The M & W Company of Anchor Illinois (Part 2):
The Clark-Christenson 1953 Farmall Model Super M
Brian Wayne Wells
As published in the January/February 1998 issue of
Belt Pulley Magazine
In the early 1950s, M&W Company parts for Farmall tractors became so immediately popular that farmers would often require their local International Harvester dealer to install these parts on their new Farmall tractor as part of the sales agreement. One such tractor, a 1953 Farmall Super M (Serial No. 31,634), would eventually make its way to Srsen Bros. where, in the Spring of 1954, George Clark, a farmer from rural Claremont, Minnesota (1950 pop. 426), and his 14-year-old daughter, Sharon, would see it and make a deal on the tractor.
George Joseph Clark was the third “George Clark” to operate the Clark family farm in Ripley Township, seven miles south of Claremont, Minnesota. It all began when his grandfather, George Ezekiel Clark Sr., was given a 160-acre farm by the United States government in recognition of his service in the Illinois militia during the American Civil War.
George Ezekiel Clark Sr. operated the Dodge County farm together with an adjacent 80-acre farm which was homesteaded in the name of his wife, Harriet (Jeffers) Clark, until the farming operation passed to his son, George Ezekiel Clark Jr., and his wife, Mary Alice (Steele) Clark. George Jr. and Mary Alice had nine children, the sixth of whom was George Joseph Clark, who was born on November 3, 1908. Life was fairly typical for George Joseph and his eight brothers and sisters until the sudden death of their father in 1917. Pulling themselves together to deal with the hard times, Mary Alice and her children continued operating the large family farm. However, as the older children came of age, they struck out on their own. In early 1939, George Joseph married Evelyn O’Leary and moved to northern Minnesota. Two years later, they returned to Ripley Township in Dodge County and rented a farm near the home farm where George’s mother and some of his brothers and sisters still lived and worked the land. In 1948, George Joseph’s mother moved to the city of Rochester, Minnesota (1940 pop. 26,312), and the home farm was rented out. In 1950, George Joseph made the decision to move back to the home of his birth and childhood, and in 1952 George Joseph and Evelyn contracted to buy the Clark home farm.
The Clark farming operation included raising oats, wheat, barley, and corn. Livestock included chickens, geese, pure-bred Columbia sheep, hogs, and 30-40 milking cows. By now, George and Evelyn had a family of five children; Sharon (December 1939), Kay (1941), Mary Jean (1942), Judy (1946), Steven (1950). A sixth child, Jenny, would be born in 1955. The whole family was involved in the farming operation; Evelyn milked the cows, and the four oldest daughters all helped their father in the fields and around the farm. George often said that his four daughters could do anything that four boys could do.
George always tried to stay modern in his farming operation. In this, he was supported and often encouraged by Evelyn. Indeed, it may have been Evelyn who suggested many of the improvements made to the Clark farming operation. The Clark family started farming with a 1941 Farmall H with its factory-installed rubber tires. By 1944, George had purchased a new Farmall M from the Srsen Bros. IHC Dealership in Blooming Prairie (1940 pop. 1,442). (Dealership records still in the possession of Jim Srsen indicate that the sale of this Farmall M [Serial No. 74276] to George Clark occurred on May 15, 1944.) In the late 1940s, George obtained a Farmall F-20 and an Oliver to supplement the field work. In about 1946, even before moving to the home place, George had his hay baled, rather than storing it loose in the haymow. His brother-in-law, Carl Keller, was originally hired to do the baling with his new McCormick-Deering automatic wire-tie baler; later, George obtained his own McCormick-Deering automatic twine-tie baler. Sharon was assigned the task of driving the Farmall M that pulled the baler in the field during hay season. Also, in 1946, George purchased a McCormick-Deering Model 2-M two-row mounted corn picker to fit on the Farmall M. With this new picker, he could “open” his own corn fields during the fall harvest. He also retained his older New Idea Model 6-A 2-row pull-type corn picker which could then be used in the “opened” corn fields without running down any rows of unharvested corn.
Prior to 1950, all of the harvesting of small grains on the Clark farm had been accomplished by threshing as a part of the neighborhood threshing ring together with the Drache family and George’s brothers, most of whom were farming on other neighborhood farms. However, in 1950, George purchased a used Allis-Chalmers All-Crop harvester and started combining all of his small grains rather than participating in the threshing ring.
