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Fun at the Spring Crank Up 2024
 
Wrenching Tales
By Cindy Ladage
 
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Spring Crank Up 2024 at the Tennessee Agricultural Museum took place April 27, 2024. This was an educational event with antique tractors, a touch-a -ruck event for young collectors, and kids’ activities that helped those from the urban environment learn about agriculture.
Buddy Woodson, of Eagarville, Tenn., retired from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, where he worked for 40 years, and is now on the board of the museum.  “This show is to bring awareness to the museum,” Woodson said. “There are so many that don’t know about it. So, they can come, and then share about it with their family.
“We do agricultural education,” he said about the museum, adding that the hard part of getting collectors to come to the antique tractor show is, “Getting rural folks to the city.”
The museum is part of the Tennessee Department of Agriculture complex. Woodson shared that the estate is comprised of 207 acres. “This is an area with a lot of history. The first farmers in the area were the indigenous populations followed by the Shawnee, Chickasaw and Cherokee. Prior to being Nashville, the area was known as Big Salt Springs, or French Lick.”
Settled in the late 1700s, Nashville was part of the state of North Carolina. After the American Revolution, veterans received land grants, and in 1788, William Ewing received a grant for the area that became the Ellington Agricultural Center. The area  eventually became the estate of Roger Caldwell, “Of the Caldwell Banker family,” Woodson shared.
Rogers Clark Caldwell and his wife Margaret Trousdale began construction on the building that now is the administrative building for the Tennessee Department of Agriculture. They built a 23-room Greek Revival-style mansion modeled after Andrew Jackson’s home, the Hermitage. The estate was called Brentwood House. The Caldwells also built horse barns for racing and breeding. Today, the horse barn is the location of the Tennessee Agricultural Museum.
Artifacts in the museum are credited in part to Oscar L. Farris, who accumulated farm equipment from across the state and preserved it.
About the museum and the show, Dr. Elaura Guttormson, museum director, said, “This is our 2nd annual spring crank up. We welcomed antique tractors and engines from across the state. This is a free event although we take donations for the Tennessee Agricultural Museum.”
Those wanting to donate can find a link on their website, tngamuseum.org. “We have over 4,000 artifacts (from pre-electricity) showing rural life in Tennessee. We love being a steward of history, and offer many programs,” Guttormson said. The programs are for students from kindergarten to 7th grade.
Lots of little ones were at this event and partaking in the activities, like the touch a truck, corn pools, and riding pedal tractors. Besides enjoying the show, visitors also toured the museum, which attracts more than 15,000 visitors annually. Along with the museum located in a former horse barn, there is also an heirloom garden, plus three historic cabins and a one-room schoolhouse.
Antique tractor collectors like Ron Brown from Joelton came to the show. Brown, 92, brought his 1933 F30, three years ago this coming July. He said the F30 had been sitting in a barn for 25 years before he bought it. “I bought it, and my son put tires and lights on it.”
Since the purchase, he has modified the tractor to have an electric start. His son, John, who lives in Greenbriar, Tenn., owns an F20.
Father and son set the F30 and F20 up and displayed them side by side. The F20 came from Illinois City, Ill. “My son was in St. Louis, and we went and picked it up. It was just 15 miles on the edge of Illinois. I’ve had it for 10 years and put shutters, a new head, and an electric start on it.”
While Ron’s 1933 beauty is all original, John’s F20 was all shined up. “I was a truck driver, and like chrome and shine,” he said.
Tim Steagall, of Laccases, Tenn., had an unusual doodlebug made from a 1928 Chevy truck. “It was built in 1928, and the owner, Thomas Dill from Murphysboro, ran it for 63 years. Thomas’s dad Jim built another on a 1927 Chevy in 1929, and I’ve got it,” Steagall added.
Along with tractors and engines, there were also a couple miniature steam engines on hand. Caleb Brown, who owns a heating and cooling business, shared, “My great grandpa, James Coyle, his neighbor had a full-sized Keck Gonnerman steam engine, and great grandpa modeled this after it.”
He built a 20 HP Keck Gonnerman model. “He started in 1965 and finished it in 1975. He worked in a factory, and was from Woodland, Illinois, a town near Watseka. He also built a sawmill; he built it first then built the steam engine because he wanted something to power it.”
Caleb learned to operate the half scale steam engine from his family. “I learned how to run it at shows when I was little. My great grandpa would take his sons and teach them, and today we carry on the tradition.”
Besides the Keck Gonnerman, there was also a half scale steam traction engine, a Case 65 horse model. Mike Henry said, “I built it, it took two years to build. I started it in 1998 and finished it in 2006. I love the old engines, and keeping steam history alive. An older gentleman taught me. There are not many around, this is something different, and kids love to blow the engine whistle!”
Henry built the engine from castings he had purchased. Before his half scale, he had a full-sized steam engine, but mused that while this weighs in at two tons, it is much easier to move around than the steam engine.
Jim Sorrell had a wonderful trailer filled with corn collector history. Primarily corn shellers, his amazing museum was put together in the 1980s. This Sparta, Tenn., native loves sharing the history of the machines and telling visitors about the companies that built them.
Some items on display like the forestry crawlers at the entry of the museum grounds offer forestry history as well as agricultural history. There are trails to walk, artifacts to see, and during April, one of the first shows of the year. Woodson said it best when he added, “This is the best kept secret in state government!” 
5/14/2024