PETERSBURG - Some people collect coins and others collect stamps. However, there’s one collection in Crawford County you can’t miss if you drive east from Petersburg on County S these days–that’s the Farmall tractor collection of Elling Jones.
There, parked neatly in a long row along the county highway, are nine red Farmall tractors. Some are restored and others are in more of a working condition.
Oh, there’s also a grey 1926 McCormick-Deering with steel wheels to cap off the 10-tractor collection.
As might be expected, every tractor has a story–some are longer and more interesting than others.Elling took time on a recent summer morning to tell some of those stories and explain the history of the tractors in the collection. Dressed in his bib overalls and wearing a billed-cap, Elling walked down the row stopping at each machine. The retired dairy farmer described each one and how it arrived in the collection.
There’s a couple of really special tractors in the collection, but one the most important to Elling is a 1942 Farmall A. You see, that was his family’s first tractor.
Elling’s father, Raymond Jones, was farming with horses, but wanted a tractor. During World War Two, production shifted to meet the needs of the armed forces and getting any sort of a tractor was difficult.
Nevertheless, Raymond Jones placed his name on a waiting list and in 1946 he got a call, there was a tractor for him. That tractor was delivered from Wiley Implement to a farm in Soldiers Grove, which he rented at the time. It was moved to the farm in Petersburg in 1953 and it has been there ever since.
Originally, the Farmall A replaced the horses and had everything in terms of implements-that included a one-bottom plow. It was a 1-16, and most of it is still in the tobacco shed.
The old Farmall A has been restored a bit with a new paint job and more, but it’s essentially the same tractor that arrived in 1946.
A little has been done to it over the years. It received a light overhaul from a neighbor at one point and the wheels and tires were replaced. Other than that, the sturdy little tractor just stood by to do its work.
The Farmall A has a special place in Elling’s heart. He paused as he looked at it and remembered how it all started so many years ago.
When Elling was five years old in the fall of 1954, his brothers went off to school and his father was farming without any help. So, he placed Elling on the tractor and set it to its lowest speed. He had Elling steer down the rows of cut hay, while he threw the loose hay onto the wagon. That’s probably not OSHA-approved these days, but Elling said it was a lot safer than it sounded. His father could quickly stop the tractor if needed, because he was walking with it all the time.Nevertheless, Elling Jones began his long farming career at the age of five, driving the Farmall A. That same tractor now has a place in the line of tractors along County S that he proudly displays every summer. The tractor got lots of service over the years, ending its career working tobacco and providing power for the elevator.
The Farmall family
Another favorite for Elling is the Farmall M. He smiles as he recalls buying it, 52 years ago when he was farming. Like the little A, the M saw plenty of service and has been repainted and restored.
“My favorites are the A and the M I guess,” Elling said. “I’m not sure which one I like best. It’s a tossup. I hope they stay in family after I’m gone.”
A Farmall H, which he purchased along the way, has also been repainted and restored.
In addition to those three original tractors, Elling decided over the years to add a few more. He ran down the particulars of each of them as we passed from one to another.
The retired farmer seems to have a hankering for the Farmall C. He owns two of them. Additionally, he owns a Farmall 200, which is essentially a Farmall C renamed, when the company dropped letters for numbers.
One of the more interesting tractors that Elling owns is a 1949 Farmall MD. It’s a diesel Farmall M, but there’s a twist. The MD is kind of a dual-fuel setup. It must be started running on gas and then switched to diesel.
Elling owned his own MD but it was sold 1977.
“I had an M diesel when I was farming and I liked it,” Elling said.
Of course, the Farmall collection needs a B and Elling has one. His wife Jane drove a Farmall B on her home farm in Mt. Zion.
“I drove it raking hay,” Jane remembered.Oh, then there’s the little Farmall Cub. No collection would be complete without the smallest member of family.
Then, there’s the dinosaur of the collection, the McCormick Deering 1020. It was manufactured in 1926 by the firm that would eventually manufacture the Farmalls. The McCormick Deering is an imposing beast of a tractor. Its wheels are steel and there are large triangular cleats protruding from the rear wheels, which gave it traction in the field.
Elling bought the McCormick Deering at an auction near Sparta.
“It’s a conversation piece,” a smiling Elling said of the ancient tractor
All of the Farmall tractors can be started with a crank similar to starting a Model T Ford automobile. However, all of the Farmall tractors have batteries and can be started with starter motor by pushing a button. That’s not true of the McCormick Deering–it has no battery.
The McCormick Deering 1020 uses a magneto to generate the spark. Not only must it be cranked to start, there’s a specific procedure that must be followed to allow that to happen. Oil must be added to the top of the engine. The timing must be held back and then advanced after it is started.
The tractor could also be switched from gasoline to kerosene after the engine got hot. Kerosene was a cheaper fuel at the time.
Crank starting tractors is now beyond Elling Jones’ capabilities. His friend Robert Tank, who lives in Bell Center, can do it. Tank also owns a McCormick Deering 1020.
In fact, when Robert started it recently, Wyatt Jones, Elling’s 16-year-old grandson, drove it.
“Yeah, I did drive it around a bit, when it got started,” Wyatt said. “It’s hard riding. It’s not at all like the other tractors.”
Wyatt shares his grandfather’s enthusiasm for the tractor collection. His favorite tractor is the Farmall MD.
“I’ll take it anywhere,” Wyatt said. “I drive it to Gays Mills. I was there when he bought it at an auction in Davenport, Iowa.”
Lots of effort
Sure, the 10 tractors in a line on County S makes a nice picture, but it takes a lot of effort to get them there.
This year on Father’s Day, Wyatt showed up with his father David Jones. They worked at getting the tractors started and lining them up. Some needed to be pull-started and others needed some attention after sitting in the shed for the winter.
Of course, Robert Tank was there to start the McCormick Deering. Sometimes, it’s just pulled into place.
“We were lucky this year just two didn’t start,” Elling said and then added with a chuckle, “I do buy a lot of batteries.”
What does his wife think of the collection?
“Well, it’s something he always wanted to do,” she said. “I guess he did it.”
Elling built the 10-tractor collection with his passion for it. His grandson Wyatt may just keep it going with the passion he seems to have inherited from his grandfather.
So, if you’re out tooling around some weekend and you get near Petersburg, go see the Elling Jones’ collection of Farmall tractors on County S.“People stop and walk along the row or drive by slowly,” Elling Jones explained. “It’s kind of a novelty. Some even take pictures.”