706 S. Illinois St., Conrad, Montana 59425
One of the most successful farm tractors of its time was the Stinson. It was first built in Minneapolis in 1917-The factory was located at Central Avenue and 16th Street.
Two of the seven Stinson brothers quit their jobs at the Advance steam engine factory, in southern Michigan, and started their own factory for a very modern tractor of their own design. They purchased the Beaver 36 HP motor, and made all the rest of it in their Minneapolis factory. The brothers were Boyd and Fred, and they kept the floor of their factory clean enough to eat on. All workers wore white coveralls, and if soiled, they changed into clean ones immediately.
The tractor produced in 1917 was the 18-36, and things were going very well until the factory ran out of materials because of the war. They were out of production in 1919, and lost their lease on the fine big factory building.
They relocated to Superior, Wisconsin in 1920, but ran into hard times and slow sales. The total count of tractor manufacturers at that time was 142. In small town America there was room for only about four to ten dealerships in each town and they were overstocked, and the Stinsons went bankrupt.
Central Ave. and 16th. One of the Largest Gas Traction Engine Factories in the West
For five or six years, two city blocks in Superior, Wisconsin were covered with new Stinson tractors, which were never sold to the public. How they were disposed of this writer doesn't know.
A nephew of those brothers also learned tractor repair at the Advance factory, and traveled the U.S. and Argentina as a specialist on steam engines. When Ernest L. Stinson was repairing steam engines around Great Falls, Montana in 1910, he got 'homesteaders disease' and filed on 320 acres 20 miles east of Brady. He also got married, and this James Stinson is his second son. Ernest Stinson soon formed a partnership with a man who had a steamer, but couldn't keep it going. Later he had engines of his own and ran a threshing business from High wood to Pendroy, 90 miles apart. He hated to stop evenings, and got the nickname of 'Moonlight Stinson'. One of his workers wrote:
I had a job once threshing wheat,
Worked 16 hours with hands and feet,
And when the moon was shining bright,
They kept me working day and night.
Ernest Stinson purchased a garage in 1923, and sold Hart Parr tractors, Atwater Kent Radios and Chevy cars and trucks. The Stinson tractor factory thing was always the big topic when any family came around.
There is a Stinson tractor in the museum in Milton, Ontario, also one at Reynolds Museum at Westaskiwin, Alberta, and one just north of Canandaigua, New York. In looking back I feel the Stinson of 1920 was more modern and trouble free than the Hart Parrs built in 1927.