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Dennis Powers - The Prairie Tractor Godfather

A name synonymous with the antique tractor hobby that resonates across the entire collector community.

Dennis Powers - The Prairie Tractor Godfather photo

There’s nothing ordinary about the Dennis Powers Collection. Dennis was a highly respected, decades long collector in the antique tractor hobby. As you tour the collection you see he had an eye for what was unique. It’s a tread that carries through his collection from the largest prairie tractor to the smallest antique engine. 

Dennis passed away in 2018 after a long courageous battle with cancer. He left behind an enduring legacy that spread across the antique tractor hobby.

Dennis didn’t just display his tractors. He loaded them up and took them to tractor events all over the United States. Two of the most frequented were Albert City, Iowa and the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion in Rollag, Minnesota. It’s at these shows that he met people who became lifelong friends. Dennis was always willing to share his time, experiences and restoration techniques. 

A visit to Dennis’ collection was an experience in itself. When you enter his shop, you’re surrounded with different pieces of history tacked on the wall or hanging from the ceiling. The main focal point is the two barbers chairs. One chair was reserved for Dennis, but the other was mostly for guests. It was a place to share stories and reminisce. As some visitors noted, it became an interrogation chair to test their antique tractor knowledge. 

There’s one tractor in the collection that has strong ties to the earliest days of the hobby, Dennis’ 30-60 Rumely Model E. The Rumely was originally owned by the late Harold Ottoway of Wichita, Kansas. In the 1960s Harold got the tractor after he traded with the late Danny Roen for a New Giant Steam engine. 

The 30-60 E arrived in Wichita in 1972. Chaddy Atteberry drove the tractor around Harold’s yard then drove it into the shed. It was a tight fit, the smoke stack was removed and as the tractor rolled in the rear wheel made a deep scrape against the side of the shed. The tractor sat in this position until 1995 when Dennis purchased the tractor.

Harold had lots of visitors over the years and many of them owned a 30-60 E Rumely. Harold always had a piece of chalk and would make notes on his tractors and engines. Not sure how it began, but people started writing their name and serial number on the face of the flywheel.

In 1995 Dan Crist, of Quinter, Kansas and a group of others worked on the Model E, started it up and backed it out of the shed. Harold had also sold a 25 horsepower steam engine that needed to be pulled out as well. So, they hooked the Model E to the steamer and pulled it out into the daylight.

 

When Dennis went to restore the tractor, he made sure not to wipe off the chalk. Over the years there was an attempt to save this hand written history, so it was written over with a paint marker. This Rumely will be sold on the auction.

 

The Model E is just one of so many unique prairie tractors in the collection. Probably the most sought after by J. I. Case collectors is the 30-60 Case. Built from 1911 to 1916, only 5 of these tractors are known to exist. 

The list continues with a 30-60 Pioneer, a 40-80 Avery, a 40-65 Twin City, two 30-60 Aultman Taylors, a 30-60 Hart Parr, a 35-70 Minneapolis, a 15-25 Fairbanks Morse, and a 20-40 Rumely Gas Pull.  

The smallest tractor in the collection might also be the most uncommon. From a distance you’d think it was a large prairie tractor, but up close it's only about 5 feet high. It's a 2 cylinder York tractor built by the Flinchbaugh Mfg. Company of York, Pennsylvania. The tractor is the smallest in the company's line of two-cylinder tractors which ranged from 12 horsepower up to 50 horsepower. Flinchbaugh started early in the tractor business, releasing their first tractor by 1905 and sold tractors into 1915. 

This isn’t the only York tractor in the collection. There are two single cylinder, hooper-cooled York Pet tractors rated at 1-½ to 2 horsepower York Pet Tractors. There’s also two single cylinder, hopper-cooled 1-½ horsepower Lancaster tractors. 

There’s not just tractors, Dennis also collected some rare engines too. There’s a J. I. Case Model 12-25 portable engine, the same engine that’s in the tractor and maybe the only one to exist.

 There’s five engines built by the Abenaque Machine Works of Westminster Station, Vermont. The hard to find Abenaque is quickly recognizable by its unique cooling system that sits over the top of the engine. There’s also two Nelson portable side shaft engines. These engie were built in Harlan, Iowa and probably just a handful are known to exist. 

The Powers Family decided in late 2021 that they would sell a large part of Dennis’ collection. This includes many of the large prairie tractors, early low production engines, signs and smaller antique tractors. The items will sell on the Aumann Vintage Power 2022 Pre-30 Auction. 


Aumann Vintage Power conducted a Prairie Tractor School in honor of Dennis Powers and his collection on March 25th, 2022 at their auction center in Nokomis, IL. The school gave attendees the modern-day version of tractor school. There were traditional classroom style sessions covering topics such as how we use modern day technology to re-engineer non-existent parts for the rarest of rare tractors as well as tips and techniques to maintain and preserve your mechanical treasures. 

For more information about the Powers Collection visit, thepre30auction.com

                         

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