Farm Collector

The RIES’S of Murray, Iowa

306 W. Anthony, Corydon, Iowa 50060.

Sometime in the later 50’s I was out on a farm buying
various old items. This farmer was retiring and was cleaning up the
place for a tenant who was soon moving onto the farm. During our
rummaging we came across a set of top bows for a Model T Ford
touring car. This man said he hated to throw them in a ditch, as
somewhere there was probably someone who could use them. I told him
I didn’t have any use for them but rather than see them go to
the ditch I would give a dollar for them, so I became the owner of
a set of Model T top bows.

Not long after this, George Mills wrote an article about the
town of Murray for the Des Moines Register. In this article he
mentioned a character by the name of Leland Ries, who collected all
kinds of antiques. He and his brother, Wilbur, also made model
steam engines and that Leland was restoring a Model T Ford touring
car and if any of the readers had a top for a Ford T to contact
Leland. I wrote Leland a card and told him I had a set of bows. I
gave a dollar for them and I would take a dollar for them.

A few weeks later two strangers came to my place but not
strangers for long. I had now met Leland and Wilbur Ries. Leland
bought the bows. I didn’t make a profit but sure got a lot of

As time went on, I met Leland’s wife, Maxine, and their two
sons, Dick who lives now in Des Moines, Ia., and Larry, who was
killed in a car accident December 13, 1972.

Over all these years we have had a good time swapping antiques
and swapping yarns. It was Leland who in 1964 twisted my arm to
subscribe to Iron-Men Album. Several times I have visited in Leland
and Wilbur’s homes in Murray. Leland’s wife, Maxine, has
their home decorated entirely with antiques. The only time you see
anything modern in the kitchen is when she is cooking and I think
the only modern items in the living room are a sofa, chair and TV
set. She has restored all the furniture. The spinning wheel in the
living room for years had had a box nailed on it and set on a porch
as a planter by a previous owner and today it looks like new.
I’m not going to make an attempt at saying how many hanging
lamps she has, we will just say many.

The Ries’ are well known at all steam shows, etc., in Iowa
and some in Missouri. They have attended the Mount Pleasant, Ia.
show since 1953. Leland operated Everett Ramey’s 50 HP Case
steam for a number years.

Wilbur is usually found down in ‘gasoline alley’ at this
show, showing off that Flour City gas engine of his. However, at
parade time you are liable to see him steering some engine in the

Leland said when he was a young boy he got a job hauling water
for a steam threshing outfit and when he wasn’t hauling water
he was tending the engine so he learned the ropes of keeping a
steam engine going in early life.

Leland now has two dozen toy steam engines of the Weeden Alcohol
burning type. Also owns around 35 gas engines. He said when he was
a small boy he always wanted a toy steam engine but didn’t get
his first one until he was a grandfather. One of the gas engines he
owns that makes my pulse beat faster is a little air-cooled double
flywheel Ideal that was originally on a lawn mower. He also has an
Associated Air-cooled engine I’d like to own too.

The Ries’ have a number of items of family interest. Over at
Wilburs I saw an Associated gas engine that their father bought new
in 1921, also a feed grinder that was used with it. I also saw an
unusual over from Germany. They have a number of family heirlooms
such as clocks, etc. It was flatiron that was brought. At Wilburs I
also saw a novelty made by their grandfather. It is a small
McCormick Deering tractor inside of a clear one gallon glass jug,
just like you see ships inside a bottle. Their grandfather made
this for an implement dealer in Murray they thought around

One of the interesting items they have made and exhibited around
the country is a miniature steam powered merry-go-round. This is
powered by a live steam miniature merry-go-around engine and while
this is running, merry-go-round music is played by a tape

They have also put together a big steam powered road engine that
they drive in parades at a lot of towns near Murray. Wilbur took a
3 HP Fairbanks Morse gas engine and some wheels, etc. and when he
was done came up with a small tractor that resembles the old Rumley
Oilpull. The exhaust goes through the stack and darned if it
doesn’t sound like an Oilpull.

Leland finally got the Model T Ford assembled, but got so
crowded for room he sold it. Wilbur, about the same time started
with the engine chassis of a 490 Chevrolet. During the years he has
found tires, fenders, etc. until today he has a nice looking hack
wagon. Last year he even found a windshield for it at a swap meet.
Leland has owned at times nearly 200 clocks. At the present time,
he says he has somewhere between 100 and 200. Many of these he has
in a building just for clocks. I have always had the urge to sneak
in and wind them all at the same time and then see if the building
could take all that vibration, but this will never happen as Leland
has it well locked and besides who wants to get shot with an
antique gun.

This family has many items I would sure like to own. One,
especially, is their collection of old catalogs, old auto
magazines, Implement News, etc. They have stacks of this stuff,
plus watch fobs, political buttons, you name it, they’ve got
some of it.

I would like to have written more details on some of the items
they own but this would take pages to do.

Down here in Lapland we can’t afford that much paper. I have
made a lot of poor deals in my life and a few good ones. The day I
gave a dollar for those Model T top bows was one of the good

Pictured is a 20-30 Oil Pull 1927, ready to be unloaded at Ruffs
Pioneer Museum, Edgeley, North Dakota. This is one of the 28th Gas
Tractors, and five that are on loan to the museum.

Slim and Bruce Leach threshing rye at the Bensen, Illinois
Centennial July 7, 1973 with an old 20-40 Oil Pull. It had spent 50
years of its life there sat for the last 25 bought in 1971 by Leach
Bros, of Pontiac. It took over six months to restore it. We are
very proud of this old tractor. As boys, we grew up with one like

  • Published on Sep 1, 1974
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