to make farming easier, and the Horn-draulic loader sold so well that it soon passed up the all-steel wagon box as the Horn Company’s leading farm equipment product.  This loader was also painted with the same red paint as the all-steel wagon box.

As noted in the Tallman article, the Horn Company developed a close relationship with Oliver Company for the marketing of the Horn-draulic loader.  Consequently, the Horn-draulic was sold at Oliver dealerships around the nation.  Because some International Harvester dealerships found that early designs of the IHC tractor loader were awkward and cumbersome, these dealerships marketed the Horn-draulic loader in their dealerships as a substitute for the unwieldy early IHC loader.  (Examples of the awkward IHC loaders can be seen in the 1944 IHC promotional movie “One-Man Harvesting.”)

Modifications were made to the Horn-draulic loader and separate models of the Horn-draulic were introduced for different styles of tractors available during the post-war period.  The advertisement contained in the Bob Tallman article at page 11 of the Winter issue of the Hart-Parr/Oliver Collector magazine, which probably dates from 1949, shows that five different models of Horn-draulic loader were available at that time:  the original cable-type loader, made for row-crop style tractors; the Conversion Loader, for wide front-end row-crop tractors; the standard-type loader for large standard style tractors (i.e., the Case D, LA and S; International W-6 and W-9; John Deere AO, AR, BR and D; Massey-Harris 30, 44 and 55; Minneapolis-Moline UTS; and, of course, Oliver 70, 77, 88, 90 and 99 Standard tractors); the “Ford-type” loader for smaller utility style tractors (i.e., the Ford 8N and Ford/Ferguson 9N and the Oliver 60 and 66 Standards); and another style of loader was designed for the emerging crawler market (i.e., John Deere MC and Oliver/Cletrac HG42 and HG68).  The advertisement boasts that various models of the Horn-draulic loader were designed to fit over 52 different tractors.  For the tractors without hydraulics the Horn Company sold Char-Lynn pumps under the name “Horn-draulic Power Units.”

Due to the tremendous sales of the loader and the wagon box, the Horn Company opened an Export Office in Chicago and eventually had a plant in Cardiff, England to capitalize on the farm market in Europe.  Domestically, along with the close relationship with Oliver and Sears, the Horn Company also marketed their farm equipment in the United States through the plethora of independent farm equipment dealerships which sprang up after the Second World War.  One such independent dealership was Becker and Preuhs.  This business was started by George Becker, Wilfred Preuhs and Alvin Preuhs in 1947, and was located behind the Wilke Hotel at about 107 North Main Street in LeSueur, Minnesota (1940 pop. 2,302).  The business was chiefly an auto and tractor repair business; however, they also sold some short line farm equipment.  Among the products sold by Becker and Preuhs were Ferguson plows and the Horn-draulic loader.

Near the end of 1947, one particular cable-type Horn-draulic loader, adorned with its coat of red paint and its “Horn-draulic” decals on the upper end of the boom arms on both sides of the loader, came out of the Horn plant at Fort Dodge, Iowa.  The loader was part of an order of farm equipment destined for the Becker-Preuhs dealership.  Although the Horn Company preferred to use their trucks for delivery of their products whenever possible, Becker and Preuhs had specified delivery by railroad because the Chicago Northwestern train depot in LeSueur was only about two blocks from their dealership.

Therefore, the loader and other equipment was loaded into a boxcar which was to become part of a train moving north out of Fort Dodge on the Minneapolis-St. Louis Railway.

Across the very flat plains of northern Iowa rode the loader in the late fall of 1947.  The cornstalks revealed that the corn had been picked, and many fields had already been plowed to bury the corn stalks in an attempt to defeat the corn borer which had caused $50 million dollars worth of damage to the nation’s corn crop in 1947.  The train passed through the Iowa towns of Humboldt (pop. 4,794) and Livermore (pop. 490) before connecting with the Chicago-Northwestern Railroad at LuVerne (pop. 418) and moving across North Central Iowa, through Algona (pop. 6,289), before crossing the Minnesota border at Elmore, Minnesota (1940 pop. 935).  The boxcar with the Horn-draulic loader then passed by the Stokley-Van Camp cannery in Winnebago, Minnesota (1940 pop. 1,992) and proceeded on north past the sweet corn fields which served the cannery and the seed corn fields of Northrup-King in southwestern Blue Earth County.  On the train went, until it arrived at the Chicago & Northwestern junction in Lake Crystal, Minnesota (1940 pop. 1,319).  Here the boxcar containing the Horn-draulic loader was switched to a train headed east to Mankato and then north up the lovely Minnesota River valley.  (Commercial advertising by the Green Giant Company, located in LeSueur, Minnesota, at that time, had dubbed the Minnesota River Valley as the “Valley of the Jolly Green Giant.”)  Although the tree foliage was now beyond its peak, the valley remained beautiful, even this late in the season.  Arriving in LeSueur, the Horn-draulic loader, along with the rest of the other Horn equipment, was off-loaded at the LeSueur depot where the order was picked up by employees of Becker and Preuhs and taken to the dealership.

By and large, the farms around the LeSueur area were diversified, each with their own dairy herd.  Dairy farming was hard work, but provided a regular income.  However, one of the problems faced by dairy farmers each year was the big pile of manure that built up outside their barns.  A track supporting a dump bucket was loaded with manure from the gutters of the barn each morning after milking.  The bucket was then wheeled along the track, down the alleyway of the barn, and out the door into the cow yard where the manure was dumped into a pile.  There is an old saying, mentioned in the IHC promotional movie Keep It Moving, that a country banker, when driving down the road, could make a pretty fair estimate of the worth of a farming operation by looking at the size of the manure pile outside the barn.  The bigger the pile, the more cows, indicating a strong base of regular income for the farm and therefore a good credit risk.

That big manure pile created a major problem, though, in the summer when it had to be moved to the field.  Farmers in the LeSueur area had for years been tackling this problem by hand, one “forkful” at a time, loading the spreader full from the pile and trying to get a load to the field during brief lulls in their field work.  It was a summer-long effort to reduce a manure pile!  No wonder, then, the hydraulic farm tractor loader was such an attraction to farmers.  It promised a much quicker and easier method of disposing large piles of manure.

One LeSueur area farmer who was curious about hydraulic loaders was Edwin Reddemann.  In 1948, Edwin and Mary (Krentz) Reddemann and their sons Eugene and Ivan operated the 80 acres that they owned and another 80 acres that they rented.  Although the Reddemann farm was to become a predominately Oliver equipment farm, the tractor purchased by Edwin Reddemann in 1948 was a new Farmall H.  One of the most attractive features of the Farmall H which Edwin Reddemann noticed was the built-in Touch-O-Matic hydraulic system.  He could see the possibilities of mounting a loader on the H without the need of a Char-Lynn auxiliary unit.  This would leave the power take-off shaft on the Farmall H free for other farm operations even while the loader remained on the tractor.  The Reddemanns had converted their four-wheel horse-drawn New Idea manure spreader so that it could be towed by a tractor.

In early 1948, Edwin Reddemann conceived of a plan to tackle the manure pile on the east side of his barn.  He reasoned that if the farmers of his neighborhood worked cooperatively each year for threshing and silo filling, why couldn’t they do the same to spread the manure from the piles on their respective farms.  He proposed to his neighbors Clarence Preuhs (brother of Wilfred Preuhs) and Adolph Preuhs that they all combine their finances to purchase a loader.  The idea was approved and soon the three families purchased a Horn-draulic loader from the Becker and Preuhs dealership.

That summer during the short lull in the harvest season, just after harvesting the wheat and oats and before silo filling, when field space became available in the wheat and oat fields to spread the manure, the neighbors gathered at the Reddemann farm with their tractors and manure spreaders.  Clarence Preuhs arrived on the Reddemann farm driving his John Deere M and tractor-drawn two-wheeled manure spreader across the field path that connected the Reddemann farm with the driveway to the Clarence Preuhs farm (this path was jokingly referred to as Interstate #169 South!).   Adolph Preuhs appeared with his four-wheeled New Idea manure spreader pulled by his John Deere H.  The east end of the Reddemann barn overlooked a hill, requiring the tractor and loader to work on the pile going up hill.  Nonetheless, the loader kept three manure spreaders busy going to and from the fields.  Quickly, the Reddemann manure pile was reduced to nothing and with much less effort than in previous years.  Once the job was completed at the Reddemann farm, the loader was removed from the Reddemann Farmall H and mounted on Clarence Preuhs’ 1945 John Deere A.  Then the next day they gathered on the 140-acre Clarence Preuhs farm.  On the south side of the barn was a year’s worth of manure from the dairy herd.  Working all that day, the pile was rapidly hauled to the field.  Next the Horn-draulic loader was switched to the Adoph Preuhs’ 1941 John Deere A for work on their manure pile.

Fascinated with this process on each farm was the next generation; Ivan Reddemann, Richard and Dave Preuhs, and Adolph’s grand-nephew Orval Loewe.  For them it was a great adventure, just like threshing season and silo filling season.   Soon these boys became the drivers of the tractors pulling the loaded manure spreaders to the fields.  As boys do, they became involved in hijinks on many occasions.  One time as Ivan and Richard were spreading in tandem across the field, Ivan’s spreader pulled slightly ahead in their “race” to the other end of the field.  A rock in the manure flew out of Ivan’s spreader and hit Richard in the mouth.  Luckily, no permanent damage was done, but the boys learned that farm work was not a game.  Before heading out “I-169” on the way to the fields on the Reddemann farm, the boys would stop at an apple tree at the edge of the yard to get some apples which were just starting to ripen.  It was a great time.  The memories of that time linger to this day in the minds of these boys, Ivan Reddemann, Oral Loewe and Dave Preuhs, who are now operating the same farms.

These days, Ivan Reddemann (long-time member of the Hart-Parr/Oliver Collectors Association and most eligible bachelor in Tyrone Township) lives alone on the Reddemann farm with his dog Barney.  (Barney is a wanderlust dog:  when things get a little slow around the Reddemann farm, Barney looks for the nearest school bus and follows it the seven or eight miles to town.  He has learned that school buses mean kids who love to play with dogs.  Generally, however, playtime is rather short at school before the first bell sounds and Barney is usually “arrested” by the LeSueur City police who know him by name.  Ivan is then called to bring Barney home.)  Ivan no longer milks cows, but raises beef calves and still uses the Horn-draulic loader to clean out the inside of his barn.  The loader is now permanently mounted on the 1948 Farmall H.  Rather than the tine bucket which came with the loader, Ivan uses a homemade snow bucket.  Despite the heavier load, the Horn-draulic loader continues to function well.  Once while the loader was being used to fill tiling ditches, the tractor and loader tuned over on its side, breaking a side arm on the loader.  This damage was repaired by Glendon Braun, a local farmer and master welder.  Despite the additional supporting braces that were welded onto the loader at that time, the loader remains in the same general appearance as when it was purchased in 1948.

The Horn family sold their interests in the Horn Manufacturing Company to AVCO Manufacturing Company in April of 1951.  AVCO assigned the operations of the Horn Company to its New Idea Farm Equipment Division.  Horn loaders under the New Idea name continued to be manufactured in the Fort Dodge facility along with stalk choppers and fertilizer spreaders.  In 1953, AVCO/New Idea expanded the Fort Dodge facility by adding 33,400 square feet of floor space to the existing plant.  By 1954, the plant employed 115 workers and had the capability to produce 1,500 loaders, 300 fertilizer spreaders and 1000 stalk shredders per month when working at full capacity.  In 1955, the manufacture of fertilizer spreaders was moved to the AVCO/New Idea facility in Collegeville, Pennsylvania.  Nonetheless, the Fort Dodge plant continued to produce loaders and by 1960 was employing 300 workers and manufacturing the New Idea hay conditioner.  Although AVCO\New Idea has since been sold to other concerns, the manufacture of farm equipment continues to this day at the Fort Dodge factory that originally produced the Horn-draulic loader on the 23-acre Horn Company site.

The Horn Brothers Company, which made the gymnasium partitions and bleacher seats, was sold to the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company of Chicago, Illinois in 1952.  Immediately after the sale, all operations for the manufacture of bleachers and gymnasium partitions located on the western side of the original 23-acre Horn Company site were removed from Fort Dodge to other Brunswick facilities around the nation.

The Horn-draulic loader continues to be a useful tool on some modern-day farms even to the present day.  Whether it survives as a useful working tool or as a restoration project, the Horn-draulic loader will continue to serve as a salute to the people involved in the design, manufacture and use of this pioneering farm loader and as a salute to American agriculture.

An Oliver 100 Series Two-bottom Plowmaster

An Oliver 100 Series Two-bottom Plowmaster

with 14-inch Bottoms at Work in Nicollet County, Minnesota.


Brian Wayne Wells

as published in the Spring of 1995 issue of the

Hart-Parr Oliver Collectors Magazine



In South Bend, Indiana, among the other industrial plants located there, were the Oliver Corporation’s Plant #1 and Plant #2.  Plant #1 had been devoted to the production of the famous Oliver chilled steel-bottom plows since 1853.  (See C.H. Wendel, Oliver/Hart-Parr [Motorbooks International: Oseola, Wisconsin, 1992], p. 107.)  Since about 1938, Oliver had been manufacturing the 100-Series Plowmaster plows at its South Bend factories.  These plows had the patented Raydex bottoms which had been designed by Herman and Rudolph (Rudi) Altgelt, brothers, who were employed as engineers by the Oliver Company from the 1920s through the 1940s.  (See “The First Oliver Tractor” on page 18 of the November/December 1990 issue of Antique Power for the story of the Altgelt Brothers.)

An Oliver Plowmaster 100 plow on steel wheels.


Prior to the Second World War, Plowmaster plows were manufactured with steel-wheels.  However, after the war, production of the rubber-tire version of the Plowmaster boomed.  Oliver 100-Series Plowmaster plows contained a number of unique features.  Besides the patented Raydex bottoms and “radius curved” plow shares, the plow had a rack and pinion style mechanical lift (sometimes called a “cock’s comb”), a hand crank style of height adjustment, and an optional clasp hitch with a special rigid clevis which was sold with each plow.  This clevis had to be bolted to the drawbar each time before plowing.  However, once the rigid clevis was in place on the drawbar, hitching the plow to the tractor was much easier.  Detaching the plow was as easy as pressing down on a button on the clasp hitch and driving the tractor forward.

The Oliver clevis for the Plowmaster 100 plow bolted to the swinging drawbar of a tractor.


The 100-Series Plowmaster plow was painted red with green wheels, even though the color scheme of the Oliver Fleetline Model 77 and Model 88 tractors introduced in 1948 was green with red wheels.  Later, however, the color scheme of the plow was reversed to green with red wheels to match the tractors.  Indeed, Bob Tallman, a former Oliver dealer from Tower City, Pennsylvania, from 1946 through 1969, relates that the color scheme of the Oliver 100-Series Plowmaster plows changed three times while he was operating the dealership.

The red Oliver Plowmaster 100 plow with green wheels which was manufactured together with the early Fleetline tractors.


