The Second Tractor Around Wolsey, SD

By Staff
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This is a 2 1/2 hp Sandwich, courtesy ofthe Lawrence Torske Engine Collection, Mclntosh, Minnesota. 
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This is a 2 cycle Ellis, 6 hp owned by Lawrence Torske,Mclntosh, Minnesota. Courtesy of Lawrence Torske, Route 2, Box 22, Mclntosh, Minnesota 56556
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This is a 5 hp Stickney, courtesy of the Lawrence TorskeEngine Collection, Mclntosh, Minnesota
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This is Clyde Allshouse aboard his 1929 tractor, model unknown.
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Harry Shaffer's 1919 Huber in A-1 running condition. Harryis from the Ft. Allen Association.
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This is a 3 hp Challenge, courtesy of the Lawrence TorskeEngine Collection, Mclntosh, Minnesota.
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The Fordson is a 1926 that I bought in 1935. Have used thistractor for many years in my farming operation. The best year Ifarmed 160 acres and shelled about 150,000 bu. of corn with thistractor and a 1927 John Deere Sheller No. 9 which is also in thepicture. I still have the tractor and it runs real good. Courtesy of Henry Chenck, DeSmet, South Dakot
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This is a 22-38 IHC machine purchasednew in 1925 by W. D. McAfee. It has never missed a year of threshing but isdown to two jobs now. 
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What Is It? Air cooled upright from Northwest Cement Mixer. William Graves of Camden, NY isthe owner. He is also a member of Pioneer GasEngine Central New York Chapter of Pioneer Gas EngineAssociation.

My father, C. G. Peterson, lived most of his adult life near Wolsey, SD. But I’m getting ahead of my story. He was born on a farm near St. Charles,
Illinois in 1875. He grew to manhood in the St. Charles area. While
a boy, he cut bands for a horse-power thresher. He mentioned Fila
Plummer as one of the threshers. My grandfather was considered to
be a good hand feeder and also able to stack the type of grain
stacks of the era. You had to walk on your knees for one thing.

My father spent a winter in northern Wisconsin working in the
logging camps. Then he spent a year in Oklahoma and finally came
back to Illinois and took over his father’s farming

In the spring of 1901 he moved to a 120 acre dairy farm near
Wayne, in Dupage County, Illinois. This farm was known as the
Durfee farm and was near the famous Dunham Horse Importing

The local thresher, a Mr. Munger, perhaps had the greatest
effect on my father’s future life. I never found out the make
of equipment that Mr. Munger owned, but he had a 28′ thresher
and a huge, one-cylinder, portable gasoline engine. This monster
was 36 hp. and pulled the 28′ thresher with very little
effort. My father was immediately convinced that here was something
that beat either the horsepower or the steam engines that he had
previously experienced. My father threshed with this outfit through
the fall of 1904.

In 1902, my father’s sister married a “Green Swede”
by the name of Oscar Ringheimer. He went into partnership with my
father in the spring of 1904. They tired of the year-round daily
routine of the dairy farm and decided to go west. Thus they moved
to a farm 5 miles west of Iroquois, South Dakota in the spring of

The Iroquois section of South Dakota was characterized by the
large steam threshing rigs of the 36′ to 40′ variety.

The country was not built up yet following the homestead days
and grainers were lacking on most farms. Consequently, they often
threshed by letting the grain run on the ground, making sure it
formed a cone shaped pile. The farmer would then haul it to the
elevator at his leisure. My father reported that there was a
surprisingly small loss even in the event of rain. He said that a
pile of wheat would shed a lot of rain.

There were also a number of large steam threshing rigs that
shipped by rail from one section to the other and followed the
harvest from Kansas to North Dakota and even into Canada. These
rigs brought the crew along with them. My father cited a few cases
where these young harvest-hands fell in love with local girls and
remained in the community and became some of its solid

By the spring of 1909, the partnership of Peterson &
Ringheimer had a herd of cattle that numbered 125 head. You could
also stand on the door step and count 14 nearby farms that were not
there four years before. Land-seekers from the east were fast buying
up the land and breaking it up for raising wheat. This created a
shortage of pasture, which forced them to liquidate this herd of
cattle. They were also of the opinion that better farmland could
be found in the area of Wolsey, which was some 30 miles farther
west. Accordingly, they moved to the “Preacher Brown” place
northeast of Wolsey. They were paying $4.00 per acre for breaking
sod around Wolsey at that time, so my father and uncle decided to go
into the breaking business. They were well healed after selling the
cattle so they purchased a new 22-45 hp Hart-Parr tractor for
the sum of $2,250 and a new Emerson 8-bollom plow for the sum of

