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The end of an era

By Staff | Feb 21, 2014

Tim Chapman/PCT After 100 years of service to the area, Moller’s Inc. in York is closing shop.

YORK – The 100-year history of a York business will come to a close Feb. 26 when the equipment and buildings of Moller’s Inc. will be sold at auction.

Three generations of Mollers have operated the blacksmith and machine shop, which was founded by John Moller in 1914, distinguishing it as one of very few small businesses in the state having been operated continuously for a century by one family.

Former York farmer Joe Tuchscherer’s family was served for three generations by the three waves of Mollers. Tuchscherer believes there is a good reason for such loyalty.

“When I moved to town, I paid up,” Tuchscherer said of his bill at Moller’s. More than a year later he stopped back in at the blacksmith shop and Tommy Moller – second generation owner – told him there was a small balance that had been overlooked.

“Why didn’t you send me a bill?” Tuchscherer asked.

Tim Chapman/PCT This building was built in 1994 to accomodate combines, tractors and semi-trucks.

“I never sent you a bill as long as you did business here, and I never would,” Tommy Moller replied.

“That was Tommy,” Tuchscherer said.

In the first decade of the 20th century in Naasaker, Sweden, John Mahler (later Americanized to Moller) repaired wagons, plows and other equipment for his neighbors. In 1910, he brought his talents to North America, first working as a blacksmith in a logging camp in British Columbia, Canada, then moving to Blackduck, Minn., where he became co-owner of a blacksmith shop. Like many immigrants, John sent money back to his family in Sweden. Shortly thereafter, his brother, Bern, joined him in America.

In 1913, they moved to the York area and worked for blacksmith Gus Raguse. They bought his shop the following year and worked together until Bern bought his own business in Bisbee.

John went to a welding school in Minneapolis to learn acetylene welding in 1925. He bought his first turning lathe in 1927, and when times were tough in the dirty ’30s, cashed in his life insurance policy to purchase a new Miller arc welder which was still in use 50 years later. Over the years the York Blacksmith Shop (original name) continued to expand, adding a valve refacer, a hard seat grinder and many other tools to meet the need for automotive repair. Along with regular blacksmithing, which included sharpening innumerable plowshares, the shop built truck boxes, bobsleds, and, during World War II, even complete swathers.

John’s son, Tommy, born in 1927, started working in the shop at age 9, and except for a couple of years in the military has worked there ever since. He and his wife, Gwen, bought the shop from his father in 1953. Gwen did the office work, and all three of their children, Greg, Peggy and Tom Jr. worked for the business at various times.

In 1965, the business moved from its location in the northwest part of York to a new building on Highway 2 East. Several additions were put on the main building and the business was incorporated as Moller’s Inc. in 1972. In 1994, an addition with large overhead doors to accomodate combines, semi-trucks and other big equipment was erected. Tom Jr. returned to the shop in 1997 and he and his wife, Mamar, bought the business in 2002. At that time, Tom’s folks retired to Rugby, but Tommy returned to the shop almost daily to lend his expertise.

Several families in the York area have done business with the Mollers for all three generations, including the Pete Tuchscherer family, who moved to a farm north of York in 1943 and began patronizing the shop. Joe, Pete Tuchscherer’s son, who is retired in Rugby, recalls, “It was Tommy’s dad then, and of course Tommy was there.” The two families became acquainted and remain good friends. Joe’s son, Tim, now runs the family farm, making the third generation connection.

The Roy Long family goes back to the very beginning of the Moller era. DeEtt Long Haugen’s grandfather, Roy, began farming north of York in 1908 and was an early-day customer of the York Blacksmith Shop. His son, Galen Long, and Galen’s daughter DeEtt and her husband Don Haugen, continued the tradition when they farmed. Don and DeEtt’s daughter, Kari, and her husband, Mike Follman, have also used Moller’s services. That represents four generations and a full century. No doubt there are other families in the area with similar histories.

The Moller family has seen technology go from a hammer and horseshoe nails to a computerized plasma cutter, and they adapted to the changing times.

All this will end on Wednesday, a day which promises to be bittersweet for them. One hundred years of forge work, welding, designing, fabricating and equipment repair will end. With the ongoing trend toward larger farms and larger equipment comes the reality of fewer farmers with less machinery to be repaired.

But the entire Moller family can look back with satisfaction on a century of serving their community and generations of grateful customers and friends.

Some information for this article was gathered from the Moller’s Inc. website and also from “Our Heritage Leeds-York,” published by the Leeds History Book committee in 1986.

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