A 4-H Boy and His Mill

By Staff
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Troy Jones with Iowa State Fair ribbons.
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Picture taken in 1910: Mill at right is a Dain.
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Troy was awarded blue ribbons at the local County Fair and the Iowa State Fair. The mill is on display at the Ottumwa John Deere Works and appeared in the Deere magazine, The Windrow.

1408 N. Van Buren, Ottumwa, Iowa 52501

Troy Jones is a 4-H’er with a desire to enjoy the antiques
found on the farms of southeastern Iowa. 4-H is the organization
that takes boys and girls along the way to making them men and
women. Troy is 14 years old. His picture is on page 20 of the
October 1993 GEM in the article, entitled ‘Caterpillar

Troy has shown livestock at the County Fair, and this last year
displayed a sweep mill, made by the Dain Hay Tool plant in Ottumwa,
Iowa. Troy’s father, Max Jones, found this mill at a farm sale
in a pile of junk. After removing some of the dirt from the mill,
they found the words Ottumwa, Iowa, on one of the castings. They
thought it was made by Janney Manufacturing of Ottumwa but, after
cleaning the mill, they found the words Dain Manufacturing.

Joseph Dain was a part of the history of hay tools in the late
1800s and the early 1900s. With this beginning and the insistence
of some business men in Ottumwa, he left Carrolton, Missouri, in
1900 to establish the factory that became a part of the John Deere
Company in 1910.

Janney Manufacturing made a sweep mill in Ottumwa that was
patented in 1892 and this was thought to be one of their mills.
When the grease and dirt were cleaned off the castings, the words
‘Dain Manufacturing, Ottumwa, Iowa’, with a patent date of
December 26, 1899, were found.

Max Jones works at the John Deere plant in Ottumwa. He contacted
Bonnie Glosser of the Human Resources Department asking her for
some information on this mill. She could find nothing, but
contacted the archives at the corporate offices in Moline,
Illinois. They said Dain did not make such a mill. Ms. Glosser told
Troy to take a picture of the mill to send to Moline. After a few
weeks Troy received a copy of the original owner’s manual and a
parts book, along with a letter stating they could not believe a
mill of this age still existed.

Troy took the mill apart and it was found that one of the gears
was broken. It was welded and smoothed with a hand grinder. All of
the castings were sandblasted and given a coat of primer to prevent
rusting. The tin hopper has six holes that had been made when it
had been used for target practice. Troy hammered these holes shut
and welded them. The dents in the hopper were filled with body
cement or filler, after which it was sanded and given a coat of
primer. Dain primary color was a dark red and this was used to
paint the castings. It was assumed this red was correct because all
of the early pictures were black and white. The hopper and the band
to hold the hopper to the mill were painted silver.

The Storm Saw Mill at Lucas, Iowa, furnished the white oak, red
oak and ash lumber. The white oak was used for the box at the
bottom, which received the ground grain. The red oak was used for
the runners under the mill. The ash was for the tongue. The parts
list gave the dimensions of the wooden parts. From this list the
parts were sawed to size and planed. Two rods were made to hold the
box together. When this mill was made, all bolts were square-head,
so this type of bolts were used. The box was given two coats of
marine varnish.

No original Dain decals could be found. A black and white
picture was taken to the Cobler Sign Company in Ottumwa, and they
cut a decal with a computer. This lettering is called School House,
as used in the 1800s. An artist’s brush was used to put the
letters on the castings.

The tongue or sweep was made out of an ash pole that was
removable for storage. A single tree or whiffle tree was attached
to this pole. A 5/8 inch lead rod was
attached to guide the horse. Because of the weight of the mill it
was decided to find a set of wheels and make a cart to move the

Troy spent 135 hours over a period of eight months in restoring
this project. A special thanks to Cornie Bambrook for the use of
his wood-working tools. Troy’s dad, Max, is a 4-H leader and
was great help. Max encouraged his son but Troy did all the work.
The total cost of this project was $406.22.

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