Agricultural Heritage of the Pacific Northwest

Museum trio in the Pacific Northwest preserves agricultural heritage in bountiful region

| December 2011

  • The Eastern Washington Agricultural Museum recalls the farmstead of old
    The Eastern Washington Agricultural Museum recalls the farmstead of old, housed in a modern red barn-like shed with a vintage windmill out front. In addition to display space, the facility contains a reference library, kitchen and restroom.
  • This 1941 John Deere Model H is equipped with Riblet square wheels
    This 1941 John Deere Model H is equipped with Riblet square wheels. Invented by Royal N. Riblet, Spokane, Wash., and patented in 1915, the square wheels never found a market, despite claims that they would give a smoother ride with less compaction, deliver more power and minimize wear on moving parts. Shown here: owners David and Nancy Ruark.
  • A massive horsepower that once ran a stationary threshing machine
    This massive horsepower (the bull gear measures 7 feet across) once ran a stationary threshing machine, grain grinder or drag saw before being abandoned where last used in about 1900. The operator stood on a platform at the center; a hole in the center post held a whip. When the piece was formally dedicated to the Eastern Washington Agricultural Museum, 14 volunteers “powered” the sweep, taking the place of horses.
  • 1932 wood frame Harris Harvester
    A series of manually controlled alternating gears and shafts kept this 1932 wood frame Harris Harvester level on steep hillsides, essential to efficient separator operation. Originally pulled by horses (“and it would have taken up to 33 head of horses on these hills,” David Ruark says. “Probably half the crop went to feed the horses”), the rig was later converted to tractor power.
  • A total of 146 buckets dangling from a 2-1/2 mile loop of steel cable made up the gravity-powered Judkins tram
    A total of 146 buckets dangling from a 2-1/2 mile loop of steel cable made up the gravity-powered Judkins tram. Reconstruction of this tower was based on dimensions from timbers excavated at the tram site – a miracle, really, in that fire had swept the site more than once over the years. (See related article, Whitman County Wheat Harvest, Farm Collector, May 2011.)
  • Stamp used to mark flour bags
    This stamp was used to mark flour bags at a mill in nearby Pataha, Wash.
  • Scale model of a 1927 Case hillside combine
    This scale model of a 1927 Case hillside combine, built by E.R. Sitton, is on loan to the Eastern Washington ag museum courtesy of Dwayne and Burlene Blankenship, Pullman, Wash. It is displayed with its 33-horse Schandoney equalizing hitch; the original Schandoney hitch was patented in 1892.
  • The Pataha Flour Mill
    The Pataha Flour Mill.
  • Battered tin stencils once used to mark potato crates
    At the Central Washington Agricultural Museum: Battered tin stencils once used to mark potato crates are part of a remarkable private collection of more than 3,000 antique tools in the museum’s Magness Room. The collection was amassed over 30 years by W.C. Magness, who donated it to the museum.
  • “The Bulldozer” was used to produce cleats and track pads
    At the Central Washington Agricultural Museum: “The Bulldozer” was used to produce cleats and track pads for early tracked equipment. It was most recently used at Lindeman Crawler Tractor Mfg., Yakima, Wash.
  • A carrot topper run off of a tractor’s PTO
    At the Central Washington Agricultural Museum: A carrot topper run off of a tractor’s PTO. According to the piece’s donor, the device was the result of one cannery’s ban on carrot tops. The unit posed particular danger to an operator who attempted to clear a tangle of tops from sharp, moving parts.
  • Wooden truck wheel built during World War II
    At the Central Washington Agricultural Museum: Farmers are nothing if not resourceful, as indicated by this wooden truck wheel built during World War II, when rubber tires could be impossible to find.
  • Boerner grain sampler
    At the Sherman County Historical Museum: This Boerner grain sampler was used to mix and sort laboratory grain samples.
  • Old iron in the Sherman County museum’s boneyard
    At the Sherman County Historical Museum: Old iron in the Sherman County museum’s boneyard.
  • This display shows bags of grain moving up the elevator
    At the Sherman County Historical Museum: Illustrating one stage of the old-time wheat harvest, this display shows bags of grain moving up the elevator. The Sherman County museum draws on a vast collection of 16,000 artifacts and photographs.
  • This header box wagon dates to the early 1900s
    At the Sherman County Historical Museum: This header box wagon dates to the early 1900s. Above right, a Fresno earth scraper; at left, a hay fork. 
  • 1872 Buffalo Pitts Californian separator
    This 1872 Buffalo Pitts Californian separator, in very good original condition, is a crowd pleaser at the Sherman County Museum.
  • This vintage wood silo, flanked by a Cletrac and a silage chopper, greets visitors to the Central Washington Agricultural Museum in Union Gap
    This vintage wood silo, flanked by a Cletrac and a silage chopper, greets visitors to the Central Washington Agricultural Museum in Union Gap, Wash. The silo was a hardware store kit.

