Massey-Harris Farming (Part I):
The Oltrogge Family of Waverly, Iowa
Brian Wayne Wells
As published in the May/June 2004 issue of
Belt Pulley Magazine
German immigration to the United States began as a trickle in the 1830s, but by the period of time from 1846 to 1855, German immigration had reached a peak when more than a million Germans emigrated into the United States. (Maldwyn Allen Jones, American Immigration [University of Chicago Press: Chicago, 1960] p. 110.) More than half of the German immigrants coming to the United States at this time moved to the Upper Mississippi and Ohio River valleys. (Id., p. 118)
Arriving at the end of this wave of German immigration in 1856 was a 36-year old young man, William Frederich Oltrogge (known as Frederick or Fred), and his 34-year old wife, Sophia. Together with their two daughters, Sophia ages 6 years and Caroline age 2, they had boarded a ship for the United States. The Oltrogge family had been originally from Hessen, or the State of Hess, in the west central part of Germany near the large city of Frankfort. The Rhine River formed the western boundary between Hess and the Prussian Province of Rhineland. The Kingdom of Bavaria which lay to the south of the State of Hess.
The reasons that Frederick and Sophia brought their family to this country are not known. However, some clues might be found in the facts surrounding the immigration of the Oltrogge family. The fact that the Oltrogge family came to the United States with a group of people they had known in the State of Hess and the fact that immediately upon their arrival, in 1856, they establishing a Lutheran congregation and then a year later in 1857, they erected the St. John’s Maxfield Lutheran Church, suggests that there may have been a religious motive in their immigration to Iowa.
During this period of time Germany was not yet a unified nation. Instead the German speaking lands were divided into a patchwork of small kingdoms and princely states. These small states were constantly warring against each other for one reason or another. However, Martin Luther and the Reformation of 1520 and the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) had the effect of further splitting the German states along religious lines. The states of the northern part of Germany became predominately Protestant (Lutheran), while the southern states remained Roman Catholic in religious persuasion.
The State of Hess was one of the middle states of Germany—not part of the predominately Lutheran north, nor part of the mainly Catholic southern part of Germany. As a consequence, the people of Hess were, themselves divided in religious affiliation—65 to 68% Protestant and 26 to 32% Roman Catholic. (James K Pollack and Homer Thomas, Germany in Power and Eclipse [MacMillan & Co. Pub.: London, 1952] p. 442.) Ever since the Reformation, there had been religious unrest between the Catholics and the Protestants in Germany. This unrest was especially prevalent in the middle states of Germany where the population was fairly evenly split between the Catholic and Protestant religions. The State of Hess was no exception. However, not only were the protestant families leaving Hess, but so too were the Roman Catholic families. One notable Catholic example was Adolphus Busch, who left the State of Hess and immigrated to St. Louis, Missouri in 1857. Adolphus Busch later became one of the founders of the Anheiser-Busch Brewery Company of St. Louis, Missouri. (Peter Hernon and Terry Ganey, Under the Influence: The Unathorized Story of the Anheuser-Busch Dynasty [Avon Books: New York, 1991] p. 22.)
However, besides religious reasons, there may have been political reasons, which may have caused the Oltrogge and Busch families to leave the State of Hess. There had long been unrest in the Germany over the very fact that the various German speaking states were divided into so many small political units. There had been much agitation in favor of a unified German State. However, there was much disagreement of dispute arose over the form the new unified Germany would take. In 1848, all across the German speaking lands, uprisings in favor of more democratic freedoms and constitutions had arisen. These revolts had been bloodily suppressed by the conservative rulers of the various German states. One such crisis broke out in the State of Hess and threatened in 1850 to become a war involving some of the states neighboring Hessen. (Marshal Dill Jr., Germany: A Modern History [University of Michigan Press: Ann Arbor, 1970] p. 120.) Historians used to believe that the suppression of the uprisings of 1848 was a major cause of the German emigration to the United States in the early 1850’s. They believed that tide of emigration consisted of disappointed liberals and democratic reformists. Recently, however, theory has been challenged. Modern historians now hold that the emigrating Germans were “little concerned with politics and with revolution not at all.” (Marcus Hansen quoted in American Immigration by Maldwyn Allen Jones, cited above, p. 110.)
