Minneapolis Molines make memories for Bill Schultz

Ray Mueller, Correspondent


Whenever there was an antique tractor show anywhere in the area during past 25 or so years, especially if it involved the gold-colored Minneapolis Moline brand, it's likely that Bill Schultz was in the crowd or even playing a leading role in organizing the event.

One of the rewards that Bill Schultz earned for restoring a Cockshutt 550 tractor for owner Everett Kuester of Valders in 1995 is the chance to display that tractor at shows today.

As a New Holstein resident in his modular home since 2003, Schultz regularly has a display at shows in east central Wisconsin although he has greatly downsized his collection in recent years. At one time, he had a collection of about 30 Minneapolis Moline units along with one Cockshutt.

Today, Schultz's most attention getting tractor is a 1948 Silver King tractor built in Plymouth, Ohio. He describes it “an oddball,” of which not many were made.

Most Silver Kings stayed on farms in the East although Schultz knows of a few others in Wisconsin, including one with an owner near Marytown. It is a standard model built during its last production year, he noted.

Farm tractor roots

The oldest of five children, Schultz was born in Manitowoc but his family moved onto a farm southeast of Kiel near Millhome in 1950 when he was 8. The construction of the highway, which is now 32/57, forced the family to move onto another farm about a half mile away.

One fascination that Schultz retained from his life on the farm was an affinity for the Minneapolis Moline line of tractors, if only because they represented a contrast with the far more popular International Harvester and John Deere tractor brand lines. Friendships also developed with a few other Minneapolis Moline owners in the area, he indicates.

After graduating from Kiel High School in 1960, Schultz began to work for the local E&S Trucking firm. By 1971, he headed off to Green Bay to work for Eiring Equipment and then another construction company for which he was a crane mechanic.

The next career move was to C.D. Smith of Fond du Lac, for which Schultz worked from 1977 until he was laid off in February of 2000 at age 57. Fortunately, he was able to dip into his union pension fund a year later after paying dues for 40 years.

Hitting the show trail

While working for C.D. Smith, Schultz took up his Minneapolis Moline collection and restoration hobby. He began attending the Wisconsin Steam Engine Club Show in Chilton and was fortunate to find two Minneapolis Moline tractors on a farm near Glenbeulah. He participated in 1991 when Minneapolis Moline was the featured brand name for the show at Chilton.

Later during that decade, he worked with Walter Keller at Forest Junction to stage major expos on Keller's property for Minneapolis Molines in 1995 and the John Deere line in 1998. He was also very involved in a Minneapolis Moline and Cockshutt shows in 2000 and 2002 at Baraboo. In 2005, a major event was the Minneapolis Moline Prairie Gold Rush expo that drew visitors from great distances to the Holiday Inn in Manitowoc.

During those years, Schultz made many trips hauling Minneapolis Moline tractors belonging to other owners to shows. At age 74, he knows that taking on such tasks “does not work as good as when I was younger.”

From 1988 to 2002, Schultz also had a business which he titled Schultz's Enterprises. It involved his collection of toys and literature in addition to the lineup of tractors.

Current schedule

In recent years, especially after his wife Leah died in March of 2011, Schultz has cut back on his display schedule at events. Still on his annual calendar are the show at Pinecrest Village in Manitowoc County, the Vintage Steel show at Calumetville on the third weekend of September and a show at Luxemburg in Kewaunee County.

In addition to his Silver King, Schultz owns a 1956 Minneapolis Moline 335 tractor. At some shows, he can be found with the 1963 Cockshutt 550 tractor that he restored for owner Everett Kuester of Valders in 1995.

Beyond sharing his knowledge about tractors themselves, Schultz enjoys being at the shows in order to meet and talk with people that he has worked with over the years as a result of his hobby. He can be reached at 920-286-0651.