Eyes glistened, smiles broadened, everybody was friends for two fun days admiring and visiting about Massy-Harris farm equipment.
It was a Saturday and Sunday gathering at Bub Robbin’s Appanoose Creek Farms north of Pomona in Franklin County.
About 100 pieces of Massey Harris machinery mostly tractors many which are owned by Robbins were on display.
While it might be called a neighbor get-together there were dozens of machinery enthusiasts from throughout the Midwest in attendance.
“Coronavirus canceled Ottawa’s Power Of The Past so area farmers decided to have their own show,” said Bob Eichenberger, Pomona.
Among neighbors and friends assisting coordination, Eichenberger said, “It was logical to have it at Bub’s Appanoose Creek Farms. He has a large Massy-Harris collection, a yard suitable for the show and was happy to host the activities.
“Preston Lutz, my cousin from Berryton, got most of Bub’s tractors running that hadn’t been started for a while,” Eichenberger credited.
The front two rows of Massey Harris tractors on display are owned by Robbins. Everyone is operable and was driven from the farm barns to the front yard.
Most still have original paint, nothing too waxed up and shiny, but they often are called to do farm work.
“I’m more of a collector than I am tractor restorer,” Robbins smiled. “I got hooked on collecting Masseys about 20 years ago and have picked up tractors all over the country.”
Exact count of Massey-Harris tractors owned by Robbins isn’t really known. “Somewhere between 50 and a hundred, I don’t know,” he admitted. “Many of them will run and most of the tractors could be put into operation with a little mechanical work.
“Then some are parts tractors. It’s hard to find components to fix a machine that’s more than 60-years-old,” Robbins added.
Importantly compared to many old equipment collectors, Robbins keeps majority of his machinery under cover. “Bub has tractors squeezed into the lean-tos outback hid so his wife won’t know he bought another one,” Eichenberger grinned.
One of the Massey enthusiasts traveling a distance was Jim Esbenshade and his wife Barbara of Colbert, Oklahoma. “All I have on display is a saw mill, and one of the original Ottawa Tractors built in Ottawa, Kansas. I leave it here most of the time,” Esbenshade said.
“Ottawa Manufacturing actually made lots of machinery: augers, hay and grain elevators, wagon and truck hoists, running gears,” Eichenberger noted. “I have a prototype three-point semi-mounted one-way plow that was never put into production out in my barn.”
The machinery show was a day of relaxation for most attending. “This is my vacation visiting friends and talking about the equipment,” Esbenshade admitted. “My fascination for Masseys started when I was nine-years-old on my family’s Pennsylvania farm.
“Dad had a 1941 Massey-Harris 81 tractor that began my lifelong passion for using and collecting Masseys,” Esbenshade, 73, said.
Masseys headed the farm machinery line when Esbenshade moved to Oklahoma. Diverse farm operations have included typical area grain crops plus peanuts, cotton, vegetables, a cow herd and silage operations.
Adapting sustainable farming practices, Esbenshade developed a patented method of converting used cooking greases into fertilizer and livestock feed ingredients.
Through it all, Esbenshade’s enthusiasm for Massey equipment never waned. He is continuing to develop Massey World, a museum on his farm honoring the manufacturer’s agricultural heritage.
“It contains my own personal 500-piece Massey collection and also donated items from around the world,” Esbenshade says. “There are thousands of Massey pieces from antique equipment and memorabilia to a huge collection of toys.”
Eichenberger only had a Massey tractor and combine on display but most of his family was in attendance. That included dad and mom, Carl and Donna, wife Berta, their children, Lurenda, Rachel, JC and Carlsie, plus brother Jim.
Our farm was established by my great grandparents in 1888, near Leoti,” Eichenberger said. “Farming in western Kansas before irrigation was a very hard life. So in 1904, they traded four quarter sections in Wichita County for 200 acres in Franklin County, where it continues today.
“In the tire business, my brother Jim doesn’t farm but he does live on the original home place,” Eichenberger said.
Massey enthusiasts took a break from machinery inspection for a country dinner while planning the afternoon tractor parade. Muddy conditions altered the route, but drivers and riders were all smiles viewing crops on the Appanoose Creek area tour.
Seemingly appropriate steak was the supper menu arranged by Kevin Nelson, Big Iron district manager. Massy conversation continued into the night before another day of examining and discussing the equipment on display.
In 1891, the Massey Manufacturing Company merged with A. Harris, Son and Company to form Massey-Harris Limited. It became the largest agricultural equipment maker in the British Empire making threshing machines and reapers, as well as safety bicycles.
In 1910, Massey-Harris acquired the Johnston Harvester Company of Batavia, New York, making it one of Canada’s first multinational firms.
The company’s early tractor models included 20, 25, and 35-horsepower lines. Grain harvesting was revolutionized by Massey engineers in 1938, with the world’s first self-propelled combine.
Massey Ferguson Limited was established in 1953 through the merger of Massey-Harris and the Ferguson Company. It was based in Canada until 1988, when headquarters were transferred to Buffalo, New York, in 1997.
AGCO, owner of competitor Allis-Chalmers, bought the company and several additional major lines including Hesston Corporation. Massey Ferguson is one of several brands produced by AGCO, and it remains a major seller around the world.
Massey collectors readily rattle off models and years and technical machinery terminology lay visitors have no inkling what’s being said.
“For anyone having an attraction for anything with the Massey name, the latest farm display was the place to be. Bub Robbins and everybody who attended are looking forward to the next Massey-Harris display,” Eichenberger assured.