Oliver Gang Has Plow Day

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Don Voelker
David Hess, Buchanan, Michigan, puts a 1948 Oliver-built Cockshutt Model 99 through its paces.

The Oliver Gang Fun and Plow Day for 2008 is history. For a few hours, though, it was 1950 at the Marcell Cooreman farm near South Bend, Indiana. There were tractor engines at full throttle pulling their respective plows, a team of horses pulling a wagon through the field, and this all seemed to revive the past with sights and sounds.

Trucks and trailers hauling the many sizes and types of Oliver tractors and plows started arriving early. Any tractor and plow could participate, but on this day only the Oliver green color was visible, with the only exception being a red Oliver-built Cockshutt.

The Oliver Gang is a chapter of the Hart-Parr Oliver Collectors Association. President Nelson LeCount says, “We have about 35 acres to plow here on the Marcell Cooreman farm. I hope it will be a fun day for everyone. The Oliver Gang has not been in this area for some time. This is where the Oliver family started, and that is the reason I think we should work here.”

LeCount brought part of his antique plow collection, those made at the South Bend, Indiana, Oliver Plow Works between 1915 and 1970.

Bob Schaeffer, Oliver Gang member, says, “This is our annual plow day, and it dates back to the late 1980s. We have it in different parts of this area, northern Indiana, Michigan and Ohio.”

Another member, Harry Deckler, says, “I did design work for White air planters, which were originally Oliver air planters. I worked in the South Bend, Indiana, plant for 14 years from 1972 until 1985 doing planter engineering.”

Rick and Laura Bladecki, of R & L Belgians, New Carlisle, Indiana, unloaded two of their horses and a wagon. “The horses names are Dixie and Velvet, they are 7 years old and both are going to have colts in the spring,” the Bladeckis say. “We show horses and give rides at fairs and for the parks department. We’ve been doing this for about six-and-a-half years.” Today, they are going to take onlookers about a half mile back in the field to watch the plowing, and then bring them back to the parking lot.

The largest Oliver tractor plowing was a Model 2255 V8 diesel, powered by a Caterpillar 573 cubic inch V8, and pulling a 6-bottom plow.

One of the others in the field was the 1948 Model 99 Oliver-built Cockshutt owned by David Hess of Buchanan, Michigan. “I bought this tractor to show, I just don’t have it finished,” he says. “It’s been to three or four tractor pulls and about the same number of plow days.”

During the morning session there were at least five other participants – a Model 60 Industrial with a 1-bottom, an OC-6 crawler with a 2-bottom, an Oliver 88 Row Crop with a 3-bottom, an Oliver 1600 with a 4-bottom, and an Oliver 66 with a 2-bottom.

“I started this hobby in the middle 1960s,” says LeCount, “and there weren’t many people collecting. Had I ever dreamed what would happen to this hobby, I could have become a wealthy person. Instead of trying to raise corn and beans I should have been buying old tractors and parking them.”

One of the plows in LeCount’s collection is an Oliver No. 23-A, a horse-drawn plow built in the early 1920s. Designed for use in orchards, it has some unusual features – it is a two-way plow, one bottom is down and then at the end of the field or row you turn around and put the other bottom down and go back. There is a lever to adjust draft control, and another to level the seat when going back and forth in the furrow.

A rare plow in his collection is the Model 283 3 9’s orchard plow. This is probably an early 1920s plow, as grease cups lubricate it. It came from vineyard country in Michigan and would have been pulled by one of the small tractors that were popular then.

Some of LeCount’s other plows were a brush disk Model 3, a 1960s “roll over plow,” and a horse-drawn Model 17A vineyards plow from the 1920s.