Delivery of first Fordson tractor depicted by local painter

Mark French
Tales of the Little Thompson

First-Fordson-Bashor-&-Wray

The first Fordson tractor delivered to Northern Colorado came to Berthoud’s Bashor & Wray Ford Agency in 1918. The delivery of the tractor is the subject of a painting that Michael Georges has created for the Berthoud Historical Society. The painting will be auctioned at the organization’s Pioneer Heritage Gala that will be held at the McCarty-Fickel Home on September 20. Photo courtesy Berthoud Historical Society

On Saturday, June 21, there will be a flurry of activity at the McCarty-Fickel Home at 645 Seventh St. Not only will there be tours of the historic home, but there will also be a vintage car show and the unveiling of a painting that depicts a notable event that occurred in Berthoud in 1918. Michael Georges, the proprietor of Picture This Custom Framing and Interiors at 357 Mountain Ave., has created an oil painting for the Berthoud Historical Society that will be auctioned at the organization’s Pioneer Heritage Gala on Sept. 20. The subject of the painting is the delivery of the first Fordson tractor to Northern Colorado in 1918. Berthoud’s Bashor & Wray Ford Agency received the tractor at the Colorado & Southern depot on Third Street and drove it to their garage at the corner of Fourth Street and Mountain Avenue. Mr. Georges operates his shop at that location today.

The delivery of the first Fordson to Northern Colorado was chronicled by an unidentified photographer who took the snapshot that accompanies this article. The only written record of the event appeared in The Berthoud Bulletin on Oct. 18, 1918, when the Bashor & Wray Ford Agency announced, “We will get a shipment of four Fordson tractors on the 25th.” One week later, when the tractors arrived in Berthoud, the town was experiencing the first wave of Spanish Influenza that would close public places and claim the lives of several local residents.

Berthoud’s distinction for receiving the first Fordson tractor shipped to Northern Colorado was far from being important community news in 1918. That year nearly every issue of The Berthoud Bulletin was plastered with rosters of young men who had been called to fight in World War I, letters they wrote home from the Front in Europe or training camps around the nation, and accounts of the Spanish Flu that was ravaging the community.

On Oct. 18, 1918, when Bashor & Wray announced the shipment of the first Fordson tractors, the Berthoud newspaper noted that Milton Salomonson, one of three sons serving in the military, had died of influenza-related pneumonia while stationed at the Mare Island naval station near San Francisco. The tabloid also reported that Bill Peterson, whom they termed as “a stranger,” was found lying unconscious on a Berthoud sidewalk and carried to the Foresman & McCarty drugstore where he was given emergency treatment for the flu. The newspaper also contained news that John McCormick’s nephew and Mrs. John Greenwald’s son had died from the influenza. In the following weeks the newspaper was filled with accounts of several more deaths in the community — most of them of individuals in their 20s and 30s — that resulted from the flu.

News of the tractors’ arrival was also obscured by a proclamation of the Colorado State Board of Health that prohibited all public gatherings, both indoor and outdoor “of whatsoever character or nature.” In October 1918, the local newspaper also contained cartoonish advertisements that depicted caricatures of the “Princes of Germany Shaking Dice for the United States” and images of Uncle Sam sending out a call for the United War Work Campaign. That advertisement included clownish pictures of the German Kaiser in various stages of retreat. The newspaper also boasted that Coloradoans had collected over 125 tons of peach seeds for use in the “making of gas masks for our soldier boys.”

In October 1918, Berthoud’s attention was riveted on a world at war rather than an otherwise notable event that included the delivery of first Fordson tractor Berthoud and Northern Colorado. Michael Georges has chosen to title his painting of the tractors’ delivery to Berthoud, “1918: While the War Rages…” Against the broader backdrop of an American nation battling the Kaiser and the Spanish Influenza, that’s a fitting title.