  • The Eastern Washington Agricultural Museum recalls the farmstead of old
  • This 1941 John Deere Model H is equipped with Riblet square wheels
  • A massive horsepower that once ran a stationary threshing machine
  • 1932 wood frame Harris Harvester
  • A total of 146 buckets dangling from a 2-1/2 mile loop of steel cable made up the gravity-powered Judkins tram
  • Stamp used to mark flour bags
  • Scale model of a 1927 Case hillside combine
  • The Pataha Flour Mill
  • Battered tin stencils once used to mark potato crates
  • “The Bulldozer” was used to produce cleats and track pads
  • A carrot topper run off of a tractor’s PTO
  • Wooden truck wheel built during World War II
  • Boerner grain sampler
  • Old iron in the Sherman County museum’s boneyard
  • This display shows bags of grain moving up the elevator
  • This header box wagon dates to the early 1900s
  • 1872 Buffalo Pitts Californian separator
  • This vintage wood silo, flanked by a Cletrac and a silage chopper, greets visitors to the Central Washington Agricultural Museum in Union Gap

Antique farm machinery and agricultural heritage are alive and well in these United States. Public and private museums dot the countryside: Draw a circle on the map, and chances are good of finding at least one museum celebrating our agrarian past within it. In the Pacific Northwest, stretch that circle to about 250 miles wide, and you’ll hit three fine museums. Each brings the region’s agricultural heritage to life in unique and memorable ways. 

Pomeroy, Washington

Think dreams don’t come true? Visit Pomeroy, Wash., and think again. Home to more than half of Garfield County’s population of 2,300, Pomeroy is also home to the Eastern Washington Agricultural Museum. Dedicated in 2008, this agricultural heritage museum is proof of what can happen when a group of people catch a dream and hold on tight.

Intent on preserving the history and heritage of local agriculture, volunteers began planning for a museum in 2004. A blend of state aid and nearly unanimous local support put the museum on the fast track. Pomeroy FFA members wrote personal letters to state officials seeking funding; volunteers donated sweat equity to convert salvaged steel, lumber and roofing from an old pea cannery into seed money; and local entities jumped on the bandwagon in any way they could. Construction of a 72-by-120-foot building was completed in 2007. By 2011, supporters had set their sights on a second building.

Today, the museum is a comprehensive collection showcasing the area’s agricultural heritage. A 1932 26x38 Harris Harvester combine pushes at the building’s ceiling. Nearby is a wagon unique to the area. Known as a “wide ax,” it has exceptionally wide rear axles (the rear wheels are outside the wagon box), lending stability on steep hillsides. A seven-arm horsepower sweep dating to about 1850, salvaged from a local farm, is a noteworthy part of the outdoor collection. A reconstructed tower stands near the building’s entrance, a remnant of the Judkins bucket tram that once transported grain from Pomeroy-area fields to a warehouse 2,000 feet below on the Snake River. Like many pieces in the collection, all are handsomely restored.



Take the museum’s John Deere hay loader, for instance. “It was made out of three loaders,” says David Ruark, museum secretary. “It was a project taken on by three guys; each had a specialty area. We’re not blessed with a large number of people here (the museum is supported by 90 members) but our members certainly have many talents.”

The fact that so many pieces in the collection came from the immediate area gives the displays a uniquely intimate feel; it is easy to picture the original owners in your mind’s eye. Volunteers are relentless in their quest to secure relics of local importance. They are a “can do” group, ready to mount salvage operations to remote and sometimes precarious locations. Success is tied to the fact that more than a few local farms apparently opted out of war-era scrap drives. “A lot of the older generation never got rid of things,” David says. “I know of one farm that donated four generations worth of stuff.”