In 1947, a particular 2-bottom 100-Series Plowmaster plow with 14-inch bottoms, the optional caster-type rubber-tired rear trailing wheel, and the optional clasp hitch rolled out of the production department at Plant #1.  Before the plow was shipped, however, the plow was “knocked down,” or KD’ed (disassembled), by the shipping department at Plant #1.  The plow was then placed in a railroad boxcar together with several other KD’ed plows which had been factory-ordered by various southern Minnesota Oliver dealerships.  The plow orders for southern Minnesota had been collected by the Oliver district manager at the Oliver branch house in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  These orders were then  grouped together in railroad boxcar-sized groups to save shipping expenses.  Each railroad boxcar loaded with plows was scheduled to arrive in a centrally located town within different regions of the State of Minnesota.  All of the Oliver dealers within each region were informed of the date on which the boxcar would arrive at some central location in their region.  Each dealer would then make arrangements to pick up the plows they had ordered.

An advertisement of the green Plowmaster 100 plow with red wheels.


In this particular case, the boxcar was headed for Mankato, Minnesota, centrally located in the southern region of the state.  The train left South Bend, Indiana, on the Penn Central tracks headed to Chicago.  At Chicago, the boxcar was transferred to a Chicago and Northwestern train headed north to Minnesota.  It then arrived at the Chicago and Northwestern railroad station in Mankato, Minnesota, where it was spotted to await the next day when the plows would be unloaded.

Among the Oliver dealers scheduled to receive a plow was the H.B. Seitzer Implement dealership of St. Peter, Minnesota, ten miles north of Mankato.  St. Peter, a town of about 6500 at that time, was the county seat located on the eastern edge of Nicollet County in the colorful Minnesota River valley.  Seitzer’s Implement was a family-owned business which had been founded in 1915 as the local Ford car and tractor dealership.  In about 1930, they also became the local Allis-Chalmers dealership.  At about the same time, they obtained the local franchise of the Oliver Company.  This was a convenient combination of franchises because throughout the 1920s Ford and Oliver cooperated to sell Fordson tractors together with Oliver chilled-steel plows.  In 1946, the H.B. Seitzer Company was split into two separate entities.  The Ford car dealership continued at the same location in the 100 block of South Minnesota Avenue in St. Peter while the Allis-Chalmers and Oliver franchises moved to a building at 311 South Front Street in St. Peter.  Both of the companies continued to be known as Seitzer’s.   Mark Seitzer, son of H.B. Seitzer, founder of the company, became the operator of the Oliver and Allis-Chalmers dealership.

Mark Seitzer, now retired, noted that the 100-Series Plowmaster plow was a popular product with area farmers.  The Oliver plows had a good reputation in the area around St. Peter.  Ivan Reddemann, who farms northeast of St. Peter across the Minnesota River in Tyrone Township in LeSueur County, remembers that his father, Edwin Reddemann, found that the Oliver plow was the only plow that would scour easily in the rich black gumbo soil of Nicollet and LeSueur Counties.  Edwin Reddemann had previously tried a McCormick-Deering Little Genius 2-bottom 14-inch plow on steel wheels and a Case 2-bottom 16-inch plow on rubber tires behind the Reddemann family’s Farmall H before settling on an Oliver 100-Series Plowmaster 2-bottom 16-inch plow on rubber tires.

The two bottom Plowmaster on rubber tires.


To the west of St. Peter, in New Sweden township in Nicollet County, Gerald and Ruby (Quist) Wise farmed a 160-acre farm which had originally been homesteaded by Ruby’s mother’s family (Ostrom) in 1869.  In 1947, this farming operation also used an Oliver 2-bottom 100-Series Plowmaster with a 1942 John Deere B.  The Wise family also found that the Plowmaster, which had been purchased at Seitzer’s Implement, worked well in the same type of soil on their farm.  The Plowmaster plow would continue to be used on the Wise farm through the time that Warren Rodning (who married Marilyn Wise, daughter of Gerald and Ruby Wise) took over the farming operation in 1956.  Warren continued to use the Plowmaster plow until he traded the John Deere B and the Plowmaster for the larger and more modern John Deere 630 with a mounted 3-bottom John Deere plow in 1958.

The termination of war-time production quotas, plus the rise in farm commodity prices fueled by the sale of United States foodstuffs in Europe under the Aid to Greece program which was signed into law on May 22, 1947 (Truman, Harry S., Years of Trial and Hope [New American Library, New York, 1956], p. 131) and the tantalizing promise of much wider sales to Europe under the Marshall Plan which was outlined to the public on June 5, 1947 (McCullough, David, Truman [Simon & Schuster, New York, 1950], p. 562) created a large demand for farm machinery in 1947.  Because of the demand and the Plowmaster’s good reputation in the St. Peter area, the management at Seitzer’s knew the Plowmaster they had ordered would not be in the dealership warehouse very long before it would be sold.

After being informed by the Minneapolis branch house of the date on which the plows in the boxcar would be unloaded at Mankato, the Seitzer management made arrangements with a local farmer, who had a truck with a grain box, to go to Mankato to pick up the plow.

Expectations of the management at Seitzer’s proved correct.  Shortly after the Plowmaster arrived at the dealership, it was sold to Alton and Alice (Miner) Jacobson.  At this point, the plow was re-assembled by the employees at Seitzer’s.

A 1937 Allis-Chalmers Model WC tractor, like the one owned by Alton Jacobson, pulling an Oliver Plowmaster 100 plow in the fields.


Alton and Alice Jacobson farmed 80 acres west of St. Peter in the northeast 1/4 section of Section 27 of Oshawa Township in Nicollet County.  This farm had been owned by the Jacobson family ever since it was homesteaded by Alton Jacobson’s grandparents, Hans Carl August Jacobsson and Anna Lisa Pettersdotter Jacobson in 1875.  (Alton’s parents,    The farm would become a registered “Century Farm” in 1975, which means the farm was owned and operated by the same family for 100 years .)

Alton Jacobson was a part  of the wedding party of his uncle, Charles W. Lange married Margaret Bertha Holtz in 1927.  Here Alton Jacobson is pictured in the back row on the left side of the photo. Next to Alton in the second row is Anita Holtz sister of the bride and next to Anita is Fred Holtz, brother of the bride and on the right in the second row is Holteen.    

In 1947, the Jacobson’s and their two sons, Warren and Raymond, were milking cows and raising sheep, hogs, and chickens on their diversified farming operation.  They used nearly all of the corn, oats, and hay they raised as feed for their livestock, but they did sell soybeans each year.  Although they continued to farm with horses in the post-World War II period, they had purchased a new WC Allis-Chalmers tractor on rubber tires from Seitzer Implement in 1940.  It was this tractor that pulled the Plowmaster for most of its productive life on the Jacobson farm.

The Oliver Plowmaster was used on the Jacobson farm until 1985 when Alton Jacobson died.  An auction of the farm machinery was held that year.  Attending the auction was Fred Netz, who had married Jan Miner, niece of Alton and Alice (Miner) Jacobson.  Fred and Jan were both teaching at the elementary school in Nicollet, Minnesota.  In addition, they had just bought a 220-acre farm in the same vicinity, keeping a small parcel for the horses they intended to raise and renting the remaining acreage to Fred’s brother.

Wayne A. Wells, on left, attaching the hitch of the trailer holding the Oliver Plowmaster 100 plow after the purchase of the plow and the Farmall Model H bearing the serial number No. 173093, seen here on the extreme left side of the picture.  Both the tractor and the plow were purchased from from Fred Netz in 1993.  Here Fred Netz is seen on the right side of the picture, holding the Alton Jacobson Oliver Plowmaster 100 plow.


Fred arrived late to the Alton Jacobson auction because he had been busy that morning purchasing a 1944 Farmall H for use on their new farm.  At the conclusion of the auction, he found that with the remaining small amount of property that did not sell was the trusty little Oliver 100-Series Plowmaster plow.  The plow was in very good shape and the two 14-inch bottoms were still shiny with their “land polish” which had been carefully varnished with grease.  The special clevis that had been purchased with the plow was still connected to the hitch.  The auctioneer, however, had been unable to raise a bid on the plow because by 1985 moldboard plowing had fallen out of style in favor of minimum tillage.  Furthermore, the 2-bottom plow was much too small for modern farming requirements.  Therefore, Fred bought the little plow for a nominal price at the conclusion of the sale as a convenience to the estate and the auctioneer.

Fred took the plow to his new farm.  Despite the fact that the 2-bottom plow was outdated on most modern farms, he found that the plow allowed him to get closer to fence rows and ditches than the new larger plows.  Because of this capability, he was able to find a niche for the little Plowmaster in his farming operation and also in the modern farming operations of his brother and other area farmers.  On occasion, Fred performed some “end-row” plowing in some neighborhood fields; however, this work was infrequent and the plow was used less and less as the years went by.  Finally, in 1993, Fred decided to sell both the Farmall H and the Oliver 100-Series Plowmaster plow.

A former Nicollet elementary school principal, Wayne Wells, now of LeSueur, Minnesota, answered his advertisement.  Wayne Wells, definitely a Farmall man, was interested in purchasing the Farmall H, but was not interested in the Oliver plow.  Fred insisted, however, that the plow be part of the package and so the agreement was made.  The tractor and plow were loaded up and transported the short distance to LeSueur, Minnesota.

Mark Wells, of Billerica, Massachusetts, and myself, both sons of Wayne Wells, first saw the little Oliver 2-bottom plow sitting in the backyard of the Wells home in LeSueur, Minnesota, in August of 1993 when we arrived for our annual visit to attend the LeSueur Pioneer Power Show.  As usual, plans had been made to do some work on one of the Wells family’s restoration projects for the Show.  The primary project for this particular Show was to be the restoration of the pre-war McCormick-Deering Little Genius 2-bottom plow.  (The story of this restoration was carried in the September/October 1994 issue of Belt Pulley magazine and is shown in the “second hour” portion of Tape #6 from the International Harvester Promotional Movies Collection.)

During the restoration of the Little Genius, there was plenty of opportunity to compare the Oliver 100-Series Plowmaster plow with the Little Genius side by side.  Wayne Wells noted that the angle of the Raydex bottoms on the Oliver plow was reduced such that it appeared the bottom would slide through the ground easier and that the sod could be turned over more gently than on the Little Genius.  He thought that this must have been the key to Oliver’s reputation for easy scouring in the rich black gumbo soil in the area.

The 100-Series Plowmaster plow was a heavily decaled plow as opposed to the McCormick-Deering plows.  There was a “Plowmaster” decal on the leveling lever, a green and yellow “Oliver” decal on the support beam between the bottoms near the rear of the plow, and then there were the curved “Oliver/Raydex” decals on the backs of the moldboards.  (Actually, on this particular plow, only the rear bottom had the “Oliver/Raydex” decal.)  The front bottom, unlike the rear bottom, was green and had no decal.  It looked as though the front bottom had been replaced sometime during the life of the plow.  As we began to examine the plow closely and to hear other members of the LeSueur Pioneer Power Association talk about the plow, the more we began to warm to the idea of restoring the Plowmaster plow.  However, we determined that the Oliver plow would be long-term project needing a lot of research, definitely not something that was going to be completed even in 1994.

The diagonal crank shaft can be easily seen in this picture. Unfortunately the upward slope of the crank catches the rain in the in the collar into which the crank fits. This usually means that the crank rusts tight in the collar.


First there were some mechanical problems that needed to be addressed.  The height adjustment crank was rusted tight at one setting.  (This is a typical problem for Plowmasters which are stored outdoors.  Because the crank is designed such that the top part screws into a lower pipe, the lower-end pipe catches all the rain water running down the upper portion of the adjustment crank.)  Also, the correct shade of paint and the making of custom-made decals indicated that much time would pass before the plow was completely restored.  Furthermore, the bottoms had lost their shiny “land polish” due to a lack of use and it would take time in the field to get the land polish back.

The arrow on the left side of this picture highlights the unique lift system of the Oliver Plowmaster 100 Series plow. This lift mechanism is called the “cocks comb” lift mechanism and is unique to the Oliver Plowmaster 100 Series plow.


At the August 1993 Threshing Show of the LeSueur Pioneer Power Association, the plow was used to plow a few rounds.  (These first few rounds performed by the as-yet unpainted Plowmaster, pulled by the Wells family’s 1953 Super M, can be seen in the second hour portion of Tape #8 available from International Harvester Promotional Movies.)  This work did wonders for the little 100-Series Plowmaster plow. After one round, the height adjustment crank had broken loose to allow partial height adjustment.  After a couple more rounds, full range of motion had returned to the height adjustment crank.  Furthermore, the land polish on the bottoms started coming back.  At the conclusion of the 1993 Show, the bottoms on the 100-Series Plowmaster plow were varnished with grease and the plow was stored away under a shelter for the winter.

Upon returning to West Virginia, I began to research the 100-Series Plowmaster plow and found that support services for the Oliver plow were very far advanced.  Usually reprints for implements are rare and we have to rely on Swap Meets to find an original implement parts manual or operator’s manual.  However, I was pleased to discover that an Operator’s Manual for the 100-Series Plowmaster plow was available from McMillian’s Oliver Collectibles, Dept. B, 9176 U.S. Route 36, Bradford, Ohio 45308, Telephone: (513) 448-2216.  Contacting Kurt Aumann, Editor of Belt Pulley magazine and a member of the Hart-Parr/Oliver Collectors Association, I was put in touch with Lynn Polesch, 926 Watson St., Ripon, Wisconsin  54971-1761, Telephone: (414) 748-2366 or (414) 748-3996.

The Oliver Plowmaster 100 Series plow s one of the most heavily decaled plows in the farm industry.


Lynn Polesch had just restored an identical 100-Series Plowmaster plow and had made all of the necessary decals.  He had the two-color “Oliver” decal, the “Plowmaster” decals, and the special curved “Oliver/Raydex” decals for the back of the plow bottoms.  He even had the three U.S. Patent numbers which are mounted on the back of the plow bottoms under the curved “Oliver/Raydex” decal and above the plowshare.  Lynn Polesch had made a set of these decals for a friend of his and was willing to sell me a set also.  We have not always found implement decals so readily available.  Indeed, Lynn Polesch is attempting to develop a proper copy of the “McCormick-Deering/ Little Genius No. 8” decal so that restoration of our Little Genius plows may be completed.  Although two different toy models of this plow are currently available from Ertl with the proper decals on them, there is as yet no source for a decal for the full-sized Little Genius plow.

Using C.H. Wendel’s Notebook, the author found that the proper Oliver green paint was Martin-Senour 99L-8746 and the proper red paint for the Oliver tractor wheels was Martin Senour 99N-3752.  These paints can be found at any NAPA store by supplying them with the Martin-Senour numbers.  Although, the Oliver red noted above is the paint recommended for the tractor wheels, I was informed that the red used on the plows made at the South Bend plant may have been slightly different from the red used on the tractor wheels manufactured at the Charles City, Iowa, Oliver tractor plant.  Although this difference is very small, the exact shade for implements is easily obtained by using True Value “Tractor Red” paint which is very inexpensive and available at any True Value hardware store.

A picture taken of the Alton Jacobson Plowmaster 100 Series plow after painting and in the middle of decaling.


The gathering of this information proceeded much more rapidly than the author had anticipated and we began to have expectations that the 100-Series Plowmaster plow could be completed by the time of the 1994 LeSueur Pioneer Power Show.  We ordered the decals and had them sent to LeSueur, Minnesota.  Once again, Mark and I gathered at our parents’ home in LeSueur prior to the show to work on the restoration projects.  This time the Oliver plow was at the top of the list, together with another McCormick-Deering Little Genius (this one a 2-bottom plow of the post-war variety).  Cleaning, wire brushing, and priming of the Oliver plow went as planned.  We obtained paints from the local NAPA store and the local True Value building supply store, and the painting and decaling were completed without difficulty.  The tires on the plow looked to be original equipment, and although they were worn, they appeared to be good tires.  In other words, the restoration of the Oliver plow was a dream.  (This is the way that all restorations should proceed–without difficulties or unexpected problems.)  The plow was finished ahead of schedule and was very flashy in appearance with the extensive number of decals.  However, the plow needed to do more than just look good, it needed to perform.  It needed to be worked in the fields to further polish the bottoms and to bring back the land finish to the surface of the bottoms.  Accordingly, the plow was hooked up to the 1944 Farmall H and taken on a few rounds.  The little plow won much praise at the 1994 Pioneer Power Threshing Show.


The restored Alton Jacobson Oliver Plowmaster Series 100 plow ready to go to the 1994 LeSueur Pioneer Power Show.


Only one problem regarding the Oliver plow arose at the 1994 Show:  what tractor would we use to tow the Plowmaster in the parade held each day of the Threshing Show?  The plow looked somewhat like an orphan among the many Wells family Farmalls.  Despite the fact that the plow had never in its entire life been coupled with an Oliver tractor, it looked incomplete being towed by any tractor other than an Oliver tractor–preferably an Oliver 77 which would be an exact match for the 100-Series Plowmaster plow.  (Miles Zimmerman was quick to suggest to the author that the Cletrac HG would also be an exact match for the 100-Series Plowmaster plow!)  As a partial solution to this problem, it was towed behind a 1930 Model A (22-40) Oliver/Hart-Parr tractor owned by Dave Preuhs of LeCenter, Minnesota.  Although this tractor was a predecessor of the Fleetline Oliver tractor, the Model A Oliver/Hart-Parr was seventeen years older than the 100-Series Plowmaster plow and was not an exact match.

From the author: the Plowmaster still appears to be an orphan waiting for a post-1947 Fleetline Oliver tractor.  Recent developments, however, suggest that this wait may be over sometime in the foreseeable future.  In the summer of 1994, the Wells family obtained a “family heirloom”–a 1938 F-20 which had belonged to the late Robert Westfall, brother-in-law of Wayne Wells.  Robert Westfall had farmed with this tractor until 1978 when it was abandoned in the grove on their farm near Dexter, Minnesota.  While work on this “family heirloom” F-20 tractor continues, Wells family members are already casting an eager eye toward another tractor which is still in use on the Westfall farm–a 1954 Oliver 77 tractor bearing the Serial Number 451745.  As Kurt Aumann has said to the author on many occasions:  “Wait until you start hearing the smooth sound of that six-cylinder engine on a regular basis.  Those Farmalls may have some company.”

Not long after this article was published in the Spring of 1995 issue of the Hart-Parr Oliver Collectors magazine, the 1954 Oliver Model 77 tractor bearing the serial Number 4501745 was purchased by the Wells family from Lorraine Wesfall family.

Long after the death of Robert Westfall and the renting out of the arable land on the Westfall farm, Lorraine (Hanks) Westfall (widow of Robert Westfall and sister of the current author’s mother, continued to live in the building site of the farm. During this time, Oliver Model 77 with the mounted Farmhand loader and the snow bucket had been used by the Westfall adult children for snow removal in the Westfall farm. Finally, in 2006, Lorraine sold the Oliver tractor to the Wells family. In this picture, Mark Wells is seen, on the extreme left side of the photo, admiring No. 4501745 after it has been loaded on the David Preuhs trailer for the trip to LeSueur.


The Robert Westfall family had been renting the Olson farm west of Dexter,Minnesota since March of 1959.  However, in March of 1968, the family purchased another farm in the Dexter neighborhood.  In December of 1968 to Robert Westfall purchased No. 4501745 complete with a Farmhand tractor-mounted loader with a snow bucket for use in the coming winter for snow removal on the farm.  No. 4501745 continued to be used on the Robert and Lorraine Westfall farming operation until Robert passed away on January 13, 1992. Since Lorraine rented out the acreage, she sold the most of the farm machinery on the farm.  However, since she intended to continue living on the farm, she kept No. 4501745 on the farm for her adult children to use for snow removal on the farm.  In 1996 she sold No. 4501745 to the Wells family.  In August of 1996, Mark Wells, brother of the current author, contracted with David Preuhs of LeSueur, Minnesota to take his pickup and trailer from LeSueur, Minnesota to the Westfall farm in near Dexter, Minnesota to pickup the Oliver tractor and bring it back to LeSueur Pioneer Power.

No. 4501745 was taken to LeSueur and eventually taken out to the Kyle Lieske farm in rural Henderson, Minnesota for mechanical work.  Kyle Lieske worked on the Oliver tractor over the winter of 2008-2009.

The Oliver Model 77 tractor bearing the Serial No. 4501745 spent the winter of 2008-2009 at the Kyle Lieske farm where a mechanical overhaul of the engine was performed.  This view of the right side of No. 4501745 shows the tractor’s original configuration of being without a belt pulley drive.


Later in the Spring of 2009, with the mechanical overhaul of the engine complete No. 4501745 was ready to be painted.  Loaded up onto the current author’s new trailer, the tractor brought to West Virginia by the current author and his wife, Sally Robinson Wells.

Purchased in the summer of 2006, the author’s trailer was only two and a half years old in the spring of 2009, when it was used to transport No. 4501745 to West Virginia.


In the Spring of 2009, Jake Lovejoy of Red House, Virginia prepared the tractor for painting later in the Spring.

Jake Lovejoy sits in the operator’s seat of No. 4501745 following the preparation of the tractor for painting.  This picture reveals that the belt pulley drive has still not been added to the tractor.


Over the entire preparation period, a careful review of the tractor was made to determine what other features should be added to the tractor to complete the restoration of the tractor.  Originally, all Fleet Line Oliver tractors had been equipped with a offset “football shaped” muffler which was fitted under the hood of the tractor.  Because of the offset design of this muffler, the inlet of the muffler from the manifold was not inline with the outlet of the muffler leading through the hood of the tractor.  As a result, the opening of the manifold and hole in the hood for the exhaust pipe did not line up.  Consequently, when the tractor needed an new muffler the farmer/owner would have to buy the special offset football-shaped muffler.  To avoid this, some Fleet Line tractor owners would simply cut another hold in the hood directly over manifold outlet and then install a straight muffler as on other brands of tractor.  Sometimes farmer/owners of the Fleet Line series tractors would spent the money to have the offset hole in the hood covered by a sheet metal patch soldered into place.  This had been done to No. 4501745.  (Note the pictures above of the tractor while still on the farm of Kyle Lieske to see the straight muffler on the tractor.)

For the convenience of restorers of the kit to reverse the holes cut in the hood of the tractor is available, as are exact reproductions of the offset football-shaped muffler and the original exhaust pipe which protrudes through the hood to the proper height and includes a raincap.

A second consideration had to be given to whether a belt pulley should be added to No. 4501745.  The tractor had never been fitted with the belt pulley or even the belt pulley drive which had to be fitted the power train of the tractor.  Unlike the power take-off shaft on the tractor which was operated by “live-power” independent  of the drive train, the belt pulley was directly connected to the power train and the clutch of the tractor.


With its Forest Green color, yellow grille and lettering and red wheels and red “chin strap” under the grille, the Fleet Line series of Oliver tractors remains the most complicated and colorful of all tractors produced in the Uniited States.  During June of 2009 No. 4501745 underwent its complicated paint job done by

vejoy of Red House, West Virginia.

Considered as a whole, the story of the Alton Jacobson 100 Series plow is quite a spectacular story.  The entire history of the plow from its sale as a new plow to Alton Jacobson to its current status as being matched to the Westfall Oliver Model 77, means that the plow that has the most complete and dramatic history of any equipment in the Wells family collection has been matched to the most colorful easiest starting and smoothest running of all the tractors in the Wells family collection. The plow compliments the tractor on the basis of the plow’s history on a Century Farm in Nicollet County and the tractor compliments the plow based on its colorfully and beautifully restored paint job and its easy starting and smooth running and its ease of operation.

and r f from tr Defrom   drove his trailer and and she sold the Olver Row Crop to Mark Wells.   Wesvat this The Oliver continued to be used on the farm for u r Retired from farming in tithe Model and Fa;;l V s ;V. The the


By 2010, the Robert Westfall Oliver Model 77 tractor had been obtained and had been beautifully painted and restored in West Virgina and was matched to the Alton Jacobson Plowmaster 2-bottom plow. tractor

The PAPEC Company of Shortsville, New York (Part 2): A Model 127 PAPEC Silo Filler at Work

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The PAPEC Company of Shortsville, New York (Part 2):

A Model 127 PAPEC Silo Filler at Work


 Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the January/February 1996 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

This is a PAPEC Model127 silo filler that was restored by former employees of the PAPEC factory in Shortsville, NY. in 1987.
This is a PAPEC Model127 silo filler that was restored by former employees of the PAPEC factory in Shortsville, NY. in 1987.

            By 1931, the Pneumatic and Propeller Ensilage Company, or Papec for short, was well established at its site in the small up-state town of Shortsville, New York. Model 158, Model 127, Model 81 and Model R Papec stationary silo fillers, as well as various models of hay choppers and hammermills, were rolling out of the Papec facilities in Shortsville. (For a history of the Papec Company, see the November/December, 1995 issue of Belt Pulley, Vol. 8, No. 6.)

            One particular Model 127 Papec stationary silo filler complete, with its shiny new color coat of red, black and two shades of green paint, a Rockwood pulley, and a galvanized feeder, rolled out of the Papec’s Shortsville, New York, facility in early 1931. By prior arrangement with Deere and Webber Company, wholesale distributor of Papec equipment in Minnesota, this particular silo filler was equipted with an optional large pulley for use with tractors with a high rpm. belt pulley. The Model 127 was “knocked down” (KD’ed) or taken apart, into its component parts and put in a waiting boxcar of the New York Central Railroad destined for Beske Implement of Minnesota Lake, Minnesota. The New York Central steam locomotive pulled the train containing the boxcar with the KD’ed silo filler out of Shortsville, through Buffalo, New York, across Pennsylvania’s Erie Triangle, and into the broad plains of Ohio and Indiana, arriving at the end of the New York Central line in Chicago, Illinois. Once in Chicago, the boxcar with the KD’ed silo filler was transferred to another train on the Chicago-Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad for the next phase of the trip to Minnesota. On the Chicago-Milwaukee and St Paul line, the silo filler made its way north to Milwaukee, across Wisconsin to La Crosse, and into southern Minnesota to the little junction town of Wells (1940 pop. 2,517). At the Wells junction, the boxcar with the silo filler was connected to the train that was headed north to Mankato. The first stop on that railroad line was the town of Minnesota Lake, Minnesota (1940 pop. 526). At this stop, the Model 127 Papec silo filler was unloaded onto a truck for the short trip to the Beske Implement dealership, where the KD’ed Papec silo filler was put back together by the employees. The silo filler was soon sold to two area farmers, John T. Goff and Ernest More, of Mapleton, Minnesota (1940 pop. 1070).

            Beske Implement was a very old John Deere dealership, founded by Gus Beske in about 1912. Gus Beske operated the dealership until his son, Woodrow W. Beske, took over its operation upon Gus’ retirement. Minnesota Lake was a small town, serving a rural area which included the larger town of Mapleton, Minnesota. South of Mapleton was the farm of John T. Goff. The picturesque Goff farm was known in the surrounding neighborhood as “the farm with the round barn.” John T. Goff (or “John T.” to friends and associates) had built the round barn to ease the feeding of livestock. The milking cows were placed in stanchions in a circle in the barn. All calf pens were located in the center of the barn. Hay was fed to the calves and cattle from the center of the barn.

A very tall man, himself, John T. Goff takes a break from binding his very tall crop of sorghum on his farm in Mapleton Township, Blue Earth County, Minnesota in 1937.
A very tall man, himself, John T. Goff takes a break from binding his very tall crop of sorghum on his farm in Mapleton Township, Blue Earth County, Minnesota in 1937.

Continue reading The PAPEC Company of Shortsville, New York (Part 2): A Model 127 PAPEC Silo Filler at Work

The PAPEC Company of Shortsville, New York (Part 1)

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The PAPEC Company of Shortsville, New York (Part 1)


Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the November/December 1995 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

The 1987 restoration of a PAPEC Model 127 silo filler at Shortsville, New York.
This is the PAPEC Model 127 silo filler that was restored at Shortsville, New York by a group of former employees of the PAPEC Company as described in this article.

The storing of forage in a silo to cure into ensilage became popular in the United States in the 1890s.  To mechanize that process, the stationary silo filler was invented.

Silo fillers started out as complicated machines which chopped bundles of green corn plants and piled the chopped corn into stacks to be elevated into silos.  Eventually, stationary silo fillers were modified and simplified to a single-stage machine which chopped corn into the appropriate size and then blew the ensilage up a large pipe for distribution inside a silo, all in one step.  This was the stationary silo filler as it is most commonly known.

Many small companies sprang up at about the turn of the century to supply the farmers’ demand for these silo fillers.  One of these companies was founded by Billy Hamlin in Lima, New York, in 1901, and was organized with capital from members of the Hamlin family.  Billy Hamlin had originally wanted to name the company the Union Manufacturing Company; however, he found that there were already six other companies with that name in New York State at that time.  Accordingly, he decided on a name that would emphasize the main product manufactured by his company–silo fillers.  The name he created was the Pneumatic and Propeller Ensilage Company.  The only drawback about the name was that it was hard to pronounce and so the name was shortened to the mnemonic P.A.P.E.C., or Papec.

Filling silo with corn ensilage by means of a PAPEC Model K-3 silo filler
A PAPEC silo filler at work.

Billy Hamlin had purchased a Canadian patent for an “ensilage cutter” and set about refining the design cutter to make an improved silo filler.  Thus, in 1901, Papec began production of a model of silo filler based on the Canadian patent, but with substantial improvements.  This model went through other improvements over time and eventually became the Model C silo filler.  However, in 1904, the venerable Model C was phased out of production and replaced with the Model D.  The Model D would remain in production until 1917.

Empire Tool Company building was sold to PAPEC in 1909
This picture was taken prior to 1909 and is actually the workforce of Empire Tool Company of Shortsville, New York, who worked in the Empire Tool Company buildings in the background. However in 1909, the PAPEC Company purchased these buildings from Empire Tool and began making silo fillers at the site.


Both the Model C and Model D silo fillers were very popular with farmers.  A 1931 Papec advertisement proudly stated that there was still an active market for knives for the Model C more than 27 years after production had ceased.  A 1944 Papec advertisement made similar statements about the Model D which had been out of production for 27 years.

