Ohio’s Crawford County is on the eastern edge of America’s corn belt. While the county is steeped in agriculture history, the county seat of Bucyrus was home to more than two dozen manufacturing operations at the onset of the industrial revolution. The Crawford Museum of Agriculture — an antique farm equipment museum created by old iron enthusiasts, FFA students and local supporters — celebrates that heritage.
Beautiful Bucyrus, a publication produced by the Bucyrus Industrial Assn. in 1911, lists 30 local manufacturers. Agriculture-related companies included Blair, a producer of hog and pig rings; Crooks & Uhl Machine Works, manufacturers of wrenches; Shunk Plow Co., builders of plows and farm wagons; and Leah Handle Co., makers of tool handles. These companies were touted as having the largest factories of their class in the world.
An early manufacturer of surface and underground mining equipment, including steam shovels used to build the Panama Canal, Bucyrus Foundry & Mfg. Co. was founded in 1880. Bucyrus Foundry moved its headquarters to South Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1893. The company merged with Erie Steam Shovel Co. in 1927 to form Bucyrus-Erie.
Timken Co. of North Canton, Ohio, launched a pilot bearing project in Bucyrus in 1948. When that project was successfully completed, Timken built a new bearing plant in Bucyrus in 1950. The plant has been in continuous operation ever since.
Antique farm equipment museum brings together antique equipment enthusiasts
Beginning three decades ago, Crawford County’s farm machinery enthusiasts had a vision to preserve its agricultural history. The concept for preservation materialized through two avenues: a collector club and a museum.
Mike Snyder, a passionate Allis-Chalmers collector, spearheaded formation of the collector club and became its first president. “A group of tractor collectors started displaying tractors at the Crawford County fair during the late 1980s,” he says. “The guys talked about preserving the history of farm equipment by forming a collector’s club. We also discussed the possibility of a museum, but that idea did not work out.”
The Crawford Antique Farm Machinery Assn. was launched in 1992. In 2000, the club sponsored its first Crawford County Farm Machinery Show on the county fairgrounds, beginning what would become an annual summer tradition.
Local FFA chapters collaborate with collectors
Mike Hoffman, vocational agriculture teacher and FFA advisor at Wynford Local Schools, headed formation of the museum. “During the spring of 2003, several Wynford FFA students expressed an interest in creating a museum to display agricultural artifacts that would benefit the entire community,” he says. “The museum would also help educate visitors about food production.”
It soon became apparent that the concept was too ambitious a project for the Wynford FFA. “Realizing our inability, we presented the museum idea to the Crawford Antique Farm Machinery Assn.,” Mike says. As the club warmed to the idea, the project became a joint effort and plans were made to establish a facility at the Crawford County Fairgrounds.
A building measuring 136 by 60 feet was completed in 2006 and the interior was finished in early 2007. Wynford students and FFA members were actively involved throughout the process, helping draft the grant application for the museum, holding fundraisers and providing labor. The museum was dedicated at the 2007 Crawford Farm Machinery Show.
Displays put spotlight on local manufacturers
The antique farm equipment museum collection includes antique tractors representing six manufacturers that once operated within a 35-mile radius of Bucyrus. Those featured include a 1948 Silver King Model 42 standard manufactured by Fate-Root-Heath Co. in Plymouth and the Centaur Model G, a walk-behind tractor built in Greenwich.
Cobey Mfg. Co., another Crawford County manufacturer, built wagons, manure spreaders and other equipment. A restored Cobey wagon is part of the display. Shunk Plow Co., established by Adam Shunk, began operating in Bucyrus in 1854. Shunk built plows, potato diggers, single-shovel plows and other implements. A single-furrow Shunk plow is featured in the museum’s display.
Huber Manufacturing Company, Marion, Ohio, was started by Edward Huber to build revolving rakes. An original Huber rake is included in the display. Huber filed a patent for the revolving rake with the U.S. patent office in 1863. In 1876, Huber began manufacture of threshing machines. The first Huber steam engine was produced in 1878.
A rare wooden hay loader made by Ohio Rake Co., Dayton, Ohio, is a popular draw for many museum visitors. The loader was pulled by a team of horses over mown, dry hay. Picked up by eight sets of gathering tines, the hay cascaded onto a wagon connected to the loader.
An 8-foot horse-drawn grain drill manufactured by Hoosier Drill is a rare piece. Hoosier Drill began operations in Milton, Indiana, in 1858. With a readily available railroad connection, the community of Richmond, Indiana, enticed the company to relocate. In 1903, Hoosier Drill merged with American Seeding Co., Springfield, Ohio; International Harvester acquired the company in 1920.
A homemade buzz saw makes a unique display. The buzz saw became a labor-saving device to cut firewood. Before commercially made buzz saws came on the market, a jerry-rigged saw was powered by the tractor pulley. This locally made saw stood the test of time and is still operational.
A well preserved, 1-ton 1923 Ford Model T truck occupies space along the museum’s center aisle. The truck was purchased at a local auction in the late 1950s and restored before it was donated to the museum.
Working together to build for the future
Several local organizations have joined forces to maintain and support the museum financially. The Crawford County FFA chapters at Buckeye Central, Colonel Crawford and Wynford; the Crawford Antique Farm Machinery Assn.; and the Rotary Club of Bucyrus partnered to raise funds through the Rotary Club’s annual Auctionfest in 2010, generating $25,000.
Just as important was the way the project helped students gain an appreciation for the heritage of agriculture in America. “Students who display at the Crawford County Fair regularly visit the museum when they get a break from their activities,” Mike says. “We’ve seen former students join the tractor club, and that provides an opportunity to help maintain the museum.”
“The farm machinery association was fortunate to have a working relationship with Mike Hoffman and the Wynford FFA chapter,” notes Michael McCracken, current association president. “The museum would not have been possible without their involvement. We’re hopeful the museum will succeed well into the future as Crawford County’s historical and education center for agriculture.” FC
For more information: To schedule group tours, call Mike McCracken at (419) 689-0667.
Freelance writer Fred Hendricks of Mansfield, Ohio, covers a vast array of subjects relating to agriculture. Contact him at email@example.com.