The John Deere Corn Binder, a new and improved model with power carrier and quick-turn tongue truck, maybe 1920s era.
The John Deere Corn Binder, a new and improved model with power carrier and quick-turn tongue truck, maybe 1920s era.

A drive around the countryside these days shows evidence that farmers are about finished harvesting their corn crops. In the historical society files we find evidence of how that harvesting has changed over the years.

In the accompanying photo, one sees the highly praised John Deere Corn Binder with Power Carrier, a wonder in its time. In another photo in the brochure at hand, it is drawn by a team of three horses. "Built to the standard of quality that has characterized John Deere implements for more than 80 years, it is exceedingly easy to operate." The company claimed its adjustments allowed it to quickly adapt to all field conditions, and the design, material and workmanship promised continuous good work over a term of years.

The binder boasted a quick-turn tongue truck, valuable because it added to the thoroughness of the binder work, and all neck weight was eliminated. The truck wheel turned faster than the pole, making it easier for the horses. The truck made it possible to accurately set the gatherers close to the ground, a decided advantage in lodged corn. The steel stub tongue was rigidly tied together with steel braces and the evener, built of steel, would not decay, warp or wear out. What a gem! I can remember helping Dad stack the bound corn in shocks, and even playing hide and seek inside the corn shocks on our little 40-acre farm.

In the Spring Valley history, "Tales of Our Town," historian Sharon Jahn wrote an impressive story of the tremendous changes in agriculture as the new century arrived in 1900. Farmers who had been producing crops and livestock for their families and for local consumption were now able to sell to a wider market via the railroads. Local businesses that depended on the farmer included the grain elevators, livestock buyers and shippers, poultry and egg houses, the creamery, meat markets, harness and blacksmith shops, hardware merchants and the implement dealers, to name at least a few.

The history points to many businesses that not only dealt in hardware but also farm implements. Names of early dealers included T.M. Chapman, T.J. Thayer, S.C. Lobdill, Sheldon & Hande, Fred Klingerman, and Carl and Harold Biel. Later it was Hatley Motors, Elmer Byers, Lucius Tart, Lawrence Feldt, Carl Peterson, Alder Sande, and Harold Marzolf.

In the livestock business in the first half of the century, Wm. Hughes was a prominent buyer and shipper, but he also operated a slaughterhouse and meat market. J.B. Sample bought and sold cattle and hogs, and it was reported that as many as 5 to 25 carloads of livestock were shipped out weekly, some to Hormel in Austin.

Jack Nicholson built the sales pavilion on Valley Avenue in 1939, "one of the most modern in the Midwest," with seating for 350 prospective buyers, and reported sales of $190,000 in 1941, with as many as six employees on sales days. The business was later operated by Lawrence Kraft and William Travis, then Dick Schwade.

Eggs and chickens? See E.B. Davis on Church Street, plus Collins Produce from 1922 to the 1960s. Henry Olson's chick hatchery was awesome - in the 1940s he had "the latest model mammoth incubator" with a capacity of 260,000 eggs, furnishing chicks to countless area farmers. Along our two railroads, farmers could store and sell their crops - there were five along the Milwaukee Road on Market Street - including W.W. Cargill, J.M. Sample, and Henry Stephenson. Ernest Striby had a small feed mill on Park Street in the original light plant building; Art Kummer on Vine Avenue, which was later sold to Rendahl and Highum.

Can you count the number of businesses that are still in operation these many years later? I can count at least a couple of them, how about you? If you don't have a copy of "Tales of Our Town," it is a fascinating read - 150 years of Spring Valley history plus 100 pictures - that would make a splendid gift to family and friends who have a "history" in Spring Valley. It's available at the museum gift shop on West Courtland on weekends; come for a guided tour before they close for the season.