Though the humble tractor is the star and namesake of the South Dakota Tractor Museum, it isn’t the only attraction. Made up of a series of unassuming warehouses off of I-90 in Kimball, South Dakota, the museum contains an impressive collection of farm equipment and other donated objects with regional historical and cultural significance.
One can certainly trace the history of modern farming here—the museum contains everything from basic man-powered and horse-drawn plows to state-of-the-art tractors, combines, and hay-baling machines. Volunteers are on standby to walk visitors through the eclectic collection and point out the highlights including a hand cranked corn-kernel remover (which still works), hog oilers, a rare McCormick-Deering steel wheeled tractor from the 1930s (before rubber tires were used), and an entire jail cell from the 1800s. Visitors inevitably hear a lot of fantastically gruesome stories about how each piece of equipment caused bodily harm to someone’s cousin, uncle, brother, or some other family member.
The museum also houses an authentic one-room schoolhouse that was painstakingly moved to and reconstructed on the property by volunteers. People from all over the state have donated desks, books, and other classroom items from their (or their grandparents’) time spent in rural one-room schools. In another building, there’s a collection of antique household and kitchen items that offer an idea of what prairie living was like in the early 1900s. The place is filled with old iceboxes, hand cranked washing machines, kerosene stoves, and those notorious exploding pressure canners.
Also worth noting is the museum’s blacksmith shop, which is fully functional and gives demonstrations from time to time.
Know Before You Go
The museum is easy to access from the highway. Definitely ask one of the wonderful volunteers to give you a tour, as the place is packed to the gills and not everything is labeled.