Replacing The Mule

By Staff

This article reprinted with permission from the Humboldt Sun,
Winnemucca, Nevada, July 20, 1988.

In times past, in Humboldt County, animals and man did all the
ranch and farm work. Mules, horses and sometimes oxen did the
plowing, harvesting and carrying under the guidance of man’s
mind and hands.

But shortly after the start of this century this began to
change. Horsepower was no longer determined by how many horses a
person had in his team but became a mythical number used to measure
and rate the power output of a machine.

The mechanical tractor for farming and ranching came to
Winnemucca and Humboldt County on May 29, 1913. It was a 20 to 35
horsepower Avery traction engine purchased by T. H. Guyon and M. B.
Johnson. It was unloaded at the Southern Pacific depot under the
guidance of L. A. Smith, the representative for the Avery
Manufacturing Company of Peoria, Illinois.

The Silver State said on that date, ‘This is the first
machine of its kind ever brought to Humboldt County, and if it
proves successful for the purposes for which it was bought, will no
doubt be followed by many more.’

Guyer and Johnson, who were local agents for the Avery
Manufacturing Company, ran the machine on the streets of Winnemucca
for several days while they learned the intricacies of it, then it
was taken down Grass Valley to show its stuff.

On June 3 the tractor was put to the test, ‘For about three
hours it plowed through virgin land, thickly covered with sagebrush
and handled the work in a satisfactory manner. About 20 men
interested in ranching were present for the exhibition.’

The demonstration was a success and the ranchers and farmers
were duly impressed. They were cautioned that the tractor
wasn’t designed to plow uncleared land, though it would do it.
They were also told there was an attachment for the tractor that
would clear brush from land.

The tractor was kept at work in Grass Valley plowing and pumping
water all during the summer of 1913 with a great deal of success.
In September, Guyon and Johnson decided the machine needed some
more public exposure and it was moved back to Winnemucca. Here,
‘it was taken across the river to the ranch owned by Dr. A. A.
Wendell, below the Western Pacific roundhouse, where it was used to
break about 60 acres.’

This was the first of many farming and ranching machines to come
to Humboldt County. It was the color bearer for the present day
tractors of ten times the horsepower. It brought on the age of
increased production and less labor. If those people who first
brought the Avery tractor here only knew how much of a change they
were bringing to the land! You can never stop progress. But I
imagine some of the present day ranchers and farmers would like to
return to the idealic times of yesterday, before life was
complicated by progress and modern findings.

Researched in conjunction with the Humboldt County Library
Indexing Project from the following newspaper: The Silver State,

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