Building showcases Nebraska ag history

Pure Nebraska
Published: Jan. 5, 2023 at 10:42 AM CST|Updated: Jan. 5, 2023 at 12:08 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

CLAY CENTER, Neb. (KOLN) - During a visit to Clay Center, we learned about a relatively new building that is helping to tell the story of Nebraska’s agricultural past.

Part of the collection that you can find in the new building, and in the older Ag Hall in Clay Center once belonged to a man named Forest Pense. “For some reason he had a taste for vintage type machines,” current collection owner Jerry Schmidt said.

“He roller skated, and he never took a blacktop road. He drove the countryside and he would collect these steam engines.”

When Pense passed away, Schmidt took over the collection.

“He kind of got hooked on Avery steam engines,” Schmidt said. “I think the bulldog on the front door is what set him off. He liked the machines they were. One we have is a top mount Avery, and there are not many of them left. I think during his collection time, he collected 50 steam engines off and on.”

The Pense collection also features everything from a Springfield engine with wooden front wheels, to a Stillwater brand.

“(The Stillwater) is probably one of the rarest,” Schmidt said. “As far as I’m aware, that is the only one. I would say most of these tractors are from Nebraska, so it isn’t like he went along way to get them. But he had a variety. I had a gentleman from Mississippi tell me he thought this was the most unique collection this side of the Mississippi River.”

Many of these tractors still stand in the Old Trusty Ag Hall in Clay Center. However, more pieces of the Pense collection can now be seen in a relatively new building constructed just a few years ago.

“In 2020 right before the pandemic, we decided to put this building up,” Old Trusty Show and Clay County Museum President Lee Sherman said. “We put it up in the tough times of the pandemic.”

The building features more Pense equipment, including a wooden threshing machine.

“It’s a 1904 model,” Schmidt said. “It’s still runnable and it works. There’s still the original labels on it. Most threshing machines were made of steel, but this one is all wood.”

The new building houses other old-time farm equipment from other collections, too. “Our other buildings and facilities were running out of room,” Sherman said. “It’s so nice to have the amount of stuff we have in these buildings.” The new building, and the Clay County museum as a whole, makes for a good stop for people when traveling. “People coming through Nebraska can stop and see this,” Schmidt said. “And, by appointment we can show them and give them a tour.” “If they get a hold of one of us, we’ll come down anytime to take them on a tour of the buildings and the museum,” Sherman said.

The historical society is still looking for donations to support the new building. It’s a building, that now serves as a place to showcase even more Nebraska ag history.