As published in the September/October 2002 issue of
Belt Pulley Magazine
Nebraska became an organized territory of the United States on May 30, 1854, as a result to the Kansas-Nebraska Act. This Act would become one of the most recognizable landmarks on the road to the American Civil War. Demand for the establishment of Nebraska as an organized territory came not from the populous within the boundaries of the territory, but rather from economic forces outside Nebraska. Since the time of the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1803-1805, the land of the great plains had been crossed by hundreds of explorers and thousands of settlers, all headed for someplace else. The Oregon Trail, the Mormon Trail, the California Trail, and the Pony Express all wove their way across the future state of Nebraska, but few of the travelers on those trails ever settled there.
Now, however, in 1854, the need for an intercontinental railroad demanded that the Nebraska Territory be organized. Citizens and congressmen alike from Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri were very aware of the benefits a transcontinental railroad would have on their communities, and they lobbied hard for the Kansas-Nebraska Act. The proposed route of the transcontinental railroad would follow the Platte River across the land which eventually was to become the state of Nebraska.
It was always intended that Nebraska would become a state. However, becoming a state would be delayed first by the Panic of 1857 and then by the Civil War. Only on March 1, 1867, would Nebraska become the thirty-seventh state to be admitted to the union. (James C. Olson, History of Nebraska [University of Nebraska Press: Lincoln, Neb. 1966], pp. 63, 73, and 127.) Unlike other states in the Great Plains, Nebraska would not become a great wheat producing state. Settlers coming into Nebraska tended to be from the corn producing states of the East. Thus, these farmers naturally wanted to raise corn on their new farms, and they would soon give the new state its nickname – the Cornhusker State. Corn production in Nebraska exploded from 65,450,135 bushels in 1879 to 215,895,996 bushels in 1889. Meanwhile, wheat production actually declined from 13,037,116 bushels to 10,571,059 bushels over the same ten=year period. (Ibid.p. 197.)
Along with settlers from the eastern United States, immigrants from outside the United States also came to seek their fortune in Nebraska. By 1880, 21.53% of Nebraska’s population was of foreign descent. (Ibid. p. 173.) Of these groups, the largest was German-speaking, with 31,125 settlers in 1880. A distant second was the Swedish speaking group, with 10,164. (Ibid.)
Among the group of first generation Germans in Nebraska was the family of Anna (From) Behlen and her three sons – Friederick, Deitrich, and John Behlen Jr.
Anna Behlen, together with her husband John Behlen Sr., had lived in the province of Oldenburg, Germany. In 1858, however, things changed for the family when John Sr. suddenly died. Deitrich, born in 1853, was only five years of age at the time. Needless to say, in the years immediately following the death of her husband, Anna had to struggle hard to feed herself and her sons. Continue reading The Behlen Manufacturing Company (Part I)→
The PAPEC Company of Shortsville, New York (Part 2):
AModel 127 PAPEC Silo Filler at Work
Brian Wayne Wells
As published in the January/February 1996 issue of
Belt Pulley Magazine
By 1931, the Pneumatic and Propeller Ensilage Company, or Papec for short, was well established at its site in the small up-state town of Shortsville, New York. Model 158, Model 127, Model 81 and Model R Papec stationary silo fillers, as well as various models of hay choppers and hammermills, were rolling out of the Papec facilities in Shortsville. (For a history of the Papec Company, see the November/December, 1995 issue of Belt Pulley, Vol. 8, No. 6.)
