Back Home Again in Indiana


| March/April 1979



Princeton, Wisconsin 54968

Over the years we have traveled first from Michigan, then from Illinois, and now from Wisconsin to Indiana. Invariably, when we have crossed the state line into Indiana, my wife has sung 'Back Home Again in Indiana.'

Recently we returned to Indiana and once again she sang her song. But this time, besides visiting relatives, we stopped at a number of places where steam traction engines and grain separators had been manufactured. In each town I sought information from local libraries and museums, interviewed persons related to those who had established companies, talked with those who had owned and operated threshing equipment. Suffice it to say, it was great fun and quite informative.

Let me share with you some lore I was able to obtain concerning the Keck-Gonnerman Company of Mount Vernon, Indiana. This company was established in 1873 and was incorporated in 1901. It built such equipment as steam traction engines, separators, bean hullers, grain cleaners, corn shellers, saw mills, pumps and coal mining machinery. The Keck family now owns and operates the Keck Motor Company in Mount Vernon.

I found Mr. John Keck, the grandson of one of the founders of the company at his desk on a very busy Monday morning. In spite of the press of duty, he was most generous with his time. I wanted to find out from him, among other things, why Keck-Gonnerman continued its business longer than most companies and, contrary to the experience of many other such companies, never seemed to have had a major financial crisis. John suggested that the reason might be that 'the company was financially solvent because it was conservative.' John's copy of a 1910 catalog tends to bear this out. The following indicates, I believe, a no nonsense policy with regard to credit for items purchased:

'When engines and threshers are bought on time they are to be settled for by notes payable in one, two or three seasons, secured with a chattel mortgage on the machinery sold, and other property if necessary to justify accepting the sale. When parties placing orders for machinery are not freeholders, then we require in advance a cash payment sufficient to pay the freight charges that may accrue in shipping out machinery and returning same to the factory, in case the purchaser should refuse to carry out his part of the contract.'