The Free Press, Mankato, MN

July 21, 2013

Farm auction draws hundreds to Amboy

Civil War ambulance among memorabilia sold

By Dan Linehan

---- — AMBOY — Hobbyists looking to expand their collections bid on parade-ready horse-drawn carriages. Bearded Amish farmers in straw hats gathered in close, eyeing up the merchandise with a more practical aim in mind.

And onlookers just watched the action this weekend at a farm memorabilia and equipment auction just southeast of Amboy attended by perhaps 250 people. A collection that took about 40 or 50 years to assemble took five hours to sell Saturday morning.

The collection belonged to Mark Peterson and his dad, Vern, who died in March.

Mark Peterson told the crowd Saturday morning that his dad wanted him to sell it.

“There’s a lot of people that could sure enjoy some of this stuff,” he remembers his dad saying.

Then the bidding began, called by auctioneer John Marg of Black River Falls, Wis., as a kerosene heater went to a man in Amish dress.

Most of the Peterson collection was acquired from south-central Minnesota, such as a C.C. Bruscke & Son wooden grain wagon that Peterson remembers buying from a man who bought it new in 1923 from the Good Thunder company. The man didn’t want to part with the wagon, and only did so when he was assured it would be stored indoors each night. It sold on Saturday for about $2,000.

A Civil War-era ambulance, probably drawn in its time by mules, passed from an Illinois museum to a collector before ending up at the Peterson farm, Mark said. It sold for about $4,000.

A former Standard Oil horse-drawn oil storage tank, which brought in about $3,000, had two 100-gallon tanks and a 50-gallon tank. In its day, it is likely to have held kerosene, gas and a tractor fuel called distillate.

Vern Peterson also created a replica of a 19th century “RFD” — rural free delivery — mail cart, modeled after one from Mapleton.

A horse-drawn corn binder, which collects the grain and ties it in bunches, caught the eye of Daniel Petersheim, an Amish man from McIntire, a small town in northern Iowa. He said binders like these aren’t made anymore, and there are fewer and fewer farm auctions like this to find them.

He also said iron prices are also high, which is leading some to sell their old machinery.

It sold for about $2,000, Peterson said, to an Amish man.

Families and couples strolled around the lawn, content to take in the cool, breezy morning as spectators.

Niki Day of Des Moines was visiting family in Amboy, and said her children were enjoying the ornate horse-drawn buggies. One of her daughters leaned against her mom saying it was too cold, showing how far temperatures had dropped in the last day.

Most of the attendants, though, were old men, either currently farming, retired or something in between.

That last category included two of the Kath brothers, according to one of their brothers, Eldon. Two other Kaths — for a total of five at the auction - had joined Eldon on the blade of a tractor to watch.

The two brothers are mostly retired, but still enjoy working with horses, Eldon said. Still, at $5 per horse per day for hay, which doesn’t include feed grain or pet bills, using horses instead of machines isn’t a money-saving venture.

Eldon said farm auctions aren’t rare, but not many are as large as this. “It’s not too often you run into this much stuff,” he said.

To view a photo gallery from the auction, click on this story at