Preserving The Mighty Massey
Oklahoma’s Jim Esbenshade is creating an on-farm museum dedicated to his favorite red equipment.
By Mark Johnson | Photos By Rob Mattson
Jim Esbenshade’s love of Massey tractors began when he was only 9 years old on his family’s Pennsylvania farm. “Dad had a 1941 Massey-Harris 81 tractor and another brand,” recalls the now 70-year-old Oklahoma cattleman. “I just couldn’t handle the other one. Trying to back up a manure spreader is tough for a little kid! But with the Massey, Dad just slid the seat up, and I could easily steer and reach the pedals. That ol’ 81 began my lifelong passion for not only using Masseys, but collecting them, too.”
Esbenshade would end up heading west, moving to Colbert, Oklahoma, in 1973 with his wife, Barbara, and five Massey tractors to pursue his own farming career. As the years ticked by, the Esbenshades moved through various types of agriculture, starting with peanuts and cotton, transitioning into fresh vegetables and later focusing on what is now a roughly 500-head cow/calf and silage operation. Esbenshade also adopted sustainable farming practices and developed a patented method of converting used cooking greases into fertilizer and livestock feed ingredients.
In December 1993, the Esbenshades lost their teenage son, Jamie, to a sudden illness. The following year, Esbenshade launched a heritage farm show called Golden Harvest Days in Jamie’s memory. The annual show has grown into a massive regional event and draws hundreds each year to the Esbenshades’ farm to enjoy demonstrations on threshing, ensilage cutting, potato harvesting, horse-drawn equipment and even vintage airplanes.
Through everything, Esbenshade’s enthusiasm for Massey equipment has never waned. In the late 2000s, at the encouragement of their daughter Ingrid, the Esbenshades began planning Massey World, a 17,000-square-foot, two-story museum they’re building on their farm to honor and preserve the manufacturer’s rich agricultural heritage.
“It will not only contain my own personal 500-piece Massey collection, but also donated items from around the world,” Esbenshade says. “There will be thousands of Massey pieces, from antique equipment and memorabilia to a huge collection of toys. We’re even restoring Dad’s old tobacco planter and the Massey-Harris 81 that started all this. I know that he and Jamie would love it.”
Massey World is slated to open during Golden Harvest Days in June 2019.