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Potato Farming in North Dakota with a 1937 Famall F-20 (Part 2)

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Potato Farming in No. Dakota with A 1937 F-20 (Part II)

by Brian Wayne Wells

(As published in the November/December 2008 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine)

Grafton Potato Growers Inc.: A major potato buyer of potaotes in Grafton, the county seat of Walsh County, North Dakota.

As noted previously, Walsh County, North Dakota borders the Red River of the North in eastern North Dakota.  (See the first article in the series called “Potato Farming in North Dakota [Part I]” contained in the July/August 2008 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.)  Because of its location and its light rich soils, Walsh County traditionally leads all 53 counties of North Dakota in the production of potatoes.  Indeed, some years, Walsh County produces 40% of the North Dakota’s total annual potato crop.  Walsh County is divided into 37 townships.  The townships on the extreme eastern edge of Walsh County that border the Red River are not the leading townships in the county in potato production.  Rather it is the “second range” of townships back from the Red River that are regarded as the best locations for the growing of potatoes.  Among this second tier of townships in Walsh County is Martin Township.

A map of North Dakota showing the location of Walsh County. The eastern boundary of North Dakota is formed by the Red river of the North.

 

As noted previously, Martin Township was, in 1936, the home of a particular farmer and his wife and two children.  Together they lived on a diversified 160-acre farm on which they raised potatoes as a primary cash crop.  However, they also raised spring wheat, corn, oats and hay.  They also milked a small herd of Holstein dairy cattle.  They had a chicken house full of laying hens and a few hogs in an attempt to diversify the sources of farm income as much as possible.  Consequently, a large portion of the arable land of their farm was taken up by pastureland and crops used as feed for the animals on the farm.  Martin Township was located so far north in the Midwest that the typical growing season was only 110 days long, extending only from an average last frost in the spring on about May  11 until the first killing frost in the fall on about September 11.  Corn which requires a 120-day season, does not, therefore, have enough time to mature in Martin Township.  This far north, corn is not a cash crop and is used as an animal feed on the farm.  Consequently, all the corn, raised by our Martin Township farmer was chopped green and put in the silo to be fed to his dairy herd.  Only wheat and potatoes were sold as cash crops.

A township map of Walsh county showing the location of Martin Township north of the county seat of Grafton, North Dakota on the northern border of Walsh County.

 

As the growing season approached in the Spring of 1937, our Martin Township farmer was reducing the amount of the acreage to be devoted to oats and hay on his farm for the coming year.  The reason for this was that over the winter of 1936-1937 he had purchased a new row crop tractor which would, eventually, replace the horses on his farm.  As noted previously, this new tractor was a Farmall F-20 tractor bearing the Serial Number 71355.  (Ibid.)  He had purchased No. 71355 from the Honsvald Oil Company in Grafton, North Dakota, the county seat of Walsh County.  (Ibid.)

An advertisement of the Grafton Implement Company, which formerly had been known as the Honsvald Oil Company.

 

No. 71355 was a tricycle-style tractor with a narrow front end, and factory-installed 5.50 x 16 inch rubber tires mounted on French and Hecht (F. & H.) round-spoke wheels in the front and 11.25 x 24 inch tires also mounted on F. & H. round-spoke tires in the rear.  Because the tractor had been fitted with rubber tires at the International Harvester Farmall Works factory in Rock Island, Illinois, No. 71355 was also fitted with the optional foot brakes and was fitted with the optional 28-tooth high speed road gear.  With the more common 36-inch rubber wheels in the rear, this optional road gear would have delivered a speed of 7.07 miles per hour (m.p.h.) to the tractor.

A Farmall model F-20 tractor configured with 24 inch rubber tires in the rear and French & Hecht round-spoke rims front and rear, just as No. 71355 was configured when it arrived at Honsvald Oil Company in Grafton, North Dakota.  The narrow front end of the tricycle-style of No. 71355 would provide our Martin Township farmer with the ability to perform all the field activities on his farm including the cultivation of row crops.

 

However, because No. 71355 was fitted with the optional 24-inch wheels in the rear, the speed of the tractor in every gear was reduced by almost 1/3.  Accordingly, the speeds available to No. 71355 through its four speed transmission were 1.575 mph in first gear, 1.925 mph in second gear, 2.275 mph in third gear and 4.666 mph in the optional fourth gear.

A Heisler step-up transmission mounted on a Farmall model F-20.

 

Because this range of speeds was painfully slow for cultivation and other light duty field work, our Martin Township farmer had agreed to the installation of a supplemental high-speed transmission to No. 71355, as a part of the original purchase contract.  The particular high-speed supplemental transmission installed by the Honsvald Oil Company to No. 71355 was the Model HT-2033 supplemental transmission manufactured by the Heisler Company of Hudson, Iowa.  (Ibid.)  The Model HT-2033 supplemental transmission added some very important working speeds back to the tractor that had been taken away by the 24 inch wheels.  These were 3.654 mph in high range of first gear, 4.46 mph in high range of second gear, 5.25 mph in high range of third gear.  Additionally, the new Heisler transmission added a road gear of 11.28168 mph to the F-20 for fast transport down the road when needed.  To be able to use No. 71355 for the most important of summer field work tasks, i.e. cultivation of the row crops, our Martin Township farmer had included the purchase of a Model 229 two-row mounted cultivator as part of the same sales contract with Honsvald.  Additionally, as noted previously, the purchase contract with Honsvald Oil Company also included the purchase of a new Model 12 two-row potato digger.

This advertising photo for the new Model 12 two-row potato digger shows that when the F-20 tractor is fitted with 24 inch wheels in the rear the tractor can pull the two-row potato digger. This convinced our Martin Township farmer to include a Model 12 two-row potato digger as a part of the purchase package with No. 71355.

 

Throughout most of January and early February, 1937, there had been accumulations of ten to twelve inches of snow on the ground.  However, unseasonably warm temperatures in early March melted the snow entirely by the middle of the month.  Now our Martin Township farmer had to wait for the soil to dry out and warm up.

Our Martin Township farmer knew of the old “rule” which stated that potatoes should be planted each year on Good Friday of the Easter holidays.  However, like most such rules, our Martin Township farmer knew that this rule did not apply to the “far north” of the Midwest where Grafton, North Dakota was located.  Most years in Walsh County, the last heavy frost in the spring occurred in early May.  Furthermore, he suspected that the old rule referred to potatoes planted in gardens in “sheltered” areas around the homestead.  He knew that the soil out in the open fields took a little longer to warm up in the spring than did the soil in the protected areas around the house.

In the spring of 1937, our Martin Township farmer was able to use the same Little Genius No. 8 two-bottom plow with 14 inch bottoms with No. 71355, which he had used the previous autumn with his old Model 10-20 tractor, to finish the plowing of his fields.

 

April, 1937 was slightly warmer than normal and so was early May.  The last cold night that even approached a killing frost occurred in mid-April.  Furthermore, the gentle rains that occurred throughout April and May helped warm the soil.  These springtime rains dried quickly in the light soil of his farm and did not unduly delay the field work because of wet conditions.  Accordingly, our Martin Township farmer got into the fields in early May of 1937.   He put the bright, red No. 71355 to work preparing seed bed.  Both the spring wheat and oats could germinate in soil as cool as 37°F while seed potatoes required a temperature of 42°F.  Therefore, our Martin Township farmer and his neighbors usually sowed the spring wheat and the oats before planting the potatoes.  By contrast, corn required a soil temperature of 50°F for planting.  Accordingly, corn was planted only after the potatoes.

Cutting the seed potatoes into pieces, by hand, so thatevery piece included at least two “eyes,” was a wintertime activity when potato plots were small. The pieces would then be placed in sacks to await springtime planting. Meanwhile the cut edge of the potato piece would “cure” to prevent rot. The sacks of potato pieces would have to be stored in the cellar of the house; warm enough to keep them from freezing and yet cool enough to retard early sprouting of the eyes of the potato pieces.

 

Cutting the seed potatoes into pieces ready for the potato planter was a job that employed the whole family and it was an ambitious job to be conducted each spring as planting time arrived.  The average potato might weigh 8 to 12 ounces.  After cutting the potatoes into pieces ready for planting, each piece would weigh about 2.5 oz to 3.75 oz.  In the past, potato growers and their families would cut all the potatoes by hand with a knife.  Our Martin Township farmer remembered that even as a small child, he helped his parents with this daunting task of cutting the potatoes for planting.  His mother would admonish him to be careful to leave two or three “eyes” on each piece of potato he cut.  “Don’t make dummies,” she said, referring to potato pieces which had no eyes.  The eyes of the potato were the locations on the potato where the spouts of the new plant would begin to form once the potato was underground.  Leaving two or more eyes on a seed potato piece would be extra insurance that the seed potato piece would still sprout and grow even if one eye failed to sprout.  Our Martin Township farmer’s mother used to joke with him as a child and say that the potato piece needed two eyes to see which way to grow.

Pre-sprouting of the seed potatoes reveals the locations of the “eyes” of the potatoes.

 

Once cut, the seed potato pieces would be placed in a sack and sacks full of potato segments would be placed in the root cellar where the potato pieces would be kept warm enough to not freeze in the winter weather and would be kept cool enough not start sprouting.  Additionally, the cut sides of the potato pieces would “cure” or “heal over” and the potato piece would be protected from rotting.

Seed potatoes laid out on a tray with holes in the tray. Air will circulate around all sides and edges of the potato pieces and heal over the cut surfaces of the potato pieces to prevent them from rotting,

 

He remembered that cutting seed potatoes by hand was a long and arduous task in the spring because the family would have to cut enough potatoes to plant 11,600 pieces for every acre of land they intended to plant to potatoes.  This meant the family would have to cut enough pieces to fill as many as 14 sacks of potato sections for each acre of potatoes they wished to plant.  Currently for the 30 acre field that our Martin Township farmer wished to plant to potatoes, he needed 420 sacks full of seed potato pieces.  Cutting this many seed potatoes would have been impossible for the family alone without hiring on extra help.  However, a relatively recent and ingenious invention made in the 1920s by a local boy, greatly reduced the hand labor of cutting the potatoes into sections in the spring.

g George W. French’s mechanical seed potato cutter dating from the rime of its invention in the 1920’s.  The mechanical cutting of seed potatoes into pieces ready for planting, greatly speeded the process of preparing for spring time planting, 

 

During the 1920s, George W. French, from rural Grafton, North Dakota, invented a mechanical potato cutter which would cut small potatoes into two pieces and large potatoes into six pieces.  (Lynda Kenney, The Past is Never Far Away: A History of the Red River Valley Potato Industry [Potato Growers Association Press: East Grand Forks, Minn., 1995] p. 123.)  The French potato “sizer and cutter” was a new invention that greatly reduced the amount of time that was taken up cutting potatoes for planting.  French’s potato cutter also “sized” the potatoes for planting with a mechanical potato planter.  Mechanical potato planters worked much more smoothly when the seed potato pieces were cut into relatively uniform chunks.  The French potato sizer and cutter did a good job at creating uniform chunks for planting in the field.

