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Journey of the Old 1931 John Deere GP

     This story is about an old 1931 John Deere GP Wide Track bought by my father, L.R. Richardson in 1932, from Newbern Hardware Co., in Newbern, Tennessee.
     We bought a newer tractor in the mid-'40's, and parked the old GP in a fence row. As it sat there over the years, an oak tree grew through the drawbar.
     During the mid-'80s, my neighbor Bobby Sharp took pictures of the old GP as part of his photography hobby. Without these pictures, I would not have a valuable part of this story.
          Picture taken by Bobby Sharp in the mid '80's
     In 1987, Gary Ray, a friend from Dyersburg, Tennessee, bought the tractor, tree and all. After many hours of removing the tree from the axle housing, disassembling and not being able to find parts, he became discouraged and sold it to George Rice and Larry Prescott from Murray City, Tennessee. Without doing anything, they sold it to Phillip Dillows, at Dongola, Illinois, who did more restoring and painting and sometime later sold it to Charles Gaede, in Limon, Colorado, who did some work and put it on rubber.
     Mr. Gaede sent me some pictures after partial restoration. They were the first pictures I had seen of the tractor since it left here. Seeing it partially restored made me more determined to find it. Mr. Gaede became sick and later died, but before he died he sold the tractor to Paul Harrison in Woodbine, Maryland. Mr Harrison became ill and was unable to help me find who he had sold it to. His son, Jeff, tried but had no luck.
     Here is where the trail became cold.
     Recently, Bruce Hotchkiss, senior editor of The Delmarva Farmer newspaper which serves Delaware, Maryland and Virgina, called me after seeing my "help wanted" sign and asked if he could help me find the old tractor.
     This was the biggest boost that I have had. He wrote articles and showed pictures of my old tractor in his paper more than once. I call him a gentleman and a friend. He did all he could to help, but no one answered his call.
     About two months ago, a friend and high school classmate from 1945, Joe Neighbors, from Tipton, Tennessee, called me inquiring about the article he had seen in a magazine. Not knowing I was the past owner of the tractor until he called, he offered to help me find it. He's a member of the Two-Cylinder Club in Grundy Center, Louisiana. He advertised the lost tractor in his club paper and two days after the issue came out, he got a call from Jeff Rottkamp in Long Island, New York, saying he had the tractor identified by serial number 403627.
     Joe Neighbors called me, and I called Mr. Rottkamp. I believe after talking to the Rottkamps, the old GP has its best home since it left the fencerow. I'll be talking more with them, Jeff Jr. and Jeff Sr., about pictures and maybe a video.
     They told me they bought it from Bobby Martin 5-6 years ago in Pensylvania, and he bought it from Paul Harrison. this is where the "nomadic journey", as Bruce Hotchkiss called it in his newspaper, ends.
     After seven years of fun, numerous calls, meeting new people in phone calls and the printed page, who were the most genuine, helpful and understanding about the sentimental value of htis story, I want to thank you.
     My Dad would be proud to know that the old GP that he bought from the Newbern Hardware- the only John Deere dealer in this area at the time would be alive and running. Joe Richardson, 6216 Biffle Rd., Newbern, TN 38059 Phone: 731-627-3369.

Article From "The Delmarva Farmer" Dated July 3, 2007
The Agribusiness Newspaper Serving Delaware,
Maryland, Virginia and the Mid-Atlantic Region
By; Bruce Hotchkiss, senior editor

     Joe Richardson, who will be 79 in July, would simply like to see his old tractor again.
     The tractor, a 1931 John Deere GP wide track, "laid down" on him about 60 years ago.
     "I'd just like to get on her one more time and take her down the road," he said.
     First, he has to find it.
     It's a tractor of some fame.
     About six years ago, a photograph circulated through the nation's farm press and magazines of a tractor abandoned in a fence row with an oak tree, of considerable dimension, growing up through it, inside the drawbar and into the chassis.
     Richardson lives in Newbern, Tenn., on his 85 acre farm.
     "I can look right up there on the hill, where I parked it", he said.
     That was in the 1940's as he recalls.
     But when the photo appeared, the machine of course attracted the attention of classic tractor devotees and it wasn't long before Richardson was able to sell the tractor to Phillip Dillows of Dongloa, Ill.
     Dillows, who told Richardson it took him three weeks to cut the stump of the oak tree out of the carcass of the tractor, "worked on it for about three months but gave up when he couldn't find the parts he needed," Richardson reported.
     Dillows sold it to Charles "Red" Gaede of Limon, Colorado, who continued the restoration process before selling it to Paul Harrision of Woodbine, MD.
     That's where the trail grows cold.
     The Harrison family eventually dispersed the classic tractor collection but the records of those sales, which might indicate where the JD-GP wide tread, serial number 403627 went, are not readily available.
     Grant Hill of Lisbon, MD., a member of a Maryland two-cylinder club, said the tractor was mentioned at a club meeting and he is "99% sure" that it ended up in southeastern Pennsylvania.
     Initial attempts to trace it through other sources have been unsuccessful.
     Richardson, however is not discouraged.
     He appreciates any and all attempts to locate the tractor.
     He reported last week that it hasn't rained in six weeks in his part of Tennessee "the crops are burning up" and he'd love an excuse to see this part of the country.
     "If you find the tractor," he said, "that would get me north. I have always wanted to see the Shenandoah Valley."
     Anyone with information as to the whereabouts or current owner of the JD-GP wide tread should contact Joe Richardson...........
1931 John Deere GP
     I would like to thank Jeff Rottkamp, Jr. for allowing us to share in this incredible story on the 1931 John Deere GP Wide Track. It is amazing what to the extent these people went through to find this tractor. The restoration that they performed on this tractor brought it from a tired piece of iron in a hedge row to a tractor that would be considered "showroom condition".

Thanks, Jeff




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