Category Archives: The Electric Wheel Company

The Family’s Ford/Ferguson Model 2N

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The Family’s Ford/Ferguson Model 2N


Brian Wayne Wells

 As published in the January/February 1999 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine


The Ford/Ferguson 2N’s stay on the Howard Hanks farm was short. Purchased in the spring of 1947, it was traded in on a new 1948 Ford 8N during the winter of 1947-48. However, it served the family well during a very crucial period in family history. (See “The Case NCM and a Family’s Crucial Year” Belt Pulley January/February 1995, Volume 8, No. 1., p. 31.) By 1947, The Howard and Ethel (Buck) Hanks family had been on their newly purchased 400-acre farm near LeRoy, Minnesota, for only two years. (See “The Wartime Farmall H,” Belt Pulley July/August 1994, Volume 7, No. 4, p. 13). During those two years, the national economy did not cooperate in helping the Hanks family realize much financial gain. As the Second World War ended, there was a general decline in milk prices and prices for pigs, corn, oats and soybeans. It was probably the wrong time to venture out into farm ownership.

Then, too, the rain that had created problems during the harvest season in the fall of 1946 returned unabated in the spring of 1947. The fields and roads were a messy quagmire. The planting of crops was delayed. The Hanks family did not get the last of their soybeans planted until July 6, 1947, and they feared that the crops would not have sufficient time to mature by the time of the first freeze in the fall. The family’s situation was becoming increasingly desperate.

As haying season approached, the Hanks family anticipated storing the loose hay in the barn as they had in past years. They were also planning on cooperating with their new son-in-law, Wayne Wells, during hay season. Wayne Wells was just starting his own farming operation on the 160-acre farm of his parents, George and Louise (Schwark) Wells, located two miles to the west of the Hanks farm. Wayne Wells would be marrying Howard Hanks’ eldest daughter, Marilyn, that summer.

In the early spring, Wayne Wells saw an advertisement for a used Case NCM baler for sale. In addition to modernizing their own hay making operations on the Hanks and Wells farms, Wayne was struck with the idea that the baler could provide the families with an opportunity to earn extra income by doing custom hay and straw baling in the neighborhood. (Wayne had already cooperated with his neighbor Mel Anderson to buy a new Wood Brothers one-row corn picker in the fall of 1946, and had used the corn picker to do custom work in the neighborhood.)

The Case baler was offered for sale by a farmer in Emmetsburg, Iowa. As part of the package deal, the farmer was selling his 1946 Ford/Ferguson 2N. The 2N was also accompanied by a number of Continue reading The Family’s Ford/Ferguson Model 2N

Ottawa Manufacturing Company of Ottawa Kansas

The Ottawa Manufacturing Company of Ottawa Kansas:

The August Reddemann Cross-cut Saw


Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the May/June issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

            “As the old saying goes: “Firewood warms you twice; once when you cut it and again when you burn it.”  (Allan A. Swenson, Wood Heat [Fawcett: N.Y., 1979], p. 95.)  In recent years, firewood has taken a backseat to other forms of fuel, e.g., heating oil and natural gas.  However, there once was a time when wood was the only source of fuel available to farm families across the United States.

The job of putting away enough wood for the winter was an onerous task for our ancestors.  In the days before power saws of any sort, families would have to cut and store completely by hand sufficient wood to last out the winter.  Once a tree was felled, the work had only just started.  The farmer and his family would then begin the task of cutting off the brush and small limbs, sawing all the limbs into pieces 16″ to 24″ in length and loading them into a wagon or sled to be hauled to the woodpile near the house.  Gradually, the tree would be reduced to larger limbs and the trunk itself.  This was the point where bowsaws were no longer big enough for cutting up the remainder of the tree, and the family would have to start the hard, tedious process of cutting the large limbs and trunk into manageable pieces with a large two-person saw.

Farm families were constantly striving to find labor-saving methods for performing their farm work.  It is not surprising, then, to find that they were receptive to newer and easier methods of sawing firewood–especially an easier way of sawing the big limbs and the trunk of a tree.  In answer to this need, the Ottawa Manufacturing Company, of Ottawa, Kansas, developed the Ottawa crosscut log saw.

The Ottawa crosscut saw was outfitted with a two and a half or a four horse-power, single-cylinder Ottawa “hit and miss” stationary power unit.  Mounted on two wheels with a frame attached to long handles, the operator would simply use the handles of the Ottawa saw to move the entire unit, just like a wheelbarrel or a two-wheeled cart, to a log lying on the ground, rather than requiring the operator to drag the log to the saw.  Securing the handles on the log at the proper location by the use of cant hooks, the operator would position the blade of the saw to cut off a piece of the log to the desired length.  Next, the operator would turn the wheels of the saw 90 degrees from the transport position to a position parallel to the log.  Then the engine would be engaged, the blade would start moving, and the operator only had to stand back and watch.  The flywheel and pitman of the “hit and miss” engine would push and pull the saw blade back and forth across the log at a rate of up to 140 to 170 strokes per minute.  This certainly was an improvement over crosscutting the entire winter’s supply of wood by hand.

The Ottawa Manufacturing Company was born in 1904 out of the consolidation of other companies owned by the Warner family. Continue reading Ottawa Manufacturing Company of Ottawa Kansas

M & W Company of Anchor Illinois (Part 3): Restoration of the Clark-Christenson Super M and the Jim Ellis 3-bottom McCormick-Deering Plow

The M & W Company of Anchor Illinois (Part 3):

Restoration of the Clark-Christenson 1953 Farmall Super M and the Jim Ellis 3-bottom McCormick-Deering Plow


Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the March/April 1998 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

            As previously described, the Clark-Christenson Super M (Serial No. 31,634) had spent all of its working life in the community of Blooming Prairie, Minnesota.  (See the article “The M&W Company [PartII]: The Clark-Christenson Tractor” in the November/December 1997 issue of Belt Pulley, Vol. 10, No. 6.)   As you will recall from that article, the Clark-Christenson tractor had sustained a broken bull gear in the rear end of the tractor in 1963, causing a hole to be torn into the underside of the differential housing.  The hole had been fixed by welding, leaving an identifiable scar on the underside of the differential.  In 1992, the tractor was sold and left Blooming Prairie–apparently lost to all those who had any connection with the tractor; in particular, Bill Radil, who had worked with this Super M in the fields in the mid-1980s when he helped out around the Norman Christenson farm.

Over the years, however, Bill Radil, too, had moved from the Blooming Prairie/Hayfield area, and in 1994 was living in Howard Lake, Minnesota.  Because of his continuing interest in antique farm machinery, especially International Harvester machinery, he attended every antique tractor show he could in his area, including the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Show in rural LeSueur, Minnesota.  The 1994 Pioneer Power Show brought forth strong, poignant memories for Bill, because his father had died the previous year.  Usually, Bill and his father attended these shows together, but in 1994 Bill returned, this time without his father.  At the 1994 LeSueur County Pioneer Power Show, Bill met Wayne Wells, Mark Wells and this author, and participated in the field demonstrations and talked tractors.  After the show, Bill was invited to the Wells house in LeSueur, where he was shown a Farmall Super M which was being overhauled in their garage.  Bill, at that time, was interested in this Farmall to the degree that he was interested in all Farmalls.  However, he soon became more interested when he was told that the Wells family had purchased the tractor from Krampitz Hardware in Blooming Prairie.  As Wayne Wells related that the tractor had come from a brother-in-law of Marvin Krampitz, Bill began to wonder if this tractor might not be the same tractor which he had driven on the Christenson farm.  The point of proof was the welding scar on the underside of the differential left by the broken bull gear.  It was like seeing an old friend from the past.  This was the Clark-Christenson Super M.  The tractor had been sold to Wayne Wells in the summer of 1992 and was taken to LeSueur, where it joined the growing collection of Wells Family Farmalls.  Indeed over the years, the Clark-Christenson Super M has become a favorite of Penny (Ms. Mark) Wells.

When the tractor first arrived in LeSueur, a large part of the restoration had already been accomplished with the overhaul of the engine in 1985 while the tractor was still on the Norman Christenson farm.  At that time, the M&W high compression pistons were removed and replaced by IHC pistons, thus returning the engine to the original configuration it had when the tractor first emerged from the Farmall Works factory in Rock Island, Illinois, in mid-1953.  Removal of the M&W pistons meant a reduction of horsepower from a high of 58 to the original factory rated horsepower of 41.33. (C.H. Wendel, Nebraska Tractor Tests [Crestline: Osceola, Wis. 1985], p. 169.)

The Clark-Christenson Super M was afflicted with two typical Farmall problems.  The first such problem was that the hole in the bottom of the clutch pedal which fits around the clutch/brake pedal shaft had worn to a slightly oblong shape, causing the clutch pedal to wobble from side to side.  (This continues to be a common problem with many old Farmall M’s even today.  If the hole becomes very pronounced, the pedal will no longer against the operator’s platform like it is supposed to do when the clutch is engaged.  Instead, the clutch pedal will miss the platform entirely and slide along the side of the platform.)  This problem plagued the Clark-Christenson Super M.  To prevent the clutch from missing the platform, someone had bolted a piece of metal to the operator’s platform to “catch” the clutch pedal.  However, this piece of metal protruded out past the side of the platform.  To really fix the problem and to restore the tractor to its original appearance, this piece of metal was removed.  Then the clutch pedal was also removed, and the hole in the pedal was welded shut and a new hole re-drilled to the proper size of the shaft by neighborhood machinist and Pioneer Power board-member Glendon Braun also of LeSueur.  Additionally, not only had the hole in the clutch pedal on the Super M become worn, but the clutch/brake shaft had also become worn.  To alleviate this problem, Glendon Braun also welded the clutch/brake shaft to build up the diameter of the worn spot on the shaft.  Then he re-turned the shaft on a lathe to bring it down to its proper size again.  (The removal of the clutch pedal and clutch/brake pedal shaft from the Clark-Christenson Super M conducted in April of 1994 can be seen in the second hour portion of Tape # 10 of the International Harvester Promotional Movie Collection.)

The second typical Farmall problem which beset the Clark-Christenson Super M was a leaky radiator core.  Engine vibration on most vehicles will cause stress and cracks to develop in the radiator core.  However, this problem appears to be more pronounced in the “lettered” (M, H, B, etc.) Farmall tractors as compared with other models of tractors, and even as compared with the “F-series” Farmalls.  When the radiator on the Clark-Christenson tractor was removed and taken to the radiator experts at LaBelle’s LeSueur Alignment Inc. in LeSueur, they declared the bottom of the radiator to be so full of holes that it was comparable to “Swiss cheese.”  Years of hard work had taken its toll on the radiator of the Clark-Christenson tractor.  Accordingly, a whole new radiator was ordered from Central Tractor Company in Des Moines, Iowa.  (Installation of the new radiator on the Clark-Christenson Super M during the Christmas holidays of 1994 can be seen in the second hour portion of Tape #12.)

Restoration of the Clark-Christenson Super M also included the purchase and installation of a new belt pulley, because the original rockwood fiber (or paper) pulley was not on the tractor when it was sold to Wayne Wells.  (IHC had contracted with the Rockwood Manufacturing Company to make paper pulleys for its Farmall lettered series and later model tractors.  For the history of the Rockwood Manufacturing Company, see page 14 of the March/April 1997 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.)  Since belt pulleys for all tractors are a necessity around the LeSueur Pioneer Power grounds because of the great amount of belt work that is performed in the field demonstrations, a 13″ eight-bolt Rockwood fiber pulley was found and purchased for the Clark-Christenson Super M at the 1993 Swap Meet.  (See the author selecting and mounting the pulley on the Clark-Christenson Super M in the second hour portion of Tape #5 of the International Harvester Promotional Movies collection.)

Another step taken in the restoration of the Clark-Christenson Super M was to remove all the fluid from the tires.  Calcium chloride may be very useful for ballast on working tractors, but it is very destructive of the wheel rims.   For this reason, it is a bane to antique tractor restorers.  However, because this tractor, even once it was fully restored, was intended for use in the plowing demonstrations at the Pioneer Power Show grounds, compensation had to be made for the lack of weight previously supplied by the fluid in the tires.  To accomplish this, two pair of rear wheels weights, each weighing 145 pounds, were obtained from Bill’s Repair in Plato, Minnesota, for the Clark-Christenson Super M.  Even if both sets of wheel weights were added to the Super M, they would not offset all the weight of the fluid removed from both rear tires.  In this case, however, only one pair of the rear wheel weights was installed on the Clark-Christenson Super M immediately; the second pair was held in reserve in case the plowing demonstrations at the 1995 Pioneer Show proved the need for a second pair. (Installation of the first pair of wheel weights can be seen in the second hour portion of Tape #12 of the International Harvester Promotional Movies.)

As previously noted, there had been much criticism of the disc brakes of the Super-series Farmall tractors.  One source of the problems with the disc brakes is that the balls inside the actuating discs become rusty and corroded.  (See the discussion of Farmall disc brakes in “Wartime Farmall H” on pages 15-17 of the July/August 1994 Belt Pulley, Vol. 7, No. 4.)  By 1992, the Clark-Christenson tractor was also having problems with its disc brakes.  Thus, all four of the asbestos-lined discs were replaced, and the actuating disc of each brake was disassembled and cleaned.  An actuating disc is composed of two halves which enclose three balls mounted on inclines on the inside of the actuating discs.  When the brakes are applied, only half of the actuating disc moves in relation to the other half, causing the balls to roll up the inclines.  This action spreads the two halves of the actuating disc and causes them to rub against the asbestos-lined discs which are attached to the counter shaft of the transmission of the tractor.  This, then, stops the tractor.  This is especially true of tractors which are stored outside and exposed to the elements.  After separating the two halves of the actuating discs on the Clark-Christenson tractor and cleaning the insides of the actuating discs and the balls, the brakes were reassembled.  (Part of this process is captured on video tape in the second hour portion of Tape #12 of the International Harvester Promotional Movies.)

Following the repair of the clutch and disc brakes and the installation of the new radiator and wheel weights,  the tractor was painted and decaled in time for the 1996 LeSueur County Pioneer Power Show which hosted the summer convention of Chapter 15 (the Minnesota State Chapter) of the International Harvester Collectors Association.           The 1996 show was a great success, and the Clark-Christenson tractor was used regularly during the field demonstrations.  Following the show, the Clark-Christenson Super M became popular with the volunteer workers on the grounds, as it started easily and could accomplish tasks around the grounds.  (The tractor can be seen working on the grounds and participating in field demonstrations in the second hour portion of Tapes #5 and #6 of the International Harvester Promotional Movies).

Like so many other shows, the LeSueur Pioneer Power Show features a parade of machinery each day.  Not only is the parade an opportunity for exhibitors to show off their tractors, but also other restored machinery if each tractor pulls a restored farm implement in the parade.  Over the years, an increasing number of farm implements have been restored, just as have tractors.  As a means of gathering and storing data on all the tractors participating in its parades, the Pioneer Power Association currently enjoys a computerized system which was developed by Pioneer Power member Kathy Klaseus.  This system eases the registration process each year for members and repeat exhibitors at the Show.  All information about any given tractor is held on the computer from year to year, and any exhibitor who has attended in former years will merely notify the registration booth that a particular repeat tractor has once again been brought to the current Show.  In this way, all information on that tractor will be retrieved from the computer and printed out for the parade announcer.  In addition, each computer entry has a comment section.  This section is an excellent means by which additional information can be listed either about the tractor or about any particular implement that the tractor may be towing in the parade.  Consequently, implements may also be recognized by the parade announcer.  To avoid having to make changes to the comment section for each exhibit each year, members tend to pull the same implements with the same tractor year after year.  Thus, tractors tend to be identified with a particular implement during the parade.  Each tractor restoration, then, is not really complete until the proper implement has been found which can be associated with a particular tractor.  Given the work history of the Clark-Christenson Super M, that implement had to be a plow, but which plow?  As previously noted, the Clark-Christenson tractor had pulled a four-bottom plow with 14″ bottoms on the Clark farm, and later pulled a 4-16″ plow on the Christenson farm.  As the reader will recall from the previous issue of Belt Pulley magazine, the Clark Christenson Super M was fitted with M&W high compression pistons during the time it worked on the Clark and Christenson farms.  However, since the tractor had been overhauled and re-fitted with the standard IHC pistons in 1985, the tractor would have less horsepower than it had while working on the Clark and Christenson farms.  Moreover, the gumbo soil of LeSueur County was more difficult to plow than the more sandy soil of southern Dodge and Steele Counties where both the Clark and Christenson farms were located.  Additionally, even if the 1953 Clark/Christenson Super M were currently fitted with M&W pistons, it would have a difficult time pulling a four-bottom plow on the Pioneer Power Showgrounds.  Now, with the original equipment returned to the Super M, the Clark-Christenson tractor needed a proper sized plow.  International Harvester had originally advertised the Super M as a 3-plow tractor.  Therefore, it was felt that a McCormick-Deering three-bottom plow with 16″ bottoms would be the proper plow for the Clark/Christenson Super M.  With the help of Bill Radil, the author located just such a plow owned by Jim Ellis.  Continue reading M & W Company of Anchor Illinois (Part 3): Restoration of the Clark-Christenson Super M and the Jim Ellis 3-bottom McCormick-Deering Plow

M & W Company of Anchor Illinois (Part 2): The Clark-Christenson Super M

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

M & W Company of Anchor Illinois (Part 1)

The M & W Company of Anchor Illinois (Part 1)


Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the November/December 1997 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

From the time of its introduction by International Harvester in August of 1939, the McCormick-Deering Farmall M was a very popular tractor.  For a tractor design which pre-dated World War II, the Farmall M had some surprisingly modern features, such as the integral Lift-All hydraulic power lift system, electric lights, electric starting and the comfortable hydraulic, or Monroe, coil spring operator’s seat.  All of these features were optional, but they were so commonly added to the M that they came to be regarded almost as regular equipment.  Partly because of its popularity, the International Harvester Company (IHC) changed the design of the Farmall M very little over the years and consequently, by 1945, the M was beginning to show its age.  In 1945, the Second World War came to an end and with the end of the war many young veterans of that war returned home with the intent of starting a farming operation of their own.   These returning veterans threatened to change the buying habits of the farming public in the United States.   They were a whole new element in the farm tractor buying public.

Wars have a way of changing the consumer’s tastes in a variety of unforeseen ways.  IHC officials well-remembered how, at the end of the First World War, a small little tractor by the name of Fordson knocked IHC out of its position as the biggest seller of tractors in the United States domestic market.  In 1918, veterans returning from the First World War wanted small tractors to start their farming operations on a small scale.  The Fordson answered the market demand perfectly, and consequently Ford led the way in sales throughout most of the 1920s.  IHC spent most of that decade trying to catch Ford with the introduction of International 10-20 tractors.


Henry Ford’s little tractor known as the “Fordson” was introduced in 1917 as the “tractor even small farmers could afford.” The Fordson created a revolution in favor of small tractors which could be sold cheaply.


Following the end of the Second World War in 1945, IHC executives vowed not to be caught off base again.  They anticipated that the veterans returning from this war would once again create a market for small tractors.  Therefore, the company introduced the Farmall Cub and spent a great deal of corporate effort on the design, manufacture and advertising of the Cub and its line of equipment.




Additionally, the company also anticipated that the end of the war would release the pent-up consumer demand for large, durable consumer goods such as refrigerators and freezers.  Wishing to cash in on this consumer demand, IHC opened, in 1946, a plant, test kitchen and experimental laboratory facilities in Evansville, Indiana, for the production of a full line of refrigeration equipment including dehumidifiers and air conditioners.  Soon the Evanston facility was producing 200 chest-type freezers per day.  (Barbara Marsh, A Corporate Tragedy, The Agony of International Harvester [Doubleday: Garden City, N.Y., 1985], pp. 74 and 102.  Although out of print for a number of years, a second edition of this book is now being sold for $29.95 from Binder Books, Scott and Cyndi Satterlund, P.O. Box 230269, Tigard, OR 97281-0269, Tel: (503) 684-2024, FAX: (503) 684-3990, Email:, Home page:

The diversion of capital and research money into the new Cub tractor and into the refrigeration component meant that less money was available for improvement in the design of large tractors in the International Harvester line, like the Farmall M.  Company officials did not worry about this because the M was selling quite well and they did not see the market for large tractors growing after the war.  This assumption proved to be a mistake.  Some writers (like Barbara Marsh, cited above) now feel that this miscalculation was an important one that eventually led to the dramatic downfall of IHC in 1985.

            International Harvester, along with many other companies, had misread the minds of the World War II vets who were returning to the farm.  Unlike World War I veterans, the returning veteran of the Second World War found that the whole world had changed.  Back at home on the farm there had developed a race for horsepower in the tractor market.  Economic conditions in the United States would no longer allow a young farmer to start farming with small tractors and equipment.  Instead, he must start with big equipment to survive in the new post-war economy.

Even IHC’s 2-plow Farmall H, which had sold well during the war (See “The Wartime Farmall H” contained in the July/August 1994 issue of Belt Pulley), was now regarded as a small tractor.  Sales of the H fell off dramatically as the returning veterans looked to bigger 3-plow tractors, like the Farmall M, to do farming.  Indeed, the market demand for large tractors did not stop with the 3-plow-size tractors; farmers were demanding even larger tractors.  Furthermore, they were demanding a variety of different options to make their farming operations easier and more efficient (i.e., live power take-off’s [PTO], live hydraulics, a wider range of tractor speeds, etc.).

The need for improvements to correct some of the shortcomings of the Farmall M created a niche in the market for production of third-party, add-on attachments for the Farmall M.  This opportunity was not lost on some people.  One person who saw the glaring need was Art Warsaw.  Continue reading M & W Company of Anchor Illinois (Part 1)

Super Six Company of Minneapolis Minnesota

The Super Six Company of Minneapolis Minnesota: Tractor-Mounted Hydraulic Loaders for the Modern Farm


Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the September/October 1997 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

(This article was also published in an issue of

Antique Power Magazine)

            As with so many farm equipment companies, the Super Six Company originated in the machine shed of a farmer who had an idea.  The farmer in this case was Leo Pfau who farmed near St. Cloud, Minnesota.  Leo Pfau had built a tractor loader for his row-crop tractor on his own farm.  In 1945, D.F. Hamacheck became acquainted with Leo Pfau’s tractor loader and realized the potential for manufacturing it for the farm market.  D.F. Hamacheck was the owner and operator of Central Motor Sales, a Chrysler-Plymouth dealership in the 900 block of 20th Avenue Northeast in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Together, Leo Pfau and D.F. Hamacheck decided to manufacture and market the tractor loader which was eventually designated the Model 45 loader.

Anticipating the approaching end of the Second World War, D.F. Hamacheck brought together five other investors–Archie Erickson, William (Bill) Olson, W.N. Williams, George Miller and one other person–who along with himself formed the Super Six Manufacturing Company for the purpose of manufacturing Leo Pfau’s loader.  The origin of the name “Super Six” is unknown, but probably refers to the fact that the company was originally formed by six investors.  The investors correctly foresaw that the end of the war would release a huge demand for farm machines, like tractor loaders, which had been pent up by rationing during the war. Continue reading Super Six Company of Minneapolis Minnesota

Custom Threshing on a Large Scale: The Pauley-Seppmann 40-inch by 64-inch Minneapolis Thresher

Custom Threshing on a Large Scale: The Pauley-Seppmann 40-inch by 64-inch Minneapolis Thresher


Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the July/August 1997 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

            The 1920s heralded the beginning of the small tractor era.  The production and sale of smaller tractors during that time was accompanied by a downward trend in the size of threshers.  By the late 1920s, large threshers had become dinosaurs of a bygone era–huge behemoths which reminded one of threshing days prior to World War I.  However, there remained one small niche in the farm market for the large thresher/separator–the custom thresher operator.

Generally, threshing on North American farms in the past was done by a threshing/separator jointly owned by a “ring” of neighborhood farmers.  During harvesting season, a thresher would make the rounds of each of the farms in the neighborhood ring, threshing all the small grains on each farm before moving on to the next farm.  Occasionally, one farmer would own the thresher outright and would circulate the neighborhood with the thresher and thresh his neighbors grain for a fee.  This was called “neighborhood custom threshing.”

