Box 227, Booker, Texas 79005.
Reprinted with permission from the Booker News.
One of the special attractions at the 1992 Golden Spread Antique
Tractor and Machinery Show on September 19 and 20 was the Bates
Steel Mule tractor that was obtained by Dan Sell.
It looks more like a cross between a small steam engine and a
Caterpillar tractor .. . and you won’t find a place to sit down
and drive it. There is no seat. It was made to hook on to farm
implements that had the seat on them.
This particular Bates Steel Mule was purchased by Arthur
Phillips of Saint Jo, Texas, in the spring of 1915. The tractors
were manufactured by the Joliet Oil Tractor company of Joliet,
Dan learned about the tractor through a granddaughter, Sandra
Sell, and became interested in obtaining it. He said it had been
sitting out in a field in the open for the past 70 years when he
dealt for it with Phillips’ grandson, Leeton Joe Phillips.
‘We’ve known about the tractor for 10 years, but
couldn’t make a deal for it until the grandson and his mother
agreed after several collectors had been trying to get it,’
Sell said. ‘Sandra’s family were friends of the Phillips
and that gave us a little inside help in acquiring it. They agreed
to let us restore it for a half interest in the tractor,’ Dan
He said this particular tractor probably was the 26th of its
kind to be built by the company. ‘They did build tractors into
the 1930s, but went strictly to crawlers,’ Sell said.
He showed a letter the company had written to Mr. Phillips on
November 3, 1915. It stated the company was shipping him a smooth
front idler wheel and one main roller chain sprocket for his Bates
Steel Mule. He evidently had run the crawler with too much slack.
They told him to keep the crawler tight and how to do it by
tightening nuts on the front part of the crawler. The parts were
$8.40 and $6.95.
‘There weren’t very many tractors like this that were
built,’ Sell said. ‘There is one in the city park in
Sell had a backhoe to help dig the Saint Jo tractor out of the
ground where it had sunk in through the years and also help load it
for the trip to Booker to be restored.
One set of sprockets and chain was missing and the gas tank and
another different size chain, but we went to Perryton and found an
old Model D John Deere that was wrecked and got one large and one
small sprocket out of it and had Bud Battin bore hubs to fit the
shaft for one side,’ Sell said. ‘John Deere ordered roller
chain for the other side and we got a gas tank from Ezra Simpson.
Other than that, the tractor was in amazingly good mechanical
condition to be sitting out all that time.’
Some oddities about the tractor include the single track and
steering control, Sell said. Also the three steering wheels. One is
the clutch, another the steering wheel and the third is the
gearshift. There are two speeds forward and one reverse and he says
the two forward speeds are so close it is hard to tell the
You can see it and hundreds of other antique tractors, steam
engines and farm equipment, etc. at the annual show at the Donald
Sell farm southwest of Booker.