May 1, 2015 was a special day for Dave King. That was the opening day of King Agriculture Museum, the synthesis of Dave’s dreams and passions for sharing his collection of tractors, machinery, and stories of times past with the community.
Dave officially began collecting tractors in 1990. “I started collecting shortly after I knew that I wanted to have a museum someday,” Dave shares. He has twenty different makes and models and it is his continuing goal to get visitors to the museum to connect with the collection.
Dave says, “It’s about memories and reliving memories.” Dave was raised on a farm in Onalaska on Alpha Prairie. He shares stories and fond memories of what life was like living on 80 acres and the many adventures he had with the Ferguson tractor owned by his stepdad, Henry Miller. “When I got to be thirteen, that tractor was our transportation. If it had gas, that’s what we rode in,” Dave shares with a laugh. “It was hard work living on a farm, but it was a good, simple life.” Farming equipment and tractors are something close to Dave’s heart and are a part of the fire that ignites his passion for sharing with others.
The King Agriculture Museum boasts a collection of some of the rarest tractors on the West Coast in a museum. His collection includes a rare 1966 Case High Crop tractor which is one of only thirteen ever produced. Dave also shares that he has some tractors that date back to the early twentieth century, from as early as 1918. “There’s probably something unique about 90% of the tractors that I can share with visitors,” Dave says.
For Dave, an important part of honoring the past is honoring the people who owned the equipment and sharing their stories with visitors to the museum. Dave says, “Any of these tractors, or anything that’s been donated – that information is on the placard. I track the history so that people can walk thought and connect to the owner or the restorer. It’s really about giving credit to people who did the work. That’s unique because you get to see who owned the tractor. You get to see its history.”
The King Agriculture Museum’s roots are in agriculture but Dave also has displays of logging equipment and nautical equipment as well. Dave shares, “The museum is about mechanics and the evolution of machinery to see where it’s gotten us today. It’s a place to honor machines of the past.”
Dave is also always working to expand the collections within the museum. Dave shares that he is in the process of creating a nautical room and the entryway to that room will have a piece of Washington State’s famous ferry the Kalakala. Dave says, “As I find different things, I try to find a way to include them in the museum.”
Another important point is that the King Agriculture Museum is family friendly. A few of the displays within the museum are designed with kids in mind so that they can interact with the tractors and the displays. “I have a few tractors set up so kids can sit on them and maybe get their photo taken. I don’t have the displays roped off or anything. I want people to be able to touch them and connect with their memories,” Dave shares.
Also, when visitors come to the museum they can choose to take a self-guided tour or ask for a tour from Dave. “When people come in, they are amazed at how large the space is once they get beyond the gift shop. I’ll let them wander, then I’ll talk to them.” And in my experience, talking with Dave about the tractors and other offerings in the museum is the best part.
Dave can be found sharing his love of tractors with the community beyond his museum too. Be sure to look for Dave at the Spring Youth Fair. He will have a display and Dave says that he will have tractors for kids to sit on and explore. Dave also will continue to have a display at the Southwest Washington Fair and will participate in the Downtown Centralia 4th of July Parade.
You can see Dave every December at the Lighted Tractor Parade in downtown Centralia. “I was there the first year,” Dave shares, