Heavy machinery

Tuesday evening, the race track at the Seneca County Fairgrounds was lined with vehicles. Although many looked like they came from a showroom, others were rustic and worn in appearance, being towed by more powerful machines. No speed records were set at this event.

The antique tractor parade by members of the Seneca County Antique Farm Machinery Association was intended to showcase the equipment past generations of farmers have used for the area’s main industry. In addition to vintage tractors of all makes and models, most were pulling other equipment including plows, planters, grinders and balers.

“This is what made Seneca County the agricultural leader it has become,” said Floyd Hohman of McCutchenville.

Hohman is a collector of machinery made by Oliver, including five tractors powered by liquid propane. He said propane tractors were popular in the western states because propane is a by-product of oil drilling. The company had produced a series of 88, Super 88 and 880. Someone told Hohman he may be the only person in Ohio to have all three in that series. During restoration, he had to order parts from a collector in California.

Having restored more than 30 plows, Hohman also owns a tobacco cultivator that came from North Carolina and a two-row potato planter. Rotating spikes spear the seed potatoes that tumble out of the two bins. Near the ground, the spikes retract so the potatoes drop into trenches.

Hohman believes his Superior one-horse grain drill dates back to the 1800s. He said his father told him the devices were used to plant winter wheat between rows of corn. When he saw one at a sale, he knew what it was and brought it home. It was used in the days when farmers had no machinery to harvest corn.

“They would cut the corn by hand and shuck it, and wouldn’t get it done. So it would be too late to plant wheat. So they designed this drill, pulled it with one horse and planted the wheat between the standing corn rows,” Hohman explained.

Jim Marquart of Tiffin brought a 1949 Ford 8N tractor to the fair on a trailer. Marquart said he had driven the machine on his family’s 65-acre farm and had used it on his own 40 acres. His parents died in an automobile accident in the 1960s.

“It was my dad’s tractor. He bought it new in 1949. When he died, I got it from the estate and restored it,” Marquart said.

He said he did the body work and hired someone to overhaul the engine. The red and gray paint job was the most challenging part of the restoration, Marquart said. Besides the Seneca County Fair, the tractor has been displayed at the Attica Fair and the SCRAP show at Gibsonburg. Marquart and about two dozen other tractor owners plan to drive their machinery to Green Springs for lunch Friday. Marquart said the tractor is to be passed on to his grandson.

Ken Frankart of Bascom and his brother Joe Frankart have tractors and tools on display. Monday night, the pair was trying to do a demonstration with a 1950 grinder Ken’s father-in-law, David Kessler of Carey, had built to grind feed for livestock. Originally powered with belts, the grinder had been adapted to run on a power take-off.

In addition to full-size machinery, members of the SCAFMA have collected and restored other farm-related equipment. Phil Eberhard of Clyde had a collection of wrenches of all sizes and descriptions, mounted on pegboard stands. Eberhard said the pieces at the fair are only some of the 5,000 or so he owns. They have come from various sales, swap meets and tractor shows. He does not buy anything online.

“I’m a person that likes to see the merchandise when I buy it. I’m a hands-on person. I clean them up, but I still like to leave the brown patina. I feel a wrench that’s 100 years old still should be kind of brown in color,” Eberhard said. “My dad was into wrench collection and I got into it, too.”

Eberhard said he started his collection in 1968 and “got serious” about collecting in 1984. When his dad died in 2000, Phil inherited his father’s wrenches. The entire lot most likely will go to his nephews.

“I brought some old toys … a whole variety on steel wheels,” said Allen Kirgis, originally from Bloomville.

The pieces in the showcase are a sample of the 500 or so he has collected at toy shows, sales and online. Kirgis said he’s been collecting 40 or 50 years, and he made the two smallest toys on view out of solid brass.

Anyone who missed the parade Tuesday still can see most of the equipment on display behind the grandstand. Many of the owners are on hand to answer questions about their machines. The adjacent booth houses the toys and tools. At 7 p.m. Friday, there will be a demonstration with a vintage threshing machine.