In actual fact, despite all the trappings, it may well have been plain economic motives that brought the Oltrogge family to Iowa. For there were economic motives aplenty. There had been poor harvests in the lands along the Rhine River for a number of years. (Maldyn Allen Jones at p. 110 and Hernon and Ganey, Under the Influence:The Unauthorized Story of the Anheuser-Busch, p. 22.) The vast open spaces of land and the virtually unlimited opportunity for land ownership in the upper Midwest of the United States compared quite favorably to the dismal future prospects that appeared to be waiting them in Germany. (Robert P. Howard, Illinois: A History of the Prairie State [Eerdmans Pub. Co.: Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1972] p. 222.)
Whatever the reason, Frederick and Sophia Oltrogge moved with their family onto a 240-acre piece of land in Section 1 of Jefferson Township in Bremer County Iowa. The early years of settlement were mostly taken up with building the house and barn and, as noted above, the neighborhood church in adjacent Maxfield Township. It was hard work, settling in the new land. However, they were not alone. The whole neighborhood was involved in the same struggle to tame the land and carve out a niche for themselves on the prairie.
In 1856, Iowa was still a frontier state having entered the union only 1846. (Leland L. Sage, A History of Iowa [Iowa State University Press: Ames, 1974] p. 91.) Large portions of the state were still inhabited by bands of Dakota (Sioux) people. Indeed, one year after the arrival of the Oltrogge family, 1857, saw the uprising of the Wahpeton Sioux against the increasing flood of white settlers that were coming into Iowa. This uprising has become known as the Massacre of Spirit Lake. (Ibid., p, 107-108.) However, the settlers kept coming even after the uprising. The town of Jefferson City (now called Denver, Iowa) sprang up three miles to the south of Oltrogge farm. By 1875, the Jefferson township schoolhouse had been built in the center of Section 2 just one mile west of the Oltrogge farm. Slowly, the community was growing. The size of the Oltrogge family also grew with the addition of a third daughter Anna Justine Wilhelmine born on April 4, 1858, another daughter Anna born on April 12, 1861 and a son William Frederick born on October 2, 1863. Named for his father, the younger William Frederick was called William to distinguish him from his father who was called Fred or Frederick. Like his older sisters, Sofia, Caroline and Anna just two years before, William, too, was confirmed in the St. Johns Maxfield Church in 1877.
The community continued to make progress. A public road was eventually built directly though the center of Section 1 and 2 of Jefferson County which passed just south of the Oltrogge farmstead. The 240-acre Oltrogge farm consisted of 160 acres located north of this road and 80 acres located south of the road. Some time prior to 1875 another house was built on the 80 acres located south of the road.
As William grew up, he developed a real interest in the family farming operation. The farm contained a dairy operation, with about 30 head of Holstein cattle being milked at any one time. The family also raised about 200 to 300 pigs and 500 chickens. Approximately half of their arable land was planted in corn. Since they did not have a silo on their farm, they built a bunker for storing corn silage. A portion of their corn was harvested as green corn silage; the remainder of the corn was harvested when ripe. Much of the ripe corn was stored on the farm and fed to the pigs, chickens and dairy cattle.
On October 12, 1887, just ten (10) days after his 24th birthday, William married Anna Steege, an 18-year old girl from a neighboring farm. Eventually they had a family that included Louis Wilhelm Johann Heinrich born on June 1, 1890, Amanda born in 1891, John born in 1892, Herman Heinrich Friedrich William born on May 23, 1893 and Hilda born on April 8, 1895. Gradually, William took over the operations of the family farm from his father.
