In 1989 seven neighbors and I formed the Buckeye Farm Antiques show in Wapakoneta, Ohio. At first we rented a stationary baler from Paul Clay, Rockford, Ohio. That piece was eventually donated to the Van Wert, Ohio, club.
We began a serious search for a baler of our own in about 2002. Several years earlier we’d seen an Ohio Cultivator Co. hay press but we thought it was a piece of junk. We wanted a John Deere hay press and spent five years looking for one before resigning ourselves to the Ohio Cultivator unit.
This hay press was operated by Don Hager’s grandfather until about 1933, when it was loaned to a neighbor. It then went through a barn fire before ending up on a Mormon farm near Elida, Ohio. Jim La Rue found it in the woods with trees 2 to 3 inches in diameter growing up through it. He sold the baler to Don Hager and Don gave it to our club in 2003.
I loaded the press to take to my father’s farm, where I planned to do the restoration work. That way my wife wouldn’t see what a piece of junk my next project was. When I arrived at my father’s farm, he took one look at it and told me, with a few farm-type words, to just keep on going to the junkyard.
Fortunately, like a few other times in my life, I didn’t listen to my dad. After he saw me start working on the press, my dad became very enthusiastic about helping me. Unfortunately, he did not live to see the finished product.
We broke the press down in pieces. My son restored the green and yellow parts and I restored the red ones. There was enough faded paint left on some of the parts to tell what color they’d been. The biggest challenge was getting the plunger out of the press, as it was rusted solid. The bearings and gears, however, were in good usable condition.
We had to shorten the bale chamber by 18 inches because it was rusted beyond salvage. We also replaced the complete bottom of the bale chamber. Because of deterioration from rust, we shortened the axles too.
Ohio Cultivator Co. was started in about 1878 by Harlow Stahl. His first implement was a 1-row horse-drawn riding cultivator. Stahl was very good at marketing. In 1901, he sent a 40-car train loaded with implements to Kansas where he sold them. The boxcars were draped with company banners and flew the American flag. He added balers to his product line in about 1900, buying the Ohio Hay Press Co. This added more year-round work for his workforce.
By 1927 Stahl added other implements to the line, including 1- and 2-row corn and bean planters, cultipackers, dump rakes, hay loaders, disc harrows, fertilizer spreaders, and Thomas grain drills and planters (including the Thomas 2-speed planter) from Springfield, Ohio. Hand tools and wrenches were also part of the product line.
National Farm Machinery Cooperative, which was affiliated with Cockshutt, bought Ohio Cultivator in 1943. Cockshutt then bought the Bellevue, Ohio, and Shelbyville, Ind., plants, closing the Bellevue operation in 1955. The company continued production of the Blackhawk planter and Ohio manure spreader.
Since restoration six or seven years ago, the Ohio Cultivator hay press is used only at our show at Wapakoneta. It has performed reliably and is a very good crowd pleaser. It will be demonstrated at the Buckeye Farm Antiques show in May. A new addition for the 2011 show: a Montgomery Ward wagon. FC
For more information: Leroy Peters, (419) 678-2590; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ron Fischer, (419) 738-6306; e-mail: email@example.com.
Buckeye Farm Antiques show, May 27-29, Wapakoneta, Ohio, Auglaize County Fairgrounds, second exit west of I-75 on U.S. Hwy. 33. For more information, contact Ed Poeppleman, P.O. Box 104, Wapakoneta, OH 45895; (419) 657-6726.
For the history of the Ohio Cultivator Co., read Sam Moore’s column, “Let’s Talk Rusty Iron,” Farm Collector, April 2004.