Every April, the Kansas Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) holds its annual Relief Sale in Hutchinson, Kan., to benefit less advantaged people throughout the developing world. The MCC Relief Sale will go on as usual this year, but with an added ingredient of some symbolism, at least for George Dyck of Newton, Kan.
That's because George's parents were on the receiving end of one of the MCC's first outreach drives 80 years ago, when they were part of a group of Mennonites living in Russia in 1922. Russia was in the throws of change following the Bolshevik Revolution, and the plight of the Russian farmer was desperate. 'My parents, who lived in the Mennonite settlements there at the time, later talked about 'the bad times,' as they faced starvation due to lack of food,' George says, adding that, 'My parents were married in January that year, but instead of the usual wedding reception, grandmother just invited the officiating minister and used her last flour to bake some rolls. There was no more to be had.'
With many of their horses either starving or eaten for food, pleas for help were sent to Mennonites in the U.S. The then newly-formed MCC arranged to send 50 Fordson tractors equipped with Oliver two-bottom plows in time to seed the wheat in the fall. In memory of this, George and his wife, Edna, thought it fitting to commemorate this event by locating a Fordson and donating it to the MCC sale to be held April 12.
George eventually located a 1918 Fordson in Canada, and Target Transport from Middlebury, Ind., hauled it to my place. We started tearing it apart on Dec. 10, 2001 and we have been working on the tractor every day since, with the final restoration expected to be completed by the time you're reading this.
Fordson block being machined at Dick's Engine Service in Ellinwood, Kan.
The rear end was completely disassembled and cleaned, and new bearings were put in the transmission where needed. The engine was bored and fitted with new pistons, the crankshaft reground and new bearings poured. Russ Abraham's Repair Shop, Goessel, Kan., saw to the valve work and put in new guides. The magnets were recharged and set for correct clearance for maximum spark.
Local body man Lowell Heinrichs took the dents out of the gas tank and did the paint job, and Dewayne Hellman from Rosewood Machine in Rosewood, Ohio, donated many hard-to-find parts, such as the gas starting tank and a complete air washer. Dewayne is an excellent resource person who knows the Fordson tricks.
Everything related to the Fordson's restoration, from labor to parts and materials, has been donated by people interested in helping with the cause, and the old Fordson should be as good as when it rolled off Henry Ford's assembly line in 1918 when it's done.
Casting dates on all pieces of the tractor are 1918, and it has the early, open-ladder radiator sides. The early Fordsons came out with six-spoke rear wheels, which had a penchant for breaking spokes. Ford soon changed to a seven-spoke design, but we found a set of six-spoke wheels in Paxico, Kan., and we're installing those so the tractor will have the correct wheels.
We've also found a few aftermarket accessories we plan to put on the tractor, such as a governor and belt pulley, and we'd like to find an old two-bottom Oliver plow to go with the Fordson so it can be outfitted just like the ones originally sent to Russia in 1922. If anyone has one that they would be willing to donate to the project, please contact me at the address below.
Contact engine and tractor enthusiast Jerry Toews at: Box 131, Goessel, KS 67053, (620) 367-8257.