MARION HISTORICAL MUSEUM PHOTO
His new Ford car visible at right, B.L. Amick poses with the large group of people needed to thresh wheat at his farm near Aulne in 1914.
It took a community to thresh a field
Weather wasn’t the only obstacle to wheat harvest 105 years ago, before the advent of modern farm implements.
In 1914, rain-delayed harvest began in earnest the first week in July, with dozens of itinerate crews using often shared or transient equipment to thresh wheat.
It was an ardous and labor-intensive process for farmers like Barney Luther Amick (1870-1952), whose homestead was near Aulne in Centre Township.
B.L., as he was known, had a typical farm life, often struck by tragedy, including losing two barns to fire a year before.
Despite having a wife and a 17-year-old son, along with three other children, ages 8 to 15, he still needed help from a large traveling crew of harvesters to thresh his wheat.
It was a dangerous task, as were most agricultural endeavors — something he learned just a year later while harvesting corn.
“B.L. Amick met with a severe accident,” the Marion Record of Oct. 25, 1915, reported. “He got his left hand caught in a corn binder, and the index finger was torn to pieces, and the rest of the hand somewhat but not seriously hurt.
“He was riding on the binder and the corn was clogging considerably, and he had stopped a number of times and gotten off to loosen it up. Then he stopped the binder and reached over to pull the stuff loose without getting out of the seat, and while doing that the team started.
“Had he not gotten the team stopped immediately he might have lost his hand. He had to have help to get loose.”
Little surprise, the next year B.L. spent a weekend in Hutchinson, looking at new-fangled tractors at an implement demonstration.
Two years after that, after achieving enough success to also build his family a new farmhouse, he bought a 1020 Titan Tractor plow from Pantle Hardware in Marion.
“This machine is the picture of power,” the Marion Review, later to merge with the Record, wrote at the time. “It does the work of 12 horses.”
Tractors were being advertised at the time as the do-all machine of farming, able to aid in both planting and harvesting.
Ironically, Amick served around the same time as council, the top elected position, in the Marion chapter of the Modern Woodsmen of America, a fraternal organization now known mainly for selling insurance that in those days emphasized service to people in “safe” professions.
The group met in a hall on the second floor of the Wheeler Building (now home to Randy and Rachel Collett) and had unique membership restrictions.
It was open religiously, accepting Gentiles and Jews, Catholics and Protestants, agnostics and atheists. (Amick was a Baptist, a member of the Federated Church that combined the present-day Presbyterian Church with a Baptist church that met in what is now Marion Historical Museum).
MWA, as it was known, restricted its membership to white males between the ages of 18 and 45 from the 12 “healthiest” states — basically, the Midwest and upper Plains states.
Residents of large cities were banned, as were those employed in professions such as railway worker, miner, gunpowder maker, liquor manufacture and sales, saloon keepers, sailors, and professional baseball players.
In 1921, after their son, Asa, married and took over the farm, the Amicks moved to Marion, where they already had a second home.
A longtime Centre Township trustee, he also was elected county commissioner after earlier flirting with county politics as a brief candidate, soon to withdraw, in 1914 on Theodore Roosevelt’s Progressive Party ticket for sheriff.
Missouri natives, both B.L. and his wife, Mary Belinda (Alford) Amick (1869-1956), were buried in Marion Cemetery along three of their four children, Charles Asa Amick (1897-1971), longtime courthouse worker Jewell L. Amick (1899-1999), and Fred Raymond Amick (1906-1982).