The ability to file a homestead claim ended in October 1986 in Alaska. This marked the end of America’s homesteading era. Homesteading had ended ten years earlier in the rest of the country. Ken Deardorff received the final Homestead Act patent for his claim in May 1988. His homestead was deep in the Alaskan interior along the Stony River—about 200 miles west of Anchorage.
Deardorff purchased a 1945 Allis-Chalmers Model C tractor near Palmer, Alaska in 1976, two years after he filed for his land. To get it to his homestead the tractor was disassembled and flown in three separate loads to a location near his home. He then hauled it the rest of the way to his claim by dog sled.
Once it was reassembled, Deardorff used the tractor to pull up hundreds of tree stumps to clear the land for farming to prove up on his homestead claim. The land he claimed had a two month growing season which made farming difficult. His most successful crops were root vegetables such as carrots, radishes, and turnips. However, the potatoes usually did not grow larger than thumb-size.
The Allis-Calmers Model C was designed for use on small farms. It has light, narrow front end which caused it to tip up and go vertical when going up slopes and hills. Deardorff added chains to the back tires to increase traction, but he was still thrown off of the tractor many times. After a few years, he decided to replace the tractor with an International Harvester bulldozer.
In June 2017, Deardorff's tractor was retrieved from his homestead by Homestead National Monument of America. The tractor was very well preserved after being outside and exposed to the elements for about 40 years. There was minimal rust or plant growth, but tractor had sunk into the soil up to 10 inches deep. The University of Nebraska Tractor Restoration Club conserved the tractor after it arrived in Nebraska.
The effort to retrieve, conserve and display this historic tractor was made possible by Dr. C.T. Frerichs. The tractor is on permanent display at the Homestead National Monument of America Heritage Center.
A 3D photogrammetric model of Deardorff's tractor was created by the emerging media team at Nebraska Educational Telecommunications (NET).
Last updated: April 12, 2019