Replacing The Mule

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This article reprinted with permission from the Humboldt Sun, Winnemucca, Nevada, July 20, 1988.

In times past, in Humboldt County, animals and man did all the ranch and farm work. Mules, horses and sometimes oxen did the plowing, harvesting and carrying under the guidance of man's mind and hands.

But shortly after the start of this century this began to change. Horsepower was no longer determined by how many horses a person had in his team but became a mythical number used to measure and rate the power output of a machine.

The mechanical tractor for farming and ranching came to Winnemucca and Humboldt County on May 29, 1913. It was a 20 to 35 horsepower Avery traction engine purchased by T. H. Guyon and M. B. Johnson. It was unloaded at the Southern Pacific depot under the guidance of L. A. Smith, the representative for the Avery Manufacturing Company of Peoria, Illinois.

The Silver State said on that date, 'This is the first machine of its kind ever brought to Humboldt County, and if it proves successful for the purposes for which it was bought, will no doubt be followed by many more.'

Guyer and Johnson, who were local agents for the Avery Manufacturing Company, ran the machine on the streets of Winnemucca for several days while they learned the intricacies of it, then it was taken down Grass Valley to show its stuff.

On June 3 the tractor was put to the test, 'For about three hours it plowed through virgin land, thickly covered with sagebrush and handled the work in a satisfactory manner. About 20 men interested in ranching were present for the exhibition.'

The demonstration was a success and the ranchers and farmers were duly impressed. They were cautioned that the tractor wasn't designed to plow uncleared land, though it would do it. They were also told there was an attachment for the tractor that would clear brush from land.

The tractor was kept at work in Grass Valley plowing and pumping water all during the summer of 1913 with a great deal of success. In September, Guyon and Johnson decided the machine needed some more public exposure and it was moved back to Winnemucca. Here, 'it was taken across the river to the ranch owned by Dr. A. A. Wendell, below the Western Pacific roundhouse, where it was used to break about 60 acres.'

This was the first of many farming and ranching machines to come to Humboldt County. It was the color bearer for the present day tractors of ten times the horsepower. It brought on the age of increased production and less labor. If those people who first brought the Avery tractor here only knew how much of a change they were bringing to the land! You can never stop progress. But I imagine some of the present day ranchers and farmers would like to return to the idealic times of yesterday, before life was complicated by progress and modern findings.

Researched in conjunction with the Humboldt County Library Indexing Project from the following newspaper: The Silver State, 1913.