Courtesy of John M. Hamilton, 2015 Arthur Avenue, Charleston, Illinois 61920

John M. Hamilton

Content Tools

Box 137, Athens, Illinois 62613.

My first memories of gas tractors go back to the year 1927 when Frank Kallian and sons threshed at our place near La Valle in Sauk County, Wisconsin using a 16-30 Oil-Pull tractor and a 28-44 Advance Rumely Separator. This tractor was purchased in the summer of 1921 and was used for threshing until 1938.

That same fall, our neighbor purchased a used 18-32 Case tractor and used it in a Case Silo Filler. Then in the summer of 1928, he purchased a new Case 28 x 46 threshing machine and threshed in our run until 1934. I recall that in August 1931, while they were threshing at one of the neighbors the tractor developed valve trouble. They ran the tractor into a shed, attached a chain hoist to the rafters and pulled the head off. After this was done, they took the head to a machine shop in Baraboo, Wisconsin and had the valves ground. The last year I helped thresh around this tractor was in the summer of 1946. I recall that it didn't start too well when the motor was hot, so they let it run while we ate dinner.

It was also in 1927 that another neighbor bought a new Fordson tractor with a Ferguson mounted plow. As I recall, it had a lever to lift it out of the ground.

In those years, nearly everyone had a little corn to shred after the silo was filled. One of our neighbors had a Rosenthal 4-roll corn shredder and in 1929, he shredded at our place using a Fordson tractor for power. Then in 1931, he traded the Fordson for a new Wallis 20-30 tractor. I recall my Dad telling that when they were shredding corn at our place in the fall of 1932, our neighbor broke the shifting lever in the Wallis tractor and he used my Dad's staple puller to shift gears.

When the state of Wisconsin black topped all of the State Highways in the summer of 1937, this eliminated tractors with spade lugs from traveling on them. Since the neighbor with the Wallis tractor was now threshing in our run, he traded the Wallis tractor for a new Massey-Harris Model '25' tractor, equipped with rubber tires. I helped thresh around this tractor from 1937-1943 and

Can you tell what is unusual about this picture? The wagon has solid wooden wheels with bearing that has been pressed in. At one time, the wagon wheels had steel bands around them. The wagon is made, simply by using an eye bolt for the turning arm and running the shaft through the eye bolt.

I liked it very much. The owner of the Massey-Harris tractor died in the fall of 1945. My cousin then used the tractor for corn shredding and farm work, but since it was rather clumsy for field work, he traded it off for a Massey-Harris '33' tractor in 1950.

When I was a boy, I was fascinated by the Oil Pull tractor. In the fall of 1932, the Inter State Construction Company of Madison, Wisconsin, crushed gravel in a pit a few miles from our farm. They were using two 30-60 Oil Pull tractors. One furnished power for the Primary Breaker and the other one was operating the Secondary Crusher and Screening Plant. After they had finished crushing gravel for Highway 58, they left their equipment at the pit. Then in December 1933, they pulled both crushers behind one Oil Pull and took them to La Valle where they loaded them on a freight car. The other Oil Pull was pulled into a pasture near the pit where it stood until it was scrapped in 1942.

I recall seeing new Oil Pull tractors at the Juneau County Fair at Mauston, Wisconsin in the summer of 1928. And I also recall driving by the Advance Rumely Thresher Company factory branch in Madison, Wisconsin in the fall of 1930.

In the years that I lived on the farm, my Dad subscribed to Successful Farming and I looked at the advertisements with great interest. I will always remember the advertisement in the February 1931 issue which announced the new Rumely 6 A tractor. For some reason or other, this made a deep impression on me and I dreamed of the day when I would own one. Little did I realize that one year later the Advance Rumely Thresher Company would just be history. In the summer of 1962, I passed through La Porte, Indiana, on a train and I could see the words 'Advance Rumely Thresher Company' painted on the side of the buildings now occupied by Allis-Chalmers. It brought back many memories.

In the early days of the tractor industry, there were many small firms in this country who assembled tractors using standard component parts. One such firm was the Wisconsin Farm Tractor Company of Sauk City, Wisconsin. When I was a boy, there were quite a number of these tractors around Loganville, Wisconsin. It was my privilege to attend the Badger Steam and Gas Engine Club Show at the Sauk County Fair Grounds at Baraboo, Wisconsin this past summer. At this show I saw a beautifully restored Wisconsin tractor.

Since I am a native of Wisconsin, I would like to also mention the Lauson tractor which was made by the John Lauson Tractor Company of New Holstein, Wisconsin. They introduced a large six cylinder tractor in 1929. I saw a Lauson tractor threshing near Reedsburg, Wisconsin in the summer of 1929.

One of the last tractors built by a small firm in Wisconsin was the Eagle which was made by the Eagle Manufacturing Company in Appleton. I believe that they introduced their first six cylinder tractor in 1930. The only Eagle tractor that I ever saw was an Eagle 6B row crop tractor. This was at the Sauk County Fair in Baraboo in August, 1940. The Eagle Manufacturing Company was purchased by the Four Wheel Drive Auto Company (now called FWD Corp.) of Clintonville, Wisconsin, in 1941 and I don't believe that any more Eagle tractors were built after that time.

In the fall of 1931, I saw a new Rock Island tractor in a dealer's shed in Reedsburg. Many years later, I saw one of these tractors being used in a sawmill near La Valle.

In the above picture, John Bird of Depauw demonstrates a 1885 'groundhog' separator powered by an old Witte engine. This was on the Hendrich farm in August of 1969. Orville A. Hendrich has a demonstration each year on his farm and everyone is invited free.

I left the farm in the fall of 1949 and started to attend Concordia Seminary in Springfield, Illinois. After graduating from this institution in June 1955, we moved to McClusky, North Dakota. While living out there, I saw many tractors that I had never seen in Wisconsin. For example: McCormick-Deering W-40 and WD-40; Oliver 90 and 99; Minneapolis-Moline FTA, VTS and CB; Allis-Chalmers 20-35. One farmer had two large tractors in his yard though they were not being used. One was an Avery 45-65 and the other was an Aultman-Taylor 30-60. As far as I know, they are still there.

I do not consider myself an expert in tractors but I do try to help preserve the history of the firms that helped to bring the tractor into a prominent place in American Agriculture.