The RIES'S of Murray, Iowa

Leland and Wilbur Ries

This is Leland and Wilbur Ries. Notice the glass jug Wilbur is holding it has a McCormick Deering tractor inside it.

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306 W. Anthony, Corydon, Iowa 50060.

Sometime in the later 50's I was out on a farm buying various old items. This farmer was retiring and was cleaning up the place for a tenant who was soon moving onto the farm. During our rummaging we came across a set of top bows for a Model T Ford touring car. This man said he hated to throw them in a ditch, as somewhere there was probably someone who could use them. I told him I didn't have any use for them but rather than see them go to the ditch I would give a dollar for them, so I became the owner of a set of Model T top bows.

Not long after this, George Mills wrote an article about the town of Murray for the Des Moines Register. In this article he mentioned a character by the name of Leland Ries, who collected all kinds of antiques. He and his brother, Wilbur, also made model steam engines and that Leland was restoring a Model T Ford touring car and if any of the readers had a top for a Ford T to contact Leland. I wrote Leland a card and told him I had a set of bows. I gave a dollar for them and I would take a dollar for them.

A few weeks later two strangers came to my place but not strangers for long. I had now met Leland and Wilbur Ries. Leland bought the bows. I didn't make a profit but sure got a lot of interest.

As time went on, I met Leland's wife, Maxine, and their two sons, Dick who lives now in Des Moines, Ia., and Larry, who was killed in a car accident December 13, 1972.

Over all these years we have had a good time swapping antiques and swapping yarns. It was Leland who in 1964 twisted my arm to subscribe to Iron-Men Album. Several times I have visited in Leland and Wilbur's homes in Murray. Leland's wife, Maxine, has their home decorated entirely with antiques. The only time you see anything modern in the kitchen is when she is cooking and I think the only modern items in the living room are a sofa, chair and TV set. She has restored all the furniture. The spinning wheel in the living room for years had had a box nailed on it and set on a porch as a planter by a previous owner and today it looks like new. I'm not going to make an attempt at saying how many hanging lamps she has, we will just say many.

The Ries' are well known at all steam shows, etc., in Iowa and some in Missouri. They have attended the Mount Pleasant, Ia. show since 1953. Leland operated Everett Ramey's 50 HP Case steam for a number years.

Wilbur is usually found down in 'gasoline alley' at this show, showing off that Flour City gas engine of his. However, at parade time you are liable to see him steering some engine in the parade.

Leland said when he was a young boy he got a job hauling water for a steam threshing outfit and when he wasn't hauling water he was tending the engine so he learned the ropes of keeping a steam engine going in early life.

Leland now has two dozen toy steam engines of the Weeden Alcohol burning type. Also owns around 35 gas engines. He said when he was a small boy he always wanted a toy steam engine but didn't get his first one until he was a grandfather. One of the gas engines he owns that makes my pulse beat faster is a little air-cooled double flywheel Ideal that was originally on a lawn mower. He also has an Associated Air-cooled engine I'd like to own too.

The Ries' have a number of items of family interest. Over at Wilburs I saw an Associated gas engine that their father bought new in 1921, also a feed grinder that was used with it. I also saw an unusual over from Germany. They have a number of family heirlooms such as clocks, etc. It was flatiron that was brought. At Wilburs I also saw a novelty made by their grandfather. It is a small McCormick Deering tractor inside of a clear one gallon glass jug, just like you see ships inside a bottle. Their grandfather made this for an implement dealer in Murray they thought around 1920.

One of the interesting items they have made and exhibited around the country is a miniature steam powered merry-go-round. This is powered by a live steam miniature merry-go-around engine and while this is running, merry-go-round music is played by a tape machine.

They have also put together a big steam powered road engine that they drive in parades at a lot of towns near Murray. Wilbur took a 3 HP Fairbanks Morse gas engine and some wheels, etc. and when he was done came up with a small tractor that resembles the old Rumley Oilpull. The exhaust goes through the stack and darned if it doesn't sound like an Oilpull.

Leland finally got the Model T Ford assembled, but got so crowded for room he sold it. Wilbur, about the same time started with the engine chassis of a 490 Chevrolet. During the years he has found tires, fenders, etc. until today he has a nice looking hack wagon. Last year he even found a windshield for it at a swap meet. Leland has owned at times nearly 200 clocks. At the present time, he says he has somewhere between 100 and 200. Many of these he has in a building just for clocks. I have always had the urge to sneak in and wind them all at the same time and then see if the building could take all that vibration, but this will never happen as Leland has it well locked and besides who wants to get shot with an antique gun.

This family has many items I would sure like to own. One, especially, is their collection of old catalogs, old auto magazines, Implement News, etc. They have stacks of this stuff, plus watch fobs, political buttons, you name it, they've got some of it.

I would like to have written more details on some of the items they own but this would take pages to do.

Down here in Lapland we can't afford that much paper. I have made a lot of poor deals in my life and a few good ones. The day I gave a dollar for those Model T top bows was one of the good ones.

Pictured is a 20-30 Oil Pull 1927, ready to be unloaded at Ruffs Pioneer Museum, Edgeley, North Dakota. This is one of the 28th Gas Tractors, and five that are on loan to the museum.

Slim and Bruce Leach threshing rye at the Bensen, Illinois Centennial July 7, 1973 with an old 20-40 Oil Pull. It had spent 50 years of its life there sat for the last 25 bought in 1971 by Leach Bros, of Pontiac. It took over six months to restore it. We are very proud of this old tractor. As boys, we grew up with one like it.