The Farmer’s Harrow

This was originally printed in an old farm magazine. The author is unknown. I thought it was a funny piece and since it is the time of the year when farmers are tilling their ground, I thought it would be an interesting article. The Hinckley – Squaw Grove – Pierce area is made up of mostly farms. It is predominantly an agricultural community and has been since it’s beginning. The folks that settled this area knew the soil was rich and the weather conducive to growing high yielding crops. Each year the farmer needs to till the soil before they can plant their crop. The evolution of farm implements has also been an industry that has helped the area develop and grow. Our neighbors in DeKalb, Sandwich and Plano, all had factories that produced farm machinery. The Hinckley area too, had folks that were very instrumental in agricultural development. I will be posting an article regarding those folks in the near future. Nonetheless, for now, here is the mentioned article: The Farmer’s Harrow…

The harrow is a utensil whose purpose is to go over and cover up the mistakes made by its predecessor, the plow. In the broad sense, the harrow is anything from an old barn door driven full of railroad spikes to a twenty-foot revolving disc arrangement with upholstered seats. As long as the thing chews up the sod and turns it out in small, irregular and harmless fragments, it may be called a harrow.

A very primitive harrow


As the harrow originated back in the prehistoric days, it has had plenty of time to develop, and it now can be had in more varieties than notes on submarine controversies, but there is one popular kind which seems to remain as a sort of standard. This is composed of crisscross strips of steel, made up like the latticework on the back porch, and in these are stuck a number of sharp spikes, and it is pulled over the ground by a team of mules, while the hired man stands on the machine and gives it weight—if he does not go to sleep and fall off.

The garden rake belongs to the harrow family, and, in fact, is really a young harrow, but while it is much smaller, it is a great deal more dangerous than its large relative. The rake has been known to come out of the crotch of a tree, get in the garden path, and lie in wait until someone came along and stepped on it, and it then bites them in the foot. It sometimes loses two or three of its teeth in this way.


Another point of difference between the rake and the harrow is that when the former gets old and begins to lose its teeth it is practically worthless, as no dentist would bother about building new molars for it, but when the harrow loses its incisors they can be replaced easily by the farmer himself, and without any medical aid.

The duty of the two, also, is quite different. The harrow is used only for masticating the ground and smoothing out the field so that the hired man will not fall over the clods and break his neck, and while the rake is utilized similarly on a smaller scale, it has many other uses. It is used to gather up the grass after the lawn mower has been in operation; it collects the dead leaves in the autumn so that the small boy can build bonfires and burn up the house, and it also helps in cleaning up the place in the spring. In this latter occupation, the rake sometimes gets a tin can in its teeth and cannot let go. The rake is used also quite extensively during political campaigns to gather muck.

As previously stated, the harrow has developed a great deal in its time, and by this evolution it is losing much of its personality by being attached to the cultivator, and as time goes on it will probably become more and more a part of the plow, until the harrow, as such, will cease to exist. There will be left nothing of it then except the memory and harrowing tales.

Spring Tooth Harrow
Jeff Wielert

By Jeff Wielert

Jeff has lived most of his life in Hinckley. His hobbies are mostly all related to or around history. Jeff served as a director for 8 years with the Northern Illinois Steam Power Club and was a firefighter in Hinckley for almost 20 years. He became a Director of Christian Education and served the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod for over 10 years. Jeff and his wife, Kim currently own Bountiful Blessings Farm Produce on McGirr Road in Hinckley. He serves as a HHS board member and the Vice President. Jeff works continually on local history and genealogy.