The Papec Company lost money regularly every year from the time of its founding through 1909.  The shareholders blamed Billy Hamlin for the continual losses and deposed him as president of the company in 1909.  At this stage, three remarkable men were enlisted by the shareholders to get the Company on the right track.  Frank Hamlin, now of Naples, New York, remembers that these three men were unique:  “One was a money man” (George W. Hamlin, father of Frank Hamlim, who became the Treasurer); “one was a good manager” (Ward H. Preston, who would serve as President until 1953); “and the third was an ingenious mechanic” (Fred Bullock, who became the plant manager).  These men were each strong individualists.  (An interesting sidelight is that Fred Bullock was a perennial candidate for governor of New York on the Socialist Party ticket until he became Vice President of Papec, at which time he became a Republican!).  Ward Preston, affectionately called “The Commander” by personnel at the factory, was a colorful personality.  He was a person squarely aimed at getting the job done.  Photographs have captured him on hand in the factory when the 20,000th Papec silo filler was completed in 1949.  On another occasion, in 1931, he was photographed at the occasion of the delivery of the first Papec with a galvanized feeder to a local New York farm.

Ward Preston in forground looking at the front of the feeder before crawling up on top of the feeder
Ward Preston inspects a new Model 127 PAPEC silo filler before crawling up on the feeder and pushing the sides of the feeder further apart by jumping on the feeder.

While looking the new machine over in his barnyard, the new owner was asked how he liked it.  The farmer responded that he felt the end of the galvanized feeder was a little too narrow.  Whereupon, to the surprise of those present, The Commander, even then an elderly man, crawled up into the feeder and jumped up into the air and came down with his feet against both sides of the ends of the feeder–spreading the end of the feeder.  “How’s that?” The Commander asked.  The stunned farmer managed to reply that the improvement to the machine was just fine!

These men were individualists, and by all reasonable expectations the new management should have been rent asunder by conflict between these strong personalities.  However, these three men realized that for Papec Company to survive they would each have to work together.  Each of the three men developed a respect for the others and refrained from interfering with those sections of the company outside their own area of expertise.  The result was a harmonious relationship within the management of the Papec Company.

Bridge leading to the PAPEC factory over the river in Shortsville, New York.

            Papec began to make money.  For the next 45 years (until 1954) Papec prospered through the sale of silo fillers and forage equipment.  During this long period of growth, the company lost money for only three years–one year immediately following World War I and for two years during the depression.

It was a long period of growth for Papec.  By 1909, the Papec Machine Company had outgrown their facilities in Lima, New York, and had moved to another location in Shortsville, New York.  Shortsville was located about 25 miles to the east of Lima.  In Shortsville, the Papec Machine Company purchased the old Empire Grain Drill Works building site located near the Canandaigua outlet which flowed through Shortsville.  In the early 1800s, the Empire Grain Drill Works had depended on water from the outlet as the source of power for the site.  (Of course, by 1909, the building had long since been connected to electric power.)  The building site contained a 300-foot-long foundry building and was a good site for the future expansion of Papec.

The Bridge over the river in Shortsville, NY leading to the old Empire Tool Company factory which became the PAPEC factory in 1909.
The Bridge over the river in Shortsville, NY leading to the old Empire Tool Company factory which became the PAPEC factory in 1909.

As the years went by, improvements were made to Papec silo fillers.  Eventually Papec offered a line of silo fillers of different sizes including the Models F, H, and O.  An advertising booklet dating from about 1931 promotes the Papec Model R and Models 81, 127 and 158.  The model numbers of the last three silo fillers correspond to the area of the opening of the throat in square inches:  e.g., the Model 81 had a throat size of 6-3/8″ x 12-3/4″, for a total of 81 square inches; the Model 127 had a throat size of 8-1/2″ x 15″, for a total of 127 square inches; and the Model 158 had a throat size of 8-1/2″ x 18″, for a total of 158 square inches.  The Model R had a throat size of 6-1/8″ x 10-1/8″ throat, for a total of 62-plus square inches.

The Company also made Model N, L and K hay choppers which were identical to the Models 81, 127 and 158 silo fillers, respectively, except the hay choppers were reinforced with heavier construction at certain points to allow for the difficult task of handling dry crops.  Additionally, Papec expanded into the manufacture of the Model 8 and Model 10 Feed Cutters and 13-inch and 16-inch hammermills.  By 1944, the large Model 158 silo filler had been discontinued, and the Model 127 became the largest silo filler built by Papec.

The whole Papec product line was painted with a complicated color scheme, including red, black, and two shades of green, with yellow stenciling or decals.  Originally, the sides of the feeding table of the Papec silo fillers were wooden.  Papec painted these red.


A restored PAPEC stationary silo filler showing the complicated color schemes of th various models of PAPEC silo fillers.


Meanwhile, other improvements were introduced into the line of silo fillers.  In about 1928, Papec discontinued the use of cast iron belt pulleys and contracted with the Rockwood Pulley Company of New York City to supply all the belt pulleys for Papec silo fillers.  Therefore, about from 1928 on, the Rockwood fiber pulley was used exclusively on all Papec silo fillers.  In 1931, Papec introduced a new style of feeding table for their silo fillers and hay choppers.  This new feeding table had galvanized sides so that only the floor of the feeding table remained wooden.  The galvanized feeding table was made standard equipment on the Models 81, 127 and 158 silo fillers.  Only the Model R continued to have a wooden feeding table.  By 1944, however, Model R had been converted from the wooden feeder to the galvanized feeder to match the rest of the Papec line of silo fillers.

Although New York was the fourth largest dairy producing state in the nation, the first three dairy states (Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan) were located a considerable distance from Shortsville.  Because forage equipment was used predominately by dairy farmers, Papec needed to find some way of marketing their product to their richest target:  dairy farmers in the upper midwest and Canada.  In Canada, Papec arranged for the Cockshutt Plow Company Limited to serve as wholesaler and distributor for the Canadian provinces.  Cockshutt had wholesale warehouses at Truro, Nova Scotia; Moncton, New Brunswick; Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island; Montreal, Quebec; Smiths Falls and Brantford, Ontario; Saskatoon, Saskatchewan; and Edmonton, Alberta.  Additionally, Cockshutt had a string of dealerships which were served by these wholesale facilities.  By this single agreement, Papec was positioned to reach nearly every dairy farmer in Canada with sales and service.  The export market was served by Papec facilities at 1 Park Avenue in New York City.  In the United States, Papec established its own Papec wholesale outlets in Indianapolis, Indiana, and Kansas City, Kansas.  As to the remainder of the United States, however, Papec depended on individual wholesaling contracts.  Washington, Oregon, California, and Idaho were served by a contract with John Deere Plow Company, whereby Papec would be marketed through the John Deere dealerships in those states.  The John Deere Company and Deere family brother-in-law C.C. Webber, had formed the wholesaling firm of Deere and Webber Company located at 800-828 Washington Avenue North in Minneapolis, which served as the wholesaler for John Deere equipment in Minnesota.  As a result of Papec’s contract with Deere and Webber, Papec equipment was offered for sale at every John Deere dealership in the state of Minnesota.   In Pennsylvania, Papec contracted with Landis Brothers at the corner of North Queen Street and Walnut Street in Lancaster to serve as wholesaler of Papec equipment for the whole state of Pennsylvania.  Brown County Warehouse Company, located at 501 Liberty Street in Green Bay, served the important state of Wisconsin.  Michigan was served by Western Michigan Storage Company, located at 128-138 Coldbrook Street Northeast in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

In the rest of the nation, Papec sought to make individual contractual arrangements with dealerships.  John Deere dealerships frequently offered the best opportunity as a potential outlet for Papec equipment, because the John Deere line of farm equipment did not include a stationary silo filler.  (Don Mcmillan and Russell Jones, John Deere Tractors and Equipment, Vol. I [New York, N.Y.: American Society of Engineers Press: 1988], p. 272).  As noted in John Deere Tractors and Equipment, the John Deere Company did not get into the manufacture of forage equipment until 1936 with the introduction of their first model of ensilage field harvester.    Consequently, until they began manufacturing their own field harvester, John Deere dealerships were inclined to contract with Papec to supplement the line of John Deere equipment offered by their dealerships.

Once the distribution network had been arranged, Papec needed to insure sufficient transportation to get their products to the wholesaling agents across the nation.  According to Tim Record, historian of the Shortsville/Manchester area of New York State, Shortsville was excellently served by the New York Central Railroad and the small LeHigh Valley Railroad.  However, Papec most often used the Vanderbilt-owned New York Central lines to get their machines to their intended markets.


The New York Central Railroad system covered the rural areas of the eastern United States and the was connected to Chicago which allowed New York Central to transfer to other railroads and, thus, cover the rural and small town areas of the entire Midwest of the United


As farming operations modernized after World War II and filling silo changed from the use of silo fillers to the use of field harvesters, Papec gradually phased out production of the stationary silo filler in favor of production of field forage harvesters.  The ease of handling corn chopped in the field and bringing it to the silo by forage wagon was doing away with the technology of binding corn, just as surely as grain combines had done away with the process binding small grains and feeding the bundles into a thresher.


The new PAPEC forage harvester advertised in a 1949 silo filler. This engine powered field harvester changed silo filling across the United States conducted by a stationary machine located at the site of the silo, a process which was largely completed in the corn field and then the prepared ensilage was brought to the silo.


The Papec Corporation also recognized the direction in which the market for farm forage equipment was headed and started manufacturing forage wagons in 1946. They also began manufacturing their own Papec field harvester.  However, even with Papec’s extension into the area of field forage harvesters, the company was still in a period of decline.  The whole farm machinery market was dwindling.  Furthermore, whereas John Deere had wanted to co-operate with Papec in selling stationary silo fillers, John Deere had long been working on their own design for a field forage harvester and no longer had any interest in working with Papec for the sale of either the stationary silo filler or the Papec field forage harvester.


Processing of the ensilage in the corn field with the new pull-type forage harvester led to the development forage wagons. This particular PAPEC forage wagon reflects that the major design improvement in forage wagons–the automatic front un-loading capability of the wagon controlled by the operator from the tractor seat.


The year of 1949 proved to be the high water mark for earnings and profits for the Papec Corporation.  After 1954, sales and profits continued to sag throughout the remainder of the 1950s and 1960s.  The Company was headed into a long period of decline.  At its peak in 1950, Papec employed 300 people.  Among the long-term employees at Papec were Glen Brackett and Harold Lyon, who were both employed in the engineering department.  In the 1920s and early 1930s, Ken VanSickle worked as a draftsman, Carl Dudley served as plant superintendent, and Harry Sheet also worked at Papec.  In later years, Wayne Holtz and Randy Woodhams served as superintendent and John Kolberg served in the paint department.  Paul Bailey and Paul Sleight also worked at the Shortsville, New York, plant of the Papec Company.

In 1950, the PAPEC Company manufactured the 20,000th silo filler and the event was recognized by "the Old Commander"--Ward Preston.
In 1950, the PAPEC Company manufactured the 20,000th silo filler and the event was recognized by “the Old Commander”–Ward Preston.

In 1953, “The Commander”–Ward Preston–announced his retirement effective as of November 1.  He also announced that Frank Hamlin would be taking over the operation of the Company.  Frank Hamlin, who despite being the son of one of the founders of the company, had started with the Company as a laborer in the sheet metal department.  Over the years he had been groomed by “The Commander” to take over the Company.  Now, at 47 years of age, after 25 years of employment in various positions in the Company–and, incidentally, the largest shareholder of stock in Papec–Frank Hamlin became the President of the Company.

After financial losses in 1968, 1969, and 1970, Papec was sold in 1972 to the Lansdowne Steel and Iron Company of Morton, Pennsylvania.  Papec went through a corporate down-sizing under the management of Landsdowne Steel.  However, this did not save Papec from continual decline, and in November of 1979, all manufacturing ceased.  In February of 1981, Landsdowne closed down all the facilities in Shortsville.  After attempting to make a profit selling replacement parts, Papec closed down all operations in April of 1981.  While lying vacant, the historic old building at the Shortsville site–which had originally been the home of Empire Drill Works–was destroyed by fire.

A PAPEC silo filler at work in hay.
A PAPEC silo filler at work in hay.

Fortunately for restorers of Papec implements, in 1981 the entire parts inventory owned by Papec was purchased by the Randy Hale family of Shelbyville, Tennessee, who then formed J.H. & R. EnterprisesJ.H. & R. Enterprises, located at 1049 Madison Street, Shelbyville, Tennessee  37160-3621, Telephone: (615) 684-9737, offers parts books for sale on the old stationary silo fillers, and by use of these books, Papec parts can still be ordered for stationary silo fillers, or any of the other Papec machines, by the original Papec part numbers.  For the restorer of Papec farm equipment, this source for replacement parts is invaluable.  However, there is one shortcoming.  In the late 1950s, Papec changed its Company colors from the complicated two shades of green, red, and black with yellow lettering, to the simpler yellow with black lettering.   From this point on, even the replacement parts for the older Papec equipment were painted yellow or black.  Therefore, the parts in the inventory of J.H. & R. provide no clue as to the shade of green paint used on the old Papec stationary silo fillers because all of these replacement parts are painted yellow or black, reflecting the Company’s newer colors.  There seems to be no Company records which would help the restorer of Papec machines discover the right shade of paints.  The only clue as to the correct paint shade seems to be a 1987 restoration of a Model 127 silo filler performed by several former Papec employees in Shortsville, New York.

In 1987, Shortsville celebrated its Centennial.  In celebration of Papec, the town’s dominant employer until the 1970s, some of the former employees of Papec and other interested townspeople restored a Papec Model 127 silo filler.  Involved in the restoration were the Mayor of Shortsville Francis (Cap) Walker, his wife Ann Walker, who served as village historian, former Papec employees Paul Bailey, Paul Sleight, Harold Lyons, Wayne Holtz, Randy Woodhams and John Koberg, as well as Jim Tobey, Bill Fox and John Liberty.

The silo filler selected by the Shortsville group had a small Rockwood pulley.  The silo filler was in very good shape and did not need much repair.   It did, however, need to be repainted and re-stenciled.  Working from memory, the former Papec employees used a regular gloss or semi-gloss black for the wheels.  Farmall Red (IHC #2150, PPG-Ditzler #71310 or Martin-Senour #99-4115) was used for the cast iron feed roller housing and the frame and shafts supporting the knife sharpening wheel.  A regular silver paint was used on the galvanized portion of the feeder.  As for the two shades of green, Cap Walker, who works at the local hardware store, spent one evening with the former Papec employees in the project at the hardware store mixing batches of the store’s collection of Benjamin Moore paints to get the most accurate shades of green.  Resulting from that evening session was the conclusion that the lime green color used on the axles and frame is Benjamin Moore Impervo Enamel #420.  Working from a color photo of the restored Model 127, the author found that this shade of lime green is most closely represented by Martin-Senour #274A (Signal Green).  The dark olive green is Benjamin Moore, Morse House Paint #110-43, (Essex Green).  The author found this color to most closely match Martin-Senour #281A.  Cross-indexing of paints to Martin-Senour paint numbers means that these shades of paint will be readily available to restorers across the nation at their local NAPA auto parts stores.

The complicated color scheme of the PAPEC silo filler is clearly evident in this picture of the Model 127 restored in Shortsville, New York by members of the retired work force in 1987.

The 1987 restoration of the Model 127 Papec in Shortsville, New York, may be the final word we ever have on the exact shades of paint used on early Papec equipment.  Since 1987, all of the former employees of Papec involved in the restoration project have died.  Furthermore, as time goes by, the restored Papec in Shortsville will become even more important.  Not only will it serve as a research tool for restorers, but it will stand as a permanent monument to all those men and women who labored in the design, manufacture and sale of the Papec line of equipment.

