Tractor Museum Trip

1/2 scale model of John Froelich’s invention

Welcome to the blog.  Earlier last week Jesse and I traveled north, camped, fished, and visited a very special museum.  The museum was dedicated to John Froelich, the son of German immigrants.  Froelich’s invention was the first gas powered tractor capable of forward and reverse motion.  It was invented in Clayton County, Iowa in 1892.

Within 2 years, John Froelich and partners formed the Waterloo Gasoline Traction Engine Company in Waterloo, Iowa.  By 1918 the John Deere Company bought the Waterloo plant.  The Waterloo Tractor Works exists to this day and is one of the largest tractor factories in the United States.  From its humble beginnings, John Froelich forever changed farming and how the worlds people are fed.

Tractor Museum Map (1)

The Village of Froelich is central to many Clayton County attractions.  Each fish
denotes a great place to catch some trout.  The best rural food in the county
is in the little town of Gunder.

Froelich is easy to find and just as easy to accidentally drive past.  At its peak, this town boasted a population of 50.  As of now, about a dozen people live there.  So where is it?  Many folks have heard of the town of Marquette or have toured nearby Spook Cave.  Froelich is just west of there – about 12 miles west of the Mississippi River on Highway 18.  It’s central to the trout fishing streams and that great restaurant in the neighboring town of Gunder.

The Froelich Museum located at the old General Store

The Froelich museum is housed in the Burlingame General Merchandise building.  The general store was run by various owners, the last of whom were the Burlingame family.  The building had been clad in metal siding back then.  Why?  The train passed so close to the store that the metal siding was needed to prevent sparks from the train’s steam fired engine from burning down the building.  The warehouse (which you can see behind the store), had an opening at the right height to allow freight to be moved from a box car right into the warehouse.  That was pretty cool!

Also included in the tour was an ice house, one room school house, blacksmith’s shop, 1903 era barn and more.  The cost was only $5 and the tour took over two hours, including a couple of well produced videos.  (After fishing in the morning, a chance to sit down was most welcome!)  There was a tremendous amount of history and I learned a lot while visiting the tiny village.  It was the highlight of the trip.


1_Old Store
The Burlingame General Store as it would appear in the early days.


Egg Scale
Do your eggs measure up?

I’ve traveled to this area dozens of times yet each trip there seems to be a new and exciting experience and lots of interesting history… such as encountering this egg scale – one of the many artifacts on the tour.

Thanks for riding along!  It’s likely I’ll be doing a little camping and fishing again soon… well, at least camping.  There’s the most interesting pizza restaurant that sounds appealing.  For those who watch “The Big Bang Theory” on TV, this restaurant sounds like a place character “Sheldon Cooper” might enjoy.  Stay tuned!

Safe and happy travels always!

Brad, Jesse James, and Jennifer
Jones County, Iowa

1 Trout Pond
Taken earlier that day, this is the pond at the Big Spring trout hatchery… a
great place for “reflecting”…


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