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
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