The Hostetler Auto Museum added a new vehicle to its collection this weekend, as it accepted a donation of a 1940 Farmall “B” tractor. The tractor is now part of the museum’s collection of antique automobiles and other historical artifacts.
The tractor was donated by the Strayer Family, and was originally purchased in 1940 by LaGrange County farmer Clarence Strayer. The tractor cost $300 and a “team of horses.” The museum noted that “trade-ins are nothing new to tractor purchasing.” The tractor was purchased from Sam Norris, who owned the International franchise in LaGrange that bears the family name to this day.
The Farmall tractor was put to work on the Strayer farm pulling a 16-inch, single-bottom plow. The “B” would then pull the corn planter or “drill.” The tractor was also used a few years later to grind feed with a hammer mill, ran off a pulley that was located just below the seat.
Larry Strayer, one of Clarence’s sons, added that the tractor was used considerably for all sorts of tasks, from going after cows to pulling hay wagons and cultivating the corn. “Dad always used the B to cultivate corn as the seat was offset and especially back then when we checked planted corn and it was cultivated down the rows as well as crossways,” Larry noted.
The original tractor came with one front tire, which would go flat often. Clarence looked around and found a front end with two wheels that were placed as a “narrow” front end that allowed the tractor to cultivate between rows of corn. However, the unique single wheel is back on the “B” at the museum.
Farmalls became the tractor of choice for the Strayer family, as Clarence bought an F-20 as well as two “M” tractors, one of which had a two-row corn picker.
Clarence would also own two “H” series tractors that had a posthole digger and a cement mixer. With all of the Farmall tractors purchased, totaling nearly 20 in all, there was still only one “B.”
Over the years, the tractors were sold but there were two kept in the chicken coop. Two of Clarence’s sons, Larry and Jerry, bought them, with Jerry buying the Farmall “B” and over the years, he began to restore the tractor.
Steve Blevins, a Strayer family member, got involved with the restoration but before he could work with Jerry, Jerry passed away. Blevins continued to work on the tractor as a tribute to Jerry and completed the work earlier this year.
Blevins was interested in donating the tractor and asked his daughter, April, to seek out somewhere in LaGrange County that would give the tractor a home. A call to Beth Thornburg at the LaGrange County Convention and Visitors Bureau led to contacting the Town of Shipshewana and the museum.
Along with the tractor and narrative of its history, the display at the museum also includes the personal check from Clarence Strayer dated April 9, 1940. The check, for $300, was made out to Lester Norris and was included with the “team of horses” for the full payment. The check was drawn on Clarence’s Farmers State Bank account.