History of Rush City: Farm equipment

by Amy Doeun

contributing writer 

This old photo at the North Chisago County Historical Society shows Runskog and Hopps machine delivery day in 1896.
Photo supplied

In 1855, Robert Nessel came to the Rush City area of Minnesota, though at that time the area was still a territory and would not become a state until 1858.
Nessel came for the trees, and the logging industry was born.
“Logging is what got the area going,” local historian Carl Heinrich said at the North Chisago County Historical Society May 3.
For decades, loggers and their horses worked to clear the land and drag the fallen trees to the St. Croix River, where they were floated downstream to area lumber mills.
This began the discussion of area farm equipment at the meeting. About 10 people gathered to share their stories and memories of farm equipment.
Heinrich’s grandfather came to the area in 1870. He worked as a gunsmith but had dreams of creating a trout hatchery near where Highway 70 crosses into Wisconsin.
“He was really ahead of his time,” Heinrich said.
However, his grandfather was never able to complete the hatchery.
As the loggers cleared the land, farms began to spring up and so did farm dealerships. Runskogs had a yearly shipment of farm equipment from mowers to wagons.
Horses would continue to be the main farm equipment needed until long into the 20th century. Marlin Olson said he remembered coming home from the service (Korean War) in 1958.
“Dad had the tractor up on blocks and still farmed with horses,” he remembered. “I said that has to go if I am going to farm.”
Heinrich had a similar story.
“Dad had a heart attack and couldn’t work, so I sold the horses and got chained to a tractor,” he said.
Olson didn’t have an easy time finding the financing he needed for a tractor, however.
Eventually, he found the financing he needed from a Mr. Hommedahl at the bank in Rush City.
“He gave me a loan when no one else would,” Olson said.
Heinrich said he also remembered the banker.
“Some people liked him and some didn’t, but I got along good with him,” Heinrich said. “He would say ‘find a tractor and write out a check and come back and we will make it good.’ That’s the kind of guy he was.”
Nancy Ryf and her sister Janet attended the meetings with pictures from their father’s dealership in Harris, Wayside Equipment. Both sisters had worked there for 12 years, and apparently some of the young men in the area shopped to see them.
“Dad sold many people their first tractors,” Nancy said.
Don Wilcox was a Minneapolis Moline dealer and began the business in 1949. Nancy shared that he had started out as an Allis Chalmers dealer, but there were already several Chalmers dealerships in the area.
“Dad didn’t think there should be a dealer in every town, and the Moline guy was stopping by all the time,” she said.
So Wilcox became a Moline dealer and the rest is history.
Another farm equipment brand that was popular in the area was Minnesota Equipment, which was made at the Stillwater prison. The machinery often had to be assembled once it arrived, and Heinrich said that he often felt that it was best to assemble it yourself, “though the holes didn’t always line up.”

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