An Early History of John Deere's Life


| 9/28/2012 9:14:47 AM


Tags: john deere, sam moore, looking back,

Most of us know the story of the young blacksmith who travelled from New England to Grand Detour, Ill., where he observed the troubles farmers were having with their plows. It seems that the sticky mid-western soil clung to the cast iron plows of the day making it nearly impossible to turn a furrow. John Deere fashioned a moldboard out of a cast-off steel saw blade, thus solving the problem and earning for himself the title: “The Man Who Gave to the World the Steel Plow.”

As a result of Deere’s so-called “Singing Plow,” his small one-anvil shop soon became a huge factory where plows and other tillage implements were made, while Deere himself became rich and famous. However, such success was a long while coming, and the Deere family was for a long time poor and deeply in debt. Here’s the story of those early years.

John Deere’s family background is pretty murky. His father, William Rinold Deere, possibly came to the the United States from Wales in about 1790. Somewhere along the way William married Sarah Yates, who may have been born in Connecticut, or maybe in England. The 1800 U.S. Census reveals that William and Sarah were living in Rutland, Vt., with two sons and one daughter all under ten years old.

William was a tailor and Sarah a seamstress. Their children were William Jr., born around 1796, Francis in 1799, Jane with no date listed, although it must have been before the 1800 census, Elizabeth in 1803, and the hero of our story John, on February 7, 1804. In August of 1807 another son, George, came along.

About 1806, William turned up in Middlebury, Vt., where he started a tailor shop. Middlebury was a bustling town and William seems to have been busy enough to advertise for “A Journeyman Tailor” to help him.

Although busy enough in his tailor shop to need help, William Deere seems to not have been doing well financially, and in 1808 twelve-year old William Jr. was apprenticed to a cabinet maker. Apparently, the senior William had hope of inheriting some money in England and prepared to return to that country. In a letter he wrote to William Jr. from Boston on June 26th, 1808, he writes, in part: