Litchfield made ag equipment

The cold snap we had recently certainly caught me by surprise. It made me wonder what heating homes must have been like a hundred years ago. Being cooped up with the trusty laptop and internet unfazed by the frigid weather outside, I started to look and found …

Lyman Litchfield was born in Massachusetts in December of 1824 and worked in New York for more than 20 years. Later he came to Webster City in the 1870s with a wife, Margaret, and two young boys, Henry and Edgar.

Mr Litchfield bought the company of Ira Hilliard and began his own manufacturing business, the Webster City Foundry & Machine Shops. It was the beginning of an enterprise that would grow and evolve, as his sons did, into the Litchfield Manufacturing Company that later moved to Waterloo, Iowa.

Litchfield first developed agricultural equipment like feeders, wagon end gates and plows. His finest work went into grinders and shellers, powered by one to four horsepower units. Webster City newspapers of the day contain stories and advertisements of his products and also tell of his success, and his sons’, in selling them to an ever-widening market in the country.

By the 1880s Henry and Edgar took on larger roles in sales and product development. An article in the Webster City Freeman in August of 1884 speaks of Henry, at around 17 years of age being a “young genius” whose inventiveness was displayed in a “well-proportioned and pretty fashioned over-shot water wheel which revolves beneath the miniature cascade” located in the city park.

As the business grew, more employees were added and Litchfield Manufacturing Company, its new name, added a line of products by making furnaces to heat houses and businesses.

An article in the Weekly Graphic Herald in March of 1894 is what first caught my eye to learn about the Litchfield family. His sons were now running the business as Lyman had passed in January, a couple of months earlier. His obituary ran in the Webster City Freeman on January 31, 1894.

After their father’s death, Henry and Edgar continued the business, growing it even larger. In the early 1900s the decision was made to move Litchfield Manufacturing to Waterloo, causing several families in Webster City to relocate as well. It was a noticeable loss to the community.

In Waterloo, the company grew and expanded their line of products to include manure spreaders and other larger agricultural machines, along with early washing machines and laundry wringers. Although they made fortunes in Waterloo, both Henry (who died in 1928) and Edgar (in 1935) are both residents of Our Neighborhood, along with their own families and their parents, Lyman and Margaret.

I just wish it wasn’t so cold out today; I would enjoy walking over to tell them of the fun I had learning about their family and the contributions they made to this fine community.

Our Neighborhood is a column by Michael Eckers focusing on the men and women whose presence populates Graceland Cemetery in Webster City.


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