Under William Oltrogge’s management several improvements were made to the farming operation. In the summer of 1897, he negotiated with the Borden & Selleck Co. of Chicago, Illinois for the purchase of a Howe Scale Company weighing scale for installation in the granary on the farm. A letter dated July 30, 1897 from the company headquarters located at 48 and 50 Lake Street in Chicago and signed by H. Borden, president of the company informed William that although building plans for the scale could be forwarded immediately, actual construction of the scales would be delayed until October. When installed in the covered alleyway of the granary, the 8ft. by 14 ft. platform of the scale had the ability to weigh an entire wagon load of grain or ear corn.
In 1916, a new barn was built specifically to house the teams of horses that the large farming operation required. This horse barn was built as a separate building rather than being attached to the main cow barn. Some time during the First World War, William mechanized the milking of the dairy herd. He built an engine house which was attached to the granary located about fifty (50) feet away from the barn. In the engine house was a 2 ½ horsepower Fairbanks-Morris stationary engine. This kerosene-powered “hit and miss” engine was belted to a vacuum pump which, in turn, was connected to an underground pipe that ran to the barn. The Fairbanks engine was started at the beginning of morning and evening milking and supplied the vacuum necessary to power the Universal-Coop milkers which William now used to milk his herd of cows.
Changes were also happening in the family. The year 1913 saw the passing of William’s father, Frederick Oltrogge at the age of 83 years. On March 18, 1914, Louis Oltrogge, William’s oldest son, married Hilda Kohagen from the local community. Following their marriage they struck out on their own and purchased a 240 acre farm which was adjacent to the original Oltrogge farm on the northwest corner of the home farm. In the summer of 1915, the Oltrogge family purchased their first automobile—a 1911 Model Kissel. Besides being a convenience for the family members the car greatly shortened the amount of time that it took to deliver the separated cream to the Co-operative Creamery in Artesian, the little unincorporated settlement located ½ a mile to the east of the home farm.
Additionally, young Herman began to take up the decision-making authority with regard to the farming operation as William now in his 50’s began to think about retiring. On May 3, 1917 Herman married Millie Kohagen, a sister of Hilda. To make room for the new family on the main farm, William tore down the old house located south of the road and built a new house on that site. William, then, moved into this new house and left the main house on the north side of the road for Herman and Millie.
Like his father, Herman was always seeking ways in which to improve the farming operation. Indeed, Herman was even more inclined toward this idea of modernizing the farm. In 1920, Herman, remodeled the house on the main farm. In the early 1920s, the Interstate Power Company stretched an electric power line along the road between Olewyn, Iowa and Waverly, Iowa. The power line followed the path of the road that would become State Route #3 along the edge of Readlyn, Iowa, and passing the Oltrogge farm. Interstate offered farm owners along the path of the power line the right to hook up to the power line at an affordable price. The Oltrogges accepted the offer from Interstate and electrified their farm. Now with electricity in the barn, the family hooked the vacuum lines which extended to all the stanchions in the barn to an electrically powered vacuum pump located in the barn itself. No longer was there a need for the vacuum lines extending underground to the barn all the way from the engine house.
However, Herman Oltrogge was aware that the most significant improvement in farming was the farm tractor which could fully mechanize the power on the farm. Indeed, in the winter of 1917-1918, Herman’s brother, Louis, had purchased a new Model 15-25 Lauson tractor. Herman had seen, first-hand how the steady power of the Lauson tractor compared favorably to the use of animal power for performing heavy farm work. Consequently, by the Spring of 1920, Herman had purchased a 1919 Model International Harvester Titan 10-20 Model tractor. This tractor was one of the post-1919 Titans which had the full length fenders which covered both rear wheels down to the drawbar. Herman used the Titan and a three-bottom John Deere Model No. 5 plow, to do his spring plowing in 1920.
The Titan was not only intended for all the heavy work around the farm, but was also intended to supply power to the belt. In 1920, the, Oltrogge’s also purchased a Sprout-Waldron feed grinder/burr mill. (Keith Oltrogge, William’s great –grandson, is a Certified Public Accountant, practicing in nearby, Denver, Iowa, still owns and lives on the family farm and still has this 1920 Sprout-Waldron burr mill on the farm.) Herman thought that the burr mill and the belt power provided by the Titan would speed up the processing of the animal feed on the farm.
Although the Titan was Herman’s first tractor, he never talked about it much. It may well have been that he was dissatisfied with the Titan tractor. It is not hard to find reasons for dissatisfaction with the Titan. Regular readers of the Belt Pulley will remember a 1920 Model Titan tractor was purchased in 1927 by Clarence Rodning of St. Peter, Minnesota to mechanize his farming operation. (See the article “Farming with an International 10-20 Titan” in the May/June 1996 issue of Belt Pulley magazine, p. 16.) Among the other problems, the Titan was hard to start. Indeed, Lee Klancher in his short book on International Harvester Farmall devotes five pictures to the Titan and the process involved in starting the Titan. (Lee Klancher, Farmall Tractors [Motorbooks, Intl. Pub.: Osceola, Wisc., 1995] pp. 17 through 24.) Additionally, due to the fact that the Titan was a two-cylinder tractor with both cylinders connected in parallel to the crankshaft, the pistons moved forward and back in the sleeves together rather than in an alternating two-cylinder pattern like John Deere tractors. Thus, even though the pistons were counter-weighted to reduce vibration in the tractor, the Titan had a tendency to “lope” or rock back and forth when powering a belt driven machine. This loping on the part of the tractor sent waves down through the belt and causing the burr mill to shake in time to the waves on the belt. Herman discovered this shortcoming of the Titan when he used the tractor on the belt to power the new Sprout-Waldron burr mill he had purchased. Herman was dissatisfied with the Titan and in 1923, he traded the Titan in to the dealership of Coddington and Laird in Waverly, Iowa, (pop. 600) toward the purchase of new four-cylinder Wallis Model OK tractor.
The Model OK had only been introduced in 1922 by the J.I. Case PlowCompany. (C.H. Wendel, 150 Years of Case [Crestline Pub.: Osceola, Wisc., 1991] p. 18.) The J.I. Case Plow Company of Racine Wisconsin should not be confused with the J.I. Case Threshing Machine Company which was also located in Racine, Wisconsin. The Case Threshing Machine Company was maker of the Case tractor. Although founded by the same people as the Threshing Company, the J.I. Case Plow Company had always been a separate corporate entity. In 1919, J.I. Case Plow Company was merged with the Wallis Tractor Company of Cleveland, Ohio and, thus, Henry M. Wallis became the new president of the company which bore the name J.I. Case Plow Company. Inevitably, once the J.I. Case Plow Company was controlled by persons no longer associated with the Threshing Company, disputes arose over the use of the name “Case” by the Plow Company. A decision by the Wisconsin Supreme Court allowed both companies to use the name “Case” under limited conditions. (Ibid., p. 17.) By the time the that the decision of the Wisconsin Supreme Court was handed down, the Case Plow Company had already been purchased by the Massey-Harris Company of Ontario, Canada. Immediately, after the Court decision, Case Threshing Company began pursuing a course of negotiations with Massey Harris to purchase the Case Plow Company for itself.
However, Massey Harris had been trying to enter the tractor market without real success, since 1912. The purchase of the Case Plow Company represented the company’s third attempt to add a tractor to the line of Massey-Harris farm equipment. (Michael Williams, Massey-Ferguson Tractors [Farming Press: Ipswich, U.K., 1987] pp. 15 through 44.) Once having obtained ownership rights to the manufacture of the popular Wallis tractor and the large Racine, Wisconsin tractor factory, Massey-Harris was not inclined to sell this valuable property. What they were willing to sell, and what the Case Threshing Company really wanted, was the limited right to the use of the name “Case” currently held by Massey Harris as the owner of the Case Plow Company. Thus, shortly after spending $1.3 million in cash and guaranteeing another $1.1 million in bonds in order to purchase the Case Plow Company, Massey Harris was able to recoup a great deal of the purchase price by selling their rights to the limited use of the name “Case” for $700.000.00.