This 11-ton monster was a 2 cylinder model and I believe it was
the first year that they were made. The governor controlled the
ignition. Both cylinders fired at the same time and then it would
coast until it slowed to where the governor kicked in the ignition
again. It fired about every 7th revolution while plowing and every
10th revolution while threshing. The ignition system consisted of
10 dry cells hooked in series with a coil. When the dry cells
became weak, you could notice a decrease in power. A new set of dry
cells at the tune of a buck a piece would perk the old girl up
again. I still have the original cell tester that he used and have
considered exhibiting it in the Pioneer Museum at Huron, South

It seems to me that the top speed of the motor was something
like 350 or 375 RPM. There was no manual control of the large
fly-ball governor. You had to adjust the governor to the speed you
wanted according to the job while the tractor was shut off. My
father used to have a half-sized carpenter square. He related that
he had originally purchased it for the purpose of setting the pitch
of the fly-balls so that they would be even; much like a carpenter
cuts a number of boards at the same angle. This did not make sense
to me for years but I have since worked at the carpenter trade.

The above mentioned firing caused the local steam engine
threshers to persuade some people not to thresh with gas engines.
They started a story that this would jerk the threshing machine and
cause it to shake over grain which of course went into the straw
stack. My father never seemed to have a kind word to say for a
steam engine and he claimed that in a tight spot, it was a lugged
down steam engine that would jerk over the grain.

As stated above, the setting of the fly-ball governor determined
the ground speed. My understanding is that once the tractor was in
gear, it was entirely up to the tractor how fast you went. There
was no slowing down for corners or something like that. You could
slip the clutch a little when easing up to hitch on to a plow or
threshing machine. There was only one gear setting and that was
either “in” or “out.” If you wanted to back up, the
clutch was reversable but not the gear train. I understand that you
could do belt work in either direction. There was a rumor that you
could reverse a threshing machine with it and back a fork out of
the feeder. Pa tried it one time and he ran into a host of other
problems such as plugged elevators, etc.

The fuel for this old critter was kerosene. They had a 500
gallon tank wagon with a 3-horse hitch to supply it with kerosene.
It used between 80 and 100 gallons per day when plowing depending
on how dry it was. South Dakota soil usually dry during those years
so it usually took closer to 100 gallons at something like 11 cents
per gallon.

There was not much know-how around concerning engines in 1909.
This placed my father in the position of having some tough times
with extremely simple things. A good example is the fact that they
started the tractor on kerosene during the first season. In the
fall of 1909, Uncle Oscar took a carload of cattle to Sioux City.
While en route, he talked to a man on the train who also had a
Hart-Parr. This man told him to fill an oil can with gasoline and
squirt it into the petcocks of each cylinder as a means of
starting. This simplified the starting process. The gasoline of
that day did not vaporize like the gasoline of today. You had to
squirt the gas into the cylinder and wait for it to vaporize before
you tried to start it. Pa worked out a routine whereby he squirted
in the gas and then filled some grease cups, etc. and then cranked
the tractor. He once started it in zero weather to see if it was

I learned after my father’s death that it was even easier
than that to start. I talked to a fellow who had a 1910 model
Hart-Parr, during the early 1920’s. He said that he would roll
the cylinders into a certain position and then snap on the
ignition. This fellow, Frank Lynch of Iroquois, claimed that he
started his nearly every time in this manner. The majority of the
old timers that I have talked to were of the opinion that the
Hart-Parr was a powerful tractor but extremely hard to start. One
old fellow said that they used to kill off a couple guys every
morning before they started threshing just cranking the Hart-Parr.
I have wondered how many could jump a flywheel today?

I talked to a Mr. Shepersky, who owned a 1910 model Hart-Parr in
the Huron area. One time he overhauled it and was having it run in
the yard to limber it up as was the custom of the times. His hired
man got up on it and looked down into the crank case to see how it
went around. No one ever found out whether he got his curiousity
satisfied because he got beheaded by the big old cranks. Then the
blood ran out the sump hole and the pups ran out and began eating
the blood and became ill from the mixture of oil and blood and
began heaving all over the place. So all in all it was a sickening

On the other hand the kerosene had a higher flash-point in those
days. They transferred the kerosene from the tank wagon to the
tractor in an open 14-quart bucket. Marvin Peterson, a cousin of my
father, tended plows during the 1909 season. One day Marvin was
fueling up while my father was greasing up. My father needed a hand
so Marvin set the bucket of kerosene down and came to his
assistance. The next thing that they knew the bucket of kerosene
was on fire. Pa took a long handled shovel and picked the bucket up
by the bail and carried it out on the plowing so as to not set a
prairie fire. Neither man smoked so they were at a loss to explain
the origin of the fire.

