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Farming with a Coop E-3 Tractor in Illinois Part 3: The Owatonna Manufacturing Company

Farming in Illinois with the Coop Model E-3 Tractor

 (Part 3 of 3 Parts): The Kewanee Belt and Conveyor Company

by

Brian Wayne Wells

This article remains under construction.  From time to time new blocks of text will appear or present blocks of text will be corrected.

 

Throughout the history of North American agriculture, farmers have been attempting to solve their own problems.  Farmers have repeatedly joined together in societies and organization.  As noted in a previous article (See the article on this blog entitled “Farming in Illinois with the Model E-3 Tractor Part 1 of 3  Parts: The Farmers Union”) some farmers banded together in organizations like the Grange and the National Farmers Union to 1.) boost the money that farmers received for their crops through  cooperative marketing of their crops and  2.) save money through cooperative purchasing of their farm equipment, fuels and other products used in raising and harvesting those crops on the farm.

Local cooperatives engaged in the cooperative marketing of farm crops were usually centered around cooperatively-owned  creameries and grain elevators located in small towns across the vast agricultural areas of the United States–the  Midwest, the Great Plains, the agricultural South and the Central and Imperial Valleys of California.  As time went by, and the local cooperatives began to expand into the cooperative purchasing of products used by farmers, the local cooperatives began to build or purchase their own lumberyards, gasoline service stations and farm implement dealerships which began to sell cooperatively purchased products to their farmer members at reduced prices.

One member of the National Farmers Union who was currently farming in Sterling Township in Whiteside County, Illinois.  He was a “true believer” in the value of the cooperatives to the small farmer and tried at all instances to purchase all his supplies from local Cooperatives.  Especially, those cooperatives that were connected with the Farmers Union.  Our Sterling Township farmer had moved to this farm in Illinois in 1945 from  his father’s farm located near Baraboo, Wisconsin.  Due to a lack of any local cooperative that sold “COOP” farm machinery and farm tractors, our Sterling Township farmer tended to buy his farm machinery at the Sauk County Farmers Union Cooperative in Baraboo, Wisconsin.

However, there was some farm machinery that was not available through the COOP line of the farm implements marketed by the National Farmers Union.  For these pieces of farm machinery, our Sterling Township farmer was required to turn to other private company suppliers.  As noted previously, he had purchased an 8-foot hydraulically controlled trailing double disc from a local dealer in Sterling, Illinois.  This disc had been manufactured by the Kewanee Manufacturing Company of Kewanee, Illinois.  Kewanee, Illinois was situated in Henry County, Illinois, which was located immediately to the south of Whiteside County.

A county map of the State of Illinois showing the location of Henry County the home county of the Kewaunee Manufacturing Company. The County immediately to the north of the highlighted Henry County is Whiteside County Illinois, the home county of our Sterling Township farmer.

 

Even though our Sterling Township farmer had been impressed by the hydraulically controlled transportable disc produced by the Kewanee Manufacturing Company, he was not so impressed by the portable farm elevator that was also produced by the Kewaunee Company.

The Kewaunee Company had been making portable farm elevators since 1922 when the company purchased a line of portable farm  elevators from the Hart Grain Weigher Company of Peoria, Illinois.  At this time, the portable elevator made by Kewaunee was a composit of wood and steel construction.  In 1926, Kewaunee introduced their “all-steel” elevator.  In anticipation of the production the new farm Kewaunee elevator the Kewaunee Company had moved out of its old facilities to a new concrete block building locate on the corner of Park and Commercial Streets in Kewaunee in 1922.  However, sales of the new portable Kewaunee farm elevator grew so rapidly that the Company was forced to move to still larger facilities in 1927.

In 1922 the Kewaunee Machinery Company inherited a portable farm elevator made of wood and steel when the Company purchased a line of portable elevator line from the Hart Grain Weigher Company.