At 4,020 pounds, Herman’s new 1923 Wallis Model OK tractor was much lighter than the 5,708 pound Titan. (C. H. Wendel, Nebraska Farm Tractor Tests [Crestline Pub.: Osceola, Wisc., 1993] pp. 19 and 42.) Furthermore, the Wallis Model OK tractor was a four-cylinder tractor delivering smooth power to the belt and to the rear wheels. Testing of the tractor at the University of Nebraska had shown that the tractor delivered 18.15 hp. to the drawbar and 27.13 hp. to the belt pulley. (Ibid., p. 42.) The Wallis tractor introduced many innovations to the tractor industry.
In 1913, the Wallis Tractor Company introduced the revolutionary Wallis Model “Cub” tractor. Two years later in 1915, the Model J, “Cub Jr.” was designed with a complete enclosure of the entire power drive train including the final drives at the rear wheels. (C.H. Wendel, Encyclopedia of Farm Tractors [Crestline Pub.: Sarasota, Fla., 1979] pp. 57 and 58.) Despite claims by Henry Ford that his Fordson tractor, which went into production 1918, was the first unit frame designed tractor, the Wallis tractor was, actually, the first tractor designed with a totally enclosed power train running in oil. (Ibid.) Every succeeding model of Wallis tractor was patterned after this design. Thus, by merely obtaining the production rights to the Wallis tractor in 1928, Massey-Harris was instantly set on a course to become one of the world’s five largest tractor manufacting companies within ten years. (Michael Williams, Massey-Ferguson Tractors [Farming Press: Ipswich, U.K., 1987] pp. 39 through 41.)
Furthermore, by its acquisition of the J.I. Case Plow Company, the Canada-based Massey-Harris Company instantly obtained a retail tractor sales network throughout the United States. In northeastern Iowa, this meant that Massey-Harris obtained the excellent services of the Coddington and Laird dealership of Waverly, Iowa, with branch dealerships in Plainfield, Readlyn, Tripoli and Janesville, Iowa.
Founded in Waverly, the Coddington and Laird dealership was the brainchild of Alva Bush Coddington. Alva (nicknamed Al) Coddington had been born in 1870 in Janesville, Iowa, located in southern Bremer County (pop. 445). After having attended business school in Burlington, Iowa, Al was employed for a while as a bookkeeper at the firm of J.C. Garner in Waverly, Iowa. Garner’s was a local business which owned a meat marketing business and farm equipment dealership holding retail sales franchises from many different farm equipment manufacturing companies, including Emerson Manufacturing Co., John Deere and Oliver plows, Ohio Cultivator Company discs and cultivators, Hayes Pump and Planter Company planters, Dain Manufacturing Company hay rakes and hay loaders, Sandwich Manufacturing Company “Clean Sweep” hay loaders, DeLaval cream separatorsand Great Western Company manure spreaders. Garner’s also had franchises to sell horse-drawn buggies made by the Staver Carriage Company of Chicago, Illinois; the Northwestern Furniture Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and the Velie Carriage Company of Moline, Illinois.
Al Coddington was a recognized success at bookkeeping during his employment at Garner’s. In 1891, he married Olive Wetherell, a girl from his own hometown of Janesville, Iowa. Their first child, Harry Coddington, was born in 1895, but tragically died in infancy that same year. However, they eventually had a family that was to include three additional children—Herbert Wetherell Coddington born in 1896, Olive Harriet Coddington born in 1902 and Margaret A. Coddington born in 1908. After some years at Garner’s Al sought to advance his career by accepting a position in Des Moines, Iowa. However, when he heard in 1902, that his old employer—the Garner dealership firm—was up for sale, it did not take him long to makeup his mind to move back to Bremer County and to purchase the Garner dealership. However, Al felt himself unable to make the purchase of all the stock in Garner’s by himself. So he formed a partnership with Ralph Eldon Laird to make the purchase. Thus, the October 30, 1902 issue of the Bremer County Independent was able to report to its readers the first news of the consummated sale of Garner’s to the partnership of Al Coddington and Eldon Laird, which would take effect on January 1, 1903. For a place of business, the new partnership of Coddington and Laird, purchased a local icehouse and the five (5) acre lot on which it sat, located at 20 and 22 West Bremer Street in Waverly from the s of land from the firm of Miller and Babcock.