Threshing with the Volkart Brothers in Beaver Township, Fillmore County, Minnesota

Threshing with the Volkart Brothers in Beaver Township, Fillmore County, Minnesota


Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the September/October 1995 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

Younger brother, Fredrick Volkart feeding bundles of oats into the large 42 inch x 62 inch Case thresher. n the Volkart Bros. farm in 1948
Younger brother, Fredrick Volkart feeding bundles of oats into the large 42 inch x 62 inch Case thresher on the Volkart Bros. farm in 1948

Like most young men, Erhardt and Fred Volkart were anxious to strike out on their own.  In the early 1890s, the two boys were living with their parents Henry and Katherine (Wenig) Volkart, who were renting the Pollard farm (now the Dean Hamlin farm) in the “old town” area north of the village of LeRoy, Minnesota (1890 pop. 523). After saving money for the purchase of their own farm, Erhardt (nicknamed Hard) and Fred Volkart purchased a 160-acre farm in Beaver Township, located in Fillmore County on the border with Mower County.  They were also able to buy another 160 acres just across the road to the west in Mower County.  This second piece of land was without a building site and was covered with timber and pasture land, therefore not much of the land was arable.  It was Fred’s dream that some day he would build a house and building site in the timber on this piece of land; however, that would never happen.

The time was right for buying land.  The United States economy was just emerging from the Panic of 1893.  This recession was the worst in United States history up until that time, but by 1896, however, the rural areas of the nation were starting to come back to life.  Indeed, the rural economy would come roaring back!  Propelled by the growing influence of the young nation in the world economic markets and the resultant increase in exports of agricultural products to those markets, farm prices began to increase in 1896 and kept climbing in 1897.  By 1897, commentators were stating that agriculture in the United States was entering a “new age” of prosperity.  (Harold U. Faulkner, Politics, Reform and Expansion: 1890-1900, [Harper Brothers Publishers: New York, NY, 1959] p. 60.)  It was the start of a period of relative prosperity which would be called the “golden age” of American agriculture and would extend all the way to 1921.

Older brother, Erhardt (nicknamed "Hard") Volkart stands on the top of the 40 x 62 inch Case thresher on the Volkart Bros. farm in 1948.
Older brother, Erhardt (nicknamed “Hard”) Volkart stands on the top of the 40 x 62 inch Case thresher on the Volkart Bros. farm in 1948.

Like their neighbors in Beaver township, the Volkart Brothers operated a diversified farming operation involving crop rotation which included the small grains of wheat and oats.  For the threshing of their small grains, Fred and Erhardt would collaborate with their neighbor to the west, Matt and Doretta (Spencer) Klassy.  At that time, the Klassys farmed the 400-acre Bagan farm which bordered the Volkart farm to the east.  (The Bagan farm is described in an article by Fred Hanks, “Survivors from the Past,” January/February 1994 Belt Pulley, Vol. 7, No. 1, p. 14.  The Bagan farm would eventually be sold to Howard Hanks, father of Fred Hanks and grandfather of the author, in 1945.)

Almost immediately the boys set about improving their farming operation.  In 1896, Hard and Fred built a new barn on their farm.  Later they added other buildings to the site.  Sometime after 1904, when J.I. Case introduced its new line of all-steel threshers, the Volkart Brothers, together with Matt Klassy, purchased one of the new Case all-steel threshers.  They also obtained a steam engine for powering the thresher.  Matt Klassy and later his son Frank became the engineers of the threshing crew, responsible for the operation and care of the steam engine.  Even after Matt Klassy sold the Bagan farm in 1908 and moved to another farm 2-1/2 miles to the west of the Volkart farm, the Klassys and the Volkarts continued to thresh together.

The huge Model 35-70 Minneapolis tractor weighed 22,500 pounds (lbs.) and actually made the ground shake when it passed along the road at its travelling speed of 2.1 mph.
The huge Model 35-70 Minneapolis tractor weighed 22,500 pounds (lbs.) and actually made the ground shake when it passed along the road at its travelling speed of 2.1 mph.

Sometime after the turn of the century, Hard and Fred’s mother, Katherine, died and their father moved to the Volkart farm to stay with his sons.  Later on, another brother, Henry Jr., moved to the farm with his new bride Frieda (Linde) Volkart where they were to raise seven children: George, born in 1912; Wilber (nicknamed Webb), born in 1914; Grace, born in 1916; Raymond (nicknamed Bud), born in 1918; Lorrie, born in 1922; Gerald, (nicknamed Gett and a long time Belt Pulley subscriber until his recent death), born in 1924; and Beverly, born in 1926.  One day while on the farm, the owner of an 80-acre piece of wooded land to the east of the Volkart farm, and directly across the road north of the Bagan farm, approached Henry Jr., offering to sell his land.  Henry Jr. offered him a “low ball” price of $10 per acre, expecting that the seller would walk away.  To Henry’s surprise, the seller immediately accepted the price and the Volkarts found themselves farming yet more land in addition to doing the neighborhood threshing.

On the extreme right side of this picture can be seen the un-styled John Deere Model G owned by Gaylord Aspel in the summerf of 1948.
On the extreme right side of this picture can be seen the un-styled John Deere Model G owned by Gaylord Aspel in the summerf of 1948.

For many years the Volkart/Klassey threshing ring became the only ring in the neighborhood.  However, in later years, another smaller threshing ring was started in the neighborhood by John Anderson.  John, and later his son Mel Anderson, used a Case 28″ x 46″ thresher.  Farmers of the neighborhood were either part of one ring or the other.  One of the farmers in the Vokart ring was Gaylord Aspell.  His son Jim Aspell of LeRoy, Minnesota, is nearly the only person left with first-hand memories of threshing on the Volkart crew.  Members of the ring, who formed the crew during threshing season, looked forward to bringing the thresher to the Volkart home place because it was well known in the neighborhood that Henry Jr.’s wife Frieda was a good cook.

Steam power had its short-comings.  Steam engines spewed forth a constant flow of hot cinders which created a real fire hazard during threshing season.  Furthermore, steam engines required constant attention and manpower to maintain a proper head of steam.  To alleviate the potential for fire and to modernize their farming operations, the Volkarts sought to replace their steam engine with a fuel-powered tractor.  In 1914, B.F. Avery introduced a 25-50 model kerosene-powered tractor.  Sometime after the introduction of this tractor, the Volkart Brothers bought one.  The 25-50 was advertised as being able to pull a five or six-bottom moldboard plow at the drawbar in addition to supplying ample horsepower at the belt.  (C.H. Wendel, Nebraska Tractor Tests Since 1920, [Crestline Publishing: Sarasota, Florida 1985] p. 25.)

A restored 1919 Model 25-50 Avery Tractor which looks like the Volkart’s 1914 Avery tractor.


With the addition of the 80 acres purchased by Henry Jr., which needed to be cleared and plowed for the first time, the Volkart Brothers reasoned that the Avery could help out a great deal with the plowing of this virgin soil as well as some of the hard pasture soil on the “home place.”  Accordingly, they purchased a 5-bottom Avery plow with the 25-50 tractor.

1914 Avery Company advertisement showing the Avery 25-50 tractor pulling a six bottom plow.


Although the 25-50 was a good tractor while it was running, it proved to be a reluctant starter in any season.  Webb Volkart, currently of LeRoy, Minnesota, was an adolescent while the family farmed with the Avery.  He remembers that ether had to be poured into the cups on each of the four cylinders, and then the engine was turned by pulling a large lever attached to the flywheel.  Once started, however, and placed on the belt for the threshing machine, the tractor worked like it was made for belt work–which indeed it was!

About 1926, the Volkart Brothers and Matt Klassy heard about a Minneapolis 35-70 fuel powered tractor and a 40″ x 62″ thresher which were being offered for sale by a farmer in McIntyre, Iowa.  The Minneapolis Threshing Machine Company (MTM) had introduced the 35-70 as the largest tractor in a new line of fuel-powered tractors in 1912.  This huge four-cylinder tractor was one of the largest tractor ever built.  The Model 35-70 was truly big!  It weighed 22,500 lbs and delivered 70 horsepower to the belt.  John Grass Jr., of LeRoy, Minnesota, remembers that when the 35-70 lumbered past at its travelling speed of 2.1 mph, you could feel the ground shake!

The Minneapolis 35-70 tractor purchased by the Volkart Brothers and Frank Klassey, seen here in 1948 powering the 40 x 62 inch Case thresher on the Volkart Bros. farm.

One of these Model 35-70 tractors is currently owned by Frank and Betty Sticha of New Prague, Minnesota, and can be seen powering the Melounek and Deutsch sawmill on the grounds of the LeSueur Pioneer Power Association.  (It can be seen at the beginning of the Second Hour portion of Tape #1 of the International Harvester Promotional movies powering the sawmill and can also be seen at the very end of the same tape, as it was the final exhibit in the parade at the Pioneer Power 1992 Show.)  Although most tractors seem to shrink in size from the childhood memories that one has of the same tractors, the Minneapolis 35-70 still seems every bit as big and awesome now as it does in the childhood memories of the author.

The Volkarts and Matt Klassy purchased the huge tractor and drove it the 16 miles home to the Volkart farm–a trip that must have taken all day.  They recognized that the Minneapolis was not a tractor designed for drawbar work in the field; therefore, no attempt was made to use the Minneapolis for plowing as had been done with the Avery.  The Minneapolis was reserved for belt work each year on the huge Case 40″ x 62″ thresher which came with the tractor.

An Aerial view of the Minneapolis Threshing Machine Company factory in Hopkins, Minnesota.


Although Case did make a 44″ x 66″ thresher, only a handful of these machines were ever built. For all practical purposes, the 40″ Case machine was the largest thresher available to farmers.  Generally, these large threshers were found in the western grain-belt states of the Dakotas and Montana.  Smaller threshers were generally employed on the diversified farms of the row-crop areas like southeastern Minnesota.  The Volkart Brothers were attracted to the thresher because of the double wing extensions on the feeder and the reputation that the thresher had of being impossible to overload.

A double-wing style of feeder attached to a smaller (36 inch) Case thresher.


At that time, stack threshing was common in the LeRoy area.  After cutting and binding the wheat, the farmer would haul the bundles to a central location where the threshing would occur and construct a stack of bundles.  Building the large stack was a technique that had to be learned.  A proper stack would repel the rain and allow the grain to cure, or “sweat,” nearly as effectively as the grain might have done in the small shocks in the field.  The stacks were built just far enough apart to allow the feeder of the thresher to be inserted between the piles so that bundles could be “pitched” into the feeder from both piles simultaneously.  With sufficient wheat or oats, the farmer would build stacks in two rows so that the thresher could be moved ahead in a straight line to the next pair of large stacks once the first pair of stacks was gone.  The bundled grain would then wait on the threshing day.  The advantage of large stacks was that the fields would be cleared of the small grains so that the “under-crop” of hay which may have been planted with the small grain could be allowed to grow unhindered by the shocks as the farmer waited for the thresher to arrive on his farm.

Because stack threshing was typical in the LeRoy area, the Volkart Brothers realized that the double wing attachment to the thresher would be especially useful.  The double wing attachment consisted of two extensions which could be swung out at 90 degree angles on either side of the feeder.  This was a great advantage for stack threshing.  In order to repel rain, stacks were built with a slight downward slope on the outside of the stack.  This meant that the sides of the stack could be slippery for the man or men standing on top of the stack pitching bundles into the feeder.  The double wing attachment to the feeder on threshers basically extended the “feeder” out to the center point of the stack.  The men on the stack could then stand in one place near the center of the stack and place the bundles gently on the wing, rather than “pitching” them into the feeder from the edge of the stack.  The chain apron in the wing would glide the bundles along to the feeder where the bundles would be swallowed up by the thresher.

In 1928, Matt Klassy and his son, Frank,purchased a large 25-45 Case tractor like this tractor which has been converted to a road building roller or packer.


In 1928, the Volkarts and Matt Klassy sold the Avery tractor and the 5-bottom plow.  With their share of the proceeds, Matt Klassy and his son Frank bought a Case cross-motor 25-45.  The tractor was called “cross motor” because the engine was mounted on the tractor with its crank shaft parallel to the axles of the tractor.  The cross motor style of tractors were discontinued by Case in 1929 in favor of the more conventional “in-line” engine tractor with the crank shaft of the engine perpendicular to the axles of the tractor which required the conventional-style differential for the rear end of the tractor.

Foremost in the new line of Case tractors for 1929, all of which were equipped with the in-line engine and the differential-style rear end was the Case Model L.  With their share of the proceeds, the Volkart Brothers bought a new Case Model L tractor along with a three-bottom Case plow.  (For 1929, Case had abandoned the light green, dark green, and red color scheme of the cross motor tractors in favor of the gray color with bright red wheels; however, Case continued its old three-color scheme for their implements.)

A pair of Case Model L tractors on rubber tires with rubber-tired Case plows at an antique tractor show.


The Volkart’s Case Model L and Case plow operating in the fields would have presented a picture very similar to the beautiful color photo of Herb Wessel’s 1938 Model L and Case Centennial plow on the cover of the September/October 1994 issue of Belt Pulley.  (Readers of Old Abe’s News will recognize another picture of the Herb Wessel Model L and Case plow on page 19 of the Winter 1993 issue of Old Abe’s News.)  The Volkarts found that the Model L could walk right along with the three 16″ bottom plow even in the hardest of old pasture soils.  There was good reason for this ability.  The Model L delivered  30.02 horsepower to the drawbar.  (C.H. Wendel, Nebraska Tractor Tests, p. 63.)  Although the Model L also delivered 44.01 hp. at the belt (nearly as much as the old Avery), the Volkart Brothers never put the Model L on the belt with the 40″ Case thresher.  That duty remained exclusively for the huge Minneapolis.

On June 5, 1929, Matt and Doretta Klassy’s son, Frank, married Esther Lamon and started farming on another farm adjoining his father’s farm.  Because of the ample storage space available on this new farm, the Minneapolis and the thresher came to be stored on the Frank Klassy farm.  Every year, then, the thresher and Minneapolis would travel the 2-1/2 miles down the county and township roads to the Volkart farm after the threshing had been completed on the two Klassy farms.  The route allowed the driver plenty of time to think, given the 35-70’s travelling speed of 2.1 mph.  On these slow trips between farms during threshing season, a little boy (the author) on the Wayne Wells farm would hear the huge tractor and thresher coming down the road, and he would have plenty of time to run to the front yard to see them passing.

These trips were so slow between the various farms of the threshing ring that Webb Volkart remembers one of the men on the crew would start off on the trip to the next farm while the rest of the crew ate dinner.  Then when another member of the crew had finished his dinner, he would drive off in a car to relief the driver of the Minneapolis so that the tractor and thresher could proceed to the next farm without any interruptions.

As the years went by, changes occurred in the Volkart family.  Henry and Frieda’s oldest son George married Beatrice Hall and moved off the Volkart farm and onto his own farm south of LeRoy.  Beatrice (Bee) Volkart still lives in the LeRoy community and has become a historian of the Volkart family, collecting many dates and much written material on the Volkarts and their ancestors.  Their second son, Wilbur (Webb) married Ruby Whiteside on March 26, 1943, then he served in the Armed Forces in the Second World War.  Upon his return from the military in November of 1945, he lived on the Volkart home farm for only about one year before he moved into the town of LeRoy to go to work at the John Deere dealership which was owned by the local Farmers Cooperative.  His parents, Henry Jr. and Frieda, and the rest of their family, also moved to town.  Once again, as it had been in the beginning some 50 years before, the farm was being operated solely by Earhardt and Fred Volkart.