One particular Model 127 Papec stationary silo filler complete, with its shiny new color coat of red, black and two shades of green paint, a Rockwood pulley, and a galvanized feeder, rolled out of the Papec’s Shortsville, New York, facility in early 1931. By prior arrangement with Deere and Webber Company, wholesale distributor of Papec equipment in Minnesota, this particular silo filler was equipted with an optional large pulley for use with tractors with a high rpm. belt pulley. The Model 127 was “knocked down” (KD’ed) or taken apart, into its component parts and put in a waiting boxcar of the New York Central Railroad destined for Beske Implement of Minnesota Lake, Minnesota. The New York Central steam locomotive pulled the train containing the boxcar with the KD’ed silo filler out of Shortsville, through Buffalo, New York, across Pennsylvania’s Erie Triangle, and into the broad plains of Ohio and Indiana, arriving at the end of the New York Central line in Chicago, Illinois. Once in Chicago, the boxcar with the KD’ed silo filler was transferred to another train on the Chicago-Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad for the next phase of the trip to Minnesota. On the Chicago-Milwaukee and St Paul line, the silo filler made its way north to Milwaukee, across Wisconsin to La Crosse, and into southern Minnesota to the little junction town of Wells (1940 pop. 2,517). At the Wells junction, the boxcar with the silo filler was connected to the train that was headed north to Mankato. The first stop on that railroad line was the town of Minnesota Lake, Minnesota (1940 pop. 526). At this stop, the Model 127 Papec silo filler was unloaded onto a truck for the short trip to the Beske Implement dealership, where the KD’ed Papec silo filler was put back together by the employees. The silo filler was soon sold to two area farmers, John T. Goff and Ernest More, of Mapleton, Minnesota (1940 pop. 1070).
Beske Implement was a very old John Deere dealership, founded by Gus Beske in about 1912. Gus Beske operated the dealership until his son, Woodrow W. Beske, took over its operation upon Gus’ retirement. Minnesota Lake was a small town, serving a rural area which included the larger town of Mapleton, Minnesota. South of Mapleton was the farm of John T. Goff. The picturesque Goff farm was known in the surrounding neighborhood as “the farm with the round barn.” John T. Goff (or “John T.” to friends and associates) had built the round barn to ease the feeding of livestock. The milking cows were placed in stanchions in a circle in the barn. All calf pens were located in the center of the barn. Hay was fed to the calves and cattle from the center of the barn.
History of the Algoma Foundary and Machine Company of Algoma, Wisconsin
Brian Wayne Wells
As published in the March/April 1995 issue of
Belt Pulley Magazine
The ensilage process of chopping green corn or hay and storing it in a silo was first developed by August Goffart, a French experimenter, in 1877. (Robert C. Nesbit, Wisconsin: A History [University of Wisconsin Press; Madison, Wisconsin, 1973], p. 291.) In 1880, Dr. H.S. Weeks, of Ononomowoc, Wisconsin, also conducted experiments with ensilage stored in silos. The success of Dr. Weeks’ experiments led some pioneering farmers to construct silos for storage of this new type of cattle feed. Later experiments found that three cows could be fed for seven months on one acre of silage crops while it would take two acres of hay to feed just one cow for the same seven months.
At first, there was a major resistance to this new method of chopping and storing ensilage based on the belief that the fodder would eat away at the stomachs of cows or cause them to lose their teeth. As of 1904, there were only 716 silos in the entire state of Wisconsin. However, in the early 1900s, William Dempster Hoard, editor of Hoard’s Dairyman, began promoting silage for dairy herds in his magazine. Thus, following the First World War, silos started to spring up across the nation as farmers began to see the advantages of silage.
Most commonly, silage was cut into pieces about an inch in length. Machines were developed to facilitate this procedure, and the ensilage cutter–or stationary forage harvester–was born, with the dairy state of Wisconsin becoming the center for manufacturing and sales of silage equipment. One of the companies that realized the potential market for ensilage cutters in Wisconsin was the Algoma Foundry and Machine Company of Algoma, Wisconsin.
Algoma is a small city of 3,600 people located on the shore of Lake Michigan at the base of Door Peninsula. The entity that was to become the Algoma Company was first established there in 1883 as A. Hamacek and Company by Adolf and Anton Hamacek. A. Hamacek and Company made horse-drawn farm machinery and operated an electric light plant for those Algoma residents who had electric lighting in their homes and businesses. On August 28, 1891, Adolph Hamacek left the partnership and moved to Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. Anton, however, continued to operate the business alone until the spring of 1893 when he formed another partnership with Joseph Wodsedalek and August Ziemer from Kewaunee, Wisconsin. On August 6, 1895, a fire totally destroyed the business’s two-story building located in the 600 block of Fremont Street in Algoma. Following the fire, the partnership purchased a new property, just east of the new Fourth Street Bridge in Algoma, owned by John Ihlenfeld. This was an excellent location which was served by a spur of the Green Bay and Western Railroad. The partnership then moved their operations to the single-story building located on that property.
During World War I, one of the partnership’s employees, Joseph Sticka, a machinist, conceived of his own design for a stationary forage harvester and left the employ of the partnership to establish his own business. However, the business he established was not sufficiently capitalized and he soon sought the backing of his old employer. Thus, in 1920, the partnership began mass producing the forage harvester developed by Joseph Sticka.
In March of 1920, the partnership was transformed into a company and incorporated as the Algoma Foundry and Machine Company. Joseph Wodsedalek became president and Joseph F. Sticka became a director. E.W. Anderogg, general manager of the Algoma Net Company, also became a director. While continuing his work at the Net Company, Mr Anderogg sat on the board of the Algoma Foundry and Machine Company as representative of the interests of his boss, M.W. Perry, president of the Algoma Net Company. M.W. Perry, although a minority shareholder, had loaned the Algoma Foundry and Machine Company a great deal of money. Therefore, M.L. Perry had much influence over the company.
Shortly after they became incorporated, the Algoma Company introduced a new line of modern farm equipment bearing the trade name OK. This line included forage harvesters–or ensilage cutters–forage blowers, feed grinders and hammermills. This expansion, however, was ill-timed.
Although it is commonly accepted that the Great Depression began with the stock market crash in 1929 following a period of prosperity throughout the 1920s, the facts are that in the rural areas of the nation the depression actually began in 1921 with the fall in the price of farm products following the end of World War I. Farmers were feeling the effects of the depression as early as 1921. This meant that there was little demand for new farm machinery from that time until the nation began to recover in the 1930s. As a result, the Algoma Foundry and Machine Company suffered deficits for the first nine years of its existence.
A financial statement, dated Feb. 1, 1929, noted that the corporation had a $38,807.20 deficit in its annual budget at that time. The board required action and the corporation underwent a financial reorganization whereby the persons who had loaned the company money were made preferred stockholders in the corporation. Suddenly, all the creditors of the company became the owners of the company. In short, this meant that M.W. Perry became the majority shareholder of the company with 51% of the shares. He also bought out all of the remaining inrterests of the Joseph Wodsedalek family.
On March 2, 1929, a new management team was installed. M.W. Perry became the new president and E.W. Anderogg became the new general manager of the Algoma Foundry and Machine Company. Following the reorganization, the compamy underwent a corporate down-sizing and under the new leadership managed to finish the year in good order and even showed a profit. Consequently, in 1929, the corporation made its first profit in the face of the financial dislocations which occurred on Wall Street in October of 1929 and continued profitably for the next three years.
In the Spring of 1932, E.W. Anderogg was made treasurer. The Company then began to cast about to find the right person to fill the position of general manager and were fortunate in obtaining the services of E.J. Albro for this position. He had served as manager of the farm equipment division of the Montgomery Ward Company for 15 years, from 1917 to 1932. In his position at Montgomery Ward, E.J. Albro had supervised the purchasing of thousands of dollars of fly nets from the Algoma Net Company. Now he used his influence to arrange for Montgomery Ward to purchase all of their hammermills from the Algoma Foundry and Machine Company. Montgomery Ward would sell these farm implements under their own name and eventually would become the Algoma Foundry and Machine Company’s largest single customer, absorbing 35% of all of the farm equipment they produced.
The silo fillers produced by the Algoma Foundry and Machine Company continued to follow the original design conceived by Joseph F. Sticka; however, with some small improvements made to the original design. Two sizes of silo fillers were offered, e.g., a 13″ throat model and a 15″ throat model. These two models came out of the factory, along with the hammermills and all of the other farm equipment offered by the Algoma Foundry and Machine Company, cloaked in the green paint that in the early years symbolized the OK line of farm machinery. A bright yellow “OK” insignia would appear on both sides of the hinged casing covering the knife wheel. Another insignia declaring “Mfd. by Algoma Foundry and Machine Company, Algoma, Wisconsin” was stenciled on both sides of the transport frame underneath the feeding table. Although no paint numbers now exist which could allow a restorer to recreate the exact shade of this green paint, according to John Beitling, long-term employee of the paint department, the shade was very close to the green color which was habitually used on 1948-1950 Chevrolet pickups.
When Montgomery Ward began placing large orders for hammermills and other equipment, the purchasing contract required that such equipment be painted Montgomery Ward red and that the equipment bear no insignias. Marvin Zirbel, another former employee of the Algoma Company, remembers that to save cost the Company made the decision to change the color of its entire line of OK equipment to Montgomery Ward red, Martin-Senour 99L-1637. (Later, in 1964, when Massey-Ferguson bought the corporate entity which included the Algoma Company, Massey-Ferguson personnel found that the red paint used by the Algoma Company was indistinguishable from their own Massey-Ferguson red.) The bright yellow insignias and lettering, however, would still appear in the same locations on the silo fillers and on all of those machines which were not sold to Montgomery Ward but were offered to the public through jobbers and wholesalers under the Company’s own name.
In 1943, one of these OK silo fillers rolled out of the plant cloaked in its red paint job and insignias. It was one of the smaller models with a 13″ throat. It traveled by railroad flatbed out of Algoma, across Wisconsin and into Minnesota, where it was sold to its first owner. After only one season, the silo filler was resold in 1944 to Roy Johnson (a beef farmer), Harold Nelsen and Harris Quist (who milked Holstein herds on their farms), and Leonard Johnson (who milked Jersey cows). They bought the silo filler together, along with a McCormick-Deering corn binder which had a wagon loading attachment. (A two-row version of this binder with the wagon loading attachment can be seen in the 1934 International Harvester movie, Farming the Farmall Way.) The four Lindstrom-area farmers used the silo filler to fill their own silos on all four farms and for some custom work in their neighborhood as well. Harold Nelsen remembers that the OK silo filler was a “light runner”–a smooth and easy operating machine–powered most often by a Farmall H. Each summer the silo filler was towed from farm to farm in the Lindstrom neighborhood by the Farmall H and performed admirably.
Following World War II, a flood of new and more efficient farm machinery came onto the market. In 1944, International Harvester had introduced the No. 55-T baler, their first successful cotton stripper, and the new No. 2 field forage harvester. All of these machines were advertised as “one-man harvesting machines.” (See the 1944 IH movies called “One-Man Harvesting” and “One-Man Cotton Harvesting.”)
Like other farmers across the nation, these four farmers saw the advantages of single-stage processing of ensilage in the field, rather than carrying bundles of corn to the silo for processing. Thus, in about 1949, Roy Johnson bought one of the new McCormick-Deering field choppers. The other three farmers then hired him to fill the silos on their farms and the OK silo filler was sold to Maynard Mohn of Center City, Minnesota. After a few years, the Mohn family also upgraded their silo filling operations; however, the OK silo filler remained stored under cover on the Mohn farm until it was put up for sale several years later at an auction.
John Bjonstad, grandnephew of Maynard Mohn, having observed the OK silo filler several times on the Mohn farm, expressed an interest in seeing the silo filler saved from the cutting torch. At the auction, therefore, John’s grandfather, Paul Holm, of Almelund, Minnesota, purchased the silo filler for his grandson. John and his grandfather then transported the silo filler to the site of the LeSueur Pioneer Power Show near LeCenter, Minnesota. There, in 1990, the silo filler was set up and operated by John and his grandfather as an exhibit at the Show.
Following that Show, the silo filler was wintered at the Pioneer Power site; however, due to the shortage of storage buildings, the OK silo filler was stored outside for one of the first winters since it had been manufactured. Unfortunately, it has not been operated as an exhibit in any of the Shows since 1990.
In August of 1994, the OK silo filler was found by the author and his brother, Mark Wells, of Billerica, Massachusetts, in about the same location where it had been stored following the 1990 Show. Even in 1994, after four years of sitting outside in the elements, the knives and shear bar seemed to be in very good condition. The pressed-paper pulley showed evidence of having recently been treated with fuel oil. It appeared, however, that the growing layer of rust threatened to obliterate the “OK” decal hinged blower cover and the “Algoma Foundry and Machine Co.” stencilling on the frame under the feeding table. It was at this point that the author and his brother began to think about restoration of the OK silo filler. Research into the proper paint scheme, the correct shade of paint, and remaking of the proper decals is currently being conducted and plans are being made for a 1995 restoration.
The Algoma Foundry and Machine Company continued to function independently until September 14, 1962, when the company was sold to Badger Northland Company, Inc. The Algoma Company became a division of the Badger Company, with Karl Kuehn of Kaukauna, Wisconsin, serving as head of the Algoma farm equipment division. Badger was manufacturing a short line of farm equipment, which included silo unloaders and barn cleaners, when they bought out the Algoma Company. They hoped, through the acquisition of the Algoma Company, to broaden their line of Badger products to include forage equipment, particularly their field chopper.
In 1964, Badger Northland was in turn acquired by the Massey-Ferguson Company. By this time, however, no silo fillers or forage equipment were being made at the Algoma site. It was a sign of the times that only garden tractors (the Massey-Ferguson model 10) and snowmobiles were being made in the old foundry building. In the summer of 1970, operations at the Algoma plant were entirely discontinued by Massey-Ferguson.
Before the merger with Massey-Ferguson in 1964, the president of Badger Northland was Wisconsin native Vincent Rolf. He had been one of the founders of the Badger Farm Equipment Company in Kaukauna, Wisconsin, in 1949. In 1965, he along with almost all of the original founders of Badger formed a new company called Calumet Corporation of Kaukauna, Wisconsin. Calumet manufactured liquid pumps, liquid manure spreaders, and a line of trailers for transporting boats, snowmobiles, and garden tractors at its plant in Dundas, Wisconsin. Upon learning that the old foundry building in Algoma was available, Calumet moved its manufacturing operations from Dundas to the foundry building in December of 1970, operating there until 1973.
Over the years, many people of the Algoma area were employed at the foundry: Lester Zimmerman was a machinist at the foundry; George Bietling, Marvin Zirbel amd Doug Silmer worked there at different times; as noted previously, John Beitling worked for many years in the paint department; and Emil Bostick, now of Luxembourg, Wisconsin, worked in the stenciling department.
It is a different world now than when the foundry was first opened in 1895, reflecting the changes in farming methods which have occurred in the interim and reflecting the transition of the United States from an agricultural nation into an industrial nation. Restoration of old farm machinery is one way in which the agricultural history of the nation can be preserved for future generations. It is hoped that restoration of the 1943 OK silo filler will compose one more chapter of that history, a chapter which will recognize not only the farmers that used the silo filler but also the men and women who made the silo filler.
The Case Model NCM baler and a Family’s Crucial Year
Brian Wayne Wells
As published in the January/February 1995 issue of
Belt Pulley Magazine
The following article was published in three different magazines. Each version of the article approached the story of the 1947 wet year in a different way. Accordingly, there are important differences in each version of the story and, therefore, each version has been included in this reproduced here for the reader to study these differences.
As related in an earlier article, the Howard Hanks family had moved to LeRoy, Minnesota from Mapleton, Minnesota in 1945. “The Wartime Farmall H,” Belt Pulley, July/August 1994, Vol. 7, No. 4, p. 13. They had purchased the big 400-acre Bagan farm five miles east of LeRoy, Minnesota. The payments on the newly-purchased farm were a big concern. The expense involved with moving a family from a renting operation to ownership of a farm was no small matter. Then there were the usual expenses entailed in raising a large family. Furthermore, three of the oldest Hanks children were planning to be married in 1947. What the family needed was a period of normalcy to consolidate their financial position; however, as 1946 ended, it looked as though the family was not going to get that period of normalcy. The Second World War had ended and prices for farm products had fallen. On the other hand, wartime price controls had ended and farm equipment prices immediately climbed. Then, too, there was the weather.
The fall of 1946 harvest season was very wet. The family had to borrow a Farmall M which belonged to Reuben Jacobson just to pull the big John Deere No. 7 combine through the soggy soybean fields. The Hanks’ 1942 Farmall H, with its new cut down steel rear wheels which were now fitted with rims and rubber tires, was unable to pull the combine as it had in the fall of 1945. The Reuben Jacobson Farmall M had wheel weights and fluid in the tires and thus was used to harvest soybeans on the home farm, as well as for all of the custom work.
The rain continued throughout the fall of 1946, and in the spring of 1947 it started again with a vengeance. By the time of the first wedding that year (Bruce Hanks and Mary Keller on April 2), the ground was a quagmire. Even the roads were a mess, and the farm tractors were employed to help negotiate these roads.
More rain came all through the spring and early summer. Field work had to be delayed to the point where the situation began to look grim. By the time of the second family wedding that year (Lorraine Hanks and Robert Westfall on June 25), it was clear that even the garden had failed because of the continuing rain. As with most families of the time, gardening was not a mere hobby, but was a real source of food for the family. The failure of the garden meant that household expenses would be just that much higher for the summer and for the following winter.
The oldest son, Fred Hanks, who had been serving in the United States Army in Italy, arrived home just in time for the second wedding on June 25. He was shocked to find that the soybeans were not yet entirely planted, even at this late date! The family did not complete planting soybeans until July 6. They felt as though planting soybeans so late in the season would be a waste of time and money, and 1947 was showing every sign of being a make-or-break year for the family. In addition, they were counting on the income that would be derived from custom combining in the neighborhood, and prospects for that income were not good unless the rain stopped.
The third family wedding that year (Marilyn Hanks and Wayne Wells) was held on July 12. Howard and Ethel Hanks, parents of the bride, were hosting the reception at their house on the Hanks farm. Ethel Buck Hanks, mother of the bride, was distressed that she did not have any crystal or a matched set of glassware to make the reception dinner a formal affair, and the family’s dire straits held no promise that there would be money for even such a small luxury as this. However, Howard went uptown and negotiated with the proprietor of the hardware store to borrow a set of gobbets and a matching set of sherbet stemware. This crystal would be used for the reception, then packaged up again and returned to the store. Ethel was extremely pleased with the goblets and sherbet stemware when Howard brought it home several days prior to the wedding. Ethel carefully unpacked the goblets and sherbet stemware and washed each piece in preparation for the wedding reception. She loved the beautiful glassware and wished that she could keep the goblets and the sherbets for the weddings in the family that she knew were coming up. However, she knew that the glassware was only borrowed from the hardware store and the glassware would have to be returned. Accordingly, following the wedding reception, she carefully washed each piece, wrapped it and sadly placed it back into the box for the journey back to town.
The new son-in-law, Wayne Wells, had taken over the farming operation on the 160-acre farm owned by his father, George Wells, which was two miles to the west of the Hanks farm. Wayne Wells and the Hanks family were planning to cooperate in some farming activities, i.e., corn planting and haying. They anticipated putting the loose hay in the barn as they had in past years; however, Wayne, who had been thinking of new ways to improve the efficiency of the farming operation, explored the possibility of baling the hay for storage in the barn. He also saw the possibilities of doing custom baling in the neighborhood. Many of the same farmers who paid to have their oats and soybeans combined may also pay to have their hay and straw baled. Since there were very few pickup balers in the neighborhood, the Wells and Hanks families would have a monopoly on the whole market. Furthermore, with daughter Hildreth, age 17, and son John, age 12, still living at home on the Hanks farm, Bruce and Mary living on the Tony Machovec farm about 1/2 mile south of the Hanks farm, and with Fred’s return from the Army, there would be more than sufficient people to outfit a baling crew and still keep up with the chores.
The Hanks family was receptive to the suggestion of purchasing a baler in hopes of earning extra income from custom baling. Later, they saw an advertisement for a used Case NCM baler. In the middle of the rainy summer, it seemed like a gamble considering all of the other pressing concerns. However, as the old saying goes, “You have to spend money to make money.” They decided to act.