Custom farming (i.e., custom threshing, custom baling, etc.) in the immediate neighborhood was a common way in which farmers supplemented their own farm income.  As the regular Belt Pulley reader will remember, the Hanks family of LeRoy, Minnesota, found that the extra income provided by custom combining and baling in their neighborhood provided just enough income to make it through 1947.  (See “The Case NCM and a Family’s Crucial Year” in the January/February 1995 Belt Pulley.)

To make an income at custom threshing, the operator had to get outside of his neighborhood and follow the ripening crop from south to north across the Midwest.  This style of custom threshing is mentioned in the book Threshers, by Robert Pripps & Andrew Morland (Motorbooks International: Oseola, Wis. 1992), pp. 57-59.  Such custom threshing would require full-time operation and would generally not be done by a farmer who had to operate his own farm.  These custom threshing operators were required to thresh a great deal of grain in a very short time.  They had to cover a lot of ground quickly.  They were, after all, fighting a rear guard action against the trend toward smaller threshing rings and downsized threshers which predominated throughout the 1920s.  Nonetheless, the threshing separator market was still significant enough in the late 1920s that some threshing machine manufacturers were trying to court this market by updating their largest threshers.

One of the biggest threshing separators ever built was the 40″ x 64″ separator (a 40″ cylinder and concave with 64″ wide separating tables and screens) manufactured by the  Minneapolis Threshing Machine Company (MTM) of Hopkins, Minnesota.  MTM seems to have begun manufacturing the 40″ x 64″ separator as a wooden thresher as early as 1899.  However, whereas Case had begun offering all-steel threshers as early as 1904, information obtained by researcher and writer C.H. Wendel seems to indicate that MTM was one of the last threshing companies to offer an all-steel version of its thresher/separator.  MTM began offering the all-steel design as an option in the late 1920s.

One particular all-steel 40″x 64″ separator, among the first ever manufactured by MTM, rolled out of the company’s Hopkins factory in early 1926.  It was loaded onto a waiting Chicago Northwestern railroad car and then connected to a  Chicago Northwestern train headed south to the town of Madelia, Minnesota (1920 pop. 1,447).  The steam engine powering the train pulled slowly out of Hopkins and picked up speed.  In the early spring, teams of horses and farmers could be seen just starting their field work for the season.  It was still very much the time of the horse.  As the train carrying the MTM thresher passed through the Minnesota Valley and through the small towns of Shakopee, Jordan, Belle Plaine, St. Peter and Mankato, it rolled on past fields full of farmers and horses in harness working up the soil for the start of a new year of crops.  At Mankato (1920 pop. 12,469), where the Minnesota River arches around a bend to head off to the northwestern part of the state, the train began to climb up out of the valley.  The tracks then settled out onto the flat plains southwest of Mankato.  At the small town of Lake Crystal, Minnesota (1920 pop. 1,204), the original tracks built by Chicago Northwestern turned south toward Iowa.  However, the train with the large MTM thresher headed off onto the tracks which headed west-southwest out of Lake Crystal.  This line had originally been built by the Chicago-St. Paul-Minneapolis and Omaha RailRoad and was commonly known as the Omaha Road.  Many years prior to 1926, this railroad had merged with the Chicago Northwestern Railroad; however, the railroad employees still affectionately referred to the section of the line between Lake Crystal and Omaha as the “Omaha Road.”  This particular train followed the Omaha Road for only 17 miles before arriving at the small town of Madelia, Minnesota, located in Watonwan County.  Here, the railroad car was disconnected from the train and put off onto a siding for unloading of the thresher.

A few of weeks earlier, the local hardware store in Madelia–James Brothers Hardware and Farm Equipment–had placed an order with the Minneapolis Threshing Machine Company for the large separator.  Bezaleel “Bez” James and his brother J.C. James had opened the hardware business in 1910.  They sold Massey-Harris tractors and equipment and Minneapolis Threshing Machine Company threshers and equipment.  Carrying these two lines of farm equipment meant that James Bothers had the entire cross-section of farm equipment needed by any farming operation.

            James Brothers had placed the order for the large MTM thresher pursuant to a purchase contract signed by brothers Cyril and Zeno Pauley of Lewisville, Minnesota (1920 pop. 229) located in Watonwan County, 10 miles south of Madelia.  Cyril Pauley was a mechanic and lived with his wife Laura (Mosel) Pauley and their two children, Eugene and Joyce, in the town of Lewisville.  Zeno and his wife Ann (Fafzden) Pauley owned and operated a 160-acre farm in the rural Lewisville area where they lived with their two children, James and Lorraine.  The Pauley brothers were both tall and big men.  Obviously, they both had the strength and endurance to take on two full-time jobs each–their own respective occupations and also custom threshing.  They began custom threshing in 1917 using a wooden 32″x 52″ Red River Special fitted with double-wing feeder extensions made by the Carpenter Company of Peroia, Illinois.  However, by 1926, the Red River Special had become worn and was too small for the growing number of farmers who were employing the Pauley Brothers to do their threshing each year.  Consequently, they had purchased the large MTM from James Bros. Hardware and Farm Equipment.  The Pauleys had both grown up in the Madelia area; therefore, it was perhaps natural that they would turn to James Brothers to purchase a new thresher for their business.  To power the smaller Red River Special, the Pauley brothers had used a 25 hp. Port Huron steam engine.  For their new thresher, the Pauley brothers obtained a larger steam engine with the increased horsepower necessary to power the larger MTM thresher.

The type of threshing that was generally conducted in the Lewisville area at that time was predominately “stack threshing.”   The individual farmer would bind all of his wheat and oats, and rather than putting the bundles of grain into small “shocks” in the field to “sweat” or dry, he would begin carefully constructing large stacks of bundled grain that would rise to a point at the top.  If the top of a stack were correctly made, it would repel rain and keep all the bundles in the stack dry for a long time.  Many times the stacks would have to sit out in the elements a long time before threshing.  The threshing season would begin in August, but could extend to as late as November before a threshing crew could get around to threshing the last customer on their list.  Although farmers would try to position the stacks close together (usually with just enough room between the stacks to insert the self-feeder of the threshing separator), the fact that the stacks were large and immobile meant that some bundles would have to be carried from one side of the stack to the other.  Furthermore, near the bottom of the stack the crew members (bundle tossers) throwing the bundles onto the self-feeder would not have the advantage of standing on a wagon to feed the thresher.  Consequently, the bundle tossers would have to lift the bundles up above head level to feed the thresher.  As a result, stack threshing created a real need for feeder extensions which would swing out to any angle from both sides of the self-feeder to ease the task of the bundle tossers when working on the stacks.  Additionally, the feeder extensions could be lowered as the bundle tossers worked down the stack.  The “double-wing” feeder extensions jutting out at angles from the self-feeder were a great improvement and became a very popular option for most threshers headed to “stack threshing country.”  Anticipating that their 40″ MTM thresher would be used primarily for stack threshing, the Pauley Brothers ordered the optional Garden City double-wing feeder extensions on their new MTM thresher.  Although manufactured by the Garden City Company of Pella, Iowa, the double-wing feeder extensions were added to the Pauley thresher by MTM at their Hopkins facility as a factory installed option.  Continue reading Custom Threshing on a Large Scale: The Pauley-Seppmann 40-inch by 64-inch Minneapolis Thresher

A Life of Giving: Marcus Griep’s Minneapolis-Moline Model ZAU Tractor

A Life of Giving: Marcus Griep’s Minneapolis-Moline Model ZAU Tractor


Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the May/June 1997 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

            At various antique tractor shows around the nation, you can see service tractors which have, at some point, been restored with a new coat of paint and the proper decals, but usually they are not as pampered as the tractors meant exclusively for exhibition.  Service tractors provide the day-to-day power needed to prepare a site for a show.  They are expected to start the first time, every time, in all kinds of weather.  They are expected to pull water wagons for steam engines, to pull graders and drags for grooming the grounds, and even to pull the other pampered tractors in attempts to start them.  Service tractors usually do the seed bed preparation and planting of the crops in the spring and the binding of the grain in the summer, well before the fall threshing shows.  More often than not, service tractors are neglected and taken for granted.  They usually are not registered for the show nor are they usually paraded with the other tractors.  Instead, they tend to be invisible to the viewing public as they perform the more mundane tasks.  In other words, they are treated much the same as a tractor on a working farm.  In this way, service tractors are the best example of a “real farm tractor” that a show may actually possess.

