KOSCIUSKO COUNTY — Dan Ransbottom’s father used a two-row corn picker and a 8-foot drill for soybeans on his farm. Now Dan uses a 24-row planter and a 40-foot drill.
Clearly, farming equipment has changed and there is sometimes a tendency to let the past fade away into oblivion, never to be remembered. But if Echoes of the Past has anything to say about it, the history of farming equipment will be preserved in the local area.
Echoes of the Past, formed in 1985, is an organization dedicated to restoring and preserving old farm equipment such as tractors, wagons, plows and even lawn tractors. Made up of mostly Kosciusko County residents with a few from other counties, there are a little more than 100 members. Ransbottom, who lives and farms east of Claypool in Clay Township, is the current president of Echoes of the Past.
He has been in the nonprofit organization for about 20 years. “I heard the older people talking about the way things used to be on a farm,” he said, thinking back to what prompted him to join Echoes of the Past. “The younger kids asked a lot of questions.” Now he is becoming one of the older generation and wants to have answers for those questions.
The organization has a firm presence in the county through different avenues. Members can often be seen riding on old farming tractors, for example, during the Fourth of July parade in Akron, the Kosciusko County fair parade, Mentone Egg Festival parade, Leesburg Memorial Day parade, Manchester Fun Fest parade and Pierceton Days parade, among others.
Each year Echoes of the Past has an exhibit at the county fair and will demonstrate an old sawmill, steam engine and threshing machine. When straw comes out of the threshing machine, an old baler binds it together. Last week, wheat was bound in a field and then taken to the thresher for use at the county fair.
Last year, a tractor driving experience was introduced at the county fair. Anyone who wishes can drive an old tractor through a course. “It was very successful last year and people were lined up waiting to drive a tractor,” Ransbottom said, noting many of them had never driven a tractor before.
There are also plow days in the spring and fall where planting and harvesting with old farming equipment is demonstrated. And homemade ice cream is offered at the county fair.
In addition, there is a philanthropic side to the organization. Echoes of the Past has helped Wheels of Fire, a team helping those who are fighting cancer. They also support 4-H by donating to help kids who show animals at the fair and also donate money to high school FFA chapters. This past school year, donations were made to the Triton and Whitko FFA chapters.
“We also try to help farm families who have health (and other) issues,” Ransbottom said.
Ransbottom has contributed to the efforts of the organization by restoring an Oliver tractor once used by an uncle in onion fields. Also restored has been an 1947 International Harvester pickup truck originally owned by Ernie Metzger of the Silver Lake area and used to pick up cans of milk from area farmers. And, among other items, there is an original Parker Feeders wagon originally used to haul grain.
He also collects vintage business signs, but some of those are not necessarily agriculture related.
It is important, he noted, to preserve the history of farming equipment because those with firsthand memories of it have often passed away. One way to do so is by getting Harrison Elementary students to tear apart and put back together old lawn or garden tractors.
A goal is to have a building of some type at the county fairgrounds containing local ag equipment history. “Kids will ask about it someday and we want to preserve it,” Ransbottom said.
In the meantime, Echoes of the Past will continue to restore relics from the past.