They had one other experience with fire that year. They let
grease and dust pile up on the tractor. The late-breaking season
was characterized by dry weather. It was during this time that the
grease-dust accumulation finally caught fire. They each had a
shovel and shoveled dirt pretty lively for a while. It didn’t
do any damage to the tractor and also taught them to keep the
grease cleaned off.

My father ran the breaking rig with the help of hired labor and
Uncle Oscar ran the farm. Pa had a tent and an oil stove and they
camped right out on the prairie where they were breaking. The
result was that my father developed a life-long dislike for canned
pork and canned beans. He related one time when a man was pretty
tickled that he had such a set up. He was a Mr. Tobin, the Standard
Oil Company bulk man from Huron. Mr. Tobin hauled a load of
kerosene from Huron out to Sand Creak township (with horses) and
bucketed it into Pa’s tank. He got this done just in time to
set down for dinner. Geographically, he was about 12 miles west of
Wolsey and 28 miles west of Huron.

My father did not have a plowing guide like the later large
tractors that I remember. He had to learn to drive so the wheel was
about 11″ from the furrow in order to make the plowing smooth.
The most upset creatures used to be the gophers. The big old plow
would turn over such a wide swath that the gophers were confused as
to where home was. They used to run in droves down the furrow until
they became exhausted and the big furrow wheel of the plow would
catch them. One would very seldom jump out of the furrow and run to

The plow tender had a platform that he walked back on and lifted
the plow with levers. Each lever lifted two bottoms. Then he would
walk forward and drop them into the ground again at the rate of two
at a time. Marvin and my father broke 1,000 acres before the dry
season shut them off in the summer of 1909.

There were several notable experiences during the 1909 season.
Pa broke 65 acres on a farm one mile north and 3 miles west of
Wolsey. I was born on this farm 10 years later and he rented it
for a period of 28 years altogether. He had no thought of renting
it at the time. The back-furrow that he threw up in 1909 was
visible as long as we lived on the place and perhaps is still

While he was plowing the above mentioned field, a young married
couple came on a sight-seeing trip to see the big new tractor plow.
It will never be known what was in their minds that day. This
couple was Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence Larsen. Their farm was 2 miles
north and I later witnessed many firsts on this farm. The first
15-30 Titan that I can recollect was on this farm. Lawrence and his
brother Carl owned a 23′ Altman-Taylor thresher that was one of
the earliest that I can remember threshing for us. In 1924 Lawrence
and Carl each got a new 15-30 McCormick-Deering and Lawrence also
got the first Regular Farmall that I ever saw. Along with the
Farmall came some other firsts such as the first tractor
cultivator, first power mower, first tractor bucker, first 4-row
cornplanter and in 1928 the first combine and first wind-rower. The
first trucking done for my father was by Lawrence Larsen just to
name a few of the firsts.

Pa broke a piece of land in the north western part of Broadland
township. This quarter showed signs of having been broke during the
homestead days (during the 1880’s). It looked as if no other
tillage practices had been used on the land and it was well sodded
over. Pa was apparently plowing the same depth as the old
homesteader. Pa ascertained that he had plowed with oxen during an
extremely wet time. The oxen tracks were still visible at the
bottom of the furrow.

During the same year, Pa was breaking a quarter in southeastern
Broadland township. A man on adjoining an farm was breaking sod and
making bricks of it much like the homesteaders did. The only
difference was that he put his sod blocks between the studding of
the house that he was constructing. He then boarded it up on the
inside and the outside. The report was that this fellow had a very
warm house as compared to houses of that day. I am of the
understanding that the roof of this house was allowed to get bad
during the “dirty-30’s” and rain seeped in during the “wet-40’s.” The result was that this house was allowed
to go to ruin and has been torn down.

The old Hart-Parr could pull 8-14″ bottoms on back-setting
and stubble plowing and 6-14″ bottoms while breaking. The last
two bottoms were not dropped down while breaking. In 1910, it was
extremely dry during the last of the breaking season. Pa had to
take off one bottom from the second two rear bottoms and plow with
just 5-14’s in order to finish the last job. Pa broke 800 acres
during the 1910 season and back-set 600 acres of the 1,000 acres
that he broke in 1909. So the old Hart-Parr converted 1,800 acres
of prairie the first two years. The slogan in South Dakota at that
time was, “Break it up and put a fence around it.”

