Farm Collector

Passion Drives Ohio Cultivator Collection

Bill Duncan might have
become a Cockshutt collector — but collections don’t always proceed in a
logical fashion. For Bill, who lives in Zanesville,
Ohio, early experience with
Cockshutt tractors served as a springboard into a fascination with the Ohio
Cultivator line.

“My dad, Kenneth, worked at
the Muskingum County Farm Bureau parts department when they sold and serviced
CO-OP tractors,” he explains. “The CO-OP tractor was built by Cockshutt Farm
Equipment Co., Brantford, Ontario, Canada.”
After Kenneth started using Cockshutt tractors on the farm, Bill got interested
in a Cockshutt subsidiary, Ohio Cultivator Co., which sold the Black Hawk
planter and other Black Hawk products.

Farmer at heart

Although Bill worked in town
for 36 years, he is a farmer at heart. “Farming is really what I like best,” he
admits. “It started with Dad working for Farm Bureau when they were selling
tractors. He also farmed about 100 acres and raised registered Angus cattle. My
first toys were tractors Dad picked up from the local tractor dealer. I still
have that original 1952 CO-OP Model E3 replica.”

Although Bill drove his
first tractor (a Ford Ferguson) at age 5 or 6, his first real working
experience on the tractor came later. “I remember Dad sending me out to the
field on the tractor the first time,” he says. “I drove our CO-OP Model E2
tractor to cultivate corn. When the corn was really small, those were long,
tiresome days sitting on the tractor, watching the corn pass below your seat
through the cultivator.” As a teenager, he was an active member of Future
Farmers of America. “I’ve always been connected to farming in some way,” he says,
“and I love every bit of it.”

In addition to collecting
Ohio Cultivator equipment, Bill also gathers up farm equipment signs, wrenches,
cast iron seats, toolboxes, lamps, clocks, antique tractors and farm toy
tractors. In 2009, he exhibited a winning 1:16 scale diorama at the National
Farm Toy Show, Dyersville, Iowa.

Looking for the full Ohio
Cultivator line

Ohio Cultivator Co.
manufactured an extensive line of farm, lawn and garden equipment. Bill is
quick to admit that he does not own everything made by the company, but his
collection is extensive. “I’m working on getting as many pieces as I can,” he
says. “I get a lot of enjoyment tracking them down.” Sometimes he doesn’t even have
to track them down. “Dealers of old equipment know I like Ohio Cultivator
things,” he says, “so they call to tell me when they have something special.”

Bill’s collection includes
several rare pieces in very good condition, including a 1935 horse-drawn manure
spreader. “The spreader is fully operational,” he says. “If you read through
Ohio Cultivator literature, you’ll find the company’s claim of standing behind
all their products, except their manure spreader. I’ll stand behind this one
because it doesn’t get used.”

His 1-row, horse-drawn Black
Hawk planter dating to the 1930s is another unique piece. “This gem was bought
in parts but had never been used,” he says. The planter was designed for corn
and cottonseed; it also has a fertilizer canister right behind the grain
cylinder. Another nice piece is his pulverizer (or cultipacker). “It gets
special care because it’s in excellent condition,” he says. The pulverizer
sports Ohio Cultivator’s well-known moniker “Famous Ohio” — a name adopted when
a competitor began producing equipment under the same model name as that
produced by Ohio Cultivator.

Bill’s collection also
includes Ohio Cultivator lawn and garden tools. “The company made a lot of yard
and garden equipment,” he says. “Among my favorites is the convertible (or
reversible) hand-held garden tiller. When used one way, it’s a 3-shovel cultivator.
Roll the handles over and you have a single small plow-shovel.”

He even has several pieces
of horse-drawn garden equipment, including a cultivator and a beet lifter, both
in original condition. A horse-drawn ground-driven mower has a 5-foot sickle
bar. “I keep the mower in working condition,” Bill says. “It comes in handy to
make hay for our beef cattle.” 

