The Arthurdale

By Staff
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The former tractor factory building of the Arthurdale Farm Equipment Corporation at Arthurdale, West Virginia, in August 1994. Annex at left is a later date addition to the original factory's structure.
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The former tractor factory building, first building in foreground, of the Arthurdale Farm Equipment Corporation in August 1994.

PO. Box 3120 Deer Park, Maryland 21550

The Arthurdale Farm Equipment Corporation was incorporated in
the state of West Virginia in June, 1938, with a perpetual charter.
The purpose of this corporation was to manufacture, assemble,
distribute, and sell agricultural machinery, equipment, and tools
of all kinds. The firm’s principal office and place of
operation was located at the Arthurdale Homesteads, Arthur-dale,
Preston County, West Virginia.

The Village of Arthurdale, West Virginia, was a newly created
community, being the first of about 180 such developments that were
ultimately created in the early mid-1930s, through various
government agencies as part of the federal government’s
‘New Deal’ program. This program was to create needed
housing and employment opportunities for American citizens so
affected by the lasting results of the country’s woes of the
‘Great Depression.’ The majority of those created
communities were newly designed and constructed to be modern,
attractive, and functional for their residents. The residents,
chosen from application listings of out-of-work citizens, would
also have livelihood opportunities in newly created manufacturing
or agricultural type industries, built within or about these same
communities. It was hoped by some in the government at that time,
that the success of these created communities with their own
employment opportunities would lead to expansion of this idea by
the private business sector as a way out of the time’s
depressed economic conditions. There were also others who felt
these developments or projects to be a waste of government money,
as well as being unfair competition for existing established
industries which were struggling to rebound from the economic
depression. Then, as now, there were two opposing views of any
government program.

In the early part of 1938, the Board of Directors of the
Co-Operative Manufacturing Company, a Michigan firm, had made a
formal proposal to both the federal government and the Arthurdale
Association of Arthurdale, West Virginia, for the creation of an
agricultural equipment manufacturing facility, to build the Co-Op
brand farm tractor, at the Arthurdale Homesteads location. Under
this proposal, the Arthurdale Association would furnish the
necessary factory site, then would build and equip a suitable
building for the intended purposes, being able to borrow any needed
funding from the federal government in order to fully complete this
factory project in a timely matter. This tractor factory would
provide employment opportunities for present and additional
residents of the Arthurdale Homesteads Development. One of the
agreement’s provisions was that Arthurdale residents would be
the chief source of employees for the tractor factory.

Upon the acceptance of the Co-Operative Manufacturing
Company’s proposal by all parties involved, the Arthurdale Farm
Equipment Corporation was formally organized in June, 1930. The
firm’s organizers were the same individuals as those involved
with the leadership of the Arthurdale Association. On July 11,
1938, the Arthur-dale Farm Equipment Corporation also formally
agreed to the Co-Operative Manufacturing Company’s proposal for
the tractor factory, and on that same date made agreement with
American Co-Operatives, Incorporated, another Michigan firm, to
completely manage, supervise, and direct all the operations of the
Arthurdale Farm Equipment Corporation’s factory.

Once these arrangements had been completed, the Arthurdale
Association then leased the Arthurdale Farm Equipment Corporation
(AFEC) a factory site just slightly over three acres in size, that
was located at the edge of Arthur-dale, West Virginia, along the
Morgan-town and Kingwood Branchline of the Baltimore and Ohio
Railroad Company. In November 1938, the Arthur-dale Association
made the necessary agreements with this railroad company for the
construction of a railroad sidetrack to serve the AFEC factory.
Over this railway line came all the required materials needed by
the AFEC factory, and by which the completed Co-Op tractors were
shipped to their buyers.

The capital stock issue of $200,000.00 of the AFEC was used to
acquire an inventory of raw materials and to fund the start-up
expenses of the factory. Another of the agreements within
Co-Operative Manufacturing’s proposal was that the Arthurdale
Association would acquire and eventually own all of the AFEC stock
issue. Money to build the factory structure, its site improvement,
and other such needs, was borrowed by the Arthurdale Association
from the government, through the Department of Agriculture.

