Longtime farmer's sons donate tractor to Delaware museum
DOVER, Del. (AP) – The Delaware Agricultural Museum and Village received an unexpected, shiny new gift recently when the sons of Newell B. Everett Sr. presented it with a meticulously restored 1953 Massey-Harris Mustang tractor.
Purchased new in 1953 by their father from the W.W. Montague Massey-Harris dealership in Sudlersville, Maryland, the tractor was used on the family's 300-acre dairy and grain farm on the northern Eastern Shore of Kent County, Maryland.
"The museum is overwhelmed by the generosity, and trust in our organization, shown by the Everett brothers in donating not just a prize possession, but a piece of their family history and legacy," said Carolyn Claypoole, director of the Delaware Agriculture Museum.
"The 1953 Massey-Harris Mustang not only adds to the scope of our collection, it provides a valuable interpretive and educational tool that will enable patrons of all ages to imagine and experience 'life on the farm' on Delmarva in the mid-20th century."
The addition to the museum is a unique new stop for visitors after it was closed for a couple of months during the coronavirus pandemic. It reopened June 3 and is now open from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
During its closure, museum leaders decided to take up several renovation projects.
The museum already planned renovations prior to businesses closing, but museum board president Grier Stayton said the forced closure served as an appropriate time to execute them.
"We try to make lemonade out of lemons here, because with the shutdown, we were able to get a lot of (renovations) done that had been put on hold," Mr. Stayton said. "We're very happy with what we've gotten done."
The Delaware Agricultural Museum and Village, a privately owned nonprofit organization in Dover, serves as an important historical landmark memorializing 19th- and 20th-century Delaware.
The 30,000-square-foot facility is home to 10 structures from the mid-to-late 19th century. Inside the museum, patrons can view multiple informative exhibitions, which include authentic farming equipment. On the museum grounds are the structures that form the historical village, which hosts private events, such as weddings and educational programs for children.
The renovations to the facility include multiple major projects, such as installing new flooring inside museum facilities, painting the museum interior and installing new air conditioning and heating units. The museum has also refurbished its website, agriculturalmuseum.org, which has been improved to be more user-friendly and informational. Visitors can also expect to see new and improved exhibits, such as a display on rural electrification, which is in development.
The addition of the antique tractor fits right in with the museum's plans to offer more for the public to see and do at the facility.
Claypoole said new attractions like the tractor go a long way toward bringing in first-time visitors along with returning visitors.
"I hear from a lot of people that they haven't returned since they were below the age of 12," Ms. Claypoole said. "We're trying to give people a reason to come back here."
According to Mr. Everett's sons — Newell Jr. and Spencer Everett — the Mustang was a complement to two Massey-Harris 44s also owned by their father. The Mustang did the light work of cultivating and pulling planters, drills, hay rakes and wagons, while the M-H 44s did the typical heavy-duty work of plowing, working ground, baling hay and picking corn with an M-H mounted picker.
With three hardworking Massey-Harrises in their shed, the Everett family was able to expand beyond their farm to do some sharecropping and land-leasing and till a total of 700 acres until deciding to stop farming in 1961. With that decision came the sale of almost all the farm equipment — but not the Mustang.
The Mustang continued to be used by Newell Everett Sr. on his large garden and truck patch. However, by the early 1980s, the tractor was in poor running condition and had been committed to storage at the time of his death in 1987.
From time to time, brothers Newell Jr. and Spencer talked about having the Mustang restored, but it was not until 2002 that they committed to doing it.
Hiring John J. Hill to do the restoration, the brothers pulled the Mustang out of the garage for his inspection. Noting the good news that the motor was not frozen, Mr. Hill thought he had something to work with.
Starting the restoration in October 2002, Mr. Hill went about using his contacts to find the needed replacement parts. The gas tank came from the Midwest, the side panels came from the West Coast, and the motor and radiator were reconditioned locally.
Dismantling the entire tractor, Mr. Hill sandblasted and painted the parts and put it back together piece by piece. New tires corresponding to the originals were purchased, and the electrical system was returned to its original 6-volt setup.
In less than six months, Mr. Hill returned the fully and beautifully restored 1953 Massey-Harris Mustang to the grateful Everett brothers, who looked with sentimental pride upon the living memory of so much of their family's rich agricultural heritage.
And, now, after 17 years of enjoying the results of their perseverance and Mr. Hill's exquisite workmanship — and of reaping many "Best in Show" awards locally, nationally and in Canada — the Everett brothers have generously donated the tractor to the Delaware Agricultural Museum and Village, where it will be prominently displayed for years to come.