Leader tractors put Auburn, Ohio, on the map




ABOVE: A 1946 Leader tractor owned by Bob and Frances Weaver of Stoneboro, Pa., at the Mercer County Antique Power Association show in 2010. This tractor has “Made in Auburn Ohio” on the front. (Sam Moore photo)


A few weeks ago I received the following note:

My name is Ben Zajicek, I am 14 years old and was wondering if you might do a piece on the Leader tractor company of Chagrin Falls. After all, it is a tractor that was made close to home. My grandfather bought a 1948D model tractor new, my uncle now owns it. My dad bought another that was used and has given it to me. It needs work but it did run. Any information you can give me would be a help. I’ve researched it at school, but couldn’t find much on it. Thanks, Ben.


First, Leader tractors were actually made in Auburn, Ohio, not Chagrin Falls, but I’ll get to that later.

During the 1930s, a father and son, Lewis and Walter Brockway, farmed and tinkered in the tiny community of Auburn, a few miles southeast of Chagrin Falls, Ohio. It seems likely that they ran a repair shop, as one source says Lewis was a sub-dealer for a Chagrin Falls Chevrolet dealer.

American Garden Tractor

About 1937, the two put together a small, 4-wheeled garden tractor using a Chevy 4-cylinder engine and transmission. The little tractor caught on locally, and the American Garden Tractor Co. was formed to build 20 or so tractors per year.

It seems some of the machines were called American and some Brockway, and they were probably painted red.

Early Leaders

The Brockways formed the Leader Tractor Company in 1940 and designed a new machine that was larger and heavier, although still with a Chevy four engine.

The first Leaders resembled the later versions, although they had round steel plates for rear wheel centers instead of square, and a fabricated tin grill instead of cast iron. Instead of red, the early Leaders were dark green with black wheels and a single bottom hand lift mounted plow was available.

About 1944, a dozen or so larger tricycle-type Leader tractors were built. Painted yellow with red wheels, these machines were designated as the Model A and were powered by a 6-cylinder Chrysler engine. At least one of these survives and I saw it at Portland, Ind., (I think) some years ago, but can’t find a photo.

Engine change

By 1945, the supply of 4-cylinder engines from Chevrolet had dried up and the new Leader Model B that came out that year used a Hercules IXB 4-cylinder flat-head engine.

Nothing much else was changed, except for the all red paint job, square rear wheel centers and a rounded sheet metal nose with a perforated grill, although some may have had an expanded metal grill.

‘Made in Auburn, Ohio’

In 1946, the lower part of the nose was cast with “Made in Auburn Ohio” on it. As Leader tractors began to spread around the country, many farmers who saw them liked them and wanted more information. They wrote to the factory, addressing their letters to just Auburn, Ohio. These letters went astray or were returned because tiny Auburn had no post office.

The Model B was replaced by the popular Model D, which is the one most often seen at tractor shows, in 1947. The D was almost identical to the B except for a cast iron grill with the Leader name cast vertically in the center divider and, to eliminate the mail problem, “Made in Chagrin Falls Ohio,” under that. Chagrin Falls had a post office and, in those far off days before zip codes and strict post office rules, that the mail got through.

Auto dealer marketed

The Schott Brothers, who owned a string of automobile dealerships in Ohio, handled the marketing for all Leader tractors, which were selling well during those tractor-starved days. They wanted more production and loaned the Brockways a large sum to finance expansion of the factory facilities.

Unfortunately, the loan carried a pay-on-demand clause and, in 1949, the Schotts called in the loan, forcing the Brockways to sell the company to the Schotts, who closed the plant and scrapped the remaining inventory.

Enter the Brockway

Lewis and Walter Brockway started again. They bought a foundry in Bedford, Ohio, and began to build a much better tractor they called the Brockway. Apparently the Brockway Truck Company of Cortland, N.Y., which had been in business since 1912, raised no objection as long as the Ohio firm was strictly a farm tractor manufacturer.

The new Brockway tractor bore a resemblance to the erstwhile Leader, although it was somewhat larger at 3,100 pounds, was painted dark yellow with red wheels, and was available with either a gasoline or a diesel engine.

Never tested at Nebraska, the Brockway 49G had a Continental F-162 gas engine rated at 42.8 HP, while the Continental GD-157 diesel engine of the Model 49G was rated at 30.6 HP.

