Cast iron

Content Tools

Don Sites, Kansas wheat farmer and rancher, has one of the largest collections of cast iron implement seats in the world, housed in his Country Museum near Grinnell.

He also has one of the top collections of barbed wire.

Sites was the sparkplug in organizing the Cast Iron Implement Seat Collectors Association, which holds its annual reunions at Waukee, Iowa, in conjunction with the Hawkeye antique engine and tractor show. The 1979 reunion was well attended, drawing implement seat collectors from about 15 states.

Sites now has nearly 600 cast iron seats, mostly from American makers but also including some from England, Holland, France, Austria, Scotland, and Germany. Some of them are the last remaining examples of their kind.

Sites has now written three illustrated volumes on the seats. The first came out in 1969; the second, in 1972, and the third, in 1977. If you have one of these iron seats, you can probably find a photo of it in a Sites' book.

In the introduction to the third book, Sites speaks of the farming revolution which struck in the late 1800s, easing the farmer's way.

'One of these advances toward modern farming,' he states, 'was the addition of the place for the farmer to ride his equipment rather than walk behind. These seats were made of cast iron and used on horse drawn implements such as cultivators, mowers, harrows, plows, 'rakes, planters and other implements made during the period.'

Sites and his collections have been featured in Smithsonian magazine, Americana magazine, and numerous newspapers.

He bought the old Union Pacific railroad depot at Grinnell and converted it for museum use. Displays include the cast iron seats and barbed wire. His wife, Alberta, who assists him, exhibits her collection of lightning rod balls, which many of today's farmers will remember, and windmill counterweights, which weigh 28 to 150 pounds. There are also about 60 weather vanes, all different.

The couple also has a collection of 31 patent models, including horse drawn mower, baler and windmill models. Over 2,200 farm-related items are on exhibit.

The Sites' children help Dalen, 21, and Maria, 18, who primarily run the museum.