O Pioneers!


| October 2001



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The cab of this Pioneer 30-60 was glassed in

Did someone try to snuff out the memories of the Pioneer tractors? If so, why? What other explanation can there be for the lack of public acknowledgement of the Pioneer Tractor Manufacturing Co. of Winona, Minn.?

In its heyday, about 1917, Pioneer Tractor operated in buildings that totaled several hundred thousand square feet in size, employed a work force of more than 500 people, manufactured tractors bigger than elephants, made what was considered the best tractor of its time and sold tractors all over the world.

Yet the company did not garner a single mention in a 100-year history of Winona, where it thrived for 17 years, or in any other of the numerous area county and city histories of the time.

Originally incorporated in 1909 in Minneapolis, Pioneer Tractor moved in 1910 to Winona, where it was breathlessly touted in the local newspaper, as was the custom of the times. 'GAS TRACTION ENGINES' screamed the headline in the Winona Daily Republican-Herald of Saturday, Feb. 19, 1910; the story read in part, 'The Republican-Herald is able to announce today the securing of a big, new manufacturing industry for Winona.'

On March 4, 1910, the Republican-Herald reported, 'What promises to be one of the most important manufacturing plants located here in a long time, with great possibilities for growth, is the establishment of the business of the Pioneer Tractor Manufacturing Co....'

The company's founder was lumber baron CM. Youmans, but the public focus was on the general manager and vice president H.M. Wheelock, reported by the newspaper to be 'a mechanical genius,' and a member of 'one of the first families in South Dakota.'