Century-old Hayrack gets New Lease on Life

Painstaking restoration preserves important part of American ranching tradition.

The finished hayrack is a fine legacy for the family ranch.

Hayracks were an essential part of farming and ranching operations until combines replaced threshing machines and hay was switched to bales. The tall ladder-like ends and low sides are designed for ease of loading by hand and large volume capacity. A hayrack saw nearly constant duty.

In mid-summer, it was used to transport hay from field to barn. By later summer, it carried grain bundles from field to thresher. Throughout the winter. it carried hay from storage to winter pasture to feed cattle.

The original wheels are constructed with offset heavy spokes and are capable of a high load capacity.

The Marsden hayrack was likely built in the early 20th century and was used in various forms until the mid-60’s. It wasn’t glamorous, so few pictures exist. One from 1953 shows it in the farm yard; it still had its original wood wheels and running gear. By the 1990’s, little remained. I got the front axle, hounds, sand beam, tongue and one wheel to my shop. Fortunately, I was also able to get all four sets of skeins and boxings for the wheels.

James Marsden and his daughter Mildred homesteaded the Marsden Ranch location. James’s son, Gordon Marsden, bought out his father and sister and was on the ranch until 1973. His son, Robert Marsden, operated the ranch from 1948 until 1978. James Marsden probably brought the hayrack from his farm in Mitchell, South Dakota, to the new farm near Wall, South Dakota, in about 1910.


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