A 4-H Boy and His Mill

Fair ribbons

Troy Jones with Iowa State Fair ribbons.

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1408 N. Van Buren, Ottumwa, Iowa 52501

Troy Jones is a 4-H'er with a desire to enjoy the antiques found on the farms of southeastern Iowa. 4-H is the organization that takes boys and girls along the way to making them men and women. Troy is 14 years old. His picture is on page 20 of the October 1993 GEM in the article, entitled 'Caterpillar 30.' 

Troy has shown livestock at the County Fair, and this last year displayed a sweep mill, made by the Dain Hay Tool plant in Ottumwa, Iowa. Troy's father, Max Jones, found this mill at a farm sale in a pile of junk. After removing some of the dirt from the mill, they found the words Ottumwa, Iowa, on one of the castings. They thought it was made by Janney Manufacturing of Ottumwa but, after cleaning the mill, they found the words Dain Manufacturing.

Joseph Dain was a part of the history of hay tools in the late 1800s and the early 1900s. With this beginning and the insistence of some business men in Ottumwa, he left Carrolton, Missouri, in 1900 to establish the factory that became a part of the John Deere Company in 1910.

Janney Manufacturing made a sweep mill in Ottumwa that was patented in 1892 and this was thought to be one of their mills. When the grease and dirt were cleaned off the castings, the words 'Dain Manufacturing, Ottumwa, Iowa', with a patent date of December 26, 1899, were found.

Max Jones works at the John Deere plant in Ottumwa. He contacted Bonnie Glosser of the Human Resources Department asking her for some information on this mill. She could find nothing, but contacted the archives at the corporate offices in Moline, Illinois. They said Dain did not make such a mill. Ms. Glosser told Troy to take a picture of the mill to send to Moline. After a few weeks Troy received a copy of the original owner's manual and a parts book, along with a letter stating they could not believe a mill of this age still existed.

Troy took the mill apart and it was found that one of the gears was broken. It was welded and smoothed with a hand grinder. All of the castings were sandblasted and given a coat of primer to prevent rusting. The tin hopper has six holes that had been made when it had been used for target practice. Troy hammered these holes shut and welded them. The dents in the hopper were filled with body cement or filler, after which it was sanded and given a coat of primer. Dain primary color was a dark red and this was used to paint the castings. It was assumed this red was correct because all of the early pictures were black and white. The hopper and the band to hold the hopper to the mill were painted silver.

The Storm Saw Mill at Lucas, Iowa, furnished the white oak, red oak and ash lumber. The white oak was used for the box at the bottom, which received the ground grain. The red oak was used for the runners under the mill. The ash was for the tongue. The parts list gave the dimensions of the wooden parts. From this list the parts were sawed to size and planed. Two rods were made to hold the box together. When this mill was made, all bolts were square-head, so this type of bolts were used. The box was given two coats of marine varnish.

No original Dain decals could be found. A black and white picture was taken to the Cobler Sign Company in Ottumwa, and they cut a decal with a computer. This lettering is called School House, as used in the 1800s. An artist's brush was used to put the letters on the castings.

The tongue or sweep was made out of an ash pole that was removable for storage. A single tree or whiffle tree was attached to this pole. A 5/8 inch lead rod was attached to guide the horse. Because of the weight of the mill it was decided to find a set of wheels and make a cart to move the mill.

Troy spent 135 hours over a period of eight months in restoring this project. A special thanks to Cornie Bambrook for the use of his wood-working tools. Troy's dad, Max, is a 4-H leader and was great help. Max encouraged his son but Troy did all the work. The total cost of this project was $406.22.