To repay the funding and borrowed money used to build, equip,
and begin factory operation, the Arthurdale Farm Equipment’s
lease agreement for its factory was so arranged that its annual
rent payments would amortize in equal installments the unpaid
balance of all the borrowed funding, plus an interest payment. This
annual payment was to be further paid to the Arthurdale Association
in such amounts and scheduled to allow the Association to meet its
government loan commitments. There was an option for AFEC to
pre-pay its indebtedness, if so desired. This lease rental
agreement began upon the day the AFEC factory was fully completed,
equipped, and ready for its operation, and would exist for a period
of 45 years. The factory’s lease was then further renewable by
AFEC for an additional time period of 20 years, with the rental for
this additional time to be negotiated at that time’s
arrival.

Site preparation for the AFEC factory, which would adjoin two
other already existing factories at Arthurdale Homesteads, began in
1938. Its preparation, as well as the design of the factory’s
structure and its equipment, was under the supervision of American
Co-Operative, Inc. Their representatives and factory management
lived in nearby Reedsville, West Virginia, just up the highway a
very short distance from the Arthurdale site.

The factory building was completed in the following year of
1939, ready for its final necessary equipment and machinery to be
installed. Strangely in 1939, the AFEC factory and its site, and
the two other factories located at Arthurdale, were transferred
from the county taxing district that Arthurdale Homesteads existed
in, into the taxing district of Reedsville, West Virginia, a
municipality. Perhaps this was to allow these three factories to
enjoy the benefits that the town of Reedsville provided, such as
fire and police protection, but whatever the reason, the AFEC
factory thus became officially located in Reedsville, West
Virginia, though the address continued to be Arthurdale.

The Co-Op farm tractor was made (at that time) in three
different models or sizes. The Co-Op Number One Model was a
four-cylinder engine tractor. The Number Two and Number Three Co-Op
Models were six-cylinder engine tractors of different sizes. While
I’ve been unable to confirm it (and could stand be corrected),
it appears that perhaps in the original discussions, the Arthurdale
factory was to have built all three models of the Co-Op tractor. At
some point later, the Arthurdale factory evolved into only the
manufacture of the six-cylinder engine models, and still later, the
factory made only the larger tractor, the Co-Op Number 3. The
manufacture of the Co-Op Number 1 and Number 2 model tractors were
each done at other factory locations in other statesapparently
through similar arrangements that created the AFEC operation.

According to Mr. Robert Raitch, now a California resident, the
Arthur-dale tractor factory was also to manufacture a cotton
picker. I’ve not been able to learn if a cotton picker was ever
actually manufactured in the AFEC factories, but it’s
intriguing to think of such a possibility in the Mountain State.
Robert’s father, Mr. Alexander John ‘Jack’ Raitch, was
involved with the Arthurdale tractor factory in 1938-1939. Jack
Raitch had previously been involved with the design and production
of the first Silver King brand farm tractor model, and later the
creation of the Graham-Bradley brand farm tractor, which was built
by the Graham Brothers automobile firm and then sold through Sears
& Roebuck Company for a brief period of time. Jack Raitch later
went on to become involved in other tractor creation projects and
eventually became associated with the Saturn booster rocket
program, and was later a college professor. This man’s life and
work is deserving of its own article.

To date, I’ve been unable to locate any records or history
of the Co-Op tractor production, or other possible machinery, at
the AFEC factory. Such data has apparently either been long
destroyed, or perhaps moved and lost among old records at some
other location.

The time or date that actual tractor production ceased at the
AFEC factory is also a mystery today. It had been my original
understanding that the Co-Op tractor production by the AFEC
facility ceased following the outbreak of World War II in December
1941, with the factory then converted over to war material
production.

