The Ottawa Engine Company

A hog-proof fence was the start of the Ottawa Engine Company in Ottawa, Kan. Formed by the sons of a Civil War soldier, the company got its start from the first barbed margin fence in America, followed quickly by a woven fence that held hogs and other livestock. (The company later manufactured ornamental lawn fence as well.)

With the design of a unique woven fence came the need for machines to do the work. C.E. Warner and his son, E.L., responded, building both machines for their factory, and another factory. Pueblo, Colo., was chosen as the site for the second plant, because of “its central location and excellent railroad facilities,” according to a pamphlet produced by the family in about 1916.

The Warners did not rest on their laurels. Sensing a coming need for gasoline engines on the farm, they set to work designing “an engine built by farmers for farmers to use.” Within six months of the first shipment, demand was so strong that they had to enlarge their factory.

Later, the Warners correctly anticipated a rise in gasoline prices, and were ready when, in 1915, gas prices soared to new highs. Their new engine ran on kerosene, distillate, toppings and solar oil.

Following the spring of 1915, one of the wettest on record, farmers were frustrated in their efforts to harvest wet fields. The Warners responded with a newly-designed binder engine that allowed harvest in extremely wet conditions. From there, they moved into soil conservation efforts, developing a straw spreader that both increased yields and decreased insect populations. The spreader proved so effective that it left the factory with a guarantee to increase production yields by five bushels. And fields covered with straw were proven to suffer less damage from wind erosion. Unsolicited letters congratulating the inventors poured into the company’s offices.

By the early 1920s, the company operated one of the largest and most complete foundries and machine shops in the central west. It was, at that time, the only foundry producing both malleable and semi-steel casings west of the Mississippi River.

Ultimately, the Ottawa company would produce fencing, utility engines (gasoline and kerosene); binder engines, power washing machines, feed grinders, feed mills, windmills, pump jacks and straw spreaders. The company ceased operation in the 1950s.

Farm Collector Magazine
Farm Collector Magazine
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