BRADLEY, Ill. — A Pennsylvania family has given a tremendous boost to the Bradley Historical Society in Bradley, paving the way for a future tractor museum.
Larry Mapes and his wife, Tarena, recently made an incredibly generous donation of their prized David Bradley Tractor Collection to the Bradley, Illinois community. This act of kindness has not only filled the community with gratitude but has also ignited a wave of enthusiasm for preserving the area’s rich history.
“I’ve been collecting David Bradley two-wheel garden tractors since about 1999 or 2000, and it’s kind of become a passion,” Larry shared Sunday night in a phone interview. The couple’s dedication to preserving these iconic machines led them to amass an impressive collection over the years, taking them across the United States.
Last Thursday, they decided to share their passion with the Village of Bradley and donate roughly 20% of their collection to the local Historical Society.
Larry described the motivation behind their generous donation: “He [Ryland Gagnon, President of the Bradley Historical Society] and I started talking back and forth, and we are fortunate enough to have several extras, so to speak. So, we figured it would be best to donate back to the hobby that’s been our passion for the last twenty years.”
The Mapes donation includes ten David Bradley tractors and over 20 attachments, showcasing the evolution and versatility of these machines.
“We have 46 walk-behinds, one of every model ever produced, and we have one of every model attachment ever produced. We have close to 100 attachments,” Larry explained, detailing the extensive catalog of his collection and the comprehensive representation of David Bradley’s contribution to the farming and machinery industry.
David Bradley, who founded the David Bradley Plant in Bradley in the late 1800s, played a significant role in the community’s history.
“David Bradley took over [production] after the war, so the name was switched to David Bradley, and it was a whole new design after the war. I mean, nothing interchanges from pre-war to post-war.” The donation of the tractors pays homage to the industrial heritage and boost of Bradley and the impact David Bradley had on the village.
Larry recounted the extensive journey to bring the tractors back to the Midwest last week, saying, “We loaded up Tuesday; my wife and I loaded up the trailer and the truck, and we left here Wednesday at about 11 o’clock.” Despite the long trip, Larry and Tarena were excited to witness the destination for their beloved collection Thursday. Upon arrival, they were warmly greeted by Mayor Watson, President Ryland Gagnon, and members of the Historical Society.
One particular tractor in the collection was donated in honor of another David Bradley enthusiast who has since passed. “One of the tractors that we donated was one of his [Kevin Shaw’s] that we donated in his honor,” Larry revealed. Recalling the adventure of acquiring the tractor in Massachusetts during a blizzard, he reminisced, “We were driving through eight inches of snow, and it was snowing like the dickens. I mean, it put us down,” arriving in the state unprepared for the unpleasant weather. Several years and over 1,000 miles later, that tractor has returned to Bradley.
The Village of Bradley, Mayor Watson, and the Bradley Historical Society expressed their sincere gratitude for the Mapes’ donation. In a statement posted on Saturday to Facebook, they said, “On behalf of the Village of Bradley, THANK YOU, Larry & Tarena, for your kindness and generosity in preserving a little piece of our history!”
The village plans to convert a building near the Municipal Building into a museum to showcase the donated tractors and commemorate the legacy of David Bradley. Larry estimated the value of the donation lies somewhere between $5,000 and $7,000. However, the historical and sentimental value far exceeds any monetary figure.
If you want to learn more about David Bradley Garden Tractors or connect with fellow enthusiasts, Larry recommended joining the Facebook groups “David Bradley Garden Tractors Group” and “David Bradley & Handiman Garden Tractors Group.” These online communities offer a wealth of information and camaraderie for those passionate about these vintage machines.
Thanks to Larry and Tarena Mapes’ unwavering dedication and their memorable donation, the spirit of David Bradley will continue to thrive in Bradley, Illinois. The museum will serve as a lasting testament to the village’s heritage and a place for future generations to appreciate the significance of these remarkable tractors.