Reeves Company Steam Plow and Steam Traction Engine Come to the Midwest

The history and restoration of Reeves Company equipment

| May/June 2002

  • Vaclav Vacik taveled by train from Nebraska to Chicago in 1909 to purchase the Reeves 32 HP steam traction engine
    Vaclav Vacik taveled by train from Nebraska to Chicago in 1909 to purchase the Reeves 32 HP steam traction engine and the 12-bottom Reeves steam life plow.
  • Don Lafler and the 1909 Reeves plow
    Don Lafler and the 1909 Reeves plow, serial number 328. The plow was operable when retired in 1918.
  • Original postcard of Reeves 12-bottom plowing outfit
    Original postcard of Reeves 12-bottom plowing outfit, western Nebraska. Could this possibly be the Vacik and Soral plowing outfit?
  • Don and Lorraine Lafler at the plow site
    Don and Lorraine Lafler at the plow site, June 21, 2000.
  • Don Lafler (right) hoists the front section of the Reeves plow onto the trailer while Fred Nolan (left) assists with the loading
    Don Lafler (right) hoists the front section of the Reeves plow onto the trailer while Fred Nolan (left) assists with the loading.
  • John Soral went into partnership with Vacik shortley after the equipment's arrival
    John Soral, a Czech immigrant who had come to the U.S. in 1892, went into partnership with Vacik shortley after the equipment's arrival.
  • A souvenir postcard from the 1908 Nebraska State Fair showing the Reeves steam lift plow in the field
    A souvenir postcard from the 1908 Nebraska State Fair showing the Reeves steam lift plow in the field. The card is marked "No State Fair Stunt" at the bottom. Could this exhibition have prompted Vaclav Vacik to purchase his Reeves plowing outfit? 

  • Vaclav Vacik taveled by train from Nebraska to Chicago in 1909 to purchase the Reeves 32 HP steam traction engine
  • Don Lafler and the 1909 Reeves plow
  • Original postcard of Reeves 12-bottom plowing outfit
  • Don and Lorraine Lafler at the plow site
  • Don Lafler (right) hoists the front section of the Reeves plow onto the trailer while Fred Nolan (left) assists with the loading
  • John Soral went into partnership with Vacik shortley after the equipment's arrival
  • A souvenir postcard from the 1908 Nebraska State Fair showing the Reeves steam lift plow in the field

Vaclav Vacik, a farmer from the area of Sunol, Neb., traveled by train to Chicago in 1909 to purchase a Reeves Company 32 HP steam traction engine and a 12-bottom Reeves Company steam plow. After the purchase of the steam traction engine and steam plow in Chicago, Vacik waited until the dealership could load the machinery and returned on the same train to the railroad siding at Sunol, Neb., where it was unloaded.

Shortly after the steam traction engine and steam plow arrived in Sunol, another local farmer went into partnership with Vacik. That man was John Soral, a Czech immigrant who had come to the U.S. in 1892, settling in the Czech settlement of Lodge Pole, just south of Sunol. His first house was built of sod; later, limestone was added. Local ads were immediately placed in The Lodge Pole Express newspaper, Lodge Pole, Neb.

By the turn of the 20th century, many attempts had been made to design and produce a plow that would turn the soil in a clean manner with the least usage of horsepower. Up to this point in time the subject of plowing was a common topic, often discussed by farmers and investors alike. The issue of plowing was so ingrained in the American dialogue that President Lincoln, while grappling with the formation of the Gettysburg Address and concerned he would fail in his message, is said to have remarked to an aide, "That speech won't scour," an expression referring to a plow whose blade will not come clean and do its job.

President Lincoln was also one of the first Americans to recognize the potential of steam leaving the rails and progressing to the realities of future farming opportunities. As America entered the 20th century, large farming operations were becoming more and more prevalent and the rush by manufacturers to design and manufacture larger plowing outfits was in full swing. The design of a more reliable plow that would penetrate the hardpan soil and remain uniform in the rolling terrain of some locales became an immediate challenge for the designers of the manufacturing firms. Farmers with foresight and a willingness to take the financial plunge began purchasing large steam plows for not only the tilling of their own land, but also land of others on a custom basis.



Western Nebraska was no exception. On Feb. 13, 1909: "V. Vacik has bought an up-to-date steam-plowing outfit and is prepared to accept contracts for work in that line. Those who want breaking done with moldboard plows instead of disks should see him about it."

Vaclav Vacik , traveled by train from Nebraska to Chicago in 1909 to purchase the Reeves 32 HP steam traction engine and the 12-bottom Reeves steam lift plow.