If seed potato pieces are stored in too warm of an environment, they will begin to sprout and grow before they be planted in the Spring.

 

Although the French mechanical potato cutter could not assure that every seed potato piece that was produced by the machine would have an eye, the process of cutting a great number of seed potato pieces for planting was simplified.  Thus, some “dummies” or “duds” would escape the careful attention of the potato farmer and his family in  the automatic cutting process and make it into the sacks of potato pieces that would be stored in the root cellar and may be planted in the field.  other seed potato pieces and would be planted even though they would not grow.  When the potatoes would sprout up through the ground there would  be a “gap” or  a blank in the row where the dummy had been planted.  Our Martin Township farmer began to expect and to tolerate these occasional gaps in the rows of growing potatoes.  He surely did not want to go back to hand-cutting the potatoes with a knife, just to eliminate all dummies.

 

The modern industrial sized and computerized seed potato cutter grew out of Henry  French’s simple mechanical seed potato cutter invented in the 1920s. and can produce seed potato segments of what-ever size is desired and will produce many less “dummies” than non- The computerized capability of this cutter will assure that there are many less “dummies.”

Continue reading Potato Farming in North Dakota with a 1937 Famall F-20 (Part 2)

Potato Farming in North Dakota with a 1937 F-20 (Part I)

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Potato Farming in No. Dakota: The 1937 F-20    

by

Brian Wayne Wells

(As published in the July/August 2008 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine)

Grafton Potato Growers Inc.: A major potato buyer of potaotes in Grafton, the county seat of Walsh County, North Dakota.

     It began like so many other purchases of antique farm machinery.  The late Wayne A. Wells purchased a Farmall Model F-20 at the 1992 LeSueur County Pioneer Power Swap Meet.  Wayne paid for the tractor by means of a check.  Wayne had the habit of making virtually all purchase transactions by means of a check—a habit that has been inherited and is carried on to further extremes by his son, the current author.  Future events would prove how extremely fortunate it was that the purchase was made by means of a check.

No. 71355 powering the Wallace Bauleke/Paul Meyer 22 inch McCormick-Deering thresher at the 1993 LeSueur Pioneer Power Show.. This web-site contains an independent article on the history of the Wallace Bauleke/Paul Meyer thresher.

This particular F-20 was missing its serial number tag.  However, the serial number imprinted on the frame of the tractor was 71355.  The tractor was fitted with two 6.00 X 16 inch car tires mounted on IHC cast iron drop-center, or demountable, rims in the front.  One of the first improvements to the tractor was to replace these old car tires with two new 5.50 X 16 inch tri-rib tires.  No. 71355 was also fitted with 13 X 36” rubber tires mounted on IHC cast-iron demountable rims in the rear.  The rear tires were in extremely bad shape and in April of 1993 they too were replaced with brand new tires.

No. 71355, having already been painted but still with the old rear tires,,undergoes an overhaul during Christmas of 1992.

 

No. 71355 was only the second tractor to be restored by Wayne Wells, (the first tractor to be restored was the 1945 Farmall B bearing the serial number 130161, which is mentioned in the article called “Farmall B: Second Tractor on the Farm, but First in the Heart” contained in the November/December 1993 issue of Belt Pulley), both Wayne and his two sons, Mark and the current author, were anxious to parade the tractor at the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Show to be held on the last weekend in August 1992.  Accordingly, No. 71355 was painted prior to any overhaul of the engine being performed.  (Indeed, a very “smoky” but painted, No. 71355 can be seen being driven by Mark Wells in the parade at the 1992 LeSueur Show in the second hour portion of Disc/Tape No. 1 of the International Harvester Promotional Movie collection.

No. 71355 was painted in August of 1993 an was overhauled during Christmas of 1993.

 

The current author can be seen in the same movie driving the same 1945 Farmall B mentioned above, just ahead of No. 71355 in the parade.)  The badly needed engine overhaul of No. 71355 was conducted in large part over Christmas of 1992.  (Some of this work performed on No. 71355 over that Christmas was filmed and can be seen on the second hour portion of Disc/Tape No. 2 of the International Harvester Promotional Movies.)  In April of 1993, No. 71355 was pulled and started for the first time following the engine overhaul.  (This procedure of pulling No. 71355 with the 1945 Farmall B in April of 1993 can be seen on the second hour portion of Disc/Tape #5 of the International Harvester Promotional movie collection.)

While No. 71355 was the second tractor restored by Wayne A. Wells, the 1945 Farmall Model B bearing the serial number 130161 was his first restoration project.

 

As the restoration of No. 71355 proceeded, history of the tractor was examined.  Nothing of the actual history of No. 71355 was known.  Consequently, the history of the tractor was a topic of speculation.  Ordinarily a telephone call to the seller of the tractor would have been the starting point for the research into the history of the tractor.  However, time had passed since the purchase of No. 71355 in April of 1992 and the canceled check bearing the name of the seller of No. 71355 was placed away in storage with the financial papers of the Wells family.  With the check used for payment on the tractor not readily at hand, the seller’s name was not available and not even a beginning could be made as to researching the actual history of the tractor.  Only the features of the tractor itself could be used as clues as to the tractor’s past.  Luckily, the particular and unique features of No. 71355, reveal a good deal about the tractor.

The tricycle design of farm tractors was introduced by the International Harvester Company in 1924 with the “Farmall” tractor. Soon nearly all farm tractor manufcturers around the world were copying the tricycle design for their “row crop” tractors.

 

First and foremost was the “tricycle type” design of No. 71355.  The tricycle design positioned the front wheels of the tractor close together.  This configuration allowed the tractor to work in crops which were planted in rows as narrow 30 inches apart.  As a tricycle “row crop” tractor, both front wheels of the tractor were attached to a single bolster.  Thus, both front wheels shared a single pivot point.  This type of steering is called “fifth wheel” type of steering and is different than the “automotive type” steering found in “standard” or “four-wheel” designed tractors in which each wheel has its own pivot point located at the “journal” for that particular wheel.  The fifth wheel type of steering allowed the tricycle designed tractor to turn much more sharply than the automotive type steering.  Thus, the tricycle design and the ability to turn very sharp corners made No. 71355 ideally suited for row crop farm work.

The single pivot point on the front of the Farmall tractor was the steering bolster on the tractor located in front of the radiator. The particular “open” (non-enclosed) gear and sector plate style steering on the early Farmalls (now called the Farmall Regular) made the Regular somewhat dangerous to drive over rough or rocky ground. After 1932, the Regular was modified and improved and became the Farmall Model F-20 tractor. One of the main improvements made to the Farmall Regular in 1932 was the replacement of the open gear and sector plate type steering with a “worm gear” type of steering in the new F-20. As a result the Farmall Model F-20 tractor was much easier to steer than the Regular.

 

A second feature of No. 71355 that provided a clue as to its history was the optional high-speed road gear that had been installed in the standard transmission of No. 71355.  Standard equipment on the Farmall Model F-20 was a four-speed transmission with speeds of 2⅜ miles per hour (mph) in first gear, 2¾ mph in second gear, 3¼ mph in the standard third gear and 3¾ in fourth gear.  (See the tractor specifications of the F-20 in the IHC Data Book #1: 1900 to 1940 by Alan C. King at page 24.)  However, in the transmission of No. 71355, the standard equipment 3¼ mph third gear had been replaced by the optional 28-tooth gear which resulted in a speed of 7.07 mph.  (See the 28-tooth “high speed” sliding gear listed as part No. 20700D on page 124 of the F-20 Parts Catalog—TC-13-A.)

The 28-tooth sliding gear that would replace 3rd gear in the Farmall Model F-20 transmission to allow the tractor to have a 7.07 mph road speed.

 

Consequently, this optional “3rd gear” became the “new road gear” and really was the new “4th gear.”  This was a factory installed option on No. 71355, as evidenced by the fact that the numbers embossed on the base at the shifter lever of the tractor, which reflected the shifting pattern for the gear shift lever, actually had the “3” and the “4” reversed to accurately portray the new gear shift pattern given the installation of this new optional road gear.  (Oscar H. Will and Todd Markle, Collector’s Originality Guide: Farmall Regular and F-Series [Voyaguer Press: St. Paul, Minnesota, 2007] p. 68.)

Mark Wells discs the newly plowed fields on the grounds of the LeSueur Pioneer Power Show with No. 71355 in August 1994. Loss of the traditional 3rd gear meant a loss of the 3-3/4 mph speed .on No. 71355 meant the loss of a light field work speed.

 

Installation of this optional road gear was made available only on those F-20s which were fitted with rubber tires.  (Ibid. p. 72.)  Accordingly, it was determined that No. 71355, rolled off the assembly line at the Farmall Works in Rock Island, Illinois, fitted with factory-installed rubber tires.  However, when No. 71355 was manufactured in the second week of December, 1936, the tractor could not have been fitted with the same 36 inch cast-iron wheels with demountable rims that are now mounted on the rear of tractor.  Only in March of 1937, (beginning with the particular F-20 with the serial number 79522) did F-20 tractors begin to be fitted with these International Harvester-made cast-iron demountable rear wheels and rims for rubber tires.  (See the F-20 Parts Book page 207.)  Prior to March of 1937, IHC relied on an outsource contract, they had signed with the French and Hecht Company of Davenport, Iowa, to supply all the rear wheels for all their rubber-tired tractors.

The French & Hecht Company factory located in Davenport, Iowa, where the round spoke wheel rims were manufactured.

 

Likewise, the IHC cast-iron demountable drop-center rims, currently, mounted on the front wheels of No. 71355, could not have been mounted on the tractor when the tractor was first built and sold.  IHC began using their own demountable drop center rims for rubber tires on the front wheels only in January of 1938 beginning with the particular F-20 tractors bearing the serial number 109127.  (See page 175 of the F-20 parts book.)

Factory Installation of the high speed road gear in the transmission of No. 71355 indicates that rubbers tires were also installed on the rear of the tractor. Still the IHC-made drop-center rear wheels that are now mounted on rear of No. 71355 could not have been factory installed on the tractor.

 

 

Prior to that time, IHC again relied on its contract with the French and Hecht Company to supply round-spoke rims for all F-20 tractors fitted with 5.50 X 16” rubber tires in the front.  (A French and Hecht round-spoke rim is pictured on page 174 of the F-20 parts book.)  Accordingly, when No. 71355 rolled out of the Farmall Works in Rock Island, Illinois, the tractor did so with rubber tires mounted on French and Hecht round-spoke wheel rims on the front as well as the rear.

