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Swanson expands museum's harvest collection

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

(Photo courtesy Plymouth County Historical Museum) Paul Swanson, a southern Plymouth County resident, recently donated a 1925 model hay rake to the Plymouth County Historical Museum in Le Mars. Swanson said the 20-foot-wide rake with steel wheels was probably a horse-drawn model converted to be pulled by a tractor.
A hay rake donated to the Plymouth County Historical Museum will help future generations learn about early days of local agriculture.

Plymouth County resident Paul Swanson, of rural Sioux City, gave the 1925 model hay rake to the museum in Le Mars last month.

"I got it from a neighbor about two to three months ago," he said.

Paul Swanson (center) takes a break after helping Plymouth County Historical Museum volunteers Wayne Marty (left) and Clayton Hodgson unload an antique hay rake at the museum in Le Mars. Swanson, a rural Plymouth County resident, donated the steel-wheeled rake to the museum's agriculture collection.
(Photo courtesy Plymouth County Historical Museum)
The 20-foot-wide rake was moved from Swanson's shed to the museum because Wayne Marty, of Le Mars, is spearheading a project to expand the ag area of the museum, Swanson said.

Marty gave information about items the museum was interested in to Pioneer Machinery Club members during the Plymouth County Fair in July.

Swanson belongs to the group and noticed a dump rake used to harvest hay was on the museum's wish list.

"I called him and he came down with a representative of the museum; they looked at it and about a month after that decided they'd take it," Swanson said.

Swanson's passion for antique ag equipment is tractors, but he's also collected other antique farm machinery such as the rake.

Farmers used the 87-year-old ag implement to gather hay or grass which had been cut to lay flat in a field.

They'd go through the field and lift it up when they got their rows (of hay) straight -- then drop it right down again and keep raking, Swanson said.

The action of dumping the hay from the rake could be made by the driver of the tractor pulling the rake or from someone sitting on the rake.

"The ones I've seen before have a seat on them," Swanson said. "This one was converted over to a rope trip."

Swanson said he thinks the dump rake with two large steel wheels was originally pulled by horses rather than a tractor.

He decided to make the antique machinery donation because he didn't have a use for the hay rake, Swanson said.

The rake's weight and width were challenges when museum volunteers and Swanson moved the antique farm equipment from his shed in Perry Township to the museum.

"It was quite a job loading it up because it's 20 foot wide and you can't have something going up the highway on steel wheels that's 20 foot wide," he said.

The machinery was eventually placed on Swanson's trailer with help from Marty, and Clayton Hodgson, of Le Mars.

Museum staff and volunteers are expanding agriculture displays in the lower level of the 1952 section of the building, which was previously rented by a business.

Plymouth County Historical Museum Board President John Schneider, of Le Mars, said that section of the museum building has greatly increased the amount of area used for displays.

"Now we have the lower level of the 1952 addition open for ag displays and also the Floyd Valley Model Railroad Club," he said.

Schneider said the goal for the main room that is the former cafeteria of the school-turned-museum is to have a tractor display of all brands.

"The next room would be more of the harvest-type equipment and then tillage also and the original ag room would be a smaller farm," he said.

Donations like Swanson's dump rake will preserve the county's agriculture heritage at the museum.

"It's important to keep the museum open," Swanson said.

The donation helps him manage the size of his antique machinery collection.

He currently has eight antique tractors.

Swanson began the antique machinery hobby with his grandfather's Oliver Hart Parr 70, which was the first six-cylinder tractor made in 1935, Swanson said.

"It just kind of grew from there as people had tractors to sell," he said. "I love them."

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