Improvements in farming practices were advertised everywhere during the early 1950s, but none of these methods of advertising was more entertaining for the families in Ripley Township than that which occurred at the Srsen dealership when they hosted Pancake Days. The Clark family, along with many other rural families, would drive to Srsen’s on one cold wintery February Saturday to have a look at the latest IHC farm machinery, to enjoy the free food, and to see some IHC promotional movies. Srsen’s shop would be temporarily cleared out, and new 2 x 8 pine planks would be placed on 5-gallon paint cans to form seats. When the lights of the shop were turned off, the shop would become an improvised theater. For young farm children, Pancake Days would be the greatest day of the year–except for Christmas–all the free pancakes and milk that one could eat and a chance to see free color movies of farm equipment.
Srsen Brothers IHC dealership originally opened for business in 1918 when brothers Al and Louie Srsen obtained franchises to sell the McCormick and Deering lines of farm equipment. Srsen Brothers signed two separate franchise contracts–one for McCormick and one for Deering–even though both lines of equipment were produced by the same company–International Harvester. Although the merger of these two companies had occurred in 1903, two distinct lines of equipment were independently maintained until the 1930s. Accordingly, until 1930, it was still possible to buy a Deering grain binder as opposed to a McCormick grain binder. Srsen’s also obtained franchises to sell cars–first, Willys-Overland cars, and then, in 1925, a Chrysler/Plymouth franchise. When Al and Louie retired, Al’s son, Hubert (Hoob) Srsen, took over the dealership. Over the years, Konard Wold became a loyal and faithful employee at the business and later came to own part of the business. Also employed at various times at Srsen were Harold Severson, Karl Harding, Ron Janning, Joe Lynard, Elmer Srock, Martin Nelson and Harold Hillson.
Improvements in farming operations were also given a great boost when on September 5 and 6, 1952, Wasioja Township in Dodge County hosted the National Soil Conservation Days and Plow Matches, also know as “Plowville 1952.” Agreements were made with Kasson/Dodge Center area farmers–Henry Snow, Donald Delzer, George Holtrof, Arnold Scherger, Clarence Jorgenson, and Roy Gossard–to have their combined farms used for this event. Plowville was a huge event that attracted 100,000 to 150,000 people who came to see the latest in farm equipment, particularly large scale plowing. Because 1952 was also a presidential election year, it was inevitable that major politicians would be attracted to Plowville as a means to court the farm vote. Both General Dwight Eisenhower, the Republican presidential candidate, and Governor Adlai Stevenson, the Democratic presidential candidate, showed up on September 6 and used this forum to present their respective positions on agricultural issues. (Dwight D. Eisenhower, Mandate for Change [Doubleday: Garden City, N.Y., 1963], p. 57; James Bartlow Martin, Adlai Stevenson of Illinois, [Doubleday: Garden City, N.Y., 1976], p. 667.) This became the only time in history that two candidates for the presidency spoke from the same platform on the same afternoon. Minnesota’s Republican Governor C. Elmer Anderson, running for re-election, appeared and escorted General Eisenhower. More than twenty-five years later, Plowville was described as the “greatest event in Dodge County history.” (Harold Severson, Dodge County: 125 Years of History, [Mantorville, Minn. 1979], pp.96-106.) Plowville 1952 created much excitement about plowing, and the publicity was widespread. George and Evelyn and the whole Clark family attended.
Perhaps Plowville influenced him, or perhaps he was impressed by the new Super line of tractors which he had seen at a recent Pancake Days celebration, but by the Spring of 1954, George Clark was in the market for a more powerful tractor and a bigger plow. Consequently, George and his daughter Sharon got into the family’s 1952 Chevrolet and travelled to Blooming Prairie to the Srsen Bros. IHC dealership.
At Srsen Bros., George was met by Hoob Srsen. When George expressed interest in one of the new Farmall Super M’s, Hoob showed him a new 1953 Farmall Super M that was part of the inventory of tractors the dealership had on hand. This Super M was No. 31,634. Continue reading M & W Company of Anchor Illinois (Part 2): The Clark-Christenson Super M