My father’s Hart-Parr had the distinction of being the
second tractor around Wolsey. The first tractor was owned by Frank
Fanger. It was also a Hart-Parr but was a one-cylinder model. I
understand that it was approximately the same HP as my
father’s. Augie Anderson told me that it must have been about
1907 when Mr. Fanger purchased this tractor. Mr. Fanger came over
and looked over my father’s new tractor and decided that the 2
cylinder was superior to his. Mr. Fanger bought a 2-cyiinder
Hart-Parr that same year. He sold the one-cylinder to someone east
of Wolsey.

In 1948, my father was reading some USDA statistics that stated
that there were 1,000 tractors on U.S. farms in 1910. My father
said that you could leave Wolsey on a saddle horse in the morning,
make a big loop and visit 7 of those tractors and arrive back long
before dark. It seems to me that his count was five Hart-Parrs and two

While the Peterson-Ringheimer partnership resided at Iroquois,
they lived on a farm where there was no well. They made a large
tank wagon out of plank to haul water for their stock. They had no
use for it at Wolsey so they sold it to Frank Fanger. It would hold
125 bushels of grain, so Mr. Fanger converted it to a grain wagon
and hauled grain to town with the Hart-Parr. This made another
first, for Frank Fanger and the elevators used to have a hard time
dumping such a monsterous load with the equipment then in use. I
wonder if any one in the Wolsey area realizes that grain was hauled
to town with a tractor in 1909.

Not many of the present residents of Wolsey remember the
creamery in the east part of town. For several years, including
1909-1911, it was operated by the late Oliver Raddiff. Mr. Radcliff
had a high-wheeled IHC Power-Wagon to haul fresh cream from the
country into town and ran a regular cream pick-up with it. Cream
trucks have been a common sight since but I wonder how many towns
in South Dakota had them back then.

The first Automobile in Wolsey was owned by a then land salesman
by the name of A.D. “Duke” Simpson. It was painted white
and was a Carter by make. The Carter of that day transmitted power
from motor to wheels by means of a flat belt. Duke is better
remembered by most people as a cattle buyer.

In the summer of 1909, the partnership of Peterson-Ringheimer
purchased a new 36 x 60 Rumley threshing machine. It was equipped
with a Ruth feeder, a gearless wind stacker, and double grain
spouts. The double grain spouts allowed them to fill wagons on
either side of the machine. These threshing machines equipped in
this manner cost $800.00 at that time. According to the salesman
from the M. Rumley Company, it was the first new Rumley thresher
ever unloaded at Wolsey. However, there were a great many of them
unloaded at Wolsey during the next 23 years. Incidently, The Avery
and the Huber had been the most numerous makes in the community up
until this time.)

My father continued to run the engine and Uncle Oscar ran the
threshing machine. They at one time employed John Newman as oiler
in addition to this. They had first the run of grain threshing and
later in the fall they had the flax run.

During small grain threshing, while they were threshing on the
Andrew Karnstrum farm, a gear broke that ran the weigher. They had
Art Thompson, the local implement dealer wire into the company for
a new one. It took about 3 days for a new one to arrive. In the
meantime they continued to thresh and measured the bushels by the
wagon box load as best as they could be estimated. The community
identified Andrew Karnstrum as a close friend of the
Peterson-Ringheimer families. When they pulled to the next place,
the new gear arrived but the fellow insisted that his grain also be
measured out by the wagon box as he figured that they were trying
to “help Karnsturm out.” They obliged to keep peace in the

The second place that they pulled to after the Karnstrum job was
an old German by the name of Erion. This same character tried to
get Mr. Erion to do the same thing and told him not to let those
damned Swedes put one over on him. Mr. Erion refused to go along
with this line of thinking and that ended that rumble in the

There was an Avery steam outfit threshing in the Wolsey area
that same year. It was owned by a man named Stegeman who was a
thresher of many years in the community by 1909. Augie Anderson ran
the engine and a young fellow named Mike Christopherson ran the
separator. This was one of the popular rigs in the community. There
was a fellow who wanted my father and uncle to thresh his straw
pile after this Avery outfit had threshed. They refused on the
grounds that it would be unethical to pull in on another thresher.
Inquiry around the neighborhood brought out the fact that this
fellow was a habitual “bitcher.” Also this Avery rig had
threshed a large percentage of the grain around Wolsey for a number
of years and they had satisfied customers in every other case that
my father knew of. (Incidentally, I heard my father and Augie
Anderson discuss this incident in 1942 while we were threshing at
the Fred Anderson Farm.)

