Maxson Farm


The Rand & Brown Farm Grandin, N, D.

During the 1880s and the early 1890s, western Minnesota and the eastern part of what then was Dakota Territory were passing through an interesting and pictur- esque period in the development of the West.  The level prairies, especially those on either side of the Red River of the North, constituted a vast wheat-growing belt. Large areas of land were owned and operated by Companies whose holdings covered thousands of acres.  These holdings were called “Bonanza Farms”.  Such a farm was the Rand and Brown farm known locally as the “Brown Farm”.

This farm consisted of six and a quarter sections of land or 4, 000 acres, 3, 840 acres of which were under cultivatxoa. The farmstead had 20 buildings.   There was one house, known as the “White House”, occupied by the manager and family; I cook and rooming house for the labor; 3 barns for housing the work stock and young animals consisting of 104 horses 3 years old, or older, and 34 mules.  These barns had a total length of over 400 feet.  There was I smaller barn for housing the driving and saddle stock; I machinery hall for housing two threshing outfits and other farm machinery; I building, called the binder hall, where the 20 7-foot grain binders were stored; I building for storing 14 grain tanks.  These tanks were heavy wagons, each equipped with a large open box having a 100-bushel wheat capacity. These tanks were used to haul grain from the threshing machine to the elevators. One building consisted of 12 box stalls for the brood mares at foaling time; I black- smith shop; I carpenter shop; I building called the “shack” where the labor spent Its time when not at work; I grainery for storing feed for the work animals; I hog house; I hen house; I store house where groceries and other supplies were kept, together with a large ice room for storing fresh meat; I Ice house; and I building for storing binder twine and grain sacks.  This was mouse proof.  An elevator on the farm had a capacity of 40, 000 bushels and another In a near-by town on the railroad had a capacity of 60,000 bushels of wheat. Aside from the work stock there was a varying number of sheep and hogs and 5 milch cows.

The winter crew consisted of 10 or 12 men to care for the stock and other chores, and a man cook.  The summer crew consisted of 30 to 35 men during the spring season; from 65 to 70 men during harvest and threshing seasons; the man cook and two girls to help In the kitchen, 2 in the dining room and a chore man. Plowing was done with 32 16-Inch walking plows.  Thirty-two men and 64 horses and mules made up the crew.  All fields were I mile long and a day’s work consisted of 5 rounds in the forenoon and 5 in the afternoon or 20 miles.  Therefore, each day each man and team traveled 20 miles.  Combined travel of the entire crew was 640 miles or a furrow 640 miles long. If every plow took a full 16-inch cut all the time It would require a furrow 23, 760 miles long to plow the 3, 840 acres plowed each fall, and each of the 32 men would have traveled a little over 742 miles behind the plow,

The seeding was done by 18 broadcast seeders followed by 9 spike-toothed harrows.  This required 63 work animals and 27 men.

Twenty 7-foot cut binders were used in harvesting.  The harvest crew con- sisted of 20 men driving the binders; 40 men to shock the grain; a binder expert from the factory whose duty It was to keep the binders In repair; a man with a team and light wagon carrying all the binder parts required to repair a binder in the field; a man with a team and wagon hauling binder twine, water and oil; a foreman with a horse and road cart.  Sixty-six horses and mules furnished the power. The threshing was done by 2 farm-owned threshing outfits, steam powered. The crew for each outfit consisted of an engineer; a fireman; a tank man who hauled water for the engine; 3 feeders (there were no self feeder machines); 2 band cutters; 8 men driving the 8 bundle wagons which brought the grain from the field to the machine.  All threshing was done from the shock; 6 men to load the bundle wagons; 2 spike pitchers who helped the bundle wagon men pitch the bundles onto the band cutter’s table; a man to tend the grain tanks; 5 men driving grain tanks; and a straw bucker. 40 work animals served each outfit. The entire crew was 52 men and 80 work animals.

Reference has been made to a straw bucker.  This man and his work were so peculiar to the Bonanza farm and the time that it warrants an explanation,

In the days of the Bonanza farm, straw was not stacked.  The machines were not equipped with blowers; the straw being carried away from the thresher by a slatted conveyor.  This left the straw In a pile behind the machine.  The straw bucker’s job was to remove the straw from behind the machine.  This was done with a bucking pole.  This was a timber 18 or 20 feet long with long teeth extending from each side. This bucking pole looked much like a great double-sided comb.

A mule or horse was hitched to each end of the bucking pole. When a consider- able pile of straw had accumulated behind the machine, the bucking pole was dragged at right angles to the machine, with one animal passing under the straw carrier, between the straw and the back of the machine; the other passing on the other side of the straw.  The teeth of the bucking pole passed under the straw and the straw was carried some distance away from the machine.  Then the mules were swung around to face in the opposite direction.  The next pile of straw was dragged out from the machine on the opposite side of the machine from the first.  This process was repeated until the setting was completed, at which time the straw was in a long row of small piles.  These piles were burned as soon as the machine had moved to another setting.

The Bonanza Farm gave way to smaller units; the horse gave way to the tractor; the walking plow to the gang plow; the binder to the combine which has all but elimi- nated the old threshing machine.  The farm wagon has given way to the truck; the horse and buggy to the automobile.  Thus an interesting and picturesque period in the development of our frontiers has passed, together with most of those persons who took an active part In that development,

Asa Chandler Maxson