When rural Illinois farmer Vern Baggett bought a Gundlach grain drill in the early 1940s, it was near the end of the line for horse-drawn farm equipment.
Perhaps sensing the passing of an era, when Vern retired the Gundlach in the 1950s, he treated it with unusual care, hanging it by its wheels from a machine shed’s rafters.
Last summer, Vern’s son, Norm, took the drill down. “I just knew something was going to give way and the drill would be laying on the floor in a pile of junk,” he says.
The piece was manufactured by P.M. Gundlach & Sons, Belleville, Ill. Gundlach was an old hand with grain drills, having produced them since the 1890s. Gundlach drills were used to drill wheat, oats, barley, soybeans and grass. The piece contains an acre measure and seed metering mechanism. When Vern bought the drill, soybeans were just starting to come on strong in U.S. agriculture. “Up until they started making plastic out of soybeans, we only grew a few for cow feed,” Norm says.
Like other implements of the time, the Gundlach straddled two eras. The drill never had a seat on it, so Vern walked behind it. “He could have ridden on the grain box,” Norm explains, “but he said that put extra weight on the horse’s neck.” In later years Vern cut out the tongue and used a tractor to pull the drill, a less-than-ideal solution. “To turn around at the end of the field, he had to get off the tractor and raise the shoes out of the ground,” Norm recalls.
Vern modified the piece by adding a 2-by-4 with a clevis on the back side under the grain box, allowing him to pull a wagon loaded with seed when he went to the field. Complete directions for assembly and use of the drill were stapled inside the grain box lid and remain in excellent condition. Branches of the Gundlach family remain in business today, operating varied manufacturing concerns. FC