One such tractor on the grounds of the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association is a 1949 Minneapolis-Moline ZAU, Serial No. 0064903012 (hereinafter referred to as “No. 3012”), last owned by the late Marcus Griep of nearby Henderson, Minnesota.  Marcus remembered No. 3012 from his childhood on his family’s farm.  In the years following the death of his father, Oscar Griep, in January of 1982, Marcus used No. 3012 to perform useful duties and impromptu acts of kindness throughout the Henderson community, like helping people get their cars started in the winter.  The very fine recent history of Henderson (Henderson: Then and Now) contains a pictorial record of Marcus Griep’s community involvement–helping city workers hang Christmas decorations and participating in the community beard growing contest.

His early membership and participation in the activities of the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association led him to bring No. 3012 out to the Pioneer Power grounds to continue a family tradition of service to the Henderson/Dresselville/LeSueur community.  Although Marcus, himself, was most often in attendance at “work nights” on the new 93-acre site which had just been purchased by the Association in 1980, he made it clear that No. 3012 was to be used by association members in his absence if the need arose.  Soon No. 3012 became a regular sight around the grounds, performing all sorts of tasks.

In late April of each year, the tractor can be found pulling the road grader, leveling the roadways around the grounds in preparation for the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Swap Meet.  Also, No. 3012 is used to pull wagons loaded with seed corn and oats during the spring planting of the fields located on the grounds.  After the wheat and oats are ripe and have dried in the shocks in the fields, No. 3012 is once again used by the crews to pull the loaded bundle wagons.  During the Show, No. 3012 can be seen pulling water wagons for the steam engines and pulling the trash pickup wagon through the campgrounds in the morning.  In short, No. 3012 continues to give good service to the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association, long after its previous owners–Marcus and his father Oscar–have passed away.  Even today, the tractor is continuing a Griep family tradition of community service to the LeSueur area.  (In the Second Hour portion of Tape #5 of the International Harvester Movies, No. 3012 can be seen doing just that–pulling the road grader in preparation for the 1993 Pioneer Power Swap Meet.)

The family tradition of service began with Marcus’ grandfather, Reverend A.O. Mann, who served as the last minister of the Salem-St. Paul’s Evangelical and Reform Church located in the small unincorporated settlement of Dresselville, Minnesota.  August Oscar Mann was born on January 29, 1885, in Detmold, Missouri, as the son of a local flour miller.  His family later moved to Washington, Missouri, where A.O. spent his childhood.  On April 23, 1911, he married Lydia Panhorst from his hometown and on March 2, 1912, had one daughter, Viola.  Continue reading A Life of Giving: Marcus Griep’s Minneapolis-Moline Model ZAU Tractor

Irving King’s McCormick-Deering Corn Binder

A McCormick-Deering Corn Binder at Work on the

Irving King Farm


Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the January/February 1997 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine


            As previously noted, necessity is the mother of restoration projects.  (“The Anthony Company of Streator, Illinois,” Belt Pulley Vol. 8, No. 4, [July/August 1995] p. 17).  The most recent example of this principle was at the August 1995 LeSueur County Pioneer Power Show when a one-row, ground-driven McCormick-Deering corn binder was made a part of the machinery collection on the Pioneer Power Showgrounds in time for the threshing show.  The LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association plants some corn on their 100-acre site every spring.  Part of the corn is cut, bundled and shocked prior to the August show to allow at least some ripening and curing to occur prior to the August threshing show.   The corn bundles are then fed into one of the two corn shredders located on the Showgrounds.[1]   

            The remaining corn which had not previously been bundled and shocked, is cut and bundled at the Show itself.  These bundles are immediately fed into the stationary silo fillers as part of the green corn harvest field demonstrations at the Show.  Consequently, there was a need to have at least one working corn binder employed prior the Show and to also serve as part of the field demonstrations at the Show itself.  (One of these stationary silo fillers at the 1995 Show was the newly re-painted and decaled Model 442 OK silo filler made by the Algoma Manufacturing Co. which was pictured in its unrestored condition in the article on the Algoma Company in the March/April issue of Belt Pulley Vol. 8, No. 1, p.18). 

            In the years before 1995, a one-row, ground-driven McCormick-Deering corn binder was used to fill this role.  However, this binder was sold by its owner over the winter between the 1994 and 1995 Show and had been removed from the Showgrounds.  Recognizing the need for a corn binder for the 1995 Show, Glendon Braun, board member of the Association and life-long resident of Tyrone and Sharon Townships, brought another one-row, ground-driven McCormick Deering corn binder to the Showgrounds.  Glendon had purchased this binder some years previously from his neighbor, Ralph King.  This binder had originally been purchased by Ralph King’s first cousin once-removed, Irving King, of rural LeSueur, Minnesota.  The corn binder arrived on the Showgrounds in time for the August 1995 Show.  

            Every restored farm tractor or machine serves a number of purposes.  In the mind of the collector or observer, the machine may call up memories of a similar farm machine from the past.  The memory might be of a comparable machine used by the collector or his family in the past or the memory may stem from a fleeting experience with or observation of a similar machine.  In this way, the restored farm machine becomes the representative of the machine in the memory of the collector.  Because the McCormick-Deering corn binder was a very popular and widely used farm machine, any restored McCormick-Deering binder is sure to bring back memories to many people. 

            International Harvester was a corporation that was formed in 1903 from the merger of several smaller companies.  Among these companies were the Deering, Osbourne, Milwaukee and McCormick companies, each of whom offered corn binders in their product lines.  Following the merger, International Harvester continued to offer corn binders under the separate names of Deering, Osbourne, Milwaukee and McCormick.  Although differences existed between these corn binders, over the years of their production under the umbrella of the International Harvester Company, these corn binders became progressively more similar.  By 1927, when the fiction of separate names was dropped, the various corn binders became very much alike and had a great number of interchangeable parts.  In 1927, International Harvester offered corn binders under only one name–McCormick-Deering

            As a representative sample of the McCormick-Deering corn binder at work in the fields of the Pioneer Power Showgrounds, the Irving King corn binder spurs memories in many people.  The George and Louise (Schwark) Wells family of LeRoy, Minnesota, used a McCormick-Deering corn binder in their farming operation not only on their rented farm near Chester, Iowa, but they took the binder with them in 1936 when they moved to the 160-acre Moses Crawford farm in LeRoy Township, in Mower County, Minnesota.  This binder was horse-drawn but later, after the Wells family purchased a 1929 Farmall Regular in 1939, the corn binder was converted to tractor-pulled model.  The corn binder was used in the Wells farming operation to cut and bundle green corn for feeding into the McCormick-Deering Model N silo filler. 

            In a picture in the second article on the Papec Company in the January/February 1996 issue of Belt Pulley magazine, a Deering corn binder–largely identical to the later McCormick-Deering corn binder–can be seen in operation in a field of sorghum on the John T. Goff farm near Mapleton, Minnesota.  This Deering corn binder was owned by the Howard and Ethel (Buck) Hanks family and used on the Goff farm while they rented that farm.  The binder was moved to the Bagan farm near LeRoy, Minnesota in 1945 when the Hanks family purchased that farm. 

            Maynard Lawrence remembers that his parents, Dean and Carrie (Schafer) Lawrence, used a McCormick-Deering corn binder on their Pilot Grove Township farm in Faribault County, near Winnebago, Minnesota.  Dean and Carrie Lawrence and their two oldest sons, Delmar (born April 6, 1914) and Virgil (born July 10, 1916), had moved from the Gatskill farm in Adams County near Corning, Iowa, in 1923.  In Minnesota, they settled on the historic David Ogilvie farm.[2]  When the Lawrence family moved to Minnesota, their livestock rode in a freight train which arrived at the little railroad junction town of Wells, Minnesota (1920 pop. 1,894).  Living on the 160-acre Ogilvie farm, Dean and Carrie had two more sons, Ronald (born December 26, 1925) and Maynard (born January 8, 1928).  The Lawrence family purchased a new horse-drawn McCormick-Deering corn binder in the late 1920s following the consolidation of the names in 1927.  Always seeking to employ modern methods in his farming operation, Dean Lawrence purchased a new Farmall F-12 in 1934.  Their horse-drawn corn binder was immediately converted to a tractor-drawn machine and continued to be used in the Lawrence family farming operation for many more years. 