A combination of good business sense on the part of Al Coddington and his partner and the beginnings of the mass demand for automobiles on the part of the public, made the new partnership a success from the very start. In 1902, the Northwestern Furniture Company, one of the companies that supplied horse-drawn buggies to Coddington and Laird, began offering a motorized “high wheeler” horseless carriage to the public. In 1907, the Staver Carriage Company did the same and in 1909, the Velie Company followed suit. Holding franchises to all three of these companies, Coddington and Laird, was perfectly placed to take full advantage of the coming boom in demand for automobiles.
In the meantime, Coddington and Laird sought to broaden their line of products they could offer to the public. The partnership purchased a windmill retailer, the John Voorman retail business on February 18, 1904. At the same time, Coddington and Laird leased the old skating rink from O. Wheeler, that had been used as a place of business by John Voorman. In this building the partnership established a buggy and farm machinery warehouse.
By March of 1904, Coddington and Laird was doing so well that they established a branch dealership in the small village of Readlyn, Iowa (pop. 468) located 15 miles to the east of Waverly and about six miles east of the Oltrogge farm. Al Coddington also had the privilege of opening a branch of his expanding business in his own hometown of Janesville, Iowa. By 1913, he would have additional branches in the Bremer County towns of Plainfield and Tripoli. In this way, the partnership covered every major sales market in Bremer County.
The partnership attempted to find the enterprises that would best position the partnership for the future. Accordingly, Coddington and Laird sold off the meat market part of their business on May 14, 1904 to O.O. McCaffree. In November of 1904, the dealership leased the Smalley Grain Elevator located on the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad (“the Rock Island Line”) tracks which led out of Waverly in a southwesterly direction.
By 1905, Coddington and Laird was already being referred to as Waverly’s “leading farm implement house” (the October 5, 1905 issue of the Waverly Democrat). Furthermore, the October 5, 1905 issue of the Waverly Democrat, reported that in addition to managing both the implement dealership and the grain elevator, the Coddington and Laird partnership occupied four warehouses with a wide range of goods for sale including lime, coal, ice and farm implements. In March of 1910, Coddington and Laird took over the building next door to them at 16 and 18 West Bremer Street. This building was remodeled to function as a garage where the dealership would begin to offer mechanical servicing to the owners of the new automobiles, motorized trucks and farm tractors that were beginning to make there appearance in Bremer County. Two years later, Coddington and Laird was already looking for new and larger premises for their business. The May 30 and June 27, 1912 issues of the Bremer County Independent the description of the new building at the corner of West Bremer and 2nd Street North West that the J.M. Miller Construction Company had been contracted to build for the Coddington and Laird dealership. By October, the building structure was complete up to the second story. By January of 1913, Coddington and Laird was moving into their new building located two blocks down West Bremer Street from their former location.
The dealership recognized that the trend of the future lie with modern farm equipment. Accordingly, Coddington and Laird sold off the ice business part of their combined enterprise to C. R. Farnham in November of 1914. Next spring, in May of 1915, they sold off the grain elevator and the coal business to the Colburn Bros. Concentrating on their core business as a farm equipment, tractor and automobile dealership, Coddington and Laird had found their niche.