While not a true 3-point hitch, the Pesco hydraulic lift allowed an attached implement to be raised and lowered.
Not quite 500 Brockway tractors were built from 1949 until production ceased in 1959.

Got to drive one

During the summer of 1949, I was working for a neighbor who did custom farming. My job was to drive a tired Farmall F-14 pulling a Case pickup baler.

We were baling on a quite steep hillside field and the F-14 was having trouble. The farmer for whom we were baling was planning to become a Brockway dealer and had a brand new one in stock. He suggested we hook the Brockway to the baler to see what it would do and let me drive it.

What a joy that Brockway was over the F-14 — electric start, padded seat, hydraulic drawbar, four speed transmission, foot brakes, and plenty of power — I was in heaven.

I went home that evening and tried to convince my father to replace our Ford-Ferguson with a Brockway, but no sale.

So, Ben, that’s about all I know about Leader tractors. You might want to contact Henry E. Hahn at the Leader Tractor Club, 7606 Hwy. J, Perryville, MO 63775; 573-547-8693. Good luck.

About the Author

Sam Moore grew up on a family farm in Western Pennsylvania during the late 1930s and the 1940s. Although he left the farm in 1953, it never left him. He now lives near Salem, where he tinkers with a few old tractors, collects old farm literature, and writes about old machinery, farming practices and personal experiences for Farm and Dairy, as well as Farm Collector and Rural Heritage magazines. He has published one book about farm machinery, titled Implements for Farming with Horses and Mules. More Stories by Sam Moore

12 Comments

  1. Dawn says:

    I have a Leader tractor that according to this article is somewhere around a 1947 or older. it has the leader going verticle on the nose and says Made in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. it is in need of some tlc and it was running when we parked it we just have not tried to start it up anymore. prior to receiving it someone has done some alterations to the seat and tried to do some very minor welding. i am interested to know what the value of this tractor and where i might go to notify interested buyers of my intent to sell. any answers will help thanks

  2. Joe A says:

    Has anyone ever compared a Leader tractor to a Bombardier tractor?

  3. Hercules says:

    I bought a 1946 Leader last week in reasonable condition. I want to restore 100 % to it’s original look and operation but battle to find any technical information, wiring information, original paint codes and tyre sizes. I live in South Africa. Can anybody help me with information or contact detail to source information. On the front grillit specify Made in Auburn Ohio and on the engine manifold HERCULES.

  4. PRESENTLY; I HAVE TWO IN MY POSSESION. I BELIVE THEY ARE ( D ) MODELS. THEY HAVE THE VERTICAL LEADER ON THE GRILL HOUSING. I GOT THE PAIR TO COMPLETE ONE. IF INTERESTED, LET ME KNOW.

  5. Larry says:

    I have an old leader tractor that has a homemade front end loader made by my brother inlaw when he was 16.
    He is now 67. The tractor was parked about 15 yrs ago. Unfortunately I will not be restoring this tractor. I don’t want to see it go for scrap. It is quite a relic a bit hard on the eyes but too good to throw away.
    I would like to hear from people with Ideas as to what I could do with this tractor

    • dave says:

      were are you located I have a 46 B that I show but also use to plow snow and use as needed if you are interested in selling let me know or I could possibly restore for you I do restore tractors mostly international but I have restore my leader and have got many ribbons and trophys

  6. JP Cole says:

    I have a 1946 Leader “D” model. It runs great, but the transmission is going bad..I think the 2nd gear syncronizer is gone. It will not stay in second gear, it keeps popping out. I works great in 1st and 3rd however. Where can I locate parts for the transmission. GREAT Tractor and I love it. I’d like to restore it back to OR close to original, starting with the transmission.

    ANY help in locating parts would be greatly appreciated.

    JP Cole
    Coats, North Carolina

  7. JP Cole says:

    I forgot to mention I also need a radiator for my 1946 Leader. It has started to leaking and my repair shop says that there’s not much more he can do for it!

    JP Cole
    Coats, North Carolina

  8. Dave Baxter says:

    I live close to Rapid City, SD. send me your e-mail address and I will send pictures and more information.
    Thanks
    Dave Baxter
    dbaxter@gwtc.net

  9. Katie says:

    This is so cool to see that people are interested in Brockway/Leader tractors! I am a Brockway and my great grandfather started the company. I know he would have loved to see that people take such interest still! I love seeing what people do with their tractors since we still show with our historical engine society.

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