1937 John Deere Hay Press le>

Adolf Nebgen's John Deere Baler

A 1937 Model 40 Hay Press with Modifications



John Deere Model 40 BalerAdolf Nebgen had long done custom hay baling in the Stonewall area with a horse-powered baler. This type of baler had removable wheels, used for transporting, which were removed at the site, so that the baler sat on the ground. A horse, mule or donkey, harnessed to a long pole and walking in a circle, provided the power. The hay being baled was usually in a haystack in the barnyard. The haystack was formed by setting a long cedar post into the ground and then stacking the hay around it in the fashion of a cone. When hay was cut in the field, it was first stacked in smaller piles called shocks. A long pipe was stuck under the shock, a rope was tied across from the front to the back, and the shock was then dragged to the barnyard to be added to the haystack. If Adolf's schedule permitted, the shocks were dragged from the field directly to where the baler was set up and fed directly into the baler. Because most farmers were cutting hay at about the same time and due to the difficulty of moving and setting up the baler, most of the hay had to be put into haystacks.

Adolf recognized the need for a mobile hay baler to more efficiently serve his customers. Since such an implement was not readily available, Adolf set out to build one of his own design. The 1937 John Deere Model 40 hay press, in this paper referred to as a baler, was only available mounted on steel implement wheels as were used on farm wagons at that time. These would not be suitable for transporting the baler on paved roads. The baler was designed to be used in a stationary mode, next to a hay stack, powered by a belt from an engine or a tractor pulley. An optional John Deere six-horsepower, water-cooled, one-cylinder engine was also available, but it proved to have inadequate power for sustained baling. Adolf purchased only the basic hay press from Krauskopf Brothers in Fredericksburg, Texas. When the baler was delivered, it was placed on the ground next to a haystack in the barnyard, in the same fashion as the older horse-powered baler. Adolf  jacked up his Model A Ford and attached a flat-belt sheave to the spokes of a rear wheel. with three J bolts. This same sheave was used to power a meat grinder for making sausage. The flat belt from Adolf's Model T Ford-powered wood saw was then used to power the baler. The Krauskopf representative demonstrated how to feed the hay into the press and how to drop the blocks into the press at appropriate times. A significant improvement in this machine was the up and down feeder that moved hay into the press instead of having to push it in by hand as in the old baler. Another big improvement was a tilting rack to hold the blocks, so that it was no longer necessary to drop the blocks in by hand, as in the old baler. After this "factory demonstration ," the baler modifications began.

The frame salvaged off a 1928 Chevrolet car was used to extend the frame of the hay press. The engine of this car was installed as the power plant. The engine was a four-cylinder, cast-iron block, overhead-valve engine developing thirty-five horsepower. Originally the engine was cross-mounted with just one flat belt sheave where the transmission had been. The engine developed too much power for a single belt, causing the belt to jump off under load. The engine was then mounted in-line, coupled to a Model A Ford differential with shortened axles and axles housings, and flat belt sheaves made from the Chevrolet's wheels attached to the axles. A longer primary input shaft was installed and a flywheel and an additional sheave was mounted onto the shaft. The two belts now transmitted all the power needed to drive the baler under heavy loads. Additional accessories to the power plant were a salvaged Dodge radiator and grill and a Model T Ford gas tank. The belt idler pulleys were made from Model T Ford front axle spindles and brake drums. The baler was mounted on two Model A Ford front axles--the rear one stationary and the front one set up for steering with a draw tongue.

With this baler, pulled by a Model A Ford, Adolf and a crew of two or more hired hands baled hay in the area around Stonewall, Johnson City, Blanco, Hye, Albert, Luckenbach, Willow City and all points between. Initially, the hired hands were nephews and neighbor boys. Adolf always fed the baler while the others strung and tied the wires, moved the bales and moved the baler from shock to shock. Meanwhile, Adolf had another crew of two or more nephews and/or neighbor boys doing custom firewood sawing in the same area with his home-built Model T Ford cord-wood saw. Before the arrival of electricity in February, 1942, most people heated their homes and cooked with wood stoves, so there was a year-round requirement for wood.

In the hay field, the farmer was required to have at least two hands to pitch the hay onto the baler table. When a shock was nearly finished, Adolf would yell, "Go!" The person stringing the wires was expected to run to the engine, put it in gear and be ready to "pop-the-clutch" when Adolf waved. At the same time, one of the tablers was expected to run to the next shock and have a pitchfork full of hay ready to pitch onto the table the moment the baler stopped. Adolf always recommended that the farmer have three table hands so they could rotate. When there was only two, Adolf would mercilessly "work-their-butts-to-the-ground." There was always another job in another field waiting.

When World War II started, one-by-one the nephews and neighbor boys were drafted into military service. As time went by, they were replaced at the baler by Adolf's wife Lydia, his two daughters Agnes and Julia, and his sons Marvin and Alton. Occasionally, some of the younger nephews also helped out. Eventually, both girls married and left home, but Marvin and Alton helped bale while in high school. When they got jobs, they helped whenever they could. Marvin got a job in San Antonio, but on his days off he returned home and helped bale.

On October 12, 1953, Adolf's father-in-law Joseph F. Jenschke died, and Adolf's wife Lydia received a small sum of money. Adolf used the money to buy one of the first John Deere automatic pickup and automatic wire-tying balers, powered by a Wisconsin V-4 air cooled engine. He also bought a used Ford 9N tractor and equipped it with a Sherman two-speed transmission adapter to pull the baler. Now, one person, driving the tractor, could do the work previously done by five people.

When Alton learned that Marvin had received his military draft orders, he volunteered for the draft and both reported for U.S. Army basic training on October 17, 1956. By this time, many farmers had purchased their own automatic balers and some of these also did custom baling. When the last two of his hands gone, Adolf retired from baling after more than thirty-five years of serving his neighbors with three generations of machines.

In 1997, after many years of urging by a neighbor, Albert Meier, Marvin and Alton moved the old baler out of the barn where it had been stored for forty-four years. The spark-plug wires had been totally eaten away by mice and rats and the fan belt had become "petrified." After replacing those items and burnishing the points in the distributor, the engine fired up on three cylinders. Upon removing the valve cover, the brothers discovered a stuck exhaust valve. After freeing it, the engine and everything worked as it had all of those years previously. Since then, Marvin, his wife Marlene, his brother Alton, and Alton's wife Marilyn have baled hay every year at the Hill Country Antique Tractor and Engine Show in Fredericksburg.



Baler and Crew

Trying out the new baler--June, 1937--Probably at Grobvater Jenschke's farm at Blumenthal, Texas.
Left to right: Lee Danz, "Bunny" Metzger, Erin Danz, Marcus Nebgen, Adolf Nebgen, Eugene Jenschke, Barney Danz, Joseph F. Jenschke.


The above article was written by:


Marvin C. Nebgen
1814 Upper Liveoak Road
Fredericksburg, Texas  78624
(830) 997-7939
mcnebgen@marvinnebgen.net