They had broke 350 acres on the “Preacher Brown” place
that year (1909) and had it into flax. Flax made around 17 bushels
per acre in the Wolsey area that year. The flax on the “Preacher Brown” place made about 3 1/2 bushels per acre due
to a hail storm. The rest of their crops suffered similar hail
damage. Peterson & Ringheimer suffered hail damage seven times
during the first 21 years that they lived in South Dakota. Violent hail storms also came on the day of both of their funerals just
like the Almighty was giving them a last send-off. Their funerals
were a little over a year apart. (1951 and 1952)

There was a character named Smith living in the vicinity of the “Preacher Brown” place. This Smith had inherited money and
owned a farm. He was a little off in the head and imagined things
concerning religion. He claimed to have an “in” with the
Almighty so that it could stop it from raining on those
people’s farms that he did not like. I asked Pa if he had
anything to do with the hail storm but he didn’t figure so.
Smith was an all around crack-pot but he did have some flax and was
in the flax threshing ring.

The “Preacher Brown” place got its name from the fact
that it was the homestead of Rev. Brown, the pioneer minister in
our Wolsey Presbyterian Church. Rev. Brown had sold the farm to a
man in Massachusetts. This man placed the rental in the hands of a
landman named Mattis at Huron. The honesty of Mr. Mattis was a big
joke to all who knew him well. Peterson & Ringheimer rented the
farm from the Mattis Land Agency.

When it came time to thresh flax, Mattis was too busy watching
someone else to come out and see if Peterson & Ringheimer were
honest. Therefore, Mattis sent out an old retired farmer neighbor
of his out to watch them. This old fellow never went close enough
to the machine to get dirty and made all kinds of remarks about a
crooked old s.o.b. like Mattis not trusting anyone else. Pa
noticed that he had a couple Bemis grain sacks in his buggy.
Finally in the afternoon he took these sacks and held them under
the grain spout and filled them up. He told my Uncle to set the
weigher back enough to compensate for this amount. Then he took
them to the elevator in Wolsey and bought beer with them. He
brought this beer out to the crew just as they pitched in the last
bundle of the day.

The above mentioned Smith claimed to be too religious to drink
alcoholic beverages. When there was free beer involved, he changed
real fast. Several days later they were threshing Smith’s flax.
They got a 3-box high wagon full and then put the oil tank
three-horse team on it. One of the fellows got up on the spring
seat and whipped up the team and started “lickety-split”
across the prairie towards Wolsey. Then he hollared back, “Now
we are going to have some more beer, boys.”

Smith hollared, “No you ain’t,” and started to run
after him. The tank team was of good life and could trot the load
all the way to Wolsey. Poor old Smith ran all the way to Wolsey
trying to catch up with the load so that no beer was bought with
his flax. This was a distance of something like six miles.

There were some of the things about managing a thresher that was
different in those days. Most of the belts were laced with whang
leather. The rest were sewed. A canvas tarp came with the thresher
and it was tarped every night and during the off season. There were
very few steel threshers then as people thought that the wood ones
were best. There were grease cups instead of zerks and greaseless
bearings were not heard of. A good oil can was the most necessary

Uncle Oscar tended to be more for books than my father. In the
winter of 1909-10, Uncle Oscar sunk $2.50 in a book in the hope
that it would enlighten my father on a few things about gas motors.
The title of this book was Gas, Gasoline, and Oil-Engines Including
Producer-Gas Plants
by Gardner D. Hiscox, M. E. It is copyright
1910 and strange as it may seem it is the 18th edition. It was
published by the Norman W. Henley Publishing Company, 132 Nassau
Street, New York. It mentions nothing about a tractor, or a gas
traction engine for that matter. It does state that the best
automobile engine is a 2-cylinder horizontally opposed that is
timed to fire both cylinders together as a means of reducing

This completes the first year of this venture. I will attempt to
write the other four years at some later date. My father soon was
called upon to start cars and tractors around the country because
of his experience with this tractor. He said that the two most
common problems were first the lack of gas in the tank and second
the failure to keep wires from vibrating against something and
wearing the insulation through and shorting out.

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