Born in a Barn

My brother, David, called me today with some news. It seems a column I did a few years back turned up at the Bonanzaville Museum in Fargo, North Dakota. It is on a plaque that sits next to the frist Steiger tractor ever built. Dave got the heads up from Gene Waterworth who works at the Case plant in Fargo.  I really am happy that one of my columns is featured in this way. I am including the column in this blog entry; it’s title is "Born in a Barn" and was first published in my regular column in the Grand Forks Herald in early February of 2005.

Recently, Case-New Holland revealed it’s 50,000 Steiger tractor in Fargo, N.D. Mark and David Yaggie of Breckenridge received a bit of history by purchasing this most recent Steiger. Ironically, Mark’s father Leo embraced history many years prior when he purchased one of the first Steiger tractors. Present for the ceremony was the very first Steiger tractor ever built and Bryan Steiger who’s Grandpa Jon, Uncle Doug and father Maurice built that first tractor.


So much had to happen to get to that moment in Fargo. In 1957 people were buying land. World War two showed us how to make a factory efficient and industrious farmers needed to bring the factory to the field. The Steiger family farmed 1500 acres with three WD-9 tractors, a daunting task. The other tractor choices would have included John Deere’s 820 or Allis Chalmers which had introduced the D-17 that year. The farmer needed to do more work with each hour which meant he needed horsepower. The kind of horsepower the Steiger’s needed required more traction than a two wheel drive tractor could provide. They created that first four wheel drive tractor the Winter of 1957-58. That first tractor ran for 10,000 hours and was still hanging around when the final Steiger was built on the farm in 1969. The last tractor housed a mammoth 320 horsepower engine and stood by as the Steiger factory moved to Fargo, North Dakota.


I visited with Bryan Steiger recently at the site where those first tractors were built. The first factory was a dairy barn that burned in 1985 and was replaced by the current facilities. Today they build Toreq scrapers which was another family project begun by Maurice and son’s Bruce, Bryan and Brad. Unfortunately Bryan was left alone after a tragic airplane accident in 1991. Bryan did what he does well; he worked, he designed and then worked some more. Work ethic learned on the farm made Steiger tractors. I recently interviewed Bryan Steiger at the factory near St Hilaire, Minnesota. Don Vatthauer was visiting the plant and told me something most people don’t realize. Agriculture was waiting to change in the late fifties and an old dairy barn was where modern agriculture took some big steps. Mr. Vatthauer called this historic birthplace a sort of “cradle of modern agriculture.” It was where mass production was taken out of the factory and brought to the rich land so that farmers could feed all of those baby boomers.

The Steiger tractor has shaped the land across the nation since Jon, Doug and Maurice decided those Wd-9’s weren’t enough to farm their land. Steiger tractors started as a product made from a farmer‘s point of view . A simple tractor that did the work and made friends with it’s dependability.

Don Vatthauer could tell you about that famous dependability. Don bought a used model 2200 in 1970 which was built in the Steiger dairy barn. Somewhere near Holt, Minnesota that tractor is still at work for someone who needed to do more work with every hour.

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