 

During the first few years on the new farm in Sterling Township, Illinois,  our Sterling Township farmer had been forced to borrow a portable elevator from his neighbors merely to move the oat crop from the wagon to his granary and to move the ear corn from the wagons which were coming into the yard to the corn crib.  to the   to

  In 1888 the Owatonna Manufacturing Company was founded in Owatonna, Mnnesota.  Farmers soon recognized the OMC paint colors of red and lime green on the grain drills, seeders and balers.  In 1928, OMC began making portable farm elevators in 1928 after purchasing the Diedrick Company.  Indeed, for a while OMC continued the production of the Diedrich (even under the Diedrich name)

The first OMC factory in Owatonna, Minnesota, in 1888.

 

Farmers soon recognized the OMC paint colors of red and lime green on the grain drills, seeders. elevators and and balers.

 

The Owatonna Manufacturing Company of Owatonna, Minnesota, specialized in farm equipment specifically seeders and portable farm elevators.

Owattonna

In 1965, OMC  introduced their first “Mustang” skid steer.

 

In 1997 Mustang was separated from OMC and sold to the Gehl Corporation

 

OMC, itself was sold to the Manitou Americas Inc. corporation.    as being

As the mid-1950s went on, the Cockshutt faced dwindling Meanwhile,  the National Farm Machinery Cooperative started losing market share in the farm tractor and machinery market as a result Cockshutt shares return egt.  arm

 

Eventually, our Sterling township farmer traded the COOP Model E-3 tractor, bearing the serial No. 31591, in on the purchase of a newer more powerful Cockshutt tractor.  No. 31591 was sold from one owner to another when the tractor ended up in the hands of an owner than sought to made the Model E-3 into a tractor that could be used in professional antique tractor pulling contests.  Accordingly, the hydraulics which had been installed on No. 31591 by our Sterling Township farmer under the seat on the operator’s platform.  At the same time the tractor was repainted with the red and cream colors to make No. 31591 look like a post-1955 Cockshutt.

When purchased by the current author, the COOP Model E-3 tractor bearing the serial number 31591 had been largely repainted to look like a post-1955 model Cockshutt Model 30.

 

to make the tractor t pullingthe

Soybean Farming in Butternut Township (Part I of 2 Parts)

Soybean Farming in Butternut Valley Township (Part 1 of 2 parts)

by

Brian Wayne Wells

Like corn, soybeans were planted in 40 inch rows and when they mature, soybeans tend to cover the 40 inch space between the rows.
Like corn, soybeans were planted in 40 inch rows and when they mature, the rank growth of a mature crop of soybeans tend to cover the 40 inch space between the rows.

 

Although officially organized May of 1858, settlement in Butternut Valley Township, Blue Earth County, Minnesota, was still quite new in 1900.  As previously noted, the first settlers in Butternut Valley Township raised wheat.  (See the article called “Case Part II: Steam Engines and Threshers” in the March/April 2006 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.)  Wheat was the predominate crop in Butternut Valley Township and the neighboring townships of Cambria, Judson, Garden City and Lincoln Townships.  However, as the twentieth century progressed wheat production declined as corn replaced wheat on farms.  By 1921, more that 109,778 acres of corn were planted and harvested in the whole of Blue Earth County while wheat acreage had decreased to 43,520 acres for the county as a whole.  With the coming of the Second World War, production of corn continued dominate the agricultural landscape of Blue Earth County reaching 136,900 acres of corn harvested in 1943.  Meanwhile, wheat production in Blue Earth County fell to a miniscule 7,600 acres in 1943.

 

Butternut Valley Towhship is located on the western boundary of Blue Earth County second from the top below Cambria Township. The Honeymead plant is in South Bend Township on the border with Mankato Township.

 

During the same period of time, other changes were occurring on Blue Earth County farms that were reflected in the crops that were raised in the county.  Acreage allotted to the raising of hay in Blue Earth County fell from 59,505 acres harvested in 1921 to 41,100 acres harvested in 1943.  This reflected the fact that farmers were purchasing more farm tractors and selling off their horses.  Consequently, they no longer needed to feed the horses all year long.  Thus, the average farm could reduced the amount of hay raised each year.  As a result, the average farm in Blue Earth County had acreage that could now be devoted to some other crop.

