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The Wrack

The Wrack is the Wells Reserve blog, our collective logbook on the web.

The James Way at Laudholm Farm

Posted by | December 27, 2022 | Filed under: Culture

Panic and dismay must have been prevalent a hundred-plus years ago when the Lords and their farmhands saw two of The Elms’ barns aflame. The fires had started when burning shingles blew in from another conflagration a quarter mile away. They did not end until the structures had burned to the ground.

Robert W. Lord must have been devastated, but as a practical owner he quickly turned to the task of rebuilding. And as a progressive dairy man, he looked for ways to make his new barns efficient for his crew, healthy for his cows, and sanitary for his customers.

At just about this time, out in Wisconsin, William D. James, a lifelong dairyman who was also handy in a blacksmith shop, was inventing dairying equipment that would soon sweep the country.

One of James’s early cow stalls was seen by a local businessman, Charles Perry Goodrich, who promptly visited James and encouraged him to mass produce his inventions. Soon afterward, in 1906, the Kent Manufacturing Company was organized in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. Goodrich was the firm’s president and James its general manager.

"James Way" equipment was designed to make dairy barns efficient, healthful, and easy to clean. The company’s line was offered with confidence; everything for the barn, including stalls, stanchions, pens, ventilators, carriers, hangers, cranes, feed trucks, troughs, gates, watering cups and buckets — even hooks, name plates, and milk stools — came with a money-back guarantee:

When any James equipment or device is offered, you may be sure that it has been proven satisfactory in actual use and that it will fulfill perfectly all requirements. James Equipment is not built on theory.

The company also provided blueprints for barns constructed in The James Way. In fact, after being in business for just a decade, James had designed hundreds of barns throughout the country and thousands more were built from plans drawn under his direction.

Charles P. Goodrich and William D. James, who formed and grew the Jamesway Manufacturing Company, in Kent, Ohio.
Charles P. Goodrich and William D. James, who formed and grew the Jamesway Manufacturing Company, in Atkinson, Wisconsin.

The James Way at Laudholm Farms

Just exactly when the Lord farm embraced the James Way is as yet uncertain. The new horse and cow barns, built sometime in the first decade of the twentieth century, incorporate certain features common to James Way barns, but went up practically at the inception of the Wisconsin company. Certainly, James-patented equipment drew the Lords’ attention at some point, as it remains throughout the old structures even today.

A few examples: Two James Company 16-bushel feed trucks are found in the horse barn; James stanchions, drinking cups, and name plate holders have been retained in the auditorium (formerly the cow barn); and remnants of the James manure-removal system are mounted on the barn and nearby manure shed.

There are other signs that the Laudholm barns were at least reminiscent of the James Way. The auditorium width equals that recommended by James for efficiency and the former cow barn still has novel ventilation ducts built onto each wall.

Growth of the James Manufacturing Company

C.P. Goodrich and W.D. James promoted a renaissance in agricultural thought and practice in Wisconsin. Goodrich, in fact, became an influential speaker throughout the country. (He was eulogized as a “very modest and unpretentious but intellectually brilliant farmer-orator.”) James presumably focused on design, invention, and operations in the manufacturing plant.

Their firm grew well. In 1907, the Kent Manufacturing Company employed three factory and office employees. By 1916, the operation (reorganized as the James Manufacturing Company in 1912, with Goodrich still at the helm), employed some 300 workers. The company was sold in 1959, but its memory echoes through the halls of today’s J-STAR Bodco Agriculture Division, which offers a broad line of feed and waste handling equipment.


This article relies on two key sources: Jefferson County Wisconsin and Its People, A Record of Settlement, Organization, Progress and Achievement, Volume II, published in Chicago by the S.J. Clarke Publishing Company in 1917 and The James Way, A book showing how to build and equip a practical and up to date Dairy Barn, published as catalog number 21 of the James Manufacturing Company in 1916.

From Watermark 22(1), Winter 2005

A composite of images from the 1916 James Manufacturing Company catalog.
A composite of images from the 1916 James Manufacturing Company catalog.


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