One of a kind

Tom Cullimore, an avid collector of everything John Deere, had his eye on a certain tractor. Once a year he’d drive from his home in Williamston to St. Johns, where the tractor’s owner Archie Magsig lived, to check it out. It became an obsession. “It really ate at me. I wanted that tractor so bad,” Cullimore says.

The third year he hitched up a trailer and headed to St. Johns. For a price Cullimore keeps to himself, he loaded it up and brought it home.

Key Points

• Samson Cane M was made by General Motors for a Louisiana plantation owner.

• The tractor was designed for sugarcane farming.

• The Third Annual Mackinac Bridge Antique Tractor Crossing is Sept. 17.

It’s his most prized antique tractor in his current collection of seven. Interestingly, the Samson Cane M is one of the few that isn’t yellow and green.

Cullimore says it’s the first special-use and first high-crop tractor ever made by any company. “It’s the only one of its kind in the United States … in the world,” he says.

Magsig bought the tractor from Louisiana State University in 1991 and restored it.

Early beginnings

Steele Burton, an innovative and wealthy farmer, wanted to improve sugarcane production on his Louisiana plantation.

He persuaded the Samson Tractor Co., which was bought out by General Motors in 1917, to build a special tractor to accommodate row width and height of sugarcane.

General Motors started producing the Samson M in 1919, but it was in 1920 that the Samson Cane M was fabricated. A year later, after losing millions, GM left the tractor business.

On the Samson Cane M, the axle bell housing is shortened to reduce the rear-wheel width to 40 inches. The rear wheels are compressed from 48 to 44.5 inches. With the outside lugs on the rear wheels hanging over an inch on each side, total diameter is 54 inches. “It’s so narrow that it feels tipsy riding it, and it’s a very rough ride,” Cullimore says.

The wheels are made to sink into the ground, and a rear hitch is designed to pull a toboggan-like sled. Two employees, each working a side of the sled, would place a cane root in every other hole made by the lugs.

“You need a little guy to drive this baby; otherwise, there’s a good chance of getting hung up by those wheels,” Cullimore says. “OSHA wouldn’t let you unload it today.”

Cullimore has had more than 40 antique tractors since he first started collecting 16 years ago. Fifteen years ago, he founded the All Colors Antique Tractor Club — now the largest tractor club in the state with 254 members — and has been president ever since.

Cullimore, who is retired from D&G Equipment, has whittled and refined his collection to some of the rarest and most unique tractors.


good old boy: Tom Cullimore says his 1920 Samson Cane M is the only one of its kind in the world. Since this photo was taken, it’s been repainted and a few other improvements made.

This article published in the September, 2010 edition of MICHIGAN FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.