For a time in the 1920s barley production rose to fill this gap in production acreage on the average farm in Blue Earth County.  In 1921, only 7,134 acres of Blue Earth County’s arable land was planted to barley.  However, in 1927 barley acreage shot up to 12,300 acres.  In 1928 barley acreage in the county doubled to 25,200 acres.  Eventually, the dramatic growth of acreage planted to barley in Blue Earth County reached a total of 33,800 acres in 1938.  However, barley production in Blue Earth County fell as dramatically as it had grown.  By 1943, the acreage devoted to barley in the county fell to only 5,400 acres and in the following year (1944) barley acreage fell to a mere 700 acres in the county.

Coinciding with the decline in the production of in barley was a rise in the production of flax in Blue Earth County.  In 1938 only 2,300 acres of flax had been raised in Blue Earth County.  However, in 1939 flax acreage shot up to 11,900 acres.  Blue Earth County production of flax continued to climb and in 1943, 20,300 acres in the county was planted to flax.  However, in 1944, acreage planted to flax was cut in half—down to only 9,500 acres in the county as a whole.  As suddenly as it had appeared, flax production fell to nothing.  Farmers in Blue Earth County were turning to production of something else apart from wheat, apart from barley and apart from flax.  The crop to which they turned was the lowly soy bean.

Native to the orient, where it was a staple of human consumption, the soybean was introduced in the United States in 1804.  In 1879, two agricultural stations in New Jersey started growing and working with the soybean.  Ten years later, in 1889, several more agricultural experiment stations were actively researching the soybean.  In 1896, famous botanist George Washington Carver, from Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama, discovered and refined over 300 by-products derived from the soybean.  The two most important marketable products of soybeans were edible oil and meal.  In 1922, the first soybean processing plant in the United States was opened.

However the soybean lacked a lucrative market for itself or any of its many by-products.  Henry Ford set out, in the 1930s, to develop a market for the soybean.  First he sought to make a bio-fuel from soybeans which would power the growing number of automobiles that were starting to populate the nation.  (Robert Lacey, Ford: The Men and the Machine [Little Brown Co. Pub.: Boston, 1986] p. 231.)  Only later, did he and his Ford Company engineers create a plastic from soybeans that could be used in the Ford car.  (Ibid. p. 233.)  In 1937, Ford built a soybean processing plant right on the grounds of the Ford Company Rouge Works factory located on the banks of the Rouge River in Detroit Michigan.  (Ibid.)  Soon, plastics comprised about two pounds of the weight of every Ford car manufactured.  However, the two pounds of plastics in Ford cars were limited to small parts like insulated casings and knobs and buttons on the interior of the car.  (Ibid.)  This was still did not represent a major market for soybeans and their products.

Despite all this early attention and product research, the potential of soybeans remained unrealized—a promising product without a real market.  Accordingly, soybeans remained a side line venture in agriculture until the Second World War.  With the United States’ sudden entry into the war, there arose a real demand for clear lightweight plastics products—especially, for windshields and cowlings on military aircraft.

 

Soybean prices in World War II rose because of the plastics used in combat airplane windscreens. Although a direct shot would pierce the safety glass of these safety glass windscreens the safety glass would not shatter and cause injury to the air crew just as a result of flying glass.

 

Stimulated by military purchases of airplanes fitted with plastic cowlings and windshields, the price of soybeans soared.  Farmers began planting soybeans in a big way.  The farmers of Blue Earth County followed this trend.  In 1941, the last year before the war, only 3,400 acres of the arable land in the whole of Blue Earth County had been planted to soybeans.  However, in 1942, soybean acreage in the county tripled—reaching 11,100 acres.  By 1945, the acreage devoted to soybeans in Blue Earth County would nearly triple again—up 31,000 acres. Continue reading Soybean Farming in Butternut Township (Part I of 2 Parts)

Egg Raising in Dryden Township, Sibley County Minnesota (Part 1)

Statistics recorded with Counterize - Version 3.1.4

A McCormick-Deering Little Genius Plow at Work in

Dryden Township, Sibley County, Minnesota 

(Part 1 of 2 Parts)

 by

Brian Wayne Wells

(This is a new article that was never published in

Belt Pulley Magazine)

Mark Wells working with the Trebesch plow in the fields on the grounds of the LeSueur Pioneer Power Assoc. in 1994

