The Wetmore Tractor

Iowa inventor's prize found and restored

| October 2009

Old iron has long been a passion for Wayne and Roxie Ebright, Worthing, S.D.

So it’s no wonder the rusting, scattered parts of an old tractor abandoned in a friend’s shelterbelt caught Wayne’s eye. When he inquired about the possibility of buying the remains, Wayne got the green light.

“He knew I’d try to restore the tractor and not just leave it lay,” says Wayne. “But neither of us knew it would take me 16 years to find all the pieces and actually rebuild it.”

Wayne’s friend had rescued the tractor parts from an iron buyer a few years earlier at an auction. From the tractor’s markings, the two men knew it was a Wetmore. Beyond that, they had no idea where it was manufactured or where to find parts to restore it. “I thought I could advertise for parts,” Wayne recalls. “But I kept coming up empty. No one knew anything about a Wetmore.”

Wayne and Roxie began searching newspaper archives at the Sioux City, Iowa, library. The time-intensive process paid off when they found Wetmore advertisements that included photos of the tractor. “It took hours to look through records for information about Mr. Wetmore and the tractors,” Roxie says. “We thought it might help us locate another tractor or at least give us ideas about finding parts.”

Next, the couple placed an ad in the Sioux City newspaper. That got the attention of local historian John Roost, who told the Ebrights he might know the location of some Wetmore tractor parts. Unfortunately, Roost passed away before the Ebrights could visit the supposed owner of the Wetmore parts.

“We knew they lived around McCook Lake, [S.D.],” Wayne says. “We just weren’t certain of their name or if they were really interested in selling the parts.” Happily, the parts owner tracked down the Ebrights and a meeting was arranged.

“When we went to see what they had, we immediately recognized the Wetmore wheel spokes,” Wayne says. “They’re so unique we knew the other parts were genuine. The parts were actually property of a family enterprise, so acquiring them was not an easy accomplishment.”