Dale and Martha Hawk Museum

North Dakota's "little treasure on the prairie" rural heritage museum gives a glimpse at America's past

| November 2003

When Lowell Johnson received a call from a California man offering to organize the antique wrench display at the Dale and Martha Hawk Museum, he thought it was a joke.

Who would travel 2,200 miles to a rural Wolford, N.D., museum to put the tools in order? “He told me what material he would need, and I just thought, well ...,” Lowell, president of the museum’s board of directors, recalls.

The man suddenly appeared on Memorial Day 1999 ready to work after making the trip from California.

“He had never been to the museum,” Lowell says, “but his friend had, and this California man just wanted to do his part.”

It’s funny how that sort of thing happens with this prairie museum. The museum’s previous curators left after Labor Day 2002, and Richard and Emily Roberts, an RVer couple from Texas enchanted with North Dakota, enjoyed the museum so much that they volunteered to help. They’re now the de facto curators and live in the farmhouse where the museum founders, Dale and Martha Hawk, lived until they passed away in 1985 and 1997 respectively.

Touching history

The museum began decades ago when Dale and Martha traveled in their 1947 Ford implement truck searching for old farm tractors, implements, cars and trucks – anything old that would add to the museum. Dale’s intention was to build a collection of restored farm machinery, but as he grew older and realized the collection he built could be dispersed, his thoughts turned toward the construction of a museum.

The Hawks’ hard work left a legacy of old and rare farm items, the choicest of which may be the Hackney Auto Plow. It’s one of only three known to exist, and the only one of the three that still works. Dale once proudly paraded the Hackney, but a few years back, the board of directors decided against that since the machine is so valuable. Hackney descendants heard of the machine and 27 of them held a weekend family reunion at the museum during the summer of 1998. “That machine had to be Dale Hawk’s favorite,” Richard says. “Almost every old photo with Dale in it shows him sitting on the Hackney.”