A Farmall Model F-20 is delivered to a dealership with smaller 28 inch French & Hecht “round spoke” wheels in the rear, but disc-type wheels in the front.

 

Some time after No. 71355 was initially purchased, the tractor was fitted with an auxiliary transmission manufactured by the Heisler Manufacturing Company of Hudson, Iowa.  This auxiliary transmission was located on the power train of the tractor in the open space between the clutch housing on the engine and the standard transmission.  The Heisler auxiliary transmission provided a high range to all the standard speeds of the transmission—in fact doubling the number of speeds available to the tractor.

A Heisler model H-9 series “step-up” transhission installed on a Farmall F-20 tractor. The tag on the Heisler unit appears to indicate that the gearing of the Heisler unit will increase the speed of the tractor by 2.3 times normal speed in each gear.

 

The Heisler Manufacturing Company made three different models of auxiliary transmissions for the Farmall F-20.  Model number HT-2033 auxiliary transmission would increase the speed of the F-20 tractor by a factor of 2.32 to 1 because of the gear ratio of the auxiliary transmission.  Heisler model number HT-2034 featured a gear ratio of 2.1 to 1 and Heisler model number HT-2035 featured a gear ratio of 1.99 to 1.  The reason for the Heisler Company offering the three different auxiliary transmissions was that the rubber-tired F-20 was offered to the public with different sizes of rubber tires for the rear.  The Heisler Company knew that the size of the rear tires would greatly alter the speeds of any tractor.  The particular model of Heisler auxiliary transmission added to No. 71355 was model HT-2033 with the 2.32 to 1 gear ratio.  The addition of the Heisler Model HT-2033 supplemental transmission to No. 71355, with its optional high speed road gear and with 36” rubber tires in the rear, would have added high range speeds of 5.22 mph in first gear, 6.38 mph in second gear, 7.59 in third gear and 16.4024 mph in fourth gear.  These were hardly necessary or even desirable speeds for field work.  Indeed, they all seemed to be road speeds.  Indeed, the Heisler Company specifically warns against installation of an auxiliary transmission on any F-20 tractor which already has already been fitted with the optional high-speed road gear in the standard transmission.   Continue reading Potato Farming in North Dakota with a 1937 F-20 (Part I)

Raising Poland China Hogs in Waseca County, Minnesota (Part 2)

Raising Poland China Hogs (Part II): The 1936 Farmall Model F-30

by

Brian Wayne Wells

(As published in the September/October 2008 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine)

A advertisement of the full line of Farmall tractoirs.

As noted previously, Waseca County is located in the flat plains of southern Minnesota.  (See the article called “Raising Poland China Hogs in Waseca County” in the May-June 2008 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.)  The soil of these plains is a dark, rich, gumbo-type of soil.  This type of soil is perfect for raising corn.  One of the lesser populated townships in Waseca County is Byron Township.  Byron Township is located on the southern boundary of Waseca County.   As noted previously, one particular farmer in Byron Township was celebrating the Christmas holidays of 1935 with his parents and other family members when the great Christmas Eve snow storm of 1935 struck.  The storm isolated the family on the farm for a number of days before the roads were cleared enough for travel off the farm.  (Ibid.)

On this hog farm, Christmas was an important time for the farming operation because it was “farrowing time” for the registered purebred Poland China sows that were owned by our Byron Township farmer.  He was pleased to see that each of his sows had given birth to a large litter of baby pigs during this farrowing season.  Furthermore, the sows and baby pigs all seemed to be adjusting well to each other.  The Poland China sow is known to be a good mother to her pigs, but, as noted in the previous article, our Byron Township farmer had made the decision last summer (1935) to enlarge his breeding stock by adding four new bred gilts.  He now had twelve sows and twelve litters of baby pigs rather than a mere eight litters of previous years.  The four new gilts were “first time mothers.”  Our Byron Township farmer always worried about the emotional reaction of first-time mothers to their first litter of pigs, but now in the weeks following the holidays, he could see that even the young gilts were getting along well with their baby pigs.

Sows farrowing baby pigs in separate pens with their litters in a summer time hog house.

 

The farrowing season kept our Byron Township farmer busy with chores in the hog house.  The whole hog house was divided into separate pens as each of the  twelve “families” had their own pen.  Each sow had to be fed and watered in her own pen twice a day.  As the baby pigs became larger and were able to get around relatively independently, there was less chance of them being, accidentally, laid on and crushed to death by their mother or by the other large sows.  Accordingly, the partitions separating each mother and their litters could be removed and the sows and their litters could be allowed to interact with each other.  Feeding and watering would be more communal and could be simplified to take less time.  Nonetheless, the “hog house chores” of feeding and watering remained a twice-a-day activity.

No longer housed with their mothers, the weanling piglets share communal feeding and watering and living accommodations with each other. In these living conditions the piglets become strongly bonded with which other and react as a group to any sudden scare.

 

Having enlarged his breeding stock by 50%, our Byron Township farmer would now have 50% more feeder pigs to raise than in previous years.  Thus, our Byron Township farmer knew that he would be busier this year than ever before—especially, once the springtime field work began.  Currently, our Byron Township farmer had two Farmall Regular tractors available to him on his farm.  Although one of the Farmall Regulars actually belonged to his father, who lived on a separate farm building site located about a ½ mile away.  His father still regularly helped with the day to day farming activities.  They had purchased both of these Farmall Regulars in 1928 with the intent of speeding up their summertime work of cultivating the corn.  Now when they went to the field in the summer with the cultivators mounted on both tractors, they could cover a lot of ground in a short time.  However, they had purchased the two tractors seven years ago.  His father was not as able to do manual labor around the farm as he had in the past.  After all, his father had actually retired and sold the farm to our Byron Township farmer seven years ago.

This last August at the 1935 Minnesota State Fair, while the family was making their annual trip to show the pigs at that fair, our Byron Township farmer had been intrigued by what he saw at the large International Harvester Company exhibit on “Machinery Hill” on the fairgrounds.  The 1935 State Fair was his first real chance to see the full line of tractors that the International Harvester Company was now offering to the farming public.  In July of 1931, International Harvester had introduced a new larger Farmall tractor (Oscar H. Will & Todd Markle, Collector’s Originality Guide: Farmall Regular and F-Series [Voyaguer Press: St. Paul, Minnesota, 2007] p. 51).  When tested at the University of Nebraska from October 9 through October 23, 1931, the new larger Farmall was shown to deliver 20.27 horsepower (hp.) to the drawbar and 30.29 hp. to the belt pulley.  Because of its belt horsepower rating, the tractor became known as the Farmall 30, or the F-30 for short.

Our Byron Township farmer had a close-up inspection of the Farmall Model F-30 at the International Harvester tent at the 1935 Minnesota State Fair.

Continue reading Raising Poland China Hogs in Waseca County, Minnesota (Part 2)

Raising Poland China Hogs in Waseca County, Minnesota

Statistics recorded with Counterize - Version 3.1.4

Raising Poland China Hogs in Waseca County, Minnesota (Part I)

by

Brian Wayne Wells

(As published in the May/June 2008 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine)

A advertisement of the full line of Farmall tractoirs.

            The soil of Waseca County is black, rich, fertile and flat—very flat.  The deciduous forests of southern Wisconsin, called the “big woods,” extended into southern Minnesota up to a point about thirty-miles to the east of Waseca County.  Everything to the west of the big woods, including Waseca County flat prairie land.  Although the land is flat as a tabletop just like the Great Plains further the west, the climate of Waseca County is not at all dry like the climate of the Great Plains.  Indeed, in a normal year, Waseca County will be bathed with 34.7 inches of rainfall.  (From the Waseca page of the city-data.com web site on the Internet.)  The combination of very rich soil and abundant moisture makes Waseca County ideal for raising corn.  A healthy crop of corn requires about 22 inches of rain per year.  As a result of this abundant rainfall and rich soil, Waseca County traditionally produces corn yields that nearly double the national average yield per acre.  In 1921, for example, when the national yield per acre of corn was 27.8 bushels per acre, the yield in Waseca County was 46 bushels per acre.  (From the National Agricultural Statistics Service [N.A.S.S.] webpage of the United States Department of Agriculture [U.S.D.A.] website.)

The three townships along the southern boundary of Waseca County from east to west are New Richland Township, Byron Township and Vivian Township.  A person driving down any dirt road the within these townships in 1935, would see corn fields on both sides of the road, broken only by the driveways leading to the homesteads of the people living along that particular road.  For nearly every mile that a person traveled down that country road, the person would find another crossroad.  The crossroads usually indicated the boundary of another section of land.  Moving ahead into the next section of land the person would once again find corn planted in the fields on both sides of the road.  The only variation in this pattern was the fields of oats and hay.  Corn was the primary cash crop of farmers of Waseca County.  Oats and hay were not cash crops.  Almost all oats and hay raised on the average farm in 1935 was used on the farm—primarily to feed the horses that were needed for the field work in the summer.

A map of Minnesota which highlights the location of Waseca County in red.

Relying only on corn as a cash crop was risky.  If the corn market went “soft” and corn prices fell, the farmer would lose money.  Traditionally, diversification was the method used by farmers to avoid, or mitigate, the effects of “soft markets.”  This was usually accomplished by decreasing the amount of corn raised on the arable land of the average farm and devoting that land to a second cash crop.  Traditionally, wheat was raised as a secondary cash crop.  However, the amount of acreage devoted to wheat each year had been declining in Waseca County for a long time.  Currently, the amount of wheat raised each year was only about a quarter of the amount of corn raised in Waseca County.  The most popular method of diversification used on the farms of Waseca County was to raise pigs.  The rationale was that when corn prices fell, the farmer could feed the corn to pigs on their farm.  Then they could sell the pigs.  Provided that pork prices did not decline together with the corn prices, the farmer might still be able to make a profit despite the low corn prices.

A township map of Waseca County, Minnesota, showing the location of Byron Township in yellow in the bottom row of Townships.

 

One particular farmer in Byron Township in south central Waseca County, had this principle of diversification imprinted on his mind for most of his young life.  Originally, his grandfather had “homesteaded” this 160-acre “home” farm.  Our current Byron Township farmer’s father had taken over the farming operation from his parents in 1895.  Like their neighbors, they needed to devote 35 acres to pasture for their small herd of dairy cows, 30-35 acres to hay and 35 acres to oats.  The balance of the arable land, approximately 45 to 50 acres was devoted to corn.  The crops were rotated from field to field each year to avoid depleting the soil with any one crop.

This is an arieal view of a farm that looks much like the farm of our Byron Township farmer.

 

A portion of the corn used on this farm had traditionally been used for raising and fattening pgs for market.  However, the balance of the corn not needed for feed was sold to the grain elevator in New Richland in the winter of each year.  The income derived from the sale of the corn crop made up a substantial portion of the cash income of the farming operation, milking the cows and selling cream to the local creamery in New Richland provided the family with a regular income on a year-around basis.  Thus, the dairy operation represented another form of diversification of the farm income.

