Preserving the Walking Plow

Slater, Mo., collector’s antique farm equipment collection includes walking plows and sulky plows of all kinds


| October 2011



Harold Eddy displays his 1860s-era Gilpin (named for inventor Gilpin Moore) sulky plow. The sulky plow – a wheeled plow with one moldboard – gained market success in the 1870s.

Harold Eddy displays his 1860s-era Gilpin (named for inventor Gilpin Moore) sulky plow. The sulky plow – a wheeled plow with one moldboard – gained market success in the 1870s.

It’s not uncommon to find one or two old walking plows in collections of antique farm equipment. But for Harold Eddy, vintage walking plows are the centerpiece of a collection that also includes antique wire fence and broom-making equipment, as well as vintage haying and corn harvesting machinery.  

Over the last half-century, this retired farmer and real estate appraiser from Slater, Mo., has acquired nearly 125 different models of oxen- and horse-drawn walking plows, sulky plows, cultivator plows and lister plows. His collection includes early wooden moldboard plows, hillside plows, root cutters, a bluegrass plow, an ice plow and an early steel ditch puller. He has several sulky plows, including a two-way sulky, a one-handle plow, single- and double-wing shovel plows, sod plows and potato digger plows. He has plows made by Grand Detour, Chattanooga, Wiard, John Deere, Oliver, Avery, Eddy, Wood, Baker, Case and Eli, as well as unpatented plows forged by local blacksmiths. The collection also includes a large assortment of left-handed plows.

Harold, who displays many of his plows in the Mid-Missouri Antique Power Assn.’s permanent exhibit at the Saline County, Mo., fairgrounds in Marshall, Mo., says he acquired most of his plows at swap meets and auctions, sometimes from individual collectors. But at least one treasured plow was found buried in a Missouri field.

“Probably the first real good ‘keeper’ plow I found was when I was cleaning up an old place,” he explains. “I was chisel-plowing a field when I crossed an old ditch, and I jerked that plow out of the ground. The standard had been broken off and all that was left was the moldboard and the share, but I decided to save it. It sat beside my shop door for years, until one day I noticed some writing on it that identified it as a (Jethro) Wood patent plow. That’s when I rebuilt it, made wooden handles for it and added it to my collection.”

Wooden moldboards

Harold acquired the oldest plow in his collection – a Carey wooden moldboard plow – from a Missouri collector. The plow features a flat wooden moldboard; its share and landside were crafted from a single piece of wrought iron. Carey plows were considered light and easier to handle. Origin of the Carey name is unknown; Harold believes the piece to have been made by a blacksmith in the late 1700s. He’s equally proud of his Dutch Colony wooden moldboard plow with a cast iron share that was brought to Missouri from North Carolina.

“In 1816, a fellow by the name of David Peeler and his wife came to Missouri from North Carolina in a covered wagon,” Harold says. “They claimed a place by a little old stream in Howard County and built a water mill to mill grain. The first year they lived in the wagon and then in the mill until they were able to build themselves a log cabin. Many years later, the fellow who bought the place from them found the plow stored in the loft of the cabin. When I learned about it, I tried to buy it, but it wasn’t until the fellow was about 94 years old that he decided to sell it to me. So I’m only the third owner of the plow.”

Vincent von Frese
4/29/2012 4:24:56 PM

I was visiting the late action star Steve McQueen's boyhood home yesterday in Slater, Missouri and got a special private tour of the current owner Harold Eddy who was Steve McQueens schoolmate and lived a few hundred yards away from the Clyde Thompson farm he now owns and where Steve lived before he left to become the number one action movie star in the world. Harold is a sort of farm plow guru and craftsman of antique farm implement technology. In a loft in one of Harold's collection sheds hangs an old window which had been removed from Steve McQueen's upstair's bedroom and now hangs above hundreds of rare and classic farms tools, original plows, fence and cultivating machines sitting around like ghosts from the past. You can almost see the spirits using these super practical devices being operated by hand and body behind oxen, mules and horses. Harold showed me a huge sledge hammer that only Paul Bunyan could have handled it seemed. I hope that all these pieces of early farm equipment will someday find a home in a great farm museum where historians and the public can both come together to understand the history of agriculture. Vincent von Frese