However, within the emerging automobile industry vast changes were afoot. In 1904, the Northwestern Furniture Company had ceased making automobiles. (Beverly Rae Kimes, Standard Catalogue of American Cars 1805-1942 [Krause Pub.: Iola, Wisc., 1996] pp. 666 and 1047.) To replace this franchise, Coddington and Laird signed a contract with the Clark Motor Company of Shelbyville, Indiana, to sell Clark automobiles. However, the Clark Co. had only a short life-span from 1910 until 1912. (Ibid. p. 337.) In 1914, the Staver Motor Company found itself unable to keep up with the competition and went out of business. (Ibid. p. 1386.) Even the Velie Company began a decline that would eventually end in the total demise of the company in 1928. (Ibid. p. 1495.) Luckily, the dealership signed a franchise contract with a the REO Motor Car Company of Lansing, Michigan, the nation’s twenty-second largest automobile maker. (James H. Moloney, Encyclopedia of American Cars1930-1942 [Crestline Pub.: Sarasota, Fla., 1977] p. 319.) REO had the large scale capacity necessary to produce their cars in sufficient numbers to meet the increasing demands of the public. Furthermore, in 1909, the REO Company began the line trucks for which they would become renowned. (Albert Mroz, Illustrated Encyclopedia of American Trucks and Commercial Vehicles [Krause Pub.: Iola, Wisc., 1996] p 327.)
However, the most important franchise that Coddington and Laird obtained was the franchise to sell Chevrolet cars. In the period just after the First World War, Chevrolet was on its way toward overtaking Ford Motor Company in production and sale of automobiles—an event which would occur in 1927. (Robert Lacy, Ford: The Men and the Machine [Little Brown &Co. Pub.: Boston, 1986] p. 298.) Coddington and Laird were doing their part to help Chevrolet in this endeavor. Sales of Chevrolet cars in the twelve-month fiscal year from 1923-1924 resulted in Coddington and Laird becoming a member of the Chevrolet Division’s “Winners Class” of dealers for the year 1924.
Coddington and Laird served as the local retail sales agent for many different farm equipment manufacturers. Generally, these manufacturers did not have tractors in the line of farm equipment and they often specialized in the farm machinery they did manufacture rather than offering an entire line of farm implements. Thus, these manufacturers were called “short line” companies. Only by obtaining multiple franchises from many specialized short line manufactures, could Coddington and Laird offer to the public a “complete” line of farm equipment. The Wallis tractor formed the capstone of that complete line of farm equipment offered by Coddington and Laird. In June of 1926, the dealership partitioned off the front part of their new building to form a showroom which allowed the Coddington and Laird dealership to exhibit the Wallis tractor and other farm implements, inside, out of the weather and elements, even during the coldest of Iowa winters. Although somewhat more expensive than other tractors which were on the market in the post World War I period, the Wallis tractor nonetheless, proved to be a popular sales item in Bremer County. Thus, when Massey-Harris purchased the exclusive rights to build Wallis tractors, it only made common business sense for Coddington and Laird to become a Massey-Harris franchisee, which they did in 1928.
Herman Oltrogge was well satisfied with the Wallis tractor. Not only did he use the Wallis Model OK on all the heavy duty field work, but he also immediately started using the tractor on all sorts of lighter duty work around the farm. For example, he shortened the hitch on his John Deere grain binder and fixed the tractor with a long steering wheel extension that allowed him to steer the Wallis from the seat of the binder. This allowed the grain binding operations on the farm to remain a “one-man” operation just as it had been with the horses.
The Wallis four-cylinder valve-in-head engine provided smooth power to the belt when Herman belted the Wallis to the Sprout Waldron burr mill. Only one problem arose on the farm because of the new tractor. The new Wallis Model OK tractor had a rated engine speed of 1000 rpm. (C.H. Wendel, Nebraska Tractor Tests [Motorbooks Intl. Pub., 1993] p. 42.) This speed compared with an engine speed of 575 rpm. for the Titan. (Ibid. p. 19.) As noted above, when he purchased the burr mill, Herman had, of course, intended to use the Titan tractor to power the burr mill. Thus, the burr mill was fitted with a 6” belt pulley with a 6” face. This small pulley had the effect of speeding up the implement. Thus, the burr mill had been customized to the slower belt speed of the Titan tractor. Herman found that the Wallis tractor powered the burr mill at too fast a rate for efficient operation. Thus, it is not surprising that on February 5, 1923, Herman wrote to the Sprout Waldron Company in Muncy, Pennsylvania to determine how to adjust his burr mill to fit the new higher speed Wallis tractor. Charles Waldron, Vice president of the company responded three days later with a suggestion that the burr mill should be fitted with a larger 8” pulley. Sprout and Waldron had an 8” pulley with a 6” leather face available for sale at a price of $5.25. Acquisition of this new pulley allowed the Wallis Model OK tractor to efficiently power the burr mill and the smooth four cylinder engine did not cause the tractor to lope and send waves down the belt.
