Farm dealerships gone


When the tractor and the combine replaced the horse and the binder some businessmen saw opportunity in the new horsepower generated by machines. 

New businesses started that eventually replaced the blacksmith shop and the workhorses. There were at least 23 tractor and implement dealers in Edgar County at one time or another. 

An early innovator was Metcalf resident Pat Breen, who went into the International Harvester business in the early 1900s. That business continued until 1926 when his building burned. 

In 1918, Breen was honored by the International Harvester Company for the highest sales of farm equipment in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. 

James Tuttle took over the I.H. business in 1928 and by the 1930s he was awarded $100,000 for having the largest volume of business for Illinois. He sold the business in 1945 to Frank Kaulig and in 1949, Kaulig erected a big new machinery sales building on U.S. Route 36, just south of Metcalf. 

Kaulig’s business and franchise closed in 1965. The building was leased to the Morris brothers who sold and serviced Allis Chalmers machinery until 1971. 

In Redmon, Joe Cooper said, “Dad bought his first Minneapolis-Moline tractor in about 1934, and he liked it so well he started selling them.” 

His father Chauncey Cooper was in that business from 1935 to 1948, and he was the first Minnie dealer in this area. He sold many in Edgar County as well as a few neighboring counties. 

“Sparky” Dennison and Maurice Arnold sold Allis-Chalmers products in Redmon in the mid 1930s. They also sponsored an independent basketball team featuring University of Illinois players such as Harry Combs, Jim Vopika and Bob Cotton. 

Billy Kirchner and Ed Biggs ran a John Deere dealership in Redmon starting in the 1930s. Elton Holding bought their franchise is 1953, and that facility sold many pieces of farm machinery around Redmon.

Lester Thomas sold Minneapolis-Moline tractors in Redmon during the 1960s after purchasing the building on Third Street from Holding and Biggs. Lee Blankenbaker also sold the Oliver line of implements near Redmon.

Tractors were not only sold, but also manufactured in Hume. 

Leigh St. John saw the first Hume tractor come off the line when it was built. He was a salesman and mechanic for the company. The Hume tractor was built to replace horses and to offer a reliable tractor to farmers. Local farmer Hugh Brooks Sr. had one. In 1917, the stockholders sold out the company, but it is still remembered and the only known survivor is occasionally shown at antique tractor events. 

Albert and Gene Rogers sold and serviced New Holland and Deutz equipment for many years at Hume.

Paris area farmer Walter Hodge also owned a Massey-Harris and New Idea implement business. At one time, it was across from the Edgar County Jail and later moved to a new Quonset building on the Cherry Point Road in the north end of Paris. That building still stands. 

Hodge along with William Colwell owned the first combine in Edgar County in 1914. 

In the I918 Prairie Farmer Directory, the Parrett Tractor was advertised. It was an old steel-wheeler and burnt either kerosene or gasoline. The dealership was in the hands of Joe Stewart of the Auto Sales Tractor and Tuck Company. Carl Brecht operated the International Harvester dealership on Jasper Street for many years starting about 1960. About that time Case became a partner with I.H. and a downturn in the farm economy caused him to close the business. 

Maurice Farnham handled Case machinery and New Idea equipment and was for many years at a location on East Wood Street where the post office now stands. 

In the 1950s, there was a Sheppard Diesel tractor dealer located near the Edgar County Cemetery. Sheppard Diesel built durable and efficient engines to power lifeboats during World War II, and during a time of high demand for new tractors the company basically built three models of tractors, but their success was short lived. 

For some reason, farmers were not looking for those advanced and before their time-designed tractors. The company’s most popular tractor had a three-cylinder engine and was very durable, but farmers were not familiar with the design and concept and did not reward the company with purchases. 

Just across from Crestwood School, Lyle Hutchings had a Ford Tractor dealership. In the 1940s, there was also an Oliver dealership on Union Street. 

There was at least one tractor dealership in Brocton run by a Mr. Cooley

for a few years on the south side of the village main street, near where Hair Port now stands. There may have been dealerships in Vermilion and Kansas, but the records are not clear.

Chrisman had a John Deere dealership owned by Francis Robinson and later by Dennis Radke, just west of the southwest corner of the square. 

In the late 1940s, the Culton brothers had a machinery business on the south side of the square that sold Minneapolis-Moline equipment and the Massey-Harris brand. They moved their location near the intersection of state Route 1 and U.S. Route 36 and built a large Quonset building in 1951. In 1961, John Craig became the owner and has been there for 57 years. 

Craig has been very successful selling Massey-Ferguson equipment and Great Plains drills. Both companies have recognized Craig as a top merchandiser for a single-store ownership. 

The Minneapolis-Moline dealership at Chrisman was just south of the Massey-Ferguson franchise, but it went out of business several years ago.

The Chrisman Farm Center is the only farm implement business left in Edgar County. Thanks to John Craig and his outfit of skilled workers the store does  things right while serving the farmers of this area and just keeps going.