The Edwards family – Jim and his sons, Jason and Doug – are collectors. While antique tractors are the mainstay of their collection, recently they added an unusual find: A “gypsy wagon.” Jim, of Franklin, Ill., said the wagon that is in rough shape, but once served as a home circa 1920.
“An old man from Franklin had it in his back yard,” he explained. When he and his wife would have disagreements, the man would spend time out in the wagon. It had a stove in it and it served as a “man cave” for a while.
“When he died, it sold and a young guy bought it.” Jim then tried to buy it, and eventually succeeded. The Edwardses have learned the wagon was one of four that were originally in the area.
As for where they came from, that is a mystery. Sadly, as far as the guys know, this is the only one of the four that remains. The others, they have been told, were burned.
Jim and his sons have cleaned the wagon and found it is quite well-made. Today the old wagon sits in Jim’s front yard and passersby see it as they drive past. Jim has had a few offers, but “it’s not for sale.” He worked hard to bring this piece of history home.
He made a special tongue to pull it, then Jason used his Farmall Super M propane tractor to move it home. There was tar paper on the wagon, and they have since removed much of it. The cabin wood is tongue-and-groove and the roof is made of tin. Although there is not a stove inside anymore, the hole for the stove can be seen.
Doug remembers travelers in the area when he was a child. He recalls being at his grandma’s and, “I remember seeing them come through town. I remember there was a deck on the wagons and smoke coming out of the chimney.”
The gypsy wagon is an outlier in the Edwards collection, which mainly consists of antique tractors. In the sheds behind the wagon Jim has his prized possessions, many with sentimental value. “Granddad had a 1934 Hart-Parr 18-27 and a John Deere A. He farmed with these originally,” Jim said, adding he still has these beauties in his possession.
”I still have the bill of sale for the Oliver he bought the tractor from Grover Caldwell. That old tractor did a ton of work.”
Another he has is an Oliver 70 that Bernard Leake bought. “He bought it new in 1944, then got stung by a bunch of bees. They killed him,” Jim noted. “The family farmed with it for a year, and then it sat for 20 to 25 years.” He eventually bought it from Leake Farms.
The Edwardses also have a John Deere 730 LP and an Oliver Standard 88. “I got the 730 Diesel; it is a favorite from an old guy,” he explained, adding the tractor had issues with the shut-off and the owner sold it to Jim because he knew Jim would fix it up.
He drives dump trucks for a living but loves the tractors that remind him of farming days. In his family, Jim and his sons all have a hand in the hunt and the restoration. Jason and Jim hunt and do the mechanical work, and Doug does the painting.
All three have their favorite tractor makes – Jim likes the old tractors and John Deere, Jason is an International Harvester guy, and Doug loves Oliver.
Jason admires the 300 IH that they bought off eBay from Imperial, Mo. Jim has a beautiful Lehr Big Boy and a cool Simpson and Co-op tractor. “We have five 550 Olivers, four Super 77 narrows and a standard, and Oliver 880 gas and 1948 88 Row Crop,” Doug said.
Jason said they also have a 1953 Super M and the 1953 Super M that towed home the gypsy wagon, which also pulls a three-bottom plow.
Readers with questions or comments for Cindy Ladage may write to her in care of this publication. Learn more of Cindy’s finds and travel in her blog, “Traveling Adventures of a Farm Girl,” at http://travelingadventuresofafarmgirl.com