            Besides serving as representative of some other machine, each restored tractor or farm machine has its own history.  Sometimes the history of a machine is not known and may be impossible to discover.  When the history of a particular machine is known, the restoration of that machine becomes all the more fascinating to the people restoring it.  The Irving King corn binder is particularly interesting in this regard, not only because its history is known, but also because the corn binder is a “neighborhood machine.”  This particular binder was used in the fall of 1958 and the fall of 1959, binding up corn on the Ralph King farm which is a mere stone’s throw from the Pioneer Power Showgrounds where it is currently being used.  Therefore, when the binder is cutting corn during the field demonstrations at the Showgrounds, it is working on almost the same land where is was used in 1958 and 1959.  Furthermore, the Irving King farm, where the little binder spent its life prior to 1958, is also located in Sharon township across the road from the current Ray Allen Schwartz farm south of LeSueur, not far from the Pioneer Power grounds. 

            Irving King was a bachelor farmer living on his own 80-acre farm south of LeSueur, Minnesota, in the late 1920s.  He purchased the present one-row horse-drawn McCormick-Deering sometime in the late 1920s after the 1927 consolidation of the names.  The binder was purchased from the Jack Clifford International Harvester dealership in LeSueur, Minnesota.  (Consistent Belt Pulley readers will remember that the Jack Clifford dealership in LeSueur was sold to Paul Meyer in 1941.  See the article: “History of a Thresher” in the May/June, 1994 issue of Belt Pulley, p. 19).  The binder was used on the Irving’s diversified farm to cut some of the ripened corn in the fall for the corn shredder.  Corn shredding was a popular method of harvesting part of the farmer’s ripe corn in the LeSueur area.  Shredding part of the ripe corn crop allowed the farmer to save some of the corn stalks from the corn crop for livestock feed or bedding.  The corn shredder would be parked near the barn and the bundles of corn were fed into it by a crew of men.  The corn shredder would strip the ears of corn from the stalks and elevate the ears into a wagon.  The stalks and husks are then shredded and blown directly into the hayloft of the barn. (The Rosenthal Steel 40 corn shredder employed at the Pioneer Power Show each year provides the public demonstrations of this very popular, but by-gone method of harvesting corn.)  The rest of the corn crop on the farm would be hand-husked in the traditional manner. 

            Corn shredding was a way to save yet another by-product from at least some of the corn crop.  Indeed, the bedding and feeding value of shredded corn stalks was so appreciated that following the hand-husking of the corn, some farmers would bind and shred these empty corn stalks for additional feed and/or bedding.   

            Binding of corn for shredding usually began the second week in September.  The corn would cure in the shocks until October when the corn would be shredded.  Corn shredding, like grain threshing required a large crew of workers.  During corn shredding and at other times throughout the year, Irving cooperated with his brothers Leland and Howard, who were also both bachelors and living together on a farm about a mile south of Irving’s farm.  Even with the large crew, shredding of corn was a long ordeal which would usually last throughout October and November. Sometimes corn shredding would not be complete until December.

            Horses provided much of the power on the Irving King farm as was the case on so many farms of the 1920s and 1930s.  However, Irving upgraded his farming operation by obtaining a new Case LA standard tractor.  Later, in 1940, he purchased his first row-crop tractor–a new 1940 Farmall B–and a 235 two-row cultivator.  The Farmall B was a three-wheeled version with a single front wheel and was also purchased at Clifford’s.  As shown in the 1939 movie Farmall B and Equipment on Tape 2 of the International Harvester Movie collection, the Farmall B was introduced in 1939 as the “best little tractor on three wheels” and seems to have been offered only in the single-front-wheel configuration for the first couple of years of its production.  Irving found that the Farmall B was a very handy little tractor.  Not only was the Farmall B used for cultivating, but Irving soon began to convert his horse drawn machinery to be pulled behind the B.  By the fall of 1940, the tongue on the little McCormick-Deering corn binder had been shortened up and fitted with a hitch for the drawbar of the B.  After the conversion of the binder to tractor-power, the 1940 Farmall B was used exclusively to pull the corn binder on the Irving King farm.  The Farmall B is ideally fitted to the corn binder.  Indeed the Farmall B was originally advertised as being ideally suited to this task.  In a sight which must be very much reminiscent of the B and the corn binder on the Irving King farm , there is a scene at the end of Farmall B and Equipment in which a three-wheeled B can be seen pulling a ground-driven McCormick-Deering binder in a corn field. 

            The Irving King binder is also a valuable addition to the farm machinery collection on the Showgrounds because its condition.  Having had very good care over the years since its original purchase in the late 1920s and having been stored indoors all of its life, the Irving King binder was in very good condition when it was sold in 1958 to Irving’s cousin, Ralph King.  

            In 1958, Ralph King had just taken over the farming operation of the 80-acre family farm from his parents, John and Hattie (Dressel) King.  Ralph and his wife, Carol (Wanner) King, still live in the same house in which Ralph was raised. 

            Ralph was born on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 1927, as part of the first set of triplets ever delivered in ImmanuelHospital in Mankato, Minnesota.  The other infants in the set of triplets were a boy named Roy (named after Dr. Roy M. Andrews who delivered the triplets) and a girl named Runette.  When the triplets returned to the King home from the hospital, they joined two older sisters, Mary Louise (born on May 25, 1922) and Ruth (born on April 3, 1925); however, Roy died after only two months at home, leaving Ralph as the only boy in a family of girls. 

            As the years went by, Ralph became old enough to help his father with the milking and chores.  The day began early on the King farm.  Without fail, every morning John B. King would awaken Ralph at the stoke of 5:00 AM on the mantel clock in the dining room of the King house.  Ralph would then get up, get dressed and go downstairs and out of the house toward the barn to help his father with milking the cows by hand and with the other morning chores.  After chores, they would return to the house where Ralph’s mother, Hattie, would have breakfast ready.  Hattie was known in the neighborhood for her homemade bread and her home canned dill pickles.  Coming back into the house after milking, Ralph might find the house full of the smell of his mother’s bread baking in the oven. 

            Over the years, the regularity of this schedule was rarely changed.  On only one memorable occasion in the middle of husking season did Ralph find himself awakened after what seemed to be an unusually short night, get dressed and finish all the chores and return to the house, only to find that his father had accidentally awakened Ralph at 4:00 AM by miscounting the number of strokes from the clock.  Ralph and his father had to wait an hour for it to be light enough to get back to husking or hand picking the corn in the corn fields that day!

            In 1936, John King purchased a new model John Deere A.  This tractor was used for all the farming operations on their farm.  During corn shredding season, the John Deere A powered the Rosenthal Steel 40 corn shredder which the King family owned.  This Rosenthal Steel 40 was identical to the Rosenthal corn shredder now used on the LeSueur Pioneer Power grounds, except that the King’s Rosenthal did not have the optional self-feeding attachment.  Therefore, a worker had cut the strings on each bundle of corn and feed the corn into the shredder by hand. 

            After John King retired from farming in 1958, Ralph took over the responsibilities of the farming operation on the King farm.  Corn shredding gave way to mechanical picking of the entire corn crop in 1960.  Consequently, the little McCormick-Deering binder was rarely used after the 1959 season.  In the early 1980s, the binder and the 1936 John Deere A were sold to Glendon Braun.  (The John Deere A came to be named “Ol’ Ralphie” and is still used on the Glendon and Eldon Braun farms.)  During all this time, the corn binder continued to be stored indoors, and when it was brought to the Showgrounds in the summer of 1995, some of the original paint on the binder was still apparent. 

            On the Showgrounds the binder has become the object of restoration plans.  In the future, the binder may be re-painted according to the color scheme outlined in the  International Harvester paint committee decisions obtained from the Wisconsin Historical Society Archives.  Decaling and/or stenciling of the lettering on the corn binder may also be undertaken.  The binder may be pulled in the parade held on the Showgrounds each day of the August Pioneer Power Show. 

