An old tractor has found a new home, one befitting its status.
The Homestead National Monument near Beatrice held a ceremony Monday to welcome its newest display: a 1945 Allis-Chalmers Model C.
The tractor comes to Nebraska from Alaska, specifically from the last official homestead conferred under the Homestead Act of 1862.
Homestead National Monument Superintendent Mark Engler said the tractor signifies the completion of the Act, which helped settle the nation.
“We are on the site of the Daniel Freeman homestead, the homestead that is considered to be the nation’s first,” Engler stated. “Following Freeman, there were literally millions of people and thousands of acres were settled. But it’s this tractor, this tractor that represents the end of our nation’s epic homestead movement, a tractor that was used by the nation’s last homesteader, Ken Deardorff.”
Ken Deardorff homesteaded along the banks of the Stony River, about 200 miles west of Anchorage, Alaska.
The tractor was recovered through a $70,000 donation by retired Beatrice Doctor C-T Frerichs, in the memory of his last wife, Julia, working through the Friends of the Homestead, a support organization for the monument.
It took quite an effort to get the tractor to Nebraska. It had to be pulled out of the mud, then transporter by helicopter, ship, and truck to the state.
Once in Nebraska, the tractor went straight to the Lester Larsen Tractor and Power Museum where students worked to preserve it. University of Nebraska – Lincoln Tractor Restoration Club President, Josh Bauer, said working on the Allis-Chalmers was a unique experience for the students. Normally, the club renovates old tractors. This time, they wanted to preserve it as Deardorff left it.
U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer attended the ceremony to welcome the tractor to Nebraska.
“It is very fitting that the last tractor used by a homesteader would be displayed at the site of the first claim filed under the Homestead Act of 1862,” according to Fischer. “The Homestead National Monument of America does a wonderful job preserving our past so our future generations can learn from those who came before them.”
Lt. Governor Mike Foley gave a special thanks to those instrumental in obtaining the tractor.
“What a beautiful gift you’ve given, not only to the state of Nebraska, but a beautiful gift to America, because people come her from all across the country and even foreign countries as well to see this fabulous new artifact at this wonderful museum,” Foley said.
Doug Kennedy, KWBE, contributed to this article.