| September/October 1979

  • Avery undermounted engine

  • Elmo J. Mahoney
    Elmo J. Mahoney is shown atop an Avery undermounted steam traction engine near his home in Dorrance, Kansas.

  • Avery undermounted engine
  • Elmo J. Mahoney

Hutchinson, Kansas 67501

All the old threshermen and enginemen as well as others interested in old farm machinery and the ways of life and things of the early days, have lost a friend. ELMO J. MAHONEY, 70, Dorrance, Kansas, died February 7, 1979 of an apparent heart attack while driving his car. Friends saw his car lodge in a snow bank. They rushed to his aid and gave expert cardiopulmonary resuscitation. It was too late. Born October 29, 1908 at Dorrance, Kansas, he was a lifelong resident of the area. He married the former Regina Schwartz in September 1932. She survives him. Other survivors are a son, Garry, of Wichita, Kansas, two daughters, Mrs. Linda Vopart of Topeka, Kansas and Mrs. Janet Hopkins of Junction City, Kansas.

It's hard to know where to start when writing about a man like Elmo. He spent all his life as a farmer. His father was a farmer and a pioneer in big-rig custom threshing in the part of Kansas where wheat fields were big, yields were big and men were big. Elmo just had to be big in every way and everything he did. It was a way of life. Big farmer, big politician, big promoter of good things, big Irishman and big talker.

Elmo was born into a large Western Kansas family. His father, Tom, and Uncle Ed were early day big steam outfit custom thresher-men. They used Avery machinery and, of course, the largest they could buy. Elmo's father and brother ordered two Avery undermounted steam traction engines from the original blueprint built at the time. Ordering two big engines, while you might say they were still on the drawing board, was a distinction that occurred to both the Avery Company of Peoria, Illinois and the Mahoney clan.

The Mahoney ranch was one of the two Avery testing and proving grounds, both of which were located in Kansas. One testing and proving ground location was at Averyville, Kansas (later the Kirborn Ranch near Sterling, Kansas), and the other on the Mahoney farms in the Bunker Hill and Dorrance, Kansas area. The Mahoneys invented the famous Mahoney low-down feeder used on the Yellow Fellow separators in later years. They also helped with the early changes and improvements on the under mounted traction engines. They were field consultants for the famous and much sought after Avery 40-80 Avery gas-kerosene tractor. Later in their operations they plowed and threshed with the 40-80 Avery tractors. There is still one in the family.

A great deal of space would be needed to tell about the things Elmo did in his span of three score and ten years. The things following would be only a partial list. Agricultural Leader: President of Russell County Farm Bureau; served on government sponsored agricultural programs both at state and national levels; was a trouble-shooter and a much called on speaker for farm problems and legislation. Farmer: His basic occupation; he raised certified varities of wheat; was the Kansas Wheat King of the state in 1938. Businessman: owner and manufacturer of the Toss-Back device and the automatic relief basketball goal. Inventor: the long-life sickle drive used on 18-22 foot harvester combine headers; and the above mentioned famous basketball and baseball toss-back device. Public Service: Consultant in the United States Department of Agriculture during the Kennedy Administration; Kansas state grain inspector. Political: Kansas Legislature House of Representatives; candidate for the United States Congress from his district. Community Leader: Mayor of Dorrance, Kansas; member of Lions Club; President of the Lake Wilson Development Association; member of the local school board for years. Public Speaker: for Farm Bureau and on call for various governmental farm programs; to promote and discuss various local community drives, issues and organizations. Organizer: the first curator and manager for the National Agricultural Hall of Fame at Bonner Springs, Kansas (located just west of Kansas City), organized and helped promote the first Wilson CJECH Festival and Threshing Bee in Wilson, Kansas. College: graduate of Kansas State University; a star basketball player; member of National Association of Basketball Coaches. Pilot: charter member of the Kansas Flying Farmers and held many offices in the organization; for many years piloted his own plane to Topeka for legislative sessions and business and farm affairs. Antique Buff: owned big Avery steam and gasoline threshing rigs; collector of Avery catalogs, literature, pictures and memorabilia; and what seemed like an unlimited source of information from experiences and memory. Radio & TV: on NBC Frank Blair's 'Today' program from the Kansas State Fair during the Kansas Centennial; anchored many farm programs on the Hutchinson, Salina and Russell, Kansas radio stations.


Farm Collector April 16Farm Collector is a monthly magazine focusing on antique tractors and all kinds of antique farm equipment. If it's old and from the farm, we're interested in it!

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