Garden-all and Wheel-Horse Factory in Liberty, Indiana
Frank Bethge invented the Garden-All tractor at his Central Motor Company at 110 West Union Street in Liberty, Union County, Indiana.
Production began July 4, 1945 with 10 men employed. Twenty-five to thirty-five tractors were being made weekly and it was indicated that soon the quantities would reach 75 to 100 units per week. By spring of 1947 the goal was they would be producing 600 units weekly. At that period in time two size of tractors were built, a 13/4 horse power and a 3 horse power. The Clinton, Wisconsin and Briggs engines were being used.
Soon after the start of the manufacturing of the tractor, Glenn Heilman and D. S. Weaver took over the ownership and management of the Garden-All Company. One photograph available showed Paul Dixon, J. Hugh Smith and Zack Turner finishing the assembly of a four wheel riding tractor. Hugh Morgan, at one time collector of Garden-All products, worked for the Company for a short time in 1949.
By 1947 production had increased to the point expansion was necessary and
land was purchased on West Union to West Seminary Street in Liberty.
In 1949 Garden-All had four models and sickle bars of 30 - 32 and 36 inch cut. The “Culti-Vette” was a light weight economy model selling for $159.50. There was the Huskie model with 4 horse power motor for $287.50. Offered was a wheat drill unit that would adapt to any drill and could seed 10 to 12 acres per day and with that was a coupon worth a 5% discount. Also in 1949 they advertised a M-24 reel type lawn mower and the E-30, a double oscillating sickle bar that mows anything any time. A more expensive item made that year was the Husky 4 HORSE POWER tractor for only $287.50. The Company advertised they had equipment for the suburban home, gardens, nurseries, truck gardeners, farmers, florists, and cemeteries.
In 1949 they not only were manufacturing items they also sponsored a softball
team that played every Sunday night.
Five models were offered in 1950; tractors of 1 1/2 to 6 horse power, a tool for every need and a new economy Model D selling for $129.50. The Company had as many as 22 companion attachments some of which were disc harrow, furrower, cultivator, lawn mower, sickle bar, snow plow and dump trailer.
For several years Garden-All remained based in Liberty and did a thriving business. Distribution of the products was made by leading distributors throughout the country under the leadership of Mr. Glenn Heilman, General Manager.
On October 22, 1959 the Liberty Herald states Garden-All Receivership is Sought. A hearing was held in Union County Circuit Court October 20, 1959 on a charge filed October 15th by Glenn A. Heilman, against the Garden-All Tractor, Inc., a complaint for appointment of receivership. Attorney Will Reller of Richmond, representing the plaintiff, urged the hearing be set as early as possible, stating that Heilman was a director, stockholder and an office of the company. He further alleged that the company had threatening to sell the building and certain equipment and was moving out inventory. He
further stated that if it was impossible to secure an agreement to prevent moving of equipment, etc., he would seek a retraining order to stop all action.
In November 5, 1959 The Liberty Herald had a front page story that a South
Bend, Indiana industry was showing interest in locating a Garden Tractor Manufacturing Plant in Liberty. However, Robinson Furniture held an option to purchase the site as soon as present court litigation was settled so a clear title to the property could be transferred. William Robinson and his son Roland stated they had taken the option with the full intention of expanding their business. It was explained by Maurice Miles, president of the Liberty Commercial club and C. A. Kahl, chairman of the club’s industrial committee, that the Wheel Horse company was a reliable, going concern, and if it could purchase the facilities would move in at once, employing a minimum of 25 persons, which would be a boost to the community.
On the front page of The Liberty Herald, dated November 19, 1959 it told that Liberty gets the Wheel-Horse Factory. Wheel-Horse Products, Inc. of South Bend purchased the property of Garden-All Tractor, Inc. and is making plans to be in operation before January 1, 1960. Glenn Heilman would be general manager.
Quoting from the Herald, Opening of the new plant in Liberty is a part of the company’s expansion program to decentralize operations. Some of the key personnel from the parent plant are assisting at the local established on a temporary basis. Plans are to hire all local labor in the new business. Wheel-Horse Products Company was able to purchase the Garden-All property by taking up the option to purchased held by Robinson Furniture. The South Bend concern paid Robinson $5,000 for the option and Garden-All $35,000 for the plant.
The last newspaper clipping was dated January 14, 1960. One hundred and fifty mowers were being manufactured per day at Wheel-Horse, Inc., according to Glenn Heilman, general manager.
According to present plans, an expansion program is in the offing. A new building behind the factory is to be erected in the near future. At the present time, decorating is taking place with all exterior surfaces being painted. A new paint booth has also been installed in the factory and is in operation.
The plant now had 36 person on the payroll and when production reaches capacity eleven items will be produced, all accessories to the garden tractor.
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