Massey-Harris continued manufacturing the Wallis Model OK tractor for about three years following the purchase of the J .I. Case Plow Company. Indeed in 1929, Massey-Harris introduced a newer smaller version of the Model OK. This was the Wallis Model 12-20. (C. H. Wendel, Encyclopedia of American Farm Tractors, p. 185.) In 1931, the Massey Harris Model 25 was introduced as a replacement for the Wallis Model OK tractor. (Michael Williams, Massey-Ferguson Tractors [Blandford Press: London, 1987] p. 32.) Still, the Massey Harris 25 tractor bore many of the identical design features of the Wallis tractor. The Massey-Harris Model 25 was offered to the public for the retail price of $1,275.00. (C.H. Wendel, Massey Tractors [Motorbooks Intl. Pub.: Osceola, Wisc., 1992] p. 39.)
As was noted in an earlier article, during the years 1931 through 1933, the Oltrogge farm served as the test ground for the prototype of the Rosenthal corn picker. (See the article “The Rosenthal Corn Husker Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Part V” contained in January/February 2002 issue of Belt Pulley magazine p. 12.) Also as related in that article, Herman traded the Wallis Model OK tractor to the Coddington and Laird dealership in 1932 on the purchase of a new Massey-Harris Model 25. Herman Oltrogge surely did not realize that his purchase of this tractor was to start a connection between the Oltrogge family and Massey-Harris tractors which extends down to the present day. The Massey Harris 25 continued to serve on the Oltrogge farm until after the Second World War.
The purchase of the Massey Harris Model 25 tractor did not, however, provide the family with a tractor that would perform all farm operations. The Massey-Harris was not a “row crop” tractor that would allow for the mechanical cultivation of corn and other row crops. The Oltrogge family raised a lot of corn but even after the purchase of the Massey-Harris Model 25, they still used horses for the cultivation of row crops—one row at a time. Not until early 1942, when they purchased one of the first Case Model VAC that came out in production, did they have a row-crop tractor which would allow for the mechanical cultivation of corn and other rows crops—two rows at a time. However, after only one year with the VAC, the Oltrogges traded the little Case in on the purchase of another row crop tractor. Once again they chose a Massey-Harris tractor. They purchased a Model 101 Super from their local dealership—Coddington and Laird. The 101 Super was an important part of the Massey-Harris Company’s attempt to develop a row crop tractor. However, development of Massey-Harris row-crop tractors would come to full fruition only in the post-World War II sales boom. This story remains as a subject for the next installment on Massey-Harris farming.
The connection between the Oltrogge family and Massey-Harris tractors continued. Herman’s son, Orville Oltrogge took over the farming operations from his father in the late 1940’s. The family farmed with a Model 44, a Model and a Model Massey-Harris tractors. Currently, Orville’s son, Keith Oltrogge, lives in the same house and on the same farm that was occupied by four prior generations of Oltrogges. Although, Keith works in nearby Denver, Iowa, as a Tax consultant and accountant, Keith is known to Massey-Harris collectors and restorers, nationwide, as the editor of Wild Harvest, the official newsletter for Massey-Harris collectors. In this way, Keith continues his family’s connection with Massey-Harris and actually makes the Oltrogge name as household term among Massey-Harris collectors. Massey-Harris farming will be celebrated at the 2004 LeSueur Pioneer Power Show held on August 27, 28 and 29, 2004 as the national Massey Harris collectors “Wild Harvest” summer convention will be hosted at the Show. Show attendees can be certain that Keith Oltrogge will be there to maintain his family’s continuing connection with the Massey-Harris name.