Dreams of a wagon-builder

The renowned Springfield Wagon Company was arguably one of the two most important industries in the Queen City between the Civil War and World War II — second only to the Frisco Railroad.

Founded by Springfield businessmen in 1872, the wagon company was reorganized by Homer Fellows as principal stockholder in 1875 and remained in the family and Springfield until 1941, when it was sold to a lumber company in Fayetteville, Ark. The company remained in operation until 1952, having adapted to produce semi-trailers in its latter years, and selling that portion to Fruehauf Trailer Corporation.

More information on the Springfield Wagon Company is available at Springfield’s History Museum on the Square, or in Steven Lee Stepp’s 1972 published master’s thesis, “The Old Reliable.”

Or you could just visit with Louis Allen, the most passionate Springfield Wagon aficionado I’ve ever met. Just talking about the priceless records destroyed when the factory was closed brings him to tears, no lie. I saw it last week when he talked to our historical society, and I understood.

A master carpenter and wagon builder, the north Springfield native has made the wagon company a part of his life’s passion for decades.

He knows every detail and every dimension of the Springfield Wagon — one of many built in the 19th century, but widely touted as the most well-built and reliable — right down to the tolerances on the wheels and skeins.

Though he no longer owns one, he is eager to rebuild one or more, and is always on the lookout for wagon hardware in old farm barns. If he can find all the metal parts, he can build the wagon. Part of his dream is to rebuild or find enough road-worthy Springfield’s to recreate a portion of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s trip to Mansfield.

I don’t know if Louis will rebuild another Springfield or not, but after visiting with him over lunch, I sense in his passion for exacting detail and quality, the same pursuit of quality that gained the Springfield Wagon high acclaim well into the 20th century, and I wish him the Godspeed and success. If you have something to help him build a Springfield, drop him a note at P.O. Box 24, Rockaway Beach, MO 65740. Oh yeah, Johnny Morris, I think he’d like to talk to you, too.

(Copyright 2019, James E. Hamilton)

AG NOTEBOOK

FAIR GROVE’S Junior Livestock Show is Saturday, May 11 at the Fair Grove Saddle Club. Hog show is at 8 a.m., meat goats at 10 a.m. and beef cattle at 12 p.m. Registration closes 30 minutes prior to each show.

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SEARS’ MISSOURI SADDLE sold for $8.60 in the 1902 catalogue. Heavier stock saddles, like the Gunnison, Green River, Casper and Olympia ranged from $11.99 to $31.85.

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A GOAT WORKSHOP is planned for 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, May 11, at the Lawrence County Youth Fair Grounds in Freistatt. Cindy Huggins, a licensed, certified judge and exhibitor, will demonstrate the finer points of showing goats, including nutrition, grooming and showmanship. Youth are encouraged to bring their own animals. A mock show is planned at the end of the day camp. The cost is $20, which includes lunch and educational materials. Contact Jamie Lowry at (417) 229-1123 or e-mail her at ja-miel2003@centurylink.net.

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PROPERTY RIGHTS got a boost as the Missouri House of Representatives moved HB 1062 forward Thursday, April 18, with a bipartisan 115-35 vote. The legislation now moves to the Missouri Senate for approval. The Missouri Cattlemen's Association was quick to commend legislators for approving the measure to protect private property rights. MCA executive vice-president Mike Deering said the urgency of this legislation is in response to the Public Service Commission granting eminent domain for the Grain Belt Express project in late March. As a result of that decision, private investors will now have the authority to take land from private landowners in eight counties.

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THE FOUR STATE FARM SHOW is Friday-Sunday, May 3-5, near Pittsburg, Kansas, on the same farm where it has been located since 1984. Parking and admission are free. Show hours are 8 a.m.-4 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 8 a.m.-3 p.m. on Sunday. The show is located south of Pittsburg, to the junction of Highways 400, 69 and K-171, then one-half mile east. The show is sponsored by Farm Talk Newspaper.

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