The farm tractor used on the nation’s last homestead will be unveiled Monday, Nov. 20 at Homestead National Monument near Beatrice.
The tractor is a 1945 Allis Chalmers Model C. It was used on the Ken Deardorff homestead along the banks of the Stoney River in the Alaska wilderness.
Deardorff’s homestead claim in Alaska was one of the last homesteads to be granted. The tractor will serve as a representation of the end of America’s epic homestead movement.
The Homestead National Monument is built on the first claim of the Homestead Act of 1862. Deardorff filed an 80-acre Alaska homestead claim in 1974 under the same Homestead Act.
So, the tractor and the land near Beatrice will book-end the era of homesteading in the United States.
In 1978, Deardorff parked the Allis Chalmers at the edge of a clearing on his land, where it sat until June 2017, when it was slung under a helicopter, floated on a ship, transported by truck, cleaned and readied for exhibition by students at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln.
The project was made possible by the financial support of retired Beatrice Physician Dr. C. T. Frerichs.
“When most people think of homesteading, they have an image in their minds of a single bottom plow pulled by a team of horses,” Homestead National Monument Superintendent Mark Engler said. “This tractor will show the size and scope of homesteading, as well as the relevancy of the homestead law that transformed our nation.”
“This tractor, this historic museum artifact, will play a big role in educating citizens about the Homestead Act,” said Diane Vicars, President of the Friends of Homestead.
The unveiling ceremony will be held at 2 p.m. Nov. 20.
Allis-Chalmers tractors were popular in the 1940s-70s. Many of them were sold in central and western Nebraska, said Ivan Miller of Miller Repair of Maxwell, who still sells Allis-Chalmers parts.
A Nebraska farm kid, Miller grew up working with Allis-Chalmers tractors. He remembers there were AC dealers in Gothenburg, North Platte and several other places around the area. Miller believes the AC D-19 was the first farm tractor with a turbo-charged engine. It hit the market in 1961.
As a young man, he became interested in tractor pulls, and his first “real pulling tractor was an AC 190XT – a superstock that ran on alcohol,” he said.
The Allis-Chalmers line was sold to Deutz in 1985, and is currently part of AGCO equipment.
Miller Repair still stocks new AC parts, repairs AC equipment and has several rows of AC salvage tractors available for parts.
“There are still AC tractors in use, but they are slowly fading away,” Miller said.
“I’m not sure how many AC tractors are in Alaska,” he said, “or how many tractors of any brand there are up there, but I sent a power steering unit for an AC WD-45 to a man named Berle Mercer in Healy, Alaska in 2002.”
“I enjoyed the fact we provided the service,” Miller said.
Homestead National Monument of America is a unit of the National Park Service four miles west of Beatrice, and 45 miles south of Lincoln.
The monument is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission is free.