            A permanent registration system for the exhibits in the parade has been devised by Kathy Klasseus.  This system is a computerized and will allow each exhibit to be correctly identified by the parade announcer as the exhibit passes the announcer’s stand.  All the registered exhibits are stored on a computer.  This saves much time in registering tractors for the parade each year.  Furthermore, each entry in the computerized registration system contains a “comment” section which is available for additional notations about each exhibit–perhaps a description of the implement being towed by a particular tractor.  Because of the permanent nature of the registration system, care must be taken to attach the same tractor to the same implement for each parade each year.  Therefore, particular tractors tend to became permanently linked with particular implements for purposes of the parade at the Show.  One particularly appropriate tractor to be linked with the Irving King corn binder would be the 1945 Carl Pinney Farmall B (Serial No. 130,161) now owned by Wells Family Farmalls.  With the exception of the lack of a single front wheel, the Carl Pinney Farmall B pulling the McCormick-Deering corn binder would look very much like the unit that Irving King would have taken to the corn fields in early 1940s to bind up the corn for the corn shredder.  

            Whether the Irving King binder is working in the field demonstrations at the Showgrounds or being paraded at the LeSueur Pioneer Power Show each year, it is certain that it will stir many people to memories of their own experiences with a similar McCormick-Deering corn binder. 

    [1]One corn shredder is a small wooden two-roll International Harvester owned by Kenny Schultz.  It can be seen in the Second Hour portion of Tape #3 of the IHC movie collection, operating at the 1988 Show and being powered by Eldon Braun’s 1925 [spoker] John Deere D.  The other corn shredder is a Model 40 all-steel [called a “Steel 40”] four-roll Rosenthal corn shredder, currently owned by Doug Pfarr.  Kenny Schulz can be seen near the end of the second hour portion of Tape #11 of the International Harvester Movies collection, throwing corn bundles into the self-feeder of the Rosenthal Steel 40 which is being powered by an Monty Braun’s Allis-Chalmers WD-45 at the 1994 Show.  The self-feeder on this late-model Rosenthal is an optional attachment not commonly found on corn shredders.

    [2]David and Mary (Reid) Ogilvie, David’s brother James and Helen (Cherry) Ogilvie, Andrew and Jeanette More, and Archibald and Anne Cardle are celebrated locally as the original 1858 settlers of PilotGroveTownship and indeed were among the first settlers of rural southern Minnesota.

Frank Brown Construction Company (Part 3)

The Frank Brown Construction Company (Part 3):

Mechanization with the Caterpillar Model 60


Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the November/December 1996 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine


            As related in the last two installments of this series of articles carried in the July/August and September/October 1996 issues of Belt Pulley magazine, the F.H. Brown Construction Company was founded in 1920, during the early period of the Great Road Building Boom of the 1920s.  The company prospered during these years because of the huge demand for good roads.  During the early years, the company used mules to built roads in Blue Earth and Waseca Counties in Minnesota; however, in 1925, the Frank Brown Company sought to reduce labor and modernize its operation by purchasing two Caterpillar Model “Sixty” crawler tractors.

            Not only was 1925 a significant year for the F.H. Brown Company but it was also a pivotal year for the Caterpillar Company.  On March 2, 1925, the C.L. Best Gas Traction Company merged with the Holt Manufacturing Company to form the Caterpillar Tractor Company, and the first model Sixty was sold under the Caterpillar name.  Randy Leffingwell, The American Farm Tractor (Motorbooks International: Oseola, Wis., 1991), p. 56.  In the years immediately following the First World War, both Holt and Best had undergone some tough sledding.  Soon, however, events would emerge that would make these two California-based companies the dominate power in construction business across the nation.  

            Like many large established companies, Holt and Best had been producing war materials for the war effort.  Also like many other companies, the end of the war would necessitate a conversion to peacetime production.  Many companies failed to find a niche in the peacetime economy and were forced to close their doors.  Indeed Holt and Best were among those companies that were facing dire straits with the end of the war.  However, the Great Road Building Boom was to be the saving grace for Holt and Best.  (Century of Change, pp. 24-27.) 

            The Best Company, from San Leandro, California, had started with Daniel Best manufacturing his first steam wheel-type tractor in 1889.  Daniel’s son C.L. Best incorporated the business into a company in 1910.  Within a few years Best was employing about 100 workers.  Best steam tractors were first conceived as a power source for farms in the California area; however, these tractors never had a very large market.  Only the most prosperous of farming operations could afford to buy one of these steam engines.  Nonetheless, Best found a niche for its tractors in the road building and freightage areas of the economy.  Best steam engines were found to be more efficient that animal power at hauling lumber, ores and supplies over marginal roads. They could haul 40 to 50 tons of material over “roads” which were difficult for animals to negotiate. ( The Caterpillar Story, produced by Caterpillar Company (Peoria, Ill. 1990) pp. 6-7.)     

             The Holt Company started as the Stockton Wheel Company located in Stockton, California, where they made combine harvester threshers.  The first combine harvester/threshers made by Holt were ground-driven models.  (An 1887 example of this ground-driven machine is presently one of the exhibits in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C.)  By 1890, the Stockton Wheel Company was building wheel-type steam tractors which were intended as power sources for their combines, replacing the traditional source–horses.  In 1892, the Stockton Company changed its name to the Holt Manufacturing Company.  The company had grown tremendously and now employed 300 people, making 200 combines and 10 steam engines annually.  Holt, however, also found that the construction business offered a better market for their tractors than the agricultural area of the economy. 

            Holt and Best competed with each other for the California construction market through out the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and over the years their respective tractor models underwent many improvements.   Under the active guidance of Benjamin Holt, the Holt Company designed and built a prototype of a track-laying tractor on November 24, 1904.  Following the successful tests of this prototype in April of 1905, Holt began marketing this tractor under the name “Caterpillar” to distinguish its track-tractor from its wheel-type tractors.  In 1908, Holt abandoned steam power in favor of the more efficient gasoline-powered internal combustion engine. 

            In 1909, Holt made a significant acquisition when they purchased the facilities of the Colean Manufacturing Company in East Peroia, Illinois.  Colean was a tractor manufacturer that had not successfully made the transition from steam power to gasoline power.  Consequently, the company had faded and became an acquisition target for a company with the resources available to expand into the midwestern market.  Holt was that company, and with the purchase of the Colean properties, Holt broke out of the regional California market and became a nationally based company.  Additionally, Peoria would eventually become the main headquarters of the company. 

            As noted above, both Best and Holt flourished during the First World War as they developed a worldwide market for their large track-type (or crawler) tractors.  By the end of the war, both companies were known around the world for their large crawler tractors and had an international network of dealerships and exporters. 

            However, the uncertainty of the post-war economy threatened both companies.  They both began look for solutions and saw that together they might find the niche they needed.  So, in 1925, they merged to form the Caterpillar Tractor Company.  The merger worked better than expected and resulted in Caterpillar dominating the construction market around the nation.  This domination has continued to the present day.

            The “Caterpillar” name came from the Holt side of the company.  However, the management of the new company recognized that the Best Models Thirty and Sixty were superior in design to the Holt models of the same horse power range.  Consequently, the Best models Thirty and Sixty were continued in production by the new company with scarcely any changes, except that the name “Caterpillar” was now embossed on the top of the radiator.  Accordingly, the merger really did result in a combination of the best parts of both companies. 

            Leading the way as the top-of-the-line model of the new Caterpillar tractors, the new model Sixty became a very popular product.  Sales of the model Sixty boomed, as all across the nation small construction companies like the F.H. Brown Company sought to mechanize the job of road building by purchasing modern equipment.

            As noted elsewhere, the depression for the agricultural sector of the U.S. economy continued from 1921 until the coming of the Second World War.  (See “Algoma is OK” March/April, 1995 issue of Belt Pulley Vol. 8, No. 1 p. 19.)  By abandoning the agricultural market and moving to the construction market, Holt and Best were able to avoid the agricultural depression that overcame so many companies in the 1920s.  Then, by merging at the right time, the two companies formed a single entity that would be able to meet the explosive demand for road building equipment that arose in the wake of the Great Road Building Boom of the 1920s.  Caterpillar was the only company in the construction market with the manufacturing facilities to meet this huge demand.  As a result, Caterpillar was able to enjoy a 70% increase in sales at a time when other manufacturers of tractors were engaged in drastic price wars and serious cutbacks in profits.  (The American Farm Tractor pp. 56-58.)

