Barn window flowers

Who built this 40 x 72-foot barn in Dubuque County? Would you believe it was a 16-year-old, the first of 12 barns this young man built in this area? Who had it built? Jack Smith’s grandfather, who was 66 years old at the time.

The barn was built in 1917 using white oak trees from the Smith farm for the framing and fir for the rest. With a height of 42 feet, the loft can store tons of hay and straw for livestock, and it still does.

Since 1853, which was not long after Iowa became a state, six generations have lived on this farm. An interesting note is that Horatio Sanford, a government land agent in Dubuque, bought tracts from settlers who changed their plans, and then re-sold them for a profit. This is one he re-sold to Jack’s grandfather, starting the Smith tradition, with Jack and Anna Smith being the current owners. A unique barn feature is flowers in the windows. How many barns in Iowa have flowers in windows? Very few. Note that this one has real flowers in three of the lower-level windows.

A great invention

The modern history of threshing grain began with John Froelich, a 43-old farmer in the tiny Clayton County village of Froelich.

John Froelich, looking for ways to make farming more efficient, invented a new one-cylinder gasoline engine. Connected to a threshing machine, it was used to thresh 72,000 bushels of small grain in the fields of South Dakota in 1892. It was also the first gasoline-powered engine that had both forward and reverse gears.

Previously, steam-powered engines were used which weren’t very efficient, were polluting, were heavy to transport long distances, and sometimes resulted in fires that destroyed the crop they were harvesting. What an improvement this new engine was! Pictured above is a photo of the original engine used in the harvest, courtesy of the Froelich museum.

Inventor Froelich took his engine (actually a tractor) to Waterloo to market it to businessmen there. A company was formed with him as president. He later left the company to pursue other interests but tractor experimentation continued. In 1912 the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Company introduced the first “Waterloo Boy,” a kerosene-burning Model “R”. One hundred eighteen were sold that year, and a new Model “N”, which had two forward speeds, was marketed in 1915. In 1918 the Waterloo Company became part of the John Deere Company.

Today, the headquarters of the John Deere Company is in Moline, Illinois, and is one of the largest tractor-producing plants in America. 

Above is a Waterloo Boy tractor, a 1918 Model 2030, powered by kerosene, driven each year in the tractor parade at Carstens Farm Days, located at 32409 380th St., Shelby, Iowa. Farm Days will be held on September 9 and 10, 2023.

The Froelich Fall Festival (Fall-der-All), where a model of John Froelich’s one-cylinder engine will be on display, will be held September 23-24, 2023.