The Creamery in New Richland, Minnesota.

 

However, on our Byron Township farmer’s farm, it had always been the pig operation that provided the real diversification and alternate cash income when corn prices were low.  All through the 1920s, the price of corn, cycled regularly from an average annual low of $.75 per bushel to an average annual high of $1.19 per bushel.  Likewise, during the 1920’s, the wholesale price of hogs had cycled on an annual basis from an average low of $8.29 per hundred weight up to $11.21 per hundred weight.

Raising pigs on the typical Midwestern farm was usually closely linked to raising corn, because a portion of the corn crop on the average farm could be used to fatten the feeder pigs for market in a relatively inexpensive way.

 

Generally, the corn in the corn crib was shelled out in February or March each year.  After filling the granaries to feed the pigs for the rest of the year, the remainder of the shelled corn could be taken to the grain elevator in New Richland straight from the sheller and sold.  This provided the family with the major portion of their winter income on the farm.  The feeder pigs generally reached their market weight in July or August and, thus, could be sold at that time.  This provided the family with the major income in the summer.  This was the pattern of life that our Byron Township farmer knew as he grew up on his parent’s farm.

Gradually, over the years, as our Byron Township farmer grew up into an adult, his father relinquished more and more of the daily decision making regarding the farming operation to him.  It became a true partnership.  Basically, our Byron Township farmer agreed with his father on the course of the farming operation.  His father had been raising pigs for years.  Our Byron Township farmer had always been interested in the hogs.  However, the hog operation took on a whole new importance on his mind when he began showing pigs at the Waseca County Fair.

On the grounds of the Waseca County Fair with one of the most recognizable features of the Fair and, indeed, of the city of Waseca itself was the Prince popcorn wagon.

 

His very first pig that he had raised and shown at the county fair had been one of the newborn pigs from one of the litters born to his father’s crossbred sows.  That first pig was memorable because the pig had won a blue ribbon at the Fair that year.  Winning the blue ribbon had been more the result of more luck than of skill on his part.  Still he had been hooked.  That blue ribbon perked his interest at an early age to find out all he could about the most profitable ways of raising pigs.

Over their lives, hogs gain 3000% of their own birth weight.  (Sara Rath, The Complete Pig [Voyageur Press: Stillwater, Minn., 2000] p. 78.)  Furthermore, only a short amount of time required for raising the baby pigs for market—generally five to seven months.  Combining this rapid weight gain with the short gestation period of three months, three weeks and three days from breeding until “farrowing”  (giving birth), made the  hog operation on the average farm the most profitable part of the farming operation.  (Kelly Klober, Storey’s Guide to Raising Pigs.[Storey Pub. Co.: North Adams, Mass., 1997] p. 22.)  This rapid turn-around in time from initial investment until profit in hogs compared with the nine month gestation period in cattle and then the nearly two years needed to bring feeder cattle up to their market weight.  (See the article called “A 1931 Farmall at Work in Mower County, Minnesota” in the March/April 2008 issue of Belt Pulley magazine for a description of a small beef operation on a diversified Midwestern farm.)  Our Byron Township farmer and his father both knew that this very rapid turn-around combined with fact that an average sow would farrow a litter usually contained ten baby pigs could generate a great deal of income for the farming operation and  be a real “mortgage lifter.”  It all depended on getting the baby pigs successfully raised to their full market weight.  Proper management was the key.  It all started with the mother sow.

A young Poland China gilt, who is yet to have her first litter of baby pigs, is, nonetheless, regarded as being among the best natural mother of any breed of pigs.

 

Continue reading Raising Poland China Hogs in Waseca County, Minnesota

A 1931 Farmall Regular at Work

Statistics recorded with Counterize - Version 3.1.4

A 1931 Farmall Regular at Work in Mower County, Minnesota            by Brian Wayne Wells

(As published in the March/April 2008 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine)

A 1929 Jnternational Harvester Cpmpany’s ,Farmall Regular, the first tricycle-style row-crop tractor.

 

In the years before the First World War, the internal combustion tractor had shown great promise as an efficient power source for use on farms.  Immediately following the First World War, that promise came into fruition as internal combustion powered tractors replacing work horses in the most arduous tasks on the average farm.  During the 1920s, many farmers were performing their heaviest field work; e.g. plowing and discing, with farm tractors.  However, one field task avoided mechanization and still required work horses.  That was the cultivation of row crops—especially corn.  The conventional “four-wheel” or “standard” style farm tractor was not suited, nor had it been designed, for to the task of cultivating row crops.

The “standard” or “four-wheel” tractor, like the popular International Harvester Model 10-20 tractor pictured here, was the only style of tractor produced by the International Harvester Company and all other farm tractor manufacturers prior to 1924.

 

Ever since 1915, the International Harvester Company had been experimenting with various proto-types and configurations of a motorized self-propelled cultivator.  However, as important as a cultivating machine would be to the average family farm, a separate motorized implement, which would be used only for the task of cultivating row crops in the summer time and would be stored unused on the farm for the remainder of the year, was not deemed the most efficient use of the limited resources of the average family farming operation.  Eventually, the minds the engineers at International Harvester, crystallized around the concept of redesigning the conventional farm tractor into a power source on which a cultivator could be mounted during the summer growing season and from which the cultivator could be removed once the cultivation of row crops was finished.  Such a redesigned farm tractor could be used for all tasks on the average family farm on a year-around basis and could replace the horse entirely on the average family farm.  Because such a redesigned tractor held the promise of performing all tasks on the farm, the International Harvester Company began calling this newly redesigned tractor the “Farmall” tractor.

The International Harvester Motor Cultivator at work in the corn field.

 

The conventional “standard” or “four wheel” style tractor had both front wheels mounted wide apart.  Just like an automobile, the front wheels were spaced so that the rear wheels of the conventional tractor traveled in the same paths as the front wheels of the tractor.  Additionally, the standard four wheel tractor had an “automotive style” type of steering in which each front wheel pivoted on its own bolster.  Thus, the standard tractor could turn only as sharply as a car.  On the other hand, the front wheels of the Farmall tractor were mounted close together in a narrow front end configuration.  Both of the front wheels of the Farmall were mounted on the same bolster or pivot point which allowed the front wheels of the Farmall to be turned to a 90° angle from the straight forward line of the tractor.  This type of steering is called “fifth-wheel” steering.  Both because of the narrow front end and the fifth wheel type of steering, the Farmall tractor design has been called the “tricycle design.”  The tricycle design of the Farmall tractor was ideal for the cultivation of row crops.

Prior to the introduction of the tricycle-style  Farmall Regular in 1924, the International Harvester Company made and sold  only “standard” or “four-wheel” tractors like the Model 15-30 shown above. Note the front wheels are turning in an automobile-like style.

 

Thus, in 1924, after nine years of experimentation, the new Farmall went into production at the old Tractor Works located at 2600 West 31st Boulevard (the corner of 24th and Western Avenue) in Chicago, Illinois, beginning with Farmall tractor bearing the Serial Number 0501.  Only 199 Farmalls were produced in 1924.  However, in 1925, the Farmall’s first full year in production, another 837 were manufactured.  Only in 1926, did production of the Farmall hit its stride, with 4,418 Farmalls being made and sold in that year.  The suggested retail price of these new Farmalls was $950.00.  However, in October of 1926, production of the Farmall was relocated to a new factory—the Farmall Works located in Rock Island, Illinois.

An aerial view of the International Harvester Company’s “Farmall Works” in Rock Island, Illinois.

 

Introduction of the innovative new Farmall tractor coincided with some other industrial innovations—large and small.  Some of these innovations were incorporated into the design of the Farmall, even after production of the Farmall had already begun.  One such industrial innovation was rather small in size but proved to be a very important watershed in industrial and farm machine lubrication.  This was the development of the grease gun and the small grease fitting called the “zerk.”  This small innovation came to a great number of farms of North America, “piggy-backed” on the Farmall tractor.  The grease zerk was destined to change a great number of practices on the farm.

Oskar Zerk was the inventor of a number of common products, but his most important invention was tiny and simple grease zerk which came to be used every where on machinery and in industry.

 

The word “zerk” was derived from its inventor—Oscar Ulysses Zerk.  Emmigrating from the Magar region of the Hungarian part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Oscar Zerk came to the United States and settled in Kenosha, Wisconsin.  There he developed the famous little grease fitting that still bears his name.  It was the development of the zerk and the parallel development of the grease gun by young Arthur Gulborg that led to a small revolution in lubrication of bearings, shafts and other moving machine parts.  Continue reading A 1931 Farmall Regular at Work

Tobacco Farming with a Farmall Super C

                  Tobacco Farming in West Virginia

with the Farmall Super C

by

Brian Wayne Wells

As Published in the September/October2005 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

The restored Raymond and Edith Thompson Farmall Model Super C at the 2016 LeSueur Pioneer Power Show.

Ever since the Surgeon General’s report of January 11, 1964, linking smoking of tobacco with lung cancer, smoking of cigarettes has been on the decline. Today, with only 22.8% of the public of the United State still engaging in the habit of smoking, it seems hard to imagine a time when the majority of the American public smoked. In 1949, 44-47% of the nation’s total population (50% of all men and 33% of all women) smoked. Cigarette manufacturing was a large and lucrative business. Supplying that large and lucrative business with at least some of the raw product—tobacco plants—were North American farmers, particularly the farmers of the southeastern part of the United States. West Virginia does not produce much tobacco. Currently West Virginia is 16th among all the states in the production of tobacco. In 1953, West Virginia ranked 15th out of the 21 tobacco growing states, ranking just ahead of Missouri in tobacco production.

Despite the drought in 1953, West Virginia produced only 4,542,000 pounds of the light burley type of tobacco out of the 2 billion pounds of tobacco produced in the United States that year. Lincoln County in West Virginia produced 31.4% of the State’s total production of tobacco with 1,426,000 pounds grown that year. Hamlin is the county seat of Lincoln County. State Road #3 runs through the center of Hamlin from west to east. About 1½ miles east of Hamlin, State Road #3 intersects with State Road #34. About a mile north of this intersection on S.R. #34 is Harvey’s Creek Road. Living on the first farm on the left down Harvey’s Creek Road in 1953 was Raymond and Edyth Marie (Byrd) Thompson. Raymond worked off the farm and was employed by the Tennessee Gas Company. However, ever since they purchased their 85 acre farm on Harvey’s Creek Road from J.A Pack in January of 1944, Raymond and Edyth had dreamed of making their living from their own land. Much of their farm could not be cultivated because of the rough terrain. Thus, they made the rough terrain profitable by making it a permanent pasture for the Hereford beef cattle they raised.