Mr. Paul Taylor of Arthurdale, West Virginia, states that the
tractor production actually ceased prior to the outbreak of the
war, due to job skill-level problems with many of the factory’s
employees. The AFEC plant could not manufacture the Co-Op tractor
in a cost-efficient manner, able to meet production requirements
and goals.

While the agreement for the factory’s creation mandated that
Arthurdale Homesteads residents would be given preference for
employment in the tractor factory, there was also a clause that the
factory did not have to employ any Arthurdale resident who was
found unsuitable or untrainable for the skill levels involved with
employee requirements. Many of the residents of Arthur-dale were
unemployed bituminous coal miners who had lost both their jobs and
housing as a result of the Great Depression. Prior to the startup
of the AFEC operation, training classes and schools were organized
and held for Arthurdale residents who wished to work in the tractor
factory. Apparently, enough of the qualified workers later left the
tractor factory for better wages in the reopening area coal mines
during the beginning stages of World War II, and sufficient skilled
replacement employees could not be obtained to keep the AFEC
factory operating. Production of the Co-Op tractor ceased at
Arthur-dale for the duration of the wartime. The former tractor
factory, according to Mr. Taylor, produced aircraft bomber
components ’til the war emergency was over.

Ownership of the Co-Op tractor rights changed during or at the
end of the war. The production of the Co-Op brand farm tractor
resumed after the war, but this production was done elsewhere, and
none of the Co-Op tractors were manufactured at Arthurdale, West
Virginia, following this resumption of manufacturing. The postwar
Co-Op brand tractor was a different style or design of tractor from
its prewar models. The Co-Op tractor would eventually be acquired
by the Cockshutt Farm Equipment firm, and made into a part of the
Cockshutt tractor line. This article will not go into further
details of the postwar Co-Op tractor history since it was not
produced at Arthurdale.

Following the end of World War II, the various structures and
land parcels of the Arthurdale Homesteads were deeded over by the
Arthurdale Association to the federal government, ending the
affairs of the Association and the government’s New Deal
Program. The government, through its Federal Public Housing
Commission, then sold the structures and land to private citizens,
with many of the ‘homesteaders’ being able to acquire their
dwellings at this time. The former AFEC factory and its site were
transferred to the government in June 1946. A few days later, the
AFEC factory and the other two former Arthurdale factories and
other property were sold to a Maryland corporation for
manufacturing use. Since 1946, the old AFEC facility has had other
owners, with the ex-Co-Op tractor factory still standing today and
currently in use for manufacturing industry purposes though not for
the production of tractors or other farm machinery.

The writer of this article would welcome any additional
information or other AFEC material, including corrections, from
readers. Such material will be returned if so requested. It is the
writer’s hope that at a later time, a more complete and
detailed history of the AFEC factory can be written.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Public Records of Preston County, West Virginia, located
at the county’s courthouse, Kingwood, West Virginia. Office of
County Clerk:

1. Record of Incorporations – Book No. 3.

2.  Various Deed Books, chiefly Books 199, 201, 242 &
243.

3. Land Books for 1937 through 1950.

Maps or Plates:

1. General Map of Preston County, West Virginia.

2.  Arthurdale Homesteads, West Virginia.

3. Reedsville, West Virginia.

Personal letters to Author and/or
interviews:

1. Robert Fultz of Clarksburg, West Virginia.

2. Robert Raitch of Los Angeles, California.

3. George Shaffer of Weston, West Virginia.

4. Paul Taylor of Arthurdale, West Virginia.

Published sources:

1. Co-Op tractor advertisements.

2.  National Farm Machinery Co-operative
advertisements.

3. Cockshutt tractor advertisements.

4. Unidentified and undated newspaper clippings about
Arthurdale, West Virginia, in private collections.

5.  The Dominion Post newspaper, Morgantown, West Virginia,
July 10, 1994.

6.  News and publicity brochures of the Arthurdale
Heritage, Inc., Arthurdale, West Virginia 1994.

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