Growth through acquisition

The history of the Ohio
Cultivator Co. spans nearly eight decades. In 1878, Harlow Case Stahl began
making riding cultivators in Fremont,
Ohio, initially operating as
Fremont Agriculture and Cultivator Works. In 1885, Stahl relocated the company
to Bellevue, Ohio, where it prospered and grew into a
major manufacturing firm. In 1890, the company was renamed Ohio Cultivator Co.
The Dayton Farm Implement Co. was acquired by Ohio Cultivator in 1896. Three
years later, Stahl purchased the ailing Bellevue Plow Co.; in 1900, Ohio Hay
Press Co. was added to the line. 

Giving the company a
significant boost, Ohio Cultivator’s most important acquisition may have come
in 1905, when it bought Bissell Plow Co., South
Bend, Ind., gaining
the company’s machinery, equipment and patents. Another major addition to the
Famous Ohio line was the purchase of D.M. Sechler Implement & Carriage Co.,
Moline, Ill.,
in 1923. Sechler manufactured the Black Hawk planters used for corn, beans,
cotton, beets and peanuts, as well as drills for small grain. Between 1923 and
1927, Ohio Cultivator took on Non-Pariel Mfg. Co., originally located in Pennsylvania. That
firm’s principle line was lime and fertilizer spreaders. Angell Plow Co.,
Plains, Kan.,
came into the fold at about the same time.

Double-disc drills and hay
harvesting equipment were added to Ohio Cultivator’s line through procurement
of Thomas Mfg. Co., Springfield,
Ohio. Their products also
included double-speed mowers, tractor and highway mowers, loaders, rakes and

Tireless promoter

A savvy and aggressive
marketer, Stahl often accompanied trainloads of his equipment en route to
customers in the Midwest and southwest,
promoting his equipment at stops along the way. Festooned with banners and
flags, the special trains were an enormous spectacle that guaranteed big crowds
at every stop.

The Great Depression created
formidable challenges, but Ohio Cultivator held on. In 1943, under new
management, the company was sold to a cooperative and the line’s name was
changed to National Farm Machinery Cooperative (NFMC). Working with three
plants (including the Bellevue operation), the
cooperative had 1 million members scattered across the U.S. Several
Farm Bureau cooperatives, including those from Ohio,
Michigan and Indiana, had a working arrangement with
Cockshutt Farm Equipment Co. of Canada. These co-ops marketed tractors and
equipment manufactured by Cockshutt.

In 1952, as the cooperative
encountered financial troubles, Cockshutt acquired NFMC’s plants. By 1955, the Bellevue plant had been
shuttered. It resumed operations for a brief time but eventually closed for
good in 1957.

Ohio Cultivator Co. left an
indelible impression on American agriculture through its progressive
engineering and marketing. The company’s quality equipment served farmers well.

A hobby for a family

Bill is enthusiastic about
his extensive hobby. “I am very fortunate to have so many people who have
helped me along the way,” he says. “My late wife, Jean, supported and
encouraged me in so many ways. She even won a 1956 Cockshutt Model 20 in a
raffle. As you can imagine, that old tractor is a real favorite.” Bill’s son,
Al, is also involved in his dad’s hobby, lending a hand with repair and
maintenance work.

“With all my hobby
interests, I have met more nice people than I can count,” Bill says, “and many
have become great friends. I can’t say enough about the enjoyment I get from
collecting.” FC

For more about the The Ohio Cultivator Co. read Legacy of Ohio Cultivator Co.

For more information on Bill’s impressive collection:
Bill Duncan, (740) 819-7883 after 8 p.m. EST.           

Source: Stories of Old Bellevue: The Ohio
Cultivator Story, Bill Oddo, Bellevue, Ohio.

Fred Hendricks owns
SunShower Acres, Ltd., Bucyrus, Ohio, a dairy cattle consulting business. He is
an avid farm toy collector and freelance writer. Email him at:

  • Published on Feb 8, 2013
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