Given the terrain of the State, beef farming is a natural choice for most farming operations in West Virginia. Indeed beef farming does constitute a great deal of the farming conducted in the State of West Virginia. Within the West Virginia beef cattle industry, Hereford cattle are predominant. Additionally, a surprising number of Hereford farmers in West Virginia have become interested in improving blood lines of their Hereford cattle. Toward this end a significant portion of West Virginia beef farmers raised “purebred” Hereford beef cattle. These purebred Hereford farmers will generally register the best cows and bulls in their herds with the American Hereford Association in Kansas City, Missouri. Native West Virginian B.C. (Bud) Snidow, now retired and living in Mission, Kansas, worked for the American Hereford Association from 1951 until 1983. Born in Princeton, West Virginian, Bud Snidow, throughout his career, naturally kept track of the registered Hereford beef industry in his native state. He noted that following the Second World War there was an increase in the number of registered Hereford cattle in West Virginia. This increased pushed West Virginia to a position of 20th among all states in the number of registered Hereford cattle herds. Raymond did not follow the purebred blood lines of the Hereford breed like some beef farmers, but he did insist on raising only Hereford cattle on his farm. He liked his Hereford cattle.

Because most of their farm was taken up in the hillsides and bluffs which are common to Lincoln County, West Virginia, leaving only a very small quantity of flat bottom land that was arable, Raymond rented two other 15 acre fields from Eb Oxley. Eb Oxley was actually a distant relative of Raymond and Ethyl Thompson. These two 15 acre fields were located about one mile north of Raymond and Edyth’s farm on S.R. #34 just across the county line into Putnam County. On these two fields rented from Eb Oxley, Raymond raised hay and corn every year alternating the crops from one field to the other every other year. On the very small arable acreage of his own farm, located in the bottom of the Harvey’s Creek “hollow” where they lived, Raymond and Edyth raised oats that they needed for the horses and they also set aside 7/10s of an acre for their tobacco allotment, issued by the United States Department of Agriculture. Pursuant to this allotment Raymond and Edyth were permitted to raise up to 7/10s of an acre of tobacco. Like his neighbors, Raymond knew that, despite the small size of the acreage, tobacco could become a major crop on any farm. For this reason, tobacco allotments were highly prized by farmers.

Tobacco raising had been strictly controlled by means of acreage allotments since the 1933 Agricultural Adjustment Act. The original intent of the tobacco acreage allotments was to provide the tobacco farmer with the security of price supports. However, since the end of the Second World War, these price supports had hardly been necessary. The price of tobacco had led all other farm commodities in return for the time and labor invested. Indeed, it was said that the tobacco allotment “paid for many a farm.” As time went by, tobacco allotments added a great deal to the value of a farm. So much so, that some buyers insisted that a particular paragraph be added to the deed of sale of the land they were purchasing which would make specific mention of the transfer of the tobacco allotment with the purchase of the land. (Paragraphs, like these really provided no protection for the buyer of a farm. The Farm Service Agency (F.S.A.) of the United States Department of Agriculture issued acreage allotments, each year, only to the person owning a particular farm that particular year. Any attempted transfer of the acreage allotment not tied to the sale of the farm would not be recognized by the F.S.A. Instead the purchaser of a farm would have to file an application with the F.S.A. each year, to obtain a tobacco allotment for that year.)

For Raymond and Edyth Thompson the growing season of tobacco came in the middle of March every year with a trip to Stone’s Southern States, a feed and seed farm supply store on the west end of Hamlin. Raymond would drive off to Stone’s in his Chevrolet pickup and there he would buy the small packet of certified tobacco seed he needed for his tobacco crop. Returning home after picking up a few other things for of the farm, Raymond opened the seed packet and blended the contents together with some corn meal in a coffee can. The individual tobacco seed is so small that a single teaspoon full will contain a million tobacco seeds. Thus, the certified seed is mixed thoroughly with a small quantity of corn meal to allow the seed to be sown in a uniform manner.

Tobacco seed which is packaged and sold every year is raised by some tobacco farmers. Indeed a little further up Harvey’s Creek Road where the road crosses the county line into Putnam County, was the 100 acre farm of Stanley and Garnet (Painter) Young and their sons. In addition to their own large tobacco allotment in the early 1950s, the Young family had an additional plot of tobacco that they were “letting go to seed.” The flowers on these tobacco plants would not be removed. Instead the flowers were allowed to bloom and the seed pods were allowed to form. In the fall of the year after these tobacco plants had fully ripened, the seed pods would be harvested and sold to the tobacco warehouse in Huntington, West Virginia.

There had been very little snow over the winter of 1952-1953. Although temperatures had been colder than usual in late February, it looked as though March was “coming in like a lamb” with higher than ordinary temperatures. Raymond Thompson burned off a small patch of ground on his farm. This patch was just big enough to be covered by a wooden frame with a large piece of cheesecloth stretched over the wooden frame. After working up this small patch of ground with a garden hoe to form a seed bed, he sowed the corn meal/tobacco seed mixture on the newly worked ground and covered the ground with his “hot house” frame. This frame, which was used every year was made of wooden boards placed edgewise and was nailed together at the corners. This frame was taken down out of storage in the barn. There were some small nails sticking upward out of the frame which would allow a large piece of cheese cloth to be stretched across the frame. The wooden frame and the cheese cloth formed a hot house over the small seed bed where the tobacco seed had been sown. The porous nature of the cheese cloth allowed the sun to shine through to the seed bed and allowed the rain to keep the seed bed moist. However, the heat from the sun was trapped under the cheese cloth and kept the little seed bed warm enough to allow the tobacco to germinate, despite the cold weather and occasional snows of the late winter and early spring . Indeed, Raymond and Ethyl also started a bed of leaf lettuce under the same cheese cloth “hot house” to get an early start on the family garden. Raymond would make daily inspections of the hot house under the cheese cloth. Gradually, he would begin to see the young tobacco sprouts poking up out of the ground under the cheese cloth. After the spouts leafed out and became small seedlings, Raymond would start removing the hot house frame from the seed bed during the daylight hours and cover the bed again at night. This procedure allowed the tobacco seedlings to absorb the direct sunlight during the day and to “harden,” or become accustomed to the warming weather outside the hot house.

Eventually, the weather would be warm enough to allow the hot house frame to be removed altogether. The tobacco seedlings would continue to grow as Raymond began his seasons work on the rest of his farm. He tilled the ground on his farm with his horses to form a proper seedbed. Then, he sowed the oats that he would need for the next year to feed the horses. Next, he planted his corn.

As in years past, he borrowed a wire-check corn planter from a neighbor to plant his corn. The wire-check planter came complete with a roll of wire that was long enough to stretch all the way across any field. This wire contained little wire buttons attached to the wire at intervals of 42 inches. This wire was stretched across the field along the side of the field where the farmer wanted to begin planting corn. The wire was attached to the checking mechanism the located on the side of the planter. As the horses pulled the planter across the field the buttons would slide through the checking mechanism and trip the planter releasing seed into the ground with each tripping action. The result would be that the corn would be planted uniformly in 42 inch spaces along the rows. When the horses and planter reached the end of the field, the wire was temporarily disconnected from the planter. The horses and planter were then turned around to line up for the next two rows of corn to be planted along side the first two rows just completed. The wire was then attached to the checking mechanism on the opposite side of the planter. As the planter moves across the field again, the wire passing through the checking mechanism, again, tripped the planter to release seed corn to the ground at 42 inch intervals and the seed placement in these next two rows exactly matched the seed placement in the first two rows just planted.Thus, the corn would be in a grid of 42 inch rows and with “hills” of corn located 42 inches apart along each row. This would allow the corn to be “cross-cultivated” as well as cultivated lengthwise. This way, the weeds within the rows between the hills of corn could also be controlled.

Next it was time to transplant his tobacco to the field. Because, tobacco plants remove a great deal of nutrients from the soil during the growing season, Raymond had to rotate the tobacco crop to a different field each year to prevent the soil from becoming “exhausted.” This year, as an additional guard against soil depletion, he started the practice of adding some artificial fertilizer to the tobacco ground. He “broadcast” the fertilizer on the ground with a horse-drawn fertilizer spreader after disking the soil and before he finalized the seed bed with a peg-tooth harrow or drag. Following suggestions of tobacco experts at the F.S.A., he spread the fertilizer at a rate of 200 pounds per acre. Tobacco allotments are issued by the F.S.A. in sizes ranging from as little as 1/10th an acre upwards in steps of 1/10th of an acre. Generally, in Lincoln County, tobacco allotments ranged from ½ (or 5/10s) of an acre to a full-acre. As noted above, Raymond’s allotment was 7/10s of an acre. The transplanting stage was one of the stages where he really “felt” the size of this large allotment.

To be sure the ground intended for the tobacco that year could be worked up into a seedbed with the horses, just as in the other fields. However, the transplanting of the tobacco was all handwork. The little tobacco transplants were carefully dug up and placed in a large tub and then taken to the field. Then a long string with a stake on either end was uncoiled and stretched across the entire field. The string was tightened into a straight line across the entire length of the field and the stakes were pounded into the ground on either end of the field. Transplanting was an affair for the whole Thompson family. One family member would walk along the string with a stick or a pole and make little holes in the ground along one side of the string—each hole was 18” apart along the string. Another member of the Thompson family could then follow with the tub full of tobacco transplants and place one plant in each hole and then close up the hole around the roots of the transplant with dirt. Packing the ground around the new transplant assured good contact of the root with the dirt of the seedbed and guaranteed the best start possible for the new transplants. When one row was completed over the entire length of the field, the stakes at the ends of the field would be moved over in the seedbed 42”. The string was again tightened out straight across the field and the second row of tobacco transplants was set out in the field. This process was repeated until the whole 7/10ths-of-an-acre field was planted in tobacco.

Almost as soon as the whole field had been completely transplanted, the cultivation of the tobacco was begun.   Under the hot summer sun the tobacco transplants grew very fast. Generally, within three weeks after the transplanting of the tobacco, the young plants had grown to the point where the horses and the one row cultivator could not move easily between the rows without damaging the plants. Thus, all cultivation of the tobacco to eliminate weeds had to be completed within the three week period of time following the transplanting of the tobacco crop. Because of the rapid growing nature of the tobacco plants, there was no need to worry about cross cultivating the tobacco. The plants would soon be big enough to cover the space between the plants and shade out any weeds attempting to grow there. In the crush of the summer time field work, Raymond felt himself lucky to cultivate the tobacco three times in the three week period of time that he had to complete the cultivation of the tobacco. Especially since he needed to begin cutting and putting up his hay crop at the same time as he was attempting to cultivate the tobacco three times. Then there was the need to continue the cultivation and cross-cultivation of his corn crop. It was always a busy time. There just were not enough hours in the day. Raymond also knew that he would have to cultivate his corn at least once prior to hay season.

Haying was started at about the first of June. He needed to get the hay down and raked into windrows quickly. Cecil Lewis, who provided custom baling of the hay for the farmers in Harvey’s Creek, would be scheduling his New Holland Model 77 baler and Ford Model 8N tractor to visit the farms in the area rather soon. Raymond wanted to have his hay ready for any convenient time that Cecil might have to come to the Thompson farm. However, as he mowed and raked his hay, Raymond had to keep an eye on the tobacco to notice when plants began to grow buds in preparation for flowering. June was the time that the tobacco plants would begin to flower. Some times as soon as one week following the end of cultivation the tobacco plants would begin to flower. To keep the energy of the growing tobacco plants directed toward the growing leaves rather than into the production of flowers, the emerging buds had to be removed from the plants as soon as they started to develop. The operation of removing the flowering buds was another task that had to be completed by hand. The entire tobacco field had to be walked and the buds removed from each individual plant.

Even this was not the end of the hand work in the tobacco field, however. Once the flower buds had been removed, some of the tobacco plants would develop “suckers” or additional shoots which would spring up out of the same stem and root system. If allowed to grow these suckers would also sap away energy from the leaves of the plant. So, within a week after the deflowering of the tobacco plants, the field had to be walked again by the family to remove these suckers which may be attempting to grow. These tasks had to be fitted in to the summers work whenever time could be found during their busy summer schedule—whenever the family was not involved in putting up hay and/or cultivating the corn.   There was no time to rest and scarcely enough time to get all the field work done. Then, there were usually rainy days in which no work was accomplished at all. This year in 1953, however, Raymond fervently wished for a few more rainy days. He could see that the leaves of corn were starting to roll up, indicating the lack of water. August was incredibly dry. The radio reported that over in Kentucky the rainfall for the growing season was 12 full inches less than normal. In late August.

As Labor day  approached in 1953, the leaves on the tobacco plants began to turn from the dark green color of summer to the light green or yellow-green color that indicated that the tobacco plants were beginning to mature. All plants that mature or ripen in the fall, go through a process, whereby, the vital fluids of the plant are returning from the leaves to the roots in the ground for the winter. As the fluids flow out of the leaves, the leaves begin to loose their green color and start to yellow. The more yellow the leaves are, the more fluids have departed the leaves. In tobacco, these fluids in the leaves, and the ingredients that are contained in the fluids, are the very elements thing that make the tobacco leaves marketable. Thus, the proper time to cut the tobacco plants is just when the maturation of the leaves has begun. In this way all the fluids will be retained in the leaves. Accordingly, the tobacco plants are cut off at the stem.

Harvesting the tobacco is hand work which requires the work of the whole family. Cutting and handling is performed carefully so as to not damage the outside leaves. These outside or lower leaves are called flynes and are the most valuable leaves. The tobacco plants are then “speared” or placed on a thin 4 foot long stick. The stick full of tobacco plants is then hung upside down on a rack in the barn. Hanging upside down allows any fluids in the stem to flow back into the leaves. The barns in tobacco growing areas of the country are not like barns in other areas of the United States. Usually barns are built tight to prevent cold weather from infiltrating the inside of the barn. However, a tobacco barn is purposely constructed with the boards on the sides of the barn spaced so as to allow cracks between the vertically-placed boards in the walls of the barn. Observing a tobacco barn, a person will see daylight showing through the walls. These cracks allow air to pass through the walls of the barn and air-dry the tobacco hanging inside the barn. The process of air drying tobacco in the barn takes six to eight weeks.

During this time Raymond harvested his corn. The yield on the corn was disappointing because of the dry weather. Across Lincoln County in 1953, the yield of corn was down by 9%, from the year before—from 31.8 bushels per acre to 28.9 bushels per acre. (From the National Agricultural Statistics Service page on the website of the United States Department of Agriculture.)   Yet because the drought was limited to the eastern Kentucky and West Virginia areas there was no dramatic rise in price of corn. (Ibid.) Indeed, of the 81,574,000 acres of corn planted across the nation 98.6% (or 80,459,000 acres) was harvested in the fall of 1953, resulting in a nationwide bumper crop of corn that actually depressed corn prices. Additionally, the nationwide “per acre yield” from the 1953 corn harvest averaged 40.7 bushels per acre—fourth highest yield in the history of United States corn farming. On the Thompson farm, this condition meant that not as much corn was actually harvested and the price obtained for the small amount of corn that was harvested was low.

Thus, Raymond Thompson would feed a great deal of his corn to his beef cattle. Feeding more corn to the young calves would cause them to gain weight faster and be ready for market at an earlier date. This was one means of diversification of the corn crop that Raymond could employ on his own farm. If corn was not getting a good price then using it for cattle feed could possibly be a way of getting a more money for the corn. However, although surpluses were not as big a problem in the beef market, beef prices had been on a slow, but steady, decline since the December in 1952. After reaching a high of 35 to 36 cents a pound caused by the demands of the Korean War, beef prices had dipped to 20 cents per pound and even now was only was hovering around 25 cents per pound. (Omaha Choice Historic Beef Steer Prices from 1950-2005 page at the United States Department of Agriculture website on the Internet.) So, in 1953, even the beef market was a disappointment for Raymond.

Thus, Raymond’s hope for a successful crop year lay with his tobacco crop. Tobacco plants can withstand dry conditions better than corn. Proof of this was shown when the tobacco was harvested. Over all of Lincoln County a new record level tobacco harvest was reached with 1,426,000 lbs, over the entire county—up 2% from 1952. Considering that only 920 acres of tobacco were planted in 1953 as compared with 950 acres in 1952, this was a staggering result considering the extreme dryness of the growing season. The 1953 average yield in Lincoln County was 1,550 lbs. per acre—up almost 5½ % from 1952. The only explanation, that Raymond could find for the higher yield in a dry year was the fact that he had joined many of his neighbors in adding artificial fertilizer to the tobacco ground. Before the tobacco leaves could be sold, however, the Thompson family had to strip the leaves off the stem of each plant. Starting, generally, in November, the process of stripping was also a long process which involved the most hand labor of all the tobacco growing procedures. The sticks full of dried plants were taken down from the drying racks in the barn. The plants were removed from the sticks and the leaves were then stripped from the stem. In order that the leaves would not be too brittle to be destroyed by handling, Raymond usually waited for one of the uncommonly humid days in the fall to get the racks down from the barn and begin the process of stripping. Handling the leaves in a relatively humid environment would not damage the leaves especially the outer or lower leaves which were the most valuable leaves. Handling the leaves at this stage was somewhat messy work. While stripping the leaves by hand a dark residue would settle on the hands.

Still it was with some anticipation that the family performed the tasks. At the end of the process, Raymond knew that, in an ordinary year, the 7/10 of an acre allotment would allow his family to load the Chevy pickup up with a thousand pounds of leaves for delivery to the Huntington Tobacco Warehouse at 20 Twenty-Sixth Street in Huntington, West Virginia. Once at the tobacco warehouse, the tobacco would be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Auctions were held at the warehouse from November through January each year. Buyers from the R.J. Reynolds, American Tobacco, Phillip Morris and all the other tobacco companies would be present at these auctions to bid on the tobacco.  Coming this late in the year and being the major cash crop on the farm, Raymond would use a portion of the money he would receive for the tobacco to pay off the debts. Then they would get the new shoes and clothes that the children would need.

(Carol [Young] Mullins, granddaughter of Stanley and Garnet Young, remembers that she and her family too anticipated Christmas as they worked to strip the tobacco leaves. The Young children looked forward to a happy Christmas which would be financed in part by the money the fetched at market. Anticipating Christmas led the children to work diligently at stripping the tobacco leaves.)

This year, in the late fall of 1953 Raymond looked over at his children as they worked together stripping the tobacco. They were becoming adults. Eleanor Gay (“Gay”) and Patricia Fay (“Fay”) were already teenagers and would soon be setting out on their own. Soon he would be more shorthanded that he already was in doing his farm work. He became aware that he would soon have to think about doing something to save time in his farming operation. Toward this end he had been considering the purchase of a farm tractor. He felt this was the year that he would have to make his move to purchase a farm tractor and replace the horses on his farm. Accordingly, over the winter of 1953-54 he visited Henderson Implement Company in downtown Hurricane, West Virginia. Hurricane, West Virginia is located across the county line into Putnam County about 14 miles north of the Thompson farm. Bernie Henderson had started selling horse drawn McCormick-Deering equipment from his dealership located on Main Street in downtown Hurricane. However, since the end of the Second World War, he had found that the market for small tractors was really growing by leaps and bounds. In addition to the Farmall C and Super C, he found that the Farmall Cub was becoming a mainstay of the sales from his dealership. Continue reading Tobacco Farming with a Farmall Super C

Massey-Harris Farming (Part III): The Clipper Combine

      Massey-Harris Farming (Part III): The Clipper Combine

by

Brian Wayne Wells

As published in the July/August 2004 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

Civilized man has grown plants for consumption since 8000 B.C.E. (Before the Common Era).  This change from the hunting and gathering stage of human development to the growing of food products is referred to as the agricultural revolution.  One of the first crops planted by civilized man was a form of wheat grain.  Processing of wheat into flour was so common among civilizations around the world that bread became known as the “staple of life” and wheat became known as the “shaft of life.”  The processing of wheat involved a lot of manual labor.  Since the earliest of times, the grain was harvested after it had turned golden amber color under the hot summer sun.  However, even at this stage the grain contained moisture.  Harvesting or reaping would sever the plant from its roots and allow the grain to “sweat” and dry completely.  This sweating generally occurred after the grain had been gathered together in bundles and placed in “shocks” in the field.  Once the grain had thoroughly dried out, the bundles would be gathered up and threshed by hand.  Then the grain had to be winnowed or separated from all the chaff that may be left in the grain following threshing.  Thus, harvesting and threshing and winnowing of the grain remained three separate time-consuming hand operations for the processing grain.  This method of processing grain remained unchanged for centuries. In 1831, on his family farm in Virginia, Cyrus McCormick took his first big step toward mechanical grain harvesting with his reaper.  Improvements to the reaper, eventually, allowed the machine to automatically bind the grain into bundles.  Mechanization of the threshing process was also accomplished by the development of a threshing machine in the 1860s.  However, this threshing machine was a stationary unit and the bundled grain had to be brought from the field to the thresher for threshing and winnowing of the grain.  Originally steam engines were used as power sources for these stationary threshers.  By 1877, the Buffalo-Pitts Company was able to advertise a thresher/separator, that would not only thresh, but would also winnow the grain. Development of a small portable thresher-separator that would combine the operations of harvesting, threshing and winnowing in one single operation was carried on in the Central Valley of California by three different corporate concerns—the Stockton Combine Harvester and Agricultural Works; the Daniel Best Agricultural Works and the Stockton Wheel Company.  (After 1892, Stockton Wheel became the Holt Manufacturing Company.)  In 1925, these three companies would merge to form the Caterpillar Tractor Company.  The early combines produced by each of these three companies were of mammoth proportions and required 24 to 40 horses to pull the machine across the field.  A separate auxiliary power source was need to power the machine itself. California’s steady weather allowed the grain to be harvested while it was still standing in the field rather than being cut and dried out in a windrow.  Likewise, all across the western United States and the western provinces of Canada, grain was harvested while standing.  In these western states grain was raised in fields stretching from horizon to horizon.  Thus, the Great Plains became known as the bread basket of North America.  Only in large-scale grain farming areas like the Great Plains were the huge combines profitable. In the Midwest, farms were much smaller—generally only about 160 acres.  Furthermore, the arable land of the average farm was often shared with other crops and with pasture for animals.  Usually only about 30 to 35 acres of grain would be raised on a typical 160-acre farm in any given year.  A big combine was not profitable in this type of farming operation.  Farms in the Midwest had to await development of a small combine. Development of the small combine for use on the small farms of the Midwest took a circuitous route and some early attempts were not entirely successful.  One early attempt to develop a small combine began with Curtis Baldwin and his brothers, Earnest and George, who formed the Baldwin Manufacturing Company (later to become the Gleaner Manufacturing Company) of Nickerson Kansas in 1915.  The efforts of the Baldwin brothers resulted in a Fordson-mounted combine in 1923.  This combine was named the “Gleaner” combine.  The popularity of the Gleaner combine was tied directly to the popularity of the Fordson tractor.  In the early 1920s, the popularity of the Fordson made the Gleaner mounted combine a popular sales item, but later in the late 1920s,  when the Fordson declined in popularity, so too did the popularity of the Gleaner.  The Gleaner mounted combine ceased production altogether in 1927. In the 1930s, the Baldwin Company went into bankruptcy.  New owners bought the company from the Baldwin brothers and changed the name of the company to the Gleaner Manufacturing Company of Independence, Missouri. The new Gleaner Company began designing and producing a series of pull-type combines.  Revealing the company’s long-time ties to the Ford Motor Company, early versions of these pull-type combines were powered by Ford Model A industrial engines.  However, these attempts at producing a pull-type combine were not successful over the long run.  Gleaner pull-type combines proved to have design flaws and never became popular with the buying public. Only after 1951, the Gleaner Company became successful for the combines they produced.  However, this success was not based on development of a pull-type combine.  Rather Gleaner became famous for the development and production of its line of self-propelled combines. The most successful small pull-type combine was the 3,000 pound All-Crop- Harvester developed and manufactured by the Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company of West Allis, Wisconsin (a more complete story of the All-Crop Harvester was published in the March/April 2005 issue of Belt Pulley magazine and is also exhibited here on this website).  The All-Crop Harvester was first introduced to the public in 1929.  Following in the train of the success of the All-Crop Harvester, other farm equipment companies began producing their own version of a small pull-type combine.  Most of these other companies adopted a “straight through” design for their small combines.  The straight-through designed cut the grain (or picked up the grain from a windrow) threshed and separated the grain from the straw and then deposited the straw on top of the same stubble at the rear of the combine in roughly the same location where grain had been cut or picked up.  In this way, the straight-through combines avoided the sharp left turn the chaff and straw would take as it progressed through the All-Crop Harvester. One of the farm equipment companies to develop a straight through combine was the Massey-Harris Company of  Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  Starting with a design by E. C. Everett, Massey-Harris introduced their small straight-through combine in 1938.  his combine was called the “Clipper” combine.  Although the Massey-Harris Company was a Canadian company and maintained most of its manufacturing facilities in Canada, virtually all Clipper combines were made in the United States at the company’s Batavia, New York facility.  The 3,000 pound Clipper pull-type combine was marketed with either a 6-foot or a 7-foot cutter bar model.  Both models featured a 5-foot cylinder and a 5 foot wide separating table.  In its first two years of production (1938-1939), the simplicity, small size and low price of the Clipper made the combine a sales success.  In those first two years the Clipper cut well into the market share dominated by the Allis-Chalmers All-Crop Harvester. Right from the start of production, the Clipper combine was available only on rubber tires.  Like many farm equipment companies before World War II, Massey-Harris contracted with the French & Hecht Company of Bettendorf, Iowa, to supply round-spoked wheel rims for these rubber tires on the Clipper.  After the war, Massey-Harris switched to disc-type wheel rims for their rubber tired wheels for the Clipper combine.  Like most companies in the post-war era, Massey Harris obtained these disc-type wheels from the Electric Wheel Company of  Quincy, Illinois.  Because of this abrupt change of contract, “pre-war” Clipper combines are distinguishable from the Clipper combines manufactured in the post-war era. Concurrent with the start of Clipper combine production, Tom Carroll, an engineer for Massey-Harris began to work on a self-propelled combine.  By 1942, Carroll had completed a design for a self-propelled combine that would become the Massey-Harris Model 21 combine.  This was the world’s first truly self-propelled combine.  The Model 21 combine was ready for production, but wartime restrictions prevented its manufacture.  Massey-Harris set about convincing the United States War Production Board that the Batavia, New York factory should be allotted sufficient steel and other raw materials to produce a limited number of Model 21 combines.  Massey-Harris sought to build sufficient Model 21 combines to conduct extensive field tests on the combine.  These field tests would, the Company felt, convince one and all that one-man-operated self-propelled combine could harvest much more grain with less investment and in money and manpower “than any other machine or combination of machines in existence.” The War Production Board was persuaded and Massey-Harris was allotted enough materials to produce 500 Model 21 combines.  These combines were sold to custom harvesters in March of 1944.  The new combines would begin harvesting in Texas and move north across the Great Plains to the Canadian border, combining nearly 1 million acres and threshing 15 million bushels of grain in the 1944 harvest season.  This became known as the Massey-Harris Harvest Brigade and served as an excellent advertising promotion for the company.  The Harvest Brigade was so successful that it was expanded for the 1945 harvest season. The Harvest Brigade attracted public attention at the time and has attracted the fancy of fans and restorers of Massey-Harris equipment ever since.  Thus, as the 60th anniversary of the Brigade approached more and more restorers expressed interest in participating in a reenactment of the original Harvest Brigade.  Thus, on September 22, 2001, a large number of Massey-Harris tractors and equipment were brought to a 130-acre plot of land in rural Chillicothe, Illinois, to plow, prepare the seed bed, and plant winter wheat on the plot of land.  This event, organized by Dale Lawrence, was dubbed the “Great Planting.”  The wheat formed a good root system over the fall of 2001 and then went into a dormant stage over the winter.  With the arrival of spring, the wheat started growing again and by early summer in 2002, the wheat was ready to harvest.  Harvest Day was planned and was called the “Great Harvest.”  A collection of Massey-Harris combines owned by Wes Armstrong, Gary Emsweller, Vernon Winterroth and Ray Swanson gathered together to harvest the wheat at the Great Harvest Day.  (See “A Massey Connection” by Cindy Ladage in the July/August 2003 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.) At the annual show held on the grounds of the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association in rural LeCenter, Minnesota on August 26 through 29, 2003.  This annual show was to feature the same Harvest Brigade combines as had participated in the Great Harvest Day the year before in Illinois.  In anticipation of this field demonstration, some of the grain that is usually planted on the grounds and which is usually cut and bundled for threshing during the annual show, was left standing uncut.  This grain was left standing in order to be harvested by the Massey-Harris combines at the show in another re-enactment of the Harvest Brigade. Throughout the summer of 2004 a continuation of the celebration of the Harvest Brigade took place in many locations across the Great Plains.  One particular celebration began in March of 2004 when Lenwood Holo of Omaha, Nebraska and Eau Claire, Wisconsin loaded up his newly restored Model 21 self-propelled Massey-Harris combine on his 1949 Dodge 2-ton truck truck and set out for Texas to retrace the route of the Harvest Brigade—following the harvest north from Texas to Langdon, North Dakota. While the self-propelled Massey-Harris combine and the Harvest Brigade captured all the attention during the war.  After the war, when the wartime economic restrictions on civilian industrial production were lifted, Massey-Harris’ pull-type Clipper combine came back into prominence.  Indeed the Clipper combine became a very big seller for the Massey-Harris Company.  Clipper combine production resumed after the war.  The post-war Clipper combine was offered to the farming public in a power take-off version as well as an engine-powered version.  The engine used for the auxiliary-powered version, was the Wisconsin Model VE-4 air-cooled engine.  (An article on the history of the Wisconsin Motor Company was published in the September/October 2004 issue of Belt Pulley magazine and is reproduced at this website.)  Despite the fact that power take-off was a common feature of post-war tractors and despite the fact that the 1-3/8th inch containing six (6) splines had become universally accepted as the standard power take-off, there still, nonetheless, seemed to be more auxiliary engine-powered versions of the Clipper combine manufactured than power take-off versions. Of particular interest for this particular article are two post-war Clipper combines, both equipped with the Wisconsin VE-4 air-cooled engine, which were delivered to two separate Massey Harris dealerships in southern Minnesota.  The first of these two Clipper combines arrived in Amboy, Minnesota (1940 pop. 576) some time in the early summer of 1948.  The combine arrived on board a flat-bed car attached to a Chicago and Northwestern train.  The flat-bed railroad car carrying the Clipper combine and some other Massey-Harris equipment originated from the Massey-Harris Company branch house located in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  In Amboy, the Clipper combine was unloaded from the railroad car and was taken to the W. J. Nelson Dealership in Amboy.  (A history of the W. J. Nelson dealership was carried in the second article of this three part series of articles on “Massey-Harris Farming” published in the May/June 2004 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.  The article is also reproduced on this website under the name “Massey-Harris Farming: The Arno Schull Model 30 Tractor.”) Continue reading Massey-Harris Farming (Part III): The Clipper Combine

Massey-Harris Farming (Part I): The Oltrogge Family of Waverly, Iowa

                   Massey-Harris Farming (Part I):

The Oltrogge Family of Waverly, Iowa

by

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.

Dairy Farming in Eastern Massachusetts (Part II)

                      Dairying in Eastern Massachusetts (Part II) 

by

Brian Wayne Wells

 As published in the January/February 2004 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

The Farmall F-14 bearing the Serial No. 132603.

 

Dairy farming in Massachusetts and indeed dairying in much of New England involved not only the milking of the cows, but the pasteurization, bottling and the delivery of the milk to the customers by the dairy farmer himself (see the previous article in this series which was published in the November/December 2003 issue of Belt Pulley).  One particular dairy farm located in Concord Town, Massachusetts, (1930 pop. 7,477), was being operated by our Concord Town farmer (as noted in the earlier article,in Massachusetts, the designation “Town” has the same connotation as “Township” in other states.  Our Concord Town farmer lived on this farm with his wife and four children.  By the summer of 1938 his eldest son, who had taken a strong interest in the 80-acre operation, was becoming a real partner in the farming operation.

An aerial view of a farm very much like our Concord Town farmer’s farm.

 

Since the early l930s, our Concord Town farmer had been delivering milk to his customers along his route, which extended over the line from Concord Town into the suburban town of Lexington, Massachusetts (1930 pop. 9,467), just west of Boston.  Like all farmers our concord Town farmer was interested in anything that would save him time in his farming operation.  He had been pleasantly surprised at how his purchase of a new Divco Model S delivery truck in 1936 had saved him time and money on the delivery route in the morning as opposed to delivering the milk with horses.

The Divco truck which our Concord Town farmer drove made his milk delivery route consume much less time than the horse-drawn milk delivery wagon.

 

Now he turned his attention to the small period of time each day between noon-time dinner and the late afternoon when he began the evening milking chores.  It was during this short period of time each day that he was requirede to complete all his field work.  If some economical way could could be found to mechanize this portion of his work then he rally felt that he would be able to put his farming operation on a better financial basis.  He had been considering the purchase of a farm tractor for some time.  Over the last year he had been leaning toward the purchase of a Farmall F-12 tractor, from the Frank Goddard hardware store at 933 Andover Street in Lowell, Massachusetts.  The Frank Goddard Hardware was the local International Harvester Company franchise holder for this area of Massachusetts.

With the growing season already well on the way in the summer of 1938, our concord Town farmer finally found a little time to drive over to Lowell to talk with Frank.  In order for the tractor to pay for itself, our Concord town farmer intended to use the tractor for nearly all his fieldwork.  Thus the tractor wpould require easy access to all areas of the farm.  This would include the field across the road from the homestead and other parcesl of land that were accessed by driving down the roads of his neighborhood.

Sign of the times in the late 1930s which indicated that steel wheeled tractors with spades {steel lugs)would no longer be allowed to travel public roads

 

The steady progress of paving the roads in the communities west of Boston would eventually result in the road past his farm being paved.  As convenient as a paved road would be, it would also mean that the road would be closed to tractors with steel lugs on the rear.  Local government were passing laws and ordinances to protect the the surface of asphault or cement highwaysfrom being torn up and ruined by tractors with steel wheels.  Thus the fields across the road or down the road from our Concord Town farmer’s house could become inaccessible with a steel wheeled tractor.  Accordingly, he concluded that any tractor that he purchased would have to have rubber tire on the front and rear from the start.  Rubber tires would increase the initial cost of any new farm tractor.  Our Concord Town farmer knew that the base price of a new Farmall  F-12 tractor would increase from $655 to $800 merely because of the addition of rubber tires to the front and rear of the tractor.  Nonetheless, he felt that the ability to easily access the fields down the road without trouble would pay off.

After talking with our Concord Town farmer for a short while, Frank Goddard called the International Harverster branch house, located at 61 North Beacon Street in the Alston area of Boston.  Because of its location in Boston, the transport hub for much of New England, the branch house at No. Beacon Street dealt predominately with International trucks.  Only secondarily did the branch house deal with farm equipment and tractors.  Luke E. W. Johnson served as the general manager of both trucks and machines at the branch house.

Johnson informed Frank Goddard that the branch house did indeed have a limited number of F-12 tractors.  However, none of them were fitted with a full set of rubber tires—front and rear.  Additionally, the branch house did not have extra tire rims for the rear of the F-12 tractor to swap out some rubber tires on the rea of one of the F-12s that they had in their inventory.  However, Luke Johnson did note that he had a new F-14 in his inventory which was already fitted with rubber tires in the front as well as the rear.  The rear tires on this tractor were mounted on International Harvester’s own 40-inch demountable rims.  This was an F-14 bearing the serial No. 132603.

 

The restored Massachusetts F-14, bearing the Serial Number 132603 at the 2016 LeSueur Pioneer Power Show.

Continue reading Dairy Farming in Eastern Massachusetts (Part II)

The 1938 Rasmus Thronson Farmall F-12 Tractor

The Farmall F-12 (Part III):

The 1938 Rasmus Thronson Farmall F-12 Tractor

by

Brian Wayne Wells

with the assistance of

Elvin Papenhausen of Princeton, Minnesota

 As published in the September/October 2003 issue of

Belt Pulley Magazine

 

The restored 1938 Rufus Thronson Farmall F-12 bearing the Serial No. 121778 at the 2016 LeSueur County Pioneer Power Show.

 

As noted earlier the “waist” of Minnesota is the narrow part of the state, as it appears on a map.  (See the article called “The Possible Story of One”  Part I of the Loren Helmbrecht Tractor contained in the May/June 2003 issue of Belt Pulley magazine at page 28.)  The waist is located roughly half way between the northern and southern parts of the state.  Located in the waist, bordering Sherburne County on the north side is Mille Lacs County.  (See the above-cited article for a description of Sherburne County.)

A map of Minnesota showing the location of Mille Lacs County in the “waist” of the state.

 

This area of the State of Minnesota is where the deciduous hardwood forests of the southeastern portion of the State end and the northern coniferous forests begin.  (Theodore C. Blegen, Minnesota: A History of the State [University of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis, 1963] p. 11.)  The pine and fir trees of the northern coniferous forests spring from the same sandy soil that covers Mille Lacs County.

The pine tree forests of the Chippewa National Forest typify the soft wood forests that are spread all across northern Minnesota.

 

As described in an earlier article, the sandy soil of the area had made the area of Sherburne and Mille Lacs County a good place to raise potatoes.  Potato farming had thrived in the area of Mille Lacs and Sherburne Counties since 1890.  (See “The Possible Story of One F-12” cited above.)  In 1908, potato marketing cooperative associations began making their appearance in the State of Minnesota.  (Blegen at p. 399.)  In 1920, the Minnesota Potato Exchange was formed.

The potato washer located in the O.J. Odegard Inc. warehouse located 2nd South Street in Princeton, Minnesota.

 

Princeton Minnesota (1920 pop. 1,685) served as a marketing outlet for the area potato crop.  Indeed, in 1901 and 1902 Princeton became the largest primary potato market in the Northwest.  One of the major potato buyers in Princeton was  O.J. Odegard Farms Inc.  Although, the Odegard family operated their own potato and onion growing operations on their own farm called “the bog,” Odegard’s served as a major buyer of potatoes for the entire Princeton area.

The O. J. Odegard peat bog, shown here is representative of the agricultural land of the southern part of Mille Lacs County including Greenbush township.

 

During the potato harvest in the fall of the year, the Odegard warehouse, located on 2nd South Street became a major employer in town.  Potatoes were received washed and packed into 100 lbs. sacks and loaded onto freight cars of the Great Northern Railroad.  The Great Northern tracks ran through town, north towards the county seat of Milaca and south to the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.  The loading of the freight cars took place at the Great Northern Railroad Depot which is located at 10th Avenue and 1st Street in Princeton.  (This depot is now the home of the exhibits and library materials of the Mille Lacs County Historical Society.)  The potatoes were sold to wholesalers in Minneapolis.

The old Great Northern train depot in Princeton as it appears today.

 

Not only did Odegards hire on employees to work the harvest and processing of potatoes in the fall of the year, but they also hired on teenagers all summer to work on their hands and knees weeding the fields of their own farm in the bog.  This made Odegards the largest employer in the Princeton area.  (Taken from the manuscript called Memories of Princeton, Minnesota by Elvin Papenhausen.)

Princeton even developed into a market for the “culls” or unsatisfactory potatoes that potato growers could not sell on the edible potato market.  These cull potatoes were used in the manufacture of commercial starch.  On March 26, 1890 the Princeton Potato Starch Company was incorporated and a factory was built.  The factory was so busy processing cull potatoes that the factory operated both day and night.  Later a second starch factory was built in Princeton.   (From an internet document called “History of Princeton, Minnesota.”)

The Parlin & Orenburg factory located in Canton, Illinois, as seen in 1905.

 

In 1919, following, the First World War, the International Harvester Company made their first major corporate acquisition since 1904, when they purchased the Parlin & Orendorff  (P. & O.)  Company of Canton, Illinois.  (C.H. Wendel, 150 Years of International Harvester [Crestline Pub.: Sarasota, Fla., 1981], p. 31.)  Along with their famous line of plow, the P. & O. Company also had introduced a mechanical potato digger several years prior to the merger with International Harvester.  The International Harvester Company inherited this horse-drawn mechanical potato digger.  (Ibid. p. 237.)  In 1920, International Harvester continued production of this potato digger, with some substantial improvements.  The potato digger was called the McCormick-Deering Model No. 6 potato digger.  (Ibid.)  One of the improvements of the Model No. 6 over the prior P.&O. Company potato digger was the rod-link chain apron.  The potatoes would travel over the moving apron which would shake off all the dirt.  The potatoes would then be deposited on top of the ground in plain view for the field hands to collect.  (Ibid.) 

A McCormick-Deering one-row potato digger

 

In 1920 the local International Harvester dealership franchise in Princeton, Minnesota may have been held by the owner and operator of the local hardware store.  Starting in 1920, the International Harvester dealership in Princeton was able to compete in the potato growing market by supplying the area potato farms with mechanical potato diggers.  In 1921, International Harvester introduced the new McCormick-Deering potato planter.  Together the Model No. 6 potato digger and the new McCormick-Deering potato planter allowed the dealership in Princeton to prosper all through the early part of the 1920s.  Sales of farm equipment allowed the hardware store to advertise employment for a position of farm equipment sales person.

The City of Princeton, Minnesota is located in Princeton Township on the southern border of Mille Lacs County. Indeed a small part of the city of Princeton spills over into neighboring Sherburne County to the south. In this 1914, map of Mille Lacs County Princeton Township can be seen as the pink-colored township at the very bottom of the map. Additionally, Greenbush Township, where the Rasmus Thronson farm was located is shown here as a green-colored township at the bottom of the map to the left of Princeton Township also on Mille Lacs County.

 

In answer to the newspaper advertisement of the position of sales person at the hardware store an ambitious 24-year-old man by the name of Floyd Hall arrived in Princeton.  Born in Henry, South Dakota, on January 30, 1896 to W. K. and Grace (Henry) Hall, Floyd had married Eva Leathers on October 11, 1916.  Eva was also from the town of Henry.  In 1918, while still living in Henry, Eva had given birth to their son, Willard F. Hall.  Now in 1920, she was pregnant again with a daughter.  Marjorie Hall was born to the couple in December of 1920.

Floyd Hall in middle age.

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