During that period of time, changes had also occurred in the method of harvesting small grains which would doom the large threshers, such as the Volkart thresher.  Farmers began to seek tractors for cultivating their row crops.  Farm equipment companies obliged by producing smaller general purpose tricycle-type tractors.  For threshing, this meant that farmers began to seek smaller 22″ and 28″ threshers that could be powered by these smaller row-crop tractors.  Although the threshing rings still existed, there was a trend toward more numerous and smaller rings with smaller threshers.  With smaller rings, the grain on each farm could be threshed sooner after it had been cut; thus the shocks would not have to stay in the fields as long, and interference with the under-crop of hay would be held to a minimum.This meant the demise of stack threshing in favor of shocking the grain in the fields.

Image result for All Crop Harvester Model 60
The introduction of the Allis-Chalmers All-Crop Harvester in 1928 really spelt the beginning of the end of stationary style threshing grains.


However, the real threat to big threshers, and indeed all threshers, came with the introduction of the Allis Chalmers All-Crop Harvester in 1929.  (C.H. Wendel, The Allis Chalmers Story, [Crestline Publishing, Sarasota, Florida 1988], p. 65.)  The small combine was popular from the beginning.  Even as late as the 1950s, despite stiff competition from John Deere, Massey-Harris, Case and International Harvester, one out of three sales of pull-type combines in the nation was an All-Crop Harvester.  (See the Allis-Chalmers promotional movie “Get More, Make More with the 66 Combine” [1957], available from Keith Oltrogge, Box 529, Denver, Iowa 50622-0529, Telephone: (319) 984-5292.)

An advertisement of the new  Allis-Chalmers Model 60 All-Crop Harvester small combine.


This nationwide trend toward combines became pronounced in the period of time following the Second World War, as more farms sought the freedom and independence offered by a combine.  The wheat and oats could be harvested when the grain was ripe, rather than having to “wait on the whole neighborhood” to have grain threshed.  One of the first combines in the LeRoy neighborhood around the Volkart farm was the John Deere No. 7 combine brought to the area by Howard Hanks, who moved onto the Bagan farm in 1945.  (This combine is pictured in the article “Wartime Farmall H” in the July/August 1994 Belt Pulley, Vol. 7, No. 4, p. 13.)

By 1948, threshing with the Volkart’s 40″ Case thresher powered by the Minneapolis 35-70 was enough of an anachronism that it began to attract the interest of all of the neighbors as a sight that was slowly passing from the scene of North American agriculture.  Busy as he was on the Bagan farm with harvesting in 1948 (See the article “Deering and McCormick Grain Binders” in the May/June 1995 issue of Belt Pulley, Vol. 8, No. 3, p. 16), Howard Hanks was sufficiently motivated to get his camera and take pictures of the thresher and Minneapolis tractor operating on the Volkart farm.  In 1976, two of these pictures were published in the LeRoy Independent newspaper along with a story on threshing in the LeRoy area.  These pictures reveal that horses were still being employed during threshing season on the Volkart farm as late as 1948.  Furthermore, the article indicates eight bundle wagons, either pulled by horses or by tractors, were needed that day to keep a steady flow of bundles into the thresher.  Webb Volkart remembers that in earlier years, when the thresher had been set up a substantial distance from the field, up to 16 bundle wagons were needed to keep operations going smoothly at the thresher.

The Volkart brothers sold out their farming operation in the Fall of 1951 and moved into the town of LeRoy, Minnesota, where they lived the remainder of their days with their brother George and his wife Lil (Hansen).  Following the Volkart sale, Frank Klassy and his wife Esther (Lamon) bought a McCormick-Deering 28″ x 46″ thresher in 1952 to do their own threshing, but after two years of farming, Frank put his farm in the Soil Bank government program for ten years and practiced his other profession as a carpenter.  When his farm came out of the Soil Bank in 1964, he rented the farm to the families of John Grass Sr. and Frederick Bhend; however, he continued to live on the farm until his death in 1994.

The story of the Volkart thresher conveniently coincides with the story of the changes that occurred in harvesting of small grains throughout the nation during the first half of the twentieth century, and is similar to that of a great number of farm families.  The fact that part was captured on film helps preserve another chapter in the long history of American agriculture.  It should serve as a lesson to us all about the necessity of saving old pictures and negatives.  Even the most mundane of pictures will, in the future, be very important.

The Anthony Company of Streator, Illinois

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Wagons and Truck Bodies:

The History of the Anthony Company of Streator, Illinois


Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the July/August 1995 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

Restored Anthony wagon box on a home-made wagon gear ready to go to the field
The restored Anthony wagon box on a home-made gear is ready to go to the field.

Just as necessity is the mother of invention, so too necessity gives birth to a lot of restoration projects.  At the 1994 LeSueur Pioneer Power Show, my father Wayne Wells, brother Mark Wells, and I took on the assignment of operating the Paul Meyer/Wallace Bauleke 22″ McCormick-Deering thresher as a field demonstration on the Pioneer Power grounds near rural LeSueur, Minnesota.  (The Paul Meyer/Wallace Bauleke thresher was the subject of the story “History of a Thresher” contained in the May/June 1994 Belt Pulley, Vol. 7, No. 3, p. 19.)  Only my father had previous experience with setting up, leveling, belting and operating a thresher.  Nonetheless, with the help of other members of the Pioneer Power Association, including Doug Hager, Bill Radill, Jimmy Brandt and Dave Preuhs, we got the thresher correctly belted and running.  During the Show, the thresher proved to be a smooth-running and efficient thresher.

There was, however, one big problem we faced at the Show:  there was a definite shortage of grain wagons for all of the threshers that were running.  We could not use the modern-style gravity flow grain boxes because they were too tall to fit under the grain elevators of the old threshers.  Furthermore, the use of modern equipment around old threshers detracted from pictures that we all wanted to take during the Show.  The only answer was to find an old grain-box wagon and restore it for use at the Show during the field demonstrations.

Thus, in the late fall of 1994, Wayne Wells attended the Fahey Auction at Belle Plaine, Minnesota.  This auction, which is held several times a year, has become a regular event for old machinery buffs of the area.  At the auction, Wayne Wells found and purchased a nondescript, but heavy-duty, all-steel, flare-type wagon box without a running gear.

The Anthony wagon box purchased by Wayne Wells is brought to the grounds of the Pioneer Power Association transported on a hay rack.

Closer inspection of the box revealed the name Anthony stamped into the rear panel of the wagon just above the tail gate.  Following the auction, Wayne Wells transported the Anthony wagon box to the grounds of the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association aboard a hay rack.  On the grounds the Anthony wagon was stored under a shelter located on the grounds through the winter of 1994-1995.  Restoration of the Anthony wagon box began the following spring of 1995.

Wayne A. Wells inspects the Anthony wagon box after its arrival on the grounds of the Pioneer Power Association in the winter of 1994-1995..

(An Anthony flare-type wagon box identical to the Wayne Wells wagon box is pictured in the beautiful cover photo of the March/April 1995 issue of Belt Pulley magazine being towed by an Oliver 77 and an Oliver Model 2 Corn Master corn picker.)  We knew very little about the Anthony wagon, and since we wanted to restore the wagon box and paint it the proper color, we had to do some research into the Anthony Company.

A 1949 Oliver Promotional Picture of the Field Research Crew picking corn with an Anthony wagon attached to the picker
A promotional photo showing the Oliver field research crew working with a Model 2 corn picker being powered by an Oliver Model 77 tractor, picking corn in the bumper crop of corn in the autumn of 1949. The wagon being towed by the corn picker is however, an Anthony wagon. The Oliver Company had yet to partner with the Electric Wheel Company of Quincy, Illinois, for the joint manufacture of the “Oliver-Electric” wheel gear and wagon boxes.


The Anthony Company was founded in 1917 by William Anthony, Paul Heflin and Mark Anthony, primarily for purposes of building truck bodies and hoists for trucks.  Initial capital for the Company was supplied by the founders and by means of a small loan from the Union National Bank of Streator, Illinois.  They began production of dump truck bodies at the factory of the L.P. Halladay Company located on Hickory Street in the city limits of Streator, Illinois.

An Aerial view of the Anthony Company factory in Streator, Illinois taken inb the 1940s. This shows the railroad connection with the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad.

Their product line positioned the Anthony Company to take full advantage of the strong demand for heavy equipment required for the building and repairing of roads and highways in the 1920s.  The Company grew rapidly and soon was serving markets in Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, South America, the British Isles, and Australia.  The Anthony Company quickly outgrew its facility on Hickory Street, and in 1920 they moved their operations to another location on the north end of Baker Street.  This 12.2-acre complex on Baker Street was conveniently adjacent to the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad.

Inside the machine shop at the Anthony Company factory at Streator, Illinois
The roomy new machine shop at the Baker Street facility purchased by the Anthony Company of Streator, Illinois. This factory would later become known as rthe Anthony Company’s Plant #1.


The new location allowed the Company to grow and to become a leader in the nation in the production of truck bodies.  The Anthony Company was fortunate in having an extremely talented and dedicated work force.  Ralph Burt, Cecil Worrels, Gene Dapogny and Carl Bole all served as sales managers over the years.  Mark Anthony, son of company founder William Anthony, served as head of the export department.

William Anthony, the founder of the Anthony Company in Streater, Illinois.

Over the years Joseph Barrett served as general manager, John Lyons served as treasurer of the Company, and Ned Whitson and later Robert Hamilton served as plant managers.  Richard Fuller was superintendent of commercial products, James Wallif was superintendent of military products, and Ronald Durham headed the print department.  Herbert Dakin and later Lyle Mustered served as head of the Engineering Department.  Patrick McClernon was contract administrator, William Borglin was manager of the costs department, Carl Tapley was purchasing agent, Leroy Whyowski was director of quality control, and Larry Torres was production control manager.  Later, William Hall served as the head of a ten-person computer department at the company.  An article in the June 24, 1968, Streator Times-Press reported that in 1968, 81-year-old Paul Heflin was still reporting to work at the Anthony Company to perform his duties as secretary of the corporation.

Inside the main part of the Anthony Company factory at Streator, Illinois in 1947
The Anthony Company depended on the population for Streator, Illinois, for a loyal, steady, reliable and talented work force.


Herbert Dakin was another long-term employee of the Anthony Company.  Working as the head designer for the engineering department, he designed the famous telescoping-style of hydraulic hoists for dump trucks.  Development of the telescoping hoist effected a revolution in the trucking business.  (Although Herbert Dakin died in 1975 at the age of 86, his granddaughter, Leslie Poldek, continues to keep memories of the Anthony Company alive as librarian of the Streator Public Library.)  In the early 1940s, Frank Novotney, sales manager for the Anthony Company, designed the first hydraulic lift gate.  Lift gates were folding platforms which fitted to the rear ends of trucks.  These platforms would hydraulically raise and lower from street level to the level of the bed on the truck.  This would allow the driver of the truck, unassisted, to load and unload very heavy equipment.  The lift gate became one of the Company’s most popular products.

Anthony Company Plant in Streeter Illinois
The Anthony Company Plant located in Streator, Illinois in 1963.

Like other companies during World War II, the Anthony Company was restricted to the manufacture of only those products which were needed for the war effort.  The United States Government, however, contracted with the Anthony Company for the production of all kinds of truck bodies for the United States Armed Forces.  One of their largest contracts called for them to produce dump truck bodies for the building of the Alaskan Highway project.  During this contract, the work force broke all known production records for the manufacture of the largest single fleet of heavy duty dump truck bodies.  The Company and its work force was awarded the Army-Navy “E” (Excellence) award for the manufacture of wartime materials.

The Anthony Company of Streator Illinois faced layoffs and cut backs until the Marshall Plan was announced in June of 1947
As the Second World War ended the Anthony Company faced layoffs and cutbacks as they faced the sudden end of military war contracts and a difficult transition to a peacetime economy.

In 1945, just as the Second World War was ending, amid rejoicing that the “boys would soon be coming home,” there was a feeling of uncertainty about the future.  This feeling was based on clear memories of the end of the First World War which had caused a sudden 15% inflationary spike in prices followed by a recession in the spring of 1920.  (Grieder, William, Secrets of the Temple: How the Federal Reserve Runs the Country [Simon and Schuster: New York, NY, 1987], pp. 289-290.)  Typically, at the conclusion of a war, businesses were forced to find other markets for their goods or to re-tool for the manufacture of new products more fitted to peacetime economy.  All too often businesses could not adjust to the new economic conditions, thus throwing their workers into unemployment.

In 1945, this fear was a sour note sounded amidst the celebration!  Several small companies, which had been forced by the War Production Board to produce only products for the war effort, now found their situation desperate as they scrambled to find a niche in the civilian peacetime economy.  One of those companies was the Anthony Company of Streator, Illinois.  Indeed, the atmosphere at the Anthony Company was gloomy as they faced the return to peacetime economy.  There was no current large peacetime demand for truck bodies, nor was there any foreseeable circumstances that offered any hope of a large demand for truck bodies in the future.

The post-war era caused some anxiety among the workforce of the Anthony Company until the Marshakll Plan was announced in ajune of 1947
Fear of the post-war economy and the suden loss of government contracts created anxiety among the workforce of the Anthony Company in 1946.


However, on June 5, 1947, Secretary of State George C. Marshall gave the commencement address at Harvard University.  The speech was used as an opportunity to announce a new Truman Administration proposal for United States aid to be sent to Europe to assist post-war recovery.  (David McCullough, Truman, [Simon and Schuster: New York, NY 1992], pp. 562-563.)  This program, eventually to be called the Marshall Plan, envisioned a mobilization of the whole productive capacity of United States agriculture to fend off starvation in Europe and to help get the European economy moving again.

Dump truck bodies were a second early success for the Anthony Company in the post-war era.

Continue reading The Anthony Company of Streator, Illinois

Deering and McCormick Grain Binders

Deering and McCormick Grain Binders


Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the May/June 1995 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

A advertisement of a McCormick-Deering Grain Binder.

Recently, LeSueur Pioneer Power member, Loren Lindsay, arranged for the donation of a late-model McCormick-Deering 10-foot binder to the Pioneer Power Association.  This binder was purchased new by the late John Depuydt and his wife Mary (Seys) Depuydt in the 1940s, and was employed on the Depuydt farm in rural Mankato, Minnesota, for its entire life.  The binder is being donated to the LeSueur Pioneer Power Association in memory of John by Mary and their son, Greg Depuydt.

McCormick-Deering grain binders were made made at the International Harvester factory known as the “Binxder Works” in
Chicago, Illinois.

The binder is complete and does operate, but the binding mechanism has been temporarily disabled to convert the binder into a windrower.  This was a popular modification made to old binders when farming operations were changed from threshing to combining.

McComick-Deering binders were the result of a blending of all of the best features of four different binders, e.g., Plano, Champion, Deering and McCormick binders, as the result of the merger of these four companies to form International Harvester Company in 1902.  Following the merger, Deering and McCormick binders continued as separate product lines until 1937 when these two lines were discontinued in favor of a single line of McCormick-Deering binders.  (C.H. Wendel, 150 Years of International Harvester, [Crestline Publishing: Sarasota, Florida, 1981], p. 163.)  Even during the period of time from 1902 until 1937, while  Deering and McCormick binders continued to be manufactured as separate lines within the same company, the binders gradually became more and more similar as time passed.  By 1923, the two binder lines had adopted enough of the best features of one another that the Deering and McCormick binders were already basically the same binder. (Ibid., p. 160.)

A postcard advertisement of a McCormick grain binder which dates from a time prior to the 1903 merger of Deering, McCormick, Champion  and Plano binder companies.

The Depuydt binder will no doubt remind many people of binders owned by their families in the past.  one such binder, an 8-foot McCormick binder, was owned by John T. Goff of Mapleton, Minnesota in the 1920s.  By the time that the Hanks family moved to the Goff farm south of Mapleton in 1935, the binder had been converted for use behind the Goff 1931 John Deere D.  The Hanks family rented the Goff farm from 1935 until 1945.  During that period of time they purchased much of the John Goff machinery, including the 1931 John Deere D and the McCormick binder.  The grain binder was used every year during threshing season until 1944 when the Hanks family purchased a 1938 John Deere No. 7 combine for harvesting their small grains.

The 1931 John Deere Model D tractor that was purchased John T. Goff pulling the John Deere McCormick grain binder
The 1931 John Deere Model D tractor that was purchased John T. Goff pulling the John Deere McCormick grain binder

As related earlier, the Hanks family transported the McCormick binder, the No. 7 combine and all their other machinery and moved to the newly purchased 400-acre Bagan farm five miles east of LeRoy, Minnesota, on March 1, 1945.  (Belt Pulley, “The Wartime Farmall H,” July/August 1994, Vol. 7, No. 4, p. 13.)  By the summer of 1948, Howard and Ethel (Buck) Hanks were starting to develop confidence in their economic position.  This was quite different from the extreme uncertainty which they had felt the previous year.  (For the story of the year 1947, see Belt Pulley, January/February 1995, Vol. 8, No. 1, p. 31.)  They were now into their fourth growing season on their farm.

Many changes had also occurred in the family since the previous year.  The family was smaller now.  Daughter Lorraine had married Robert Westfall, and together they rented a farm near Stewartville, Minnesota.  Son Bruce and his new bride Mary (Keller) had been living on the Tony Machovec farm 1/2 mile to the south of the Hanks farm.  During the summer and fall of 1947, he had been working on the Hanks farm every day to earn money to enter seminary school; however, on January 1, 1948, he and Mary had moved to Chicago to attend Moody Bible Institute.  Also, daughter Marilyn had married Wayne Wells.  Although she lived only two miles away on the Wells farm, and although Wayne Wells did cooperate with the Hanks family during corn planting and haying seasons, she too was not around the Hanks farm on a daily basis anymore.  Only eldest son Fred, 18-year-old daughter Hildreth, and 12-year-old John remained on the farm.

In a large family, each child comes to cherish those occasions when they have the undistracted attention of one of their parents.  With sudden reduction in the size of the Hanks family, Hildreth and Johnny noticed that they now enjoyed this opportunity on a more frequent basis.  Hildreth had just graduated from LeRoy High School in June of 1948.  She intended to spend the summer on the farm and then go to Moody Bible Institute in Chicago to further her education.  During her senior year in high school she had been active on the school newspaper.  Hildreth’s boyfriend recognized that the Hanks family enjoyed photography, and so he gave Hildreth a camera as a graduation present.

18 year old Hildreth Hanks sits on the seat of the binder while her father, Howard Hanks, uses her new camera to take this picture.

During the summer of 1948, Hildreth was haunted by the feeling that after she left the farm in the fall to go to college her life would never be the same.  All that summer she used her new camera to take pictures of everyday activities around the farm.  She wanted the pictures as remembrances of her farm life while she was away at school.  She especially wanted to remember the times that she had spent with her father working in the fields.

It was July and the oats were ripe.  Howard was busy preparing the old McCormick binder for the field.  Since the Hanks family purchased the big John Deere No. 7 combine in 1944, the McCormick binder had been modified by disconnecting the bundling mechanism so that the cut grain would flow out in a continuous stream.  The McCormick binder had thereby been converted into a windrower.

Since 1944 the Hanks family had combined their oats. Thus the McCormick binder had been converted into a windrower.
Since 1944 the Hanks family had combined their oats. Thus the McCormick binder had been converted into a windrower.

The day before windrowing the oats in July of 1948, Howard Hanks pulled the binder out of the machine shed.  He then took the rolled up canvases for the binder down from the wire hooks hanging from the rafters in the machine shed.  The canvases had been suspended from these hooks all winter to be safe from the mice.  He installed the canvases on the rollers on the bed, and also on the upper and lower force feeder of the binder.  He could perform this operation without switching the binder out of its length-wise transport position.  Thanks to a square fitting on the drive shaft of the binder, he could use the crank that came with the binder to slowly turn the drive shaft and check the operation of the binder.  Next he greased the binder with the grease gun at all of the Zerk locations.

A Ford Model 8N tractor cultivating in the fields with a rear-mounted two-row cultivator.

The next morning, with his eldest son Fred already in the fields with the new 1948 Ford 8N cultivating with the Ford rear-mounted two-row cultivator, Howard finished the milking and other chores.  Then he backed the 1942 Farmall H out of the alleyway of the corn crib, drove down to the machine shed and hitched the tractor to the 8-foot McCormick grain binder.

Before heading to the field, Howard stopped by the house to get his youngest daughter Hildreth, since she had expressed interest in helping her father today.  As she ran out of the house, Hildreth grabbed her new camera.  She jumped up onto the seat of the binder for the ride to the field.  The H and the binder, riding on its steel transport wheels, then headed down the driveway and out onto the dusty little township road for the short drive to the field of ripened oats.  Over the winter the Hanks family’s dog Ginger had had a litter of puppies.  Two of these partially grown pups now followed the tractor and binder to the field.

Following the disasterously wet year of 1947, the oat crop of 1948 was a tall thick and abundant crop
Following the disasterously wet year of 1947, the oat crop of 1948 was a tall thick and abundant crop

The sweet smell of new mown hay is familiar to many people.  Less familiar is the smell of ripened oats.  It has a much fainter fragrance than hay.  During hay season, the smell of hay becomes so common that it passes unnoticed after a day or so to the workers who are working with the hay.  The fainter smell of ripened oats is noticeable for only a few hours after the start of the oat harvest.  This smell is at times captured in a straw bale.  This fresh smell of summer sunlight and warmth will sometimes be noticeable in the winter as the straw bale is opened up and the straw is spread around a calf pen.  It stands out as a very faint reminder of summer in the middle of winter.  Calves must smell it, too.  Sometimes they will bury their noses in the straw bale, butt their heads on the bale, and then run and jump around as the straw is being shaken out in their pen.

This fragrance has been approximated in a new cologne called “Fahrenheit” by Christian Dior.  The advertisement alleges that the fragrance is the smell of sunshine.  It smells like ripening oats or like fresh oat straw.  Actually, sunshine is a pretty good definition of the fragrance–oat straw really is sunshine in a bale!  A little bit of summer preserved in a bale to be enjoyed in the middle of winter.  No wonder the calves would spirit around the pen when they smelled fresh straw.  This smell was in the air as the H and the binder reached the field.

Howard Hanks driving the 1942 Farmall Model H pulling the McCormick grain binder in the 1948 oat harvest.
Howard Hanks driving the 1942 Farmall Model H pulling the McCormick grain binder in the 1948 oat harvest.

Once across the road/field access and through the narrow gate and into the field, Howard used the binder crank to lower the bull wheel and raise the binder off of the transport wheels.  The transport wheels and their stub axles were removed from the square holes in the axle supports on each side of the binder.  The wheels were then stored next to the field gate, and the binder crank was used to lower the binder into the proper operating height.  Then Hildreth helped her father turn the binder 90 degrees to its operating position.

Although there was no need for an extra person to ride the binder, Hildreth enjoyed coming along to the field.  It was simply a good time for a father and daughter to be together while they accomplished some work on the farm.  Hildreth jumped up into the seat on the binder and reached down with her right hand to twist the clutch lever to put the binder in gear.  Then Howard started the Farmall H on the first counter-clockwise revolution around the oat field.

Because the binder had been converted to a windrower, Hildreth had only to watch the oats flow by on the upper and lower force-feed elevator and then to watch it fall on the ground in one continuous swath as her father drove the H around the oat field.  As she sat there she realized that this was the last summer of her childhood.  In the fall she would be headed off to college in Chicago.  The occasion was not lost on Hildreth.  This was an opportunity to enjoy all of the sights and sounds of the farm and even the smell of ripened oats being harvested.  This opportunity might not be repeated again in the near future.

After a few rounds, they stopped, and Hildreth took a few pictures with her new camera.  Howard was impressed by the height of the oats, and so Hildreth took some pictures of the binder against the oats to show the height of the crop.  She also took pictures of the two puppies that had been frolicking along behind the binder.

Hildreth took these pictures to college with her.  However, chances are good that while in college Hildreth did not admire and analyze the pictures as closely as they are scrutinized today by other family members who are interested in the restoration of old farm machinery.

The 1944 Farmall Model H powering the George Depuydt 10-foot McCormick-Deering grain binder in very wet conditions in the wheat fields of the LeSueur Pioneer Power Association grounds in preparation for the 1994 annual threshing show.

The Depuydt McCormick-Deering 10-foot binder brings back memories of the Hanks 8-foot McCormick binder.  Similarity, the current restoration of a 5-foot Deering binder by Donald Wells of Mercer Island, Washington is reviving memories of the 7-foot Deering binder that he used on his parent’s (George and Louise Wells) 160-acre farm near LeRoy, Minnesota, was about two miles west of the Hanks farm.  The 5-foot Deering binder currently being restored by Donald Wells was originally purchased by George Lawson of San Juan Island, Washington in about 1917.  It was used on the island to harvest wheat.  When Donald Wells found the Deering binder on San Juan Island, it was owned by Etta Egeland, grand-daughter of George Lawson.  The binder, which had been sitting in the field exactly where it was last used, was in need of extensive restoration.  Therefore, this project continues to be on-going.

As both the Depuydt McCormick-Deering binder and the Lawson/Egeland Deering binder are brought back to operating condition, it is hoped that more memories of old binders of the past will be stirred.  These restoration projects serve as a memorial to all those people who manufactured and used these farm machines of a by-gone era.

The Algoma Foundry and Machine Company of Algoma Wisconsin

Algoma is “OK”:

History of the Algoma Foundary and Machine Company of Algoma, Wisconsin


Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the March/April 1995 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

The restored Lindstom silo filler in 1994.
The restored OK silo filler manufactured by Algoma Foundry and Machine Company which was formerly owned by Roy Johnson, Harris Quist, Howard Nelson and Leonard Johnson and later sold to Maynard Mohn od Center City, Minnesota.

The ensilage process of chopping green corn or hay and storing it in a silo was first developed by August Goffart, a French experimenter, in 1877.  (Robert C. Nesbit, Wisconsin: A History [University of Wisconsin Press; Madison, Wisconsin, 1973], p. 291.)  In 1880, Dr. H.S. Weeks, of Ononomowoc, Wisconsin, also conducted experiments with ensilage stored in silos.  The success of Dr. Weeks’ experiments led some pioneering farmers to construct silos for storage of this new type of cattle feed.  Later experiments found that three cows could be fed for seven months on one acre of silage crops while it would take two acres of hay to feed just one cow for the same seven months.

At first, there was a major resistance to this new method of chopping and storing ensilage based on the belief that the fodder would eat away at the stomachs of cows or cause them to lose their teeth.  As of 1904, there were only 716 silos in the entire state of Wisconsin.  However, in the early 1900s, William Dempster Hoard, editor of Hoard’s Dairyman, began promoting silage for dairy herds in his magazine.  Thus, following the First World War, silos started to spring up across the nation as farmers began to see the advantages of silage.


Most commonly, silage was cut into pieces about an inch in length.  Machines were developed to facilitate this procedure, and the ensilage cutter–or stationary forage harvester–was born, with the dairy state of Wisconsin becoming the center for manufacturing and sales of silage equipment.  One of the companies that realized the potential market for ensilage cutters in Wisconsin was the Algoma Foundry and Machine Company of Algoma, Wisconsin.

The Algoma Machine company factory located east of the 4th Street Bridge
The Algoma Machine company factory located east of the 4th Street Bridge

Algoma is a small city of 3,600 people located on the shore of Lake Michigan at the base of Door Peninsula.  The entity that was to become the  Algoma Company was first established there in 1883 as A. Hamacek and Company by Adolf and Anton Hamacek.  A. Hamacek and Company made horse-drawn farm machinery and operated an electric light plant for those Algoma residents who had electric lighting in their homes and businesses.  On August 28, 1891, Adolph Hamacek left the partnership and moved to Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin.  Anton, however, continued to operate the business alone until the spring of 1893 when he formed another partnership with Joseph Wodsedalek and August Ziemer from Kewaunee, Wisconsin.  On August 6, 1895, a fire totally destroyed the business’s two-story building located in the 600 block of Fremont Street in Algoma.  Following the fire, the partnership purchased a new property, just east of the new Fourth Street Bridge in Algoma, owned by John Ihlenfeld.  This was an excellent location which was served by a spur of the Green Bay and Western Railroad.  The partnership then moved their operations to the single-story building located on that property.

During World War I, one of the partnership’s employees, Joseph Sticka, a machinist, conceived of his own design for a stationary forage harvester and left the employ of the partnership to establish his own business.  However, the business he established was not sufficiently capitalized and he soon sought the backing of his old employer.  Thus, in 1920, the partnership began mass producing the forage harvester developed by Joseph Sticka.

In March of 1920, the partnership was transformed into a company and incorporated as the Algoma Foundry and Machine Company.  Joseph Wodsedalek became president and Joseph F. Sticka became a director.  E.W. Anderogg, general manager of the Algoma Net Company, also became a director.  While continuing his work at the Net Company, Mr Anderogg sat on the board of the Algoma Foundry and Machine Company as representative of the interests of his boss, M.W. Perry, president of the Algoma Net Company.  M.W. Perry, although a minority shareholder, had loaned the Algoma Foundry and Machine Company a great deal of money.  Therefore, M.L. Perry had much influence over the company.

Shortly after they became incorporated, the Algoma Company introduced a new line of modern farm equipment bearing the trade name OK.  This line included forage harvesters–or ensilage cutters–forage blowers, feed grinders and hammermills.  This expansion, however, was ill-timed.

Workers in the Algoma Foundry and Machine Company in Algoma Wisconsin.
Workers in the Algoma Foundry and Machine Company in Algoma Wisconsin.

Although it is commonly accepted that the Great Depression began with the stock market crash in 1929 following a period of prosperity throughout the 1920s, the facts are that in the rural areas of the nation the depression actually began in 1921 with the fall in the price of farm products following the end of World War I.  Farmers were feeling the effects of the depression as early as 1921.  This meant that there was little demand for new farm machinery from that time until the nation began to recover in the 1930s.  As a result, the Algoma Foundry and Machine Company suffered deficits for the first nine years of its existence.

