This article originally appeared in the Chapter 38 International Harvester Collector Club for Western Canada's IH Legends newsletter and is reprinted with permission. Click here to visit their website: http://www.ihc38.com/
Nels Anderson came to the U.S.A. from Denmark in 1906. He and his brother, living in St. Paul, Minnesota travelled and worked in and around the northwestern United States. After seeing a notice advertising ‘Free Land’ available in Canada they got together the money they had saved and decided to go to Canada and have a look. In 1910, they crossed the Canadian border at North Portal, Saskatchewan and after arriving in Calgary, they went to the Land Titles Office and each filed on a quarter section of homestead land northwest of Medicine Hat and about twelve miles north of Suffield (on the C.P.R. mainline railway ). They bought a team of horses and wagon in Calgary and headed out to their claim.
After having established a dwelling (sod house and later a wood frame house) and getting some equipment they began farming, and to supplement their income they hired out to neighboring homesteads doing any type of work available. Initially, along with their team of horses they were able to buy an IHC Titan tractor along with other machinery. For the first few years life in that area was very hard, but there was enough rain to produce fairly good crops. Later, the area went into a long dry period and the settlers found it difficult to make a living. Most of the settlers in the area gradually sold out and moved away – a lot of them including the Andersons moved to the Tilley-Brooks irrigation area in 1923. The homestead area north of Suffield was eventually taken over by the Canadian Government and is now part of the large Canadian Forces Base Suffield.
The Andersons settled in Tilley where they did some farming as well as contract threshing and other activities. In 1927 Nels Anderson became the IHC dealer in Tilley and in 1931, the brothers bought a mercantile store (with post office). They built a new mercantile store in 1935, and a new building and garage on 1st Avenue for the IHC dealership. The business, Anderson Bros. Sales & Service, became the International Harvester Co. dealer for the Tilley area. At that time there was a great migration of settlers from the U.S.A. and Europe. People were coming from Britain, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary, U.S.A. and many other countries. These new farmers created a huge demand for farm machinery and equipment of all kinds. At that time IHC was one of the biggest farm equipment companies in the world.
The new farmers bought ploughs, disks, seed drills, mowers, binders, threshing machines and other equipment including tractors. Tractors such as the IHC 15-30, W30, were being sold and later the IHC H, M, W6, WD6, W9, and some WD9s were being sold.
Initially, not a lot of trucks were sold but, as farmers began to prosper truck sales increased. Pickup trucks such as the IHC C models, then D models, the D1, D2, and D15, were being sold. Later the K models including the KB5 were sold. In about 1948, Nels Anderson sold a green IHC KB5, with a flat head 233 cu.in. Green Diamond engine to John Hollenzer who farmed south of Tilley. This truck, with its wooden farm box, has survived, is in very good condition, was purchased from the Hollenzer estate and is shown at many IHC functions and parades in central Alberta by the new owners.
In 1950, as business increased, Nels Anderson built a new building on Centre Street in Tilley. The business was now named Imperial Motors. Over the following years sales included, many L model trucks, pickups and larger trucks as well as tractors such as Model H, M, and Super H and Super M. IHC also began a line of refrigerators and freezers, some were sold but they were not a big seller. During those years some of the IHC representatives (Blockmen) from the IHC regional office in Calgary were Vern Starr, Hugh McKinnon and Charles (Charlie) Gow (later IHC dealer in Rosedale).
Due to the small volume of truck sales, Anderson could not afford to have various models in stock. Typically, a customer would
order a truck and Anderson, usually accompanied by one or more of his sons, would travel to Calgary by bus or train to bring home the new truck.
In the later 1950s and early 1960s the farm machinery business became very competitive with John Deere, Massey Harris and others. The International Harvester co. was slower in changing and improving their lines of equipment and were losing more and more sales to the competition. IHC then decided to centralize dealerships and to eliminate those in smaller population areas. In 1962, the Tilley dealership was closed down at which time Brooks became the main IHC dealership in the area. Perry Olson became the IHC dealer in Brooks and Alan Wolfer the IHC dealer in Hays, Alberta.
Nels Anderson, Brooks, Ab. In 1973
After winding down the business Nels Anderson retired in Brooks, Ab. and passed away in 1985 at age of 94.