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The Mighty Pioneer
Pioneer 30-60 HP Tractor

By Collections Curator Ruth Bitner
August 2006

Pioneer tractor
Severson Brothers Pioneer tractor hauling fence posts for the
76 Ranch in southwest Saskatchewan, c. 1914
Pioneer Tractor Company, E.R. Potter files
WDM George Shepherd Library

The Pioneer Tractor Company of Winona, Minnesota was one of dozens of tractor companies that flourished for a few years, then disappeared from the scene altogether. Pioneer started building tractors in 1910 and by 1911, two models were offered for sale, the 15 and the 30. A year or so later, a larger version, the 45 hit the market, but only a few were made. A smaller version came out in the mid teens. The company lasted until about 1927, but their tractors did not change much over the years.

The 30 was a big tractor, weighing 23,000 pounds. The drive wheels were 96 inches in diameter. It could pull an eight to ten bottom plow through tough, prairie sod or power a 36 inch cylinder threshing machine making it ideal for custom work.

Pioneer, like its competitors, aimed its sights on the western market. A branch plant was apparently set up in Calgary and a sales and service outlet in Regina but little is known about this part of the business. Full page advertisements were placed in farm magazines like The Canadian Thresherman and Farmer and Gas Power Age. The March, 1912 issue of Gas Power Age extolled the virtues of the Pioneer. The ad stated “The Mighty Pioneer 30 having by years of unprecedented, successful results in the States conquered the American market, now invades the Canadian field,” a rather exaggerated claim since its first tractors debuted less than a year earlier. The ad goes on, “A great army of Pioneer Gas Tractors in continuous and successful operation, scattered throughout the Great West as far North as Saskatchewan and as far South as the Gulf of Mexico, bear testimony to the pre-eminence of our product.”

The Pioneer boasted “Six Exclusive Superiorities:”

The addition of an enclosed cab for the operator was new in the tractor business. It would be nearly 30 years before Minneapolis-Moline came out with a cab on its UDLX Comfortractor. The Pioneer also advertised a speed of six miles per hour, compared to two or three by other tractor builders.

Evidently, Pioneer found buyers in Saskatchewan. The company’s full-page advertisement in the June, 1912 edition of The Canadian Thresherman and Farmer included testimonials from five Saskatchewan farmers: Weitzen Land Company, Rosetown; R.J. Boyd, Regina; C.H. Hendrickson, Milestone; A.H. Chipman, Elbow; and Speltz Brothers of Brock. According to the ad, the Speltz Brothers “...find it cheaper to operate the Pioneer 30, the ultimate tractor.”

The Severson Brothers of Waldville, near Climax, Saskatchewan also bought a Pioneer for custom plowing and threshing, paying for it out of their first season’s profits. Henry Severson’s letter to Pioneer Tractor in Calgary was printed in an ad in a 1913 Grain Growers’ Guide. “We have all other kinds of machines in our neighbourhood but none have done as well as our Pioneer 30 and we heartily recommend it as we believe it the best machine on the market and know it to be a great money maker.”

Another Pioneer went to a Borden, Saskatchewan area farmer. He bought it at the Regina dealership for $4500 in 1916. According to information in Western Development Museum files, this tractor was then sold to William Rowse, a farmer in the Hanley district. A couple of years later, George Argue, also from the Hanley area, bought it and used it until about 1928. Argue worked for three years as a “trouble man” for Pioneer in Regina, but it is not known if this was before or after he bought the tractor. Argue’s Pioneer 30 then sat idle for years. In 1944, W.M. Conboy bought but never used it. Four years later, Conboy sold it to the Western Development Museum where it has remained to this day.

You may see the Mighty Pioneer at the Saskatoon branch of the Western Development Museum where it stands silently in the tractor line-up along with other dinosaurs of the tractor industry. While at the WDM, be sure to experience the new agricultural exhibit, Winning the Prairie Gamble: Farm Life in Saskatchewan. A warm welcome awaits.

Canadian Thresherman and Farmer, June, 1912, p. 37
Gas Power Age, Winnipeg, March, 1912, p. 3
Grain Growers’ Guide, Winnipeg, March 5, 1913
Wendel, C.H. Encyclopedia of American Farm Tractors, Crestline Publishing, Sarasota FL, 1979
Western Development Museum artifact file WDM-1973-S-332

Rear of Pioneer tractor
WDM Pioneer tractor west of Hanley, Saskatchewan, 1938
Pioneer Tractor Company, E.R. Potter files
WDM George Shepherd Library

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