The more a person works at restoration of an old farm tractor or a farm implement the more one begins to ponder the history of that farm implement.  One wonders, who originally purchased the farm implement.  What kind farming operation was the implement used for?   If curiosity is sufficiently aroused the person restoring the tractor or implement may start making telephone calls back to the person who sold the tractor and may start attempting to establish a chain of ownership of the tractor or implement back to the original owner.  However, the process of establishing the chain of ownership can be extremely difficult as time passes and memories fade.  Furthermore, when purchases of tractors and farm implements are made, as many are, at swap meets and/or auctions and when such purchases are made for cash from individuals unknown, the chain of ownership can be extremely difficult to reconstruct.  (Just how difficult it is to start reconstructing the history of a tractor when time passes is described in the two-part series of articles contained in the July/August 2008 and November/December 2008 issues of Belt Pulley magazine which deal with a 1937 Farmall Model F-20 tractor.)  Thus, it is often important to collect history of a particular tractor or implement at the point of sale or at least collect telephone numbers to call back at a later date.

 

The 1937 F-20 bearing the Serial No. 71355.

 

Such pondering over the history of the history of a particular implement was particularly true during the restoration of one particular McCormick-Deering Little Genius 2-bottom plow with 14″ bottoms.  (The actual restoration of this plow is described in the article carried on page 11 of the September/October 1994 issue of Belt Pulley magazine [Vol. 7, No. 5.  This article is called “The McCormick-Deering  Little Genius Plow” and has also been posted on this website.)  This particular plow was purchased by Mark Wells at the 1993 LeSueur County Pioneer Power Swap Meet.  Luckily, Mark Wells had written down the name and address of the seller of the plow–Larry Hiles of rural Arlington, Minnesota.

Arlington, Minnesota is located in eastern central Sibley County.

 

Contact was established with Larry Hiles in 1995.  Larry Hiles was living in Arlington Township in Sibley County.  The homestead was located just south of the village of Arlington.  This particular Little Genius plow had been discovered by Larry Hiles parked in the grove of trees that formed the wind break for this homestead.  The farm on which the homestead was located had been originally owned by Earl Nagel.  While living on the farm, Earl Nagel was actively engaged in farming the land.  In about 1956, the homestead on the farm was sold to Raymond Kraels, who was a rural mail carrier.  Raymond Kraels was not actively engaged in farming the land.  On July 12, 1974, Delmar and Bonnie Mae (Kopishke) Trebesch rented and moved onto the homestead on the Nagel/Krael farm.  During the years that the Trebesch family lived on the farm, they had a large garden.  The garden was so big that they needed a tractor plow to turn the soil of the garden at the conclusion of each growing season.  Accordingly, sometime after moving onto the farm, Delmar Trebesch purchased a McCormick-Deering Little Genius 2-bottom plow at a local farm auction.  This was the same McCormick-Deering Little Genius plow that was later sold by Larry Hiles to Mark Wells at the 1993 LeSueur County Pioneer Power Swap Meet and became known as the “Trebesch plow.”

Sibley County is located in the rich farm land of southern Minnesota.

 

As described in the article in the September/October 1994 issue of Belt Pulley, cited above, this particular Little Genius plow was fitted with 14 inch bottoms and originally had been a steel wheeled plow fitted with McCormick-Deering’s own “round-spoke” steel wheels.  However, the front wheels on this particular plow had been cut down and rims for rubber tires had been welded onto the round spokes of the front wheels.  As noted in the above-cited article, although the “furrow wheel” on the right side of the plow had been fitted with a rim for a 6.00 x 16 inch rubber tire, the land wheel on the left side of the plow was fitted with a rim for a 4.75 x 19 inch tire.  This seemed a rather odd pairing of tires sizes for the front of the plow.  If a farmer were having the steel wheels of the plow cut down to mount rubber tires on his plow, why would he not make the tires on both sides of the plow the same size?