A financial statement, dated Feb. 1, 1929, noted that the corporation had a $38,807.20 deficit in its annual budget at that time.  The board required action and the corporation underwent a financial reorganization whereby the persons who had loaned the company money were made preferred stockholders in the corporation.  Suddenly, all the creditors of the company became the owners of the company.  In short, this meant that M.W. Perry became the majority shareholder of the company with 51% of the shares.  He also bought out all of the remaining inrterests of the Joseph Wodsedalek family.

On March 2, 1929, a new management team was installed.  M.W. Perry became the new president and E.W. Anderogg became the new general manager of the Algoma Foundry and Machine Company.  Following the reorganization, the compamy underwent a corporate down-sizing and under the new leadership managed to finish the year in good order and even showed a profit.  Consequently, in 1929, the corporation made its first profit in the face of the financial dislocations which occurred on Wall Street in October of 1929 and continued profitably for the next three years.

In the Spring of 1932, E.W. Anderogg was made treasurer.  The Company then began to cast about to find the right person to fill the position of general manager and were fortunate in obtaining the services of E.J. Albro for this position.  He had served as manager of the farm equipment division of the Montgomery Ward Company for 15 years, from 1917 to 1932.   In his position at Montgomery Ward, E.J. Albro had supervised the purchasing of thousands of dollars of fly nets from the Algoma Net Company.  Now he used his influence to arrange for Montgomery Ward to purchase all of their hammermills from the Algoma Foundry and Machine CompanyMontgomery Ward would sell these farm implements under their own name and eventually would become the Algoma Foundry and Machine Company’s largest single customer, absorbing 35% of all of the farm equipment they produced.

The silo fillers produced by the Algoma Foundry and Machine Company continued to follow the original design conceived by Joseph F. Sticka; however, with some small improvements made to the original design.  Two sizes of silo fillers were offered, e.g., a 13″ throat model and a 15″ throat model.  These two models came out of the factory, along with the hammermills and all of the other farm equipment offered by the Algoma Foundry and Machine Company, cloaked in the green paint that in the early years symbolized the OK line of farm machinery.  A bright yellow “OK” insignia would appear on both sides of the hinged casing covering the knife wheel.  Another insignia declaring “Mfd. by Algoma Foundry and Machine Company, Algoma, Wisconsin” was stenciled on both sides of the transport frame underneath the feeding table.  Although no paint numbers now exist which could allow a restorer to recreate the exact shade of this green paint, according to John Beitling, long-term employee of the paint department, the shade was very close to the green color which was habitually used on 1948-1950 Chevrolet pickups.

When Montgomery Ward began placing large orders for hammermills and other equipment, the purchasing contract required that such equipment be painted Montgomery Ward red and that the equipment bear no insignias.  Marvin Zirbel, another former employee of the Algoma Company, remembers that to save cost the Company made the decision to change the color of its entire line of OK equipment to Montgomery Ward red, Martin-Senour 99L-1637.  (Later, in 1964, when Massey-Ferguson bought the corporate entity which included the Algoma Company, Massey-Ferguson personnel found that the red paint used by the Algoma Company was indistinguishable from their own Massey-Ferguson red.)  The bright yellow insignias and lettering, however, would still appear in the same locations on the silo fillers and on all of those machines which were not sold to Montgomery Ward but were offered to the public through jobbers and wholesalers under the Company’s own name.

Marvin Zirbel and Ben Schneider work in the foundary of the Algoma Machine Company factory.
Marvin Zirbel and Ben Schneider work in the foundary of the Algoma Machine Company factory.

In 1943, one of these OK silo fillers rolled out of the plant cloaked in its red paint job and insignias.  It was one of the smaller models with a 13″ throat.  It traveled by railroad flatbed out of Algoma, across Wisconsin and into Minnesota, where it was sold to its first owner.  After only one season, the silo filler was resold in 1944 to Roy Johnson (a beef farmer), Harold Nelsen and Harris Quist (who milked Holstein herds on their farms), and Leonard Johnson (who milked Jersey cows).  They bought the silo filler together, along with a McCormick-Deering corn binder which had a wagon loading attachment.  (A two-row version of this binder with the wagon loading attachment can be seen in the 1934 International Harvester movie, Farming the Farmall Way.)  The four Lindstrom-area farmers used the silo filler to fill their own silos on all four farms and for some custom work in their neighborhood as well.  Harold Nelsen remembers that the OK silo filler was a “light runner”–a smooth and easy operating machine–powered most often by a Farmall H.  Each summer the silo filler was towed from farm to farm in the Lindstrom neighborhood by the Farmall H and performed admirably.

Following World War II, a flood of new and more efficient farm machinery came onto the market.  In 1944, International Harvester had introduced the No. 55-T baler, their first successful cotton stripper, and the new No. 2 field forage harvester.  All of these machines were advertised as “one-man harvesting machines.”  (See the 1944 IH movies called “One-Man Harvesting” and “One-Man Cotton Harvesting.”)

Like other farmers across the nation, these four farmers saw the advantages of single-stage processing of ensilage in the field, rather than carrying bundles of corn to the silo for processing.  Thus, in about 1949, Roy Johnson bought one of the new McCormick-Deering field choppers.  The other three farmers then hired him to fill the silos on their farms and the OK silo filler was sold to Maynard Mohn of Center City, Minnesota.  After a few years, the Mohn family also upgraded their silo filling operations; however, the OK silo filler remained stored under cover on the Mohn farm until it was put up for sale several years later at an auction.

John Bjornstad, grandnephew of Maynard Mohn, former owner of the OK silo filler inspects the knives of the OK silo filler.
John Bjornstad, grandnephew of Maynard Mohn, former owner of the OK silo filler inspects the knives of the OK silo filler.

John Bjonstad, grandnephew of Maynard Mohn, having observed the OK silo filler several times on the Mohn farm, expressed an interest in seeing the silo filler saved from the cutting torch.  At the auction, therefore, John’s grandfather, Paul Holm, of Almelund, Minnesota, purchased the silo filler for his grandson.  John and his grandfather then transported the silo filler to the site of the LeSueur Pioneer Power Show near LeCenter, Minnesota.  There, in 1990, the silo filler was set up and operated by John and his grandfather as an exhibit at the Show.

John Bjornstad and his wife pose beside the silo filler that he remembers from his childhood.
John Bjornstad and his wife pose beside the silo filler that he remembers from his childhood.

Following that Show, the silo filler was wintered at the Pioneer Power site; however, due to the shortage of storage buildings, the OK silo filler was stored outside for one of the first winters since it had been manufactured.   Unfortunately, it has not been operated as an exhibit in any of the Shows since 1990.

In August of 1994, the OK silo filler was found by the author and his brother, Mark Wells, of Billerica, Massachusetts, in about the same location where it had been stored following the 1990 Show.  Even in 1994, after four years of sitting outside in the elements, the knives and shear bar seemed to be in very good condition. The pressed-paper pulley showed evidence of having recently been treated with fuel oil.  It appeared, however, that the growing layer of rust threatened to obliterate the “OK” decal hinged blower cover and the “Algoma Foundry and Machine Co.” stencilling on the frame under the feeding table.  It was at this point that the author and his brother began to think about restoration of the OK silo filler.  Research into the proper paint scheme, the correct shade of paint, and remaking of the proper decals is currently being conducted and plans are being made for a 1995 restoration.

The Algoma Foundry and Machine Company continued to function independently until September 14, 1962, when the company was sold to Badger Northland Company, Inc.  The Algoma Company became a division of the Badger Company, with Karl Kuehn of Kaukauna, Wisconsin, serving as head of the Algoma farm equipment division.  Badger was manufacturing a short line of farm equipment, which included silo unloaders and barn cleaners, when they bought out the Algoma Company.  They hoped, through the acquisition of the Algoma Company, to broaden their line of Badger products to include forage equipment, particularly their field chopper.

In 1964, Badger Northland was in turn acquired by the Massey-Ferguson Company.  By this time, however, no silo fillers or forage equipment were being made at the Algoma site.  It was a sign of the times that only garden tractors (the Massey-Ferguson model 10) and snowmobiles were being made in the old foundry building.  In the summer of 1970, operations at the Algoma plant were entirely discontinued by Massey-Ferguson.

Before the merger with Massey-Ferguson in 1964, the president of Badger Northland was Wisconsin native Vincent Rolf.  He had been one of the founders of the Badger Farm Equipment Company in Kaukauna, Wisconsin, in 1949.  In 1965, he along with almost all of the original founders of Badger formed a new company called Calumet Corporation of Kaukauna, Wisconsin.  Calumet manufactured liquid pumps, liquid manure spreaders, and a line of trailers for transporting boats, snowmobiles, and garden tractors at its plant in Dundas, Wisconsin.  Upon learning that the old foundry building in Algoma was available, Calumet moved its manufacturing operations from Dundas to the foundry building in December of 1970, operating there until 1973.

Over the years, many people of the Algoma area were employed at the foundry:  Lester Zimmerman was a machinist at the foundry; George Bietling, Marvin Zirbel amd Doug Silmer worked there at different times; as noted previously, John Beitling worked for many years in the paint department; and Emil Bostick, now of Luxembourg, Wisconsin, worked in the stenciling department.

It is a different world now than when the foundry was first opened in 1895, reflecting the changes in farming methods which have occurred in the interim and reflecting the transition of the United States from an agricultural nation into an industrial nation.  Restoration of old farm machinery is one way in which the agricultural history of the nation can be preserved for future generations.  It is hoped that restoration of the 1943 OK silo filler will compose one more chapter of that history, a chapter which will recognize not only the farmers that used the silo filler but also the men and women who made the silo filler.


The Case Model NCM Baler and a Family’s Crucial Year

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The Case Model NCM baler and a Family’s Crucial Year


Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the January/February 1995 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

Editorial Note

The following article was published in three different magazines.  Each version of the article approached the story of the 1947 wet year in a different way.  Accordingly, there are important differences in each version of the story and, therefore, each version has been included in this reproduced here for the reader to study these differences.

Case color advertisement 2

            As related in an earlier article, the Howard Hanks family had moved to LeRoy, Minnesota from Mapleton, Minnesota in 1945.  “The Wartime Farmall H,” Belt Pulley, July/August 1994, Vol. 7, No. 4, p. 13.  They had purchased the big 400-acre Bagan farm five miles east of LeRoy, Minnesota.  The payments on the newly-purchased farm were a big concern.  The expense involved with moving a family from a renting operation to ownership of a farm was no small matter.  Then there were the usual expenses entailed in raising a large family.  Furthermore, three of the oldest Hanks children were planning to be married in 1947.  What the family needed was a period of normalcy to consolidate their financial position; however, as 1946 ended, it looked as though the family was not going to get that period of normalcy.  The Second World War had ended and prices for farm products had fallen.  On the other hand, wartime price controls had ended and farm equipment prices immediately climbed.  Then, too, there was the weather.

The fall of 1946 harvest season was very wet.  The family had to borrow a Farmall M which belonged to Reuben Jacobson just to pull the big John Deere No. 7 combine through the soggy soybean fields.  The Hanks’ 1942 Farmall H, with its new cut down steel rear wheels which were now fitted with rims and rubber tires, was unable to pull the combine as it had in the fall of 1945.  The Reuben Jacobson Farmall M had wheel weights and fluid in the tires and thus was used to harvest soybeans on the home farm, as well as for all of the custom work.

The rains started in the fall of 1946. During the fall harvest that year the Hanks family had to borrow a Farmall model M tractor to pull the large John Deere No. 7 combine through the mud of the soybean field that year.


The rain continued throughout the fall of 1946, and in the spring of 1947 it started again with a vengeance.  By the time of the first wedding that year (Bruce Hanks and Mary Keller on April 2), the ground was a quagmire.  Even the roads were a mess, and the farm tractors were employed to help negotiate these roads.

More rain came all through the spring and early summer.  Field work had to be delayed to the point where the situation began to look grim.  By the time of the second family wedding that year (Lorraine Hanks and Robert Westfall on June 25), it was clear that even the garden had failed because of the continuing rain.  As with most families of the time, gardening was not a mere hobby, but was a real source of food for the family.  The failure of the garden meant that household expenses would be just that much higher for the summer and for the following winter.

The oldest son, Fred Hanks, who had been serving in the United States Army in Italy, arrived home just in time for the second wedding on June 25.  He was shocked to find that the soybeans were not yet entirely planted, even at this late date!  The family did not complete planting soybeans until July 6.  They felt as though planting soybeans so late in the season would be a waste of time and money, and 1947 was showing every sign of being a make-or-break year for the family.  In addition, they were counting on the income that would be derived from custom combining in the neighborhood, and prospects for that income were not good unless the rain stopped.

The third family wedding that year (Marilyn Hanks and Wayne Wells) was held on July 12.  Howard and Ethel Hanks, parents of the bride, were hosting the reception at their house on the Hanks farm.  Ethel Buck Hanks, mother of the bride, was distressed that she did not have any crystal or a matched set of glassware to make the reception dinner a formal affair, and the family’s dire straits held no promise that there would be money for even such a small luxury as this.  However, Howard went uptown and negotiated with the proprietor of the hardware store to borrow a set of gobbets and a matching set of sherbet stemware.  This crystal would be used for the reception, then packaged up again and returned to the store.  Ethel was extremely pleased with the goblets and sherbet stemware when Howard brought it home several days prior to the wedding.  Ethel carefully unpacked the goblets and sherbet stemware and washed each piece in preparation for the wedding reception.  She loved the beautiful glassware and wished that she could keep the goblets and the sherbets for the weddings in the family that she knew were coming up.  However, she knew that the glassware was only borrowed from the hardware store and the glassware would have to be returned.  Accordingly, following the wedding reception, she carefully washed each piece, wrapped it and sadly placed it back into the box for the journey back to town.

The new son-in-law, Wayne Wells, had taken over the farming operation on the 160-acre farm owned by his father, George Wells, which was two miles to the west of the Hanks farm.  Wayne Wells and the Hanks family were planning to cooperate in some farming activities, i.e., corn planting and haying.  They anticipated putting the loose hay in the barn as they had in past years; however, Wayne, who had been thinking of new ways to improve the efficiency of the farming operation, explored the possibility of baling the hay for storage in the barn.  He also saw the possibilities of doing custom baling in the neighborhood.  Many of the same farmers who paid to have their oats and soybeans combined may also pay to have their hay and straw baled.  Since there were very few pickup balers in the neighborhood, the Wells and Hanks families would have a monopoly on the whole market.  Furthermore, with daughter Hildreth, age 17, and son John, age 12, still living at home on the Hanks farm, Bruce and Mary living on the Tony Machovec farm about 1/2 mile south of the Hanks farm, and with Fred’s return from the Army, there would be more than sufficient people to outfit a baling crew and still keep up with the chores.

J.I. Case advertised their new Model NCM baler as the “modern way to befter hay.” Rather than storing hay loose in the barn, the new method harvested and stored hay in the form of square bales.

The Hanks family was receptive to the suggestion of purchasing a baler in hopes of earning extra income from custom baling.  Later, they saw an advertisement for a used Case NCM baler.  In the middle of the rainy summer, it seemed like a gamble considering all of the other pressing concerns.  However, as the old saying goes, “You have to spend money to make money.”  They decided to act.

A Case Model NCM hay baler.

Continue reading The Case Model NCM Baler and a Family’s Crucial Year

Belt Pulley Magazine Articles by Brian Wayne Wells