As I Saw It.


| March/April 1976

Unidentified Engine

Courtesy of Thomas M. Jensen, 559 Sheldon Road, Palmyra, New York 14522

Thomas M. Jensen

Rt. 4, Huntington, Ind. 46750.

For some time I have been working on the story of the Montana Farming Corp. operated by the late Thomas Campbell. My trouble is that many who once worked for or had any connection with it are now gone out of the picture. I want to give credit to Harold R. Aslakson of Sheyenne N.D. who worked on the unit at Popular in 1920. Also Edward A. Yeater of Winslow, Ark., who lived at Popular at the time of its operation there.

The Montana Farming Corp. was founded and managed by Thos. Campbell and was based on a $2,000,000 loan from the J. P. Morgan bank of New York City. Evidently Campbell knew his way around because it was a big operation from the first and was well financed.

Two 10,000 acre units were at Popular Mont, and were really north of Brouckton. It started in World War I with horsepower and changed to tractor power about 1919. A unit was 10,000 acres each with its own foreman and bosses. Each unit had its own blacksmith shop, bunk house and dining hall, all on skids so they could be moved. Three other units were at Hardin, two units of grain, mostly wheat and a grass unit for cattle. This was on land leased from the Crow Indian Reservation. I might say right here that Campbell started out to show the world how to raise wheat in a big way and he loved publicity and thrived on notoriety. He was written up in all the farm papers as well as national magazines such as The Country Gentlemen, etc. No where can I find out how successful he was from the dollar standpoint and whether it paid out. Remember he was farming marginal land, with rainfall from ten to fifteen inches a year. Most of it was broken for the first time and no doubt some of it should have been left in grass. Yields were never mentioned and failures were never recorded. Farming then was not what it is today. Complete failures were not unusual. In 1923 when I was in Mont. and North Dakota lots of wheat yielded from four to ten bushels per acre depending upon the moisture. I saw grain drills following the plow without any smoothing or preparation at all. Lots of the wheat never was covered and consequently affected the yields. Campbell featured big acreage and did everything as big as he could. Few implements were big enough. He hired a mechanic by the name of Punk Taylor who designed and built a lot of them big enough for use.

Harold Alskson tells of their plowing and drilling six hundred and forty acres of flax in one day. Twelve 30-60 Aultman Taylor tractors each pulling ten plows were followed by three smaller Case tractors each pulling three grain drills did the whole thing in one day, starting at three a.m. and running straight through to nine p.m. They never stopped all day, refueled the tractors and filled the grain drills on the go. Sandwiches and coffee were brought to the field. The field was four miles long and that Flax was never harvested due to an extra dry year. I do not know how long the operation at Popular lasted, but Ted Worral at Loma thought till about 1942 or a little later.

At first, the grain was threshed. In 1924 they established some sort of a record. They were using a 60'