            Manufacturing capacity is useless, of course, unless the manufactured product can be sold.  Another benefit of the merger was the combined sales and distribution networks that the company now enjoyed.  The Gildemeister S.A.C. firm was used to distribute tractors in Chile and Peru.  The Tunisian firm PARENIN was the distributer for Caterpillar in all of North Africa.  Pacific Machinery operated as a distributor and dealer out of Hawaii.  Domestically, Yancey Brothers of Atlanta, Georgia, and Zeigler of Minneapolis, Minnesota, distributed Caterpillar products. The Caterpillar Story pp. 28-29.  Eventually, several fine dealers sprung up around the world, such as Cecil L. Walker Machinery of Belle, West Virginia.  These dealers would offer sales and service of Caterpillar tractors for their respective areas.   

            Ziegler and many other early Caterpillar dealers used to hold “Caterpillar Schools” for owners and operators of Caterpillar tractors.  These schools consisted of month-long sessions which covered the topics of:  the history of the track-type tractor, and the theory, construction and maintenance of engines; and the field adjustment, operation and troubleshooting of Caterpillar tractors.  One feature of the Caterpillar schools was that they promoted loyalty between the company, their employees and their customers.  (Indeed, there was a tradition of cooperation between the Caterpillar workers and the management of the company which continued through good times and bad until recently, when the spirit of cooperation seems to have broken down.  Although Caterpillar continues to have record high profits and the company’s stock continues to sell well on the New York Stock Exchange, since November of 1990, the company has refused to renew the labor contract of its employees and has threatened its work force with permanent replacement workers in a continuing labor dispute.)

            The new Caterpillar Sixty’s purchased by the F.H. Brown Company brought much more power to the tasks of road building in Blue Earth and Waseca Counties.  The Sixty’s were put to work in a number of different heavy tasks.  They made short work of pulling tree stumps from the path of a prospective road.  The introduction of the Sixty’s into the F.H. Brown Company also brought a new class of workers to the road crew–the heavy equipment operator, nicknamed “Cat skinners.”  The same camaraderie that already existed between the muleskinners on the crew now developed between the Cat skinners.  Whereas the mule skinners wore bowler hats, the Cat skinners took to wearing flat roadster-style hats.  (A picture on page 28 of The Caterpillar Story which shows the 1926 class of “Caterpillar School” held at the Ziegler dealership in Minneapolis, Minnesota, reveals that many of the “students” were wearing these roadster-style hats, indicating that they were Cat skinners.) 

            As noted in the second installment of this article, there was generally a hierarchy among the employees of a typical road crew.  The dump man was generally the highest paid employee on the road crew, with the excavating machine operator next, followed by the mule skinners, and finally the general laborers.  The Cat skinners, or heavy equipment operators, created another level of the hierarchy which was inserted into the company employment hierarchy between the excavating machine operator and the mule skinners.  The “Cat skinners” were given more pay than the mule skinners to reflect the fact that they had been trained at “Caterpillar Schools” like the one at the Ziegler dealership in Minneapolis. 

            At first, the Sixty’s replaced the mules in only the heaviest jobs.  It was discovered that the “Cat” would greatly reduce the amount of time required for removing tree stumps standing in the way of the planned road.  Gradually over the years, the Cats were given more tasks on the road crew including some lighter duties.  For instance, when it came time to move the road camp to a new location, the Cats were even used to perform the relatively light duty of towing the buildings-on-wheels to the new location.  

            As the Sixty’s took on more of the work for the F.H. Brown Company, there was a reduction in the number of mules employed each year.  This meant a reduction in the overall size to the road crew.  This was not so evident before 1935, but events would impose some rapid changes on the company. 

            In June of 1935, while the crew was working on a stretch of road in Olmsted County near Rochester, Minnesota, F.H. Brown died of stroke.  The sudden death of her husband put Elizabeth in a difficult situation.  She was college-educated, having graduated in 1921 from Mankato Normal School in Mankato, Minnesota, with a two-year teachers certificate.  Before marrying Frank, she had taught school, two years in Jackson, Minnesota, two years in Pine City, Minnesota, and two years in Little Falls, Minnesota.  Still, with a large family to raise, she could not return to teaching.  Furthermore, she was resolved not to let her husband’s company go out of business.  With the help of her brother, Bud Nicholson, she continued to manage the company following Frank’s death.  However, she and her children stayed in their home in Madison Lake, Minnesota, during the summer instead of travelling with the road crew.  Bud Nicholson conducted the day-to-day operations of the crew and travelled with the crew all summer.  To keep the company competitive, Bud Nicholson finished the mechanization of the F.H. Brown Company by finally replacing all the mules on the crew during the 1940s.   

            The little house-on-wheels, which Frank Brown had built as a summer home for his family while they travelled with road crew, was converted to a bunk house.  As a bunk house, it continued to travel with the road crew each summer until 1952.  In 1952, the little house-on-wheels was parked on the Brown homestead, in Madison Lake, Minnesota, where it served as home for Manze Skoog until 1960.  Manse Skoog had served as blacksmith for the road crew from 1935 until 1960.  Following 1960, the house was used as a storage facility and playhouse for the Brown family grandchildren at their Grandmother Elizabeth’s farm in Madison Lake.

            By the 1990s, the little house-on-wheels and the blacksmith shop-on-wheels were all that remained of the structures that once formed the road camp of the F.H. Brown Construction Company.  Unfortunately, the house eventually sagged under deterioration and vandalism.  The porch on the house was completely rotted away.  With the intent of preserving at least some of the history of the F.H. Brown Company, the Brown family, in 1993, made contact with Donald Borneke of Eagle Lake, Minnesota, a member of the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association, to have the blacksmith shop-on-wheels and the little house-on-wheels donated to the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association. 

            The restoration of the blacksmith shop was undertaken by John and Suzie (Krocak) Smisek and Butch and Kathy (Osborne) Krocak, all of Le Center, Minnesota.  By the time of the August 1994 Pioneer Power Show, the blacksmith shop had been restored to its original appearance complete with a new coat of paint which matched the original shade of green.  At the 1994 Show, the blacksmith shop-on-wheels was appropriately towed in the parade each day by John Hiniker’s 1930 Caterpillar Sixty driven by Pioneer Power board member, John Klaseus. 

            Elizabeth and her brother continued to operate the company until their retirement in 1964.  Elizabeth Brown died at the age of 95 on December 31, 1994.  The story of the little house-on-wheels was related in an article by Ted Roemer in the January 11, 1995, issue of the Lake Region Times as a tribute to Elizabeth Brown.  This article was reprinted in the March 1995 issue of the Pioneer Power newsletter–The Pioneer Times–by its former editor Elaine Hein. 

            In the spring of 1996, the restoration of the little house-on-wheels was begun.  Once again, the Smisek and Krocak families applied their considerable talents to the restoration of Frank and Elizabeth Brown’s little summer home on wheels.  Dr. Frank Brown Jr. purchased new windows for the house which were designed to look like the originals.  He also found an old rusted stove on his mother’s farm in Madison Lake which had originally been used by the F.H. Brown Company in one of the bunk houses.  The stove was like the one used in the house.  Consequently, Dr. Brown sent the stove to Michigan to have it re-plated.  The stove now occupies its place in the house-on-wheels.  Gertude (Brown) Suel, third child and second daughter of Frank and Elizabeth, as well as Dr. Frank Brown, served as consultants during the restoration process, especially in the selection of the right shade of yellow paint for the house and green paint for the restored porch and the trim.   

            Both the blacksmith shop-on-wheels and the house-on-wheels are now a permanent part of the restored road camp at the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Show.  The public is able to visit the road camp during the Show conducted each year during the last weekend in August.  Surrounded by the Caterpillar tractors–including John Hiniker’s model Sixty–and other equipment used during the Show, the public is able to enjoy scenes typical to the F.H. H. Brown Company after they became mechanized.  In this way, the restored road camp at the Show will serve as a salute not only to the F.H. Brown Construction Company, but also to Caterpillar and all other companies across the nation who contributed to the modern roads which we all currently use.