Before the Second World War very few farm implements were sold from the factory with rubber tires.  Nonetheless, as noted in the 1994 article, the International Harvester Company (IHC) had been offering the Little Genius plow to the farming public with the option of rubber tires as early as the 1930s.  Rubber tires were not a common option on the Little Genius plow in the pre-world War II era.  However, during the “pre-war” era, IHC had a contract with the French and Hecht Company (F.& H.) of Davenport, Iowa, to supply rims for all the rubber-tired equipment sold under the McCormick-Deering name.  Pursuant to this contract, F.& H. supplied their familiar “round spoke” wheel rims to IHC.  When the option of rubber tires were requested on the Little Genius plow, IHC fitted the plow with a 6.00 x 16 inch tire on the furrow wheel and a 4.75 x 19 inch tire on the land wheel.

This followed the design pattern of the original steel-wheeled Little Genius plow, in which the land side wheel was bigger in diameter that the furrow wheel. The reason for this wheel configuration was that the land wheel was the wheel connected to the clutch of the plow.  The clutch on the land wheel was the mechanism that lifted the entire plow out of the ground when the trip rope was pulled at the end of the field.  Consequently, it was thought that a larger diameter wheel was needed to provide the traction and leverage necessary to pull the plow out of the ground in some heavy soil conditions where the surface of the ground was slippery.  This was the situation when plowing succulent green vegetation (green fertilizer) into the soil.  The land wheel rolling along on the vegetation could become slippery from the succulent plant life crushed under the land wheel.  Then when the trip rope in pulled the land wheel might slide along the surface of the ground rather than continuing to turn and lifting the plow out of the ground.  Accordingly, it was decided that the land wheel should be larger in diameter so as to provide more leverage when the clutch was engaged to pull the plow out of the ground.  As a result, the steel-wheeled version of the Little Genius plow was fitted with a 30 inch steel wheel on the land wheel side of the plow and a 24 inch steel wheel on the furrow wheel side of the plow.

The 30 inch steel wheel that was the original standard equipment wheel on the left side (land side) of the plow.

Thus, when the optional rubber tires were installed on the Little Genius plow at the factory in Canton, Illinois, the plow was fitted with a land wheel and tire of a larger diameter than the furrow wheel of the plow.  During the immediate pre-war era, the 6.00 x 16 inch tire was becoming the most commonly used tire on automobiles.  However, the 4.75 x 19 inch tire was also a well-known and popular size tire, it was the size of tire that was used on the very popular Ford Model A car.  Thus, the configuration of a 6.00 x 16 inch tire on the furrow wheel and a 4.75 x 19 inch tire on the land wheel became the standard configuration for Little Genius plows sold with rubber tires before the Second World War.  A 1941 picture of the showroom of the Johnson Bros IHC Dealership of Taylorsville, Illinois bears this out.  In the foreground of the picture is a new rubber-tired version of the Little Genius plow with a 6.00 x 16 inch tire on the furrow wheel and a 4.75 x 19 inch tire on the land wheel side of the plow.

 

Inside the showroom of a typical McCormick-Deering dealership in the immediate pre-war period of 1940 and 1941.

 

During the Second World War hardly any rubber was available for civilian use.  Consequently, IHC reverted to steel wheels on its new farm equipment.  Some time during the Second World War, the contract with F.& H. was terminated and IHC signed another supply contract for rims with the Electric Wheel Company of Quincy, Illinois.  The wheels provided by the Electric Wheel Company were “disc-type” wheels.  Thus, the “post-war” McCormick-Deering Little Genius plow becomes distinguishable from the “pre-war” Little Genius plow fitted with rubber tires, in that disc-type wheels characterized post-war Little Genius plows and F.& H. round-spoke wheel rims characterized pre-war Little Genius plows fitted with rubber tires.   Thus, when cutting down the steel wheels of the Trebesch plow, someone had done a lot of work to make the plow appear as though it came from the factory as a rubber tired plow during the pre-war era.

The left side (land side) wheel on the Delmer Trebesch 2-bottom plow that was fitted with a 19 inch by 4.75 inch Model A Ford car tire.

By 1974, when Delmar Trebesch ended up being the highest bidder on this particular “Little Genius” plow, the increased size of the average farming operation and the larger equipment used on the average farm had definitely made this two-bottom tractor trailing plow into an “antique” from a bygone era.  However, there was a time when this particular Little Genius plow had been a new object of attention for a particular farmer looking to modernize his farming operation.  Continue reading Egg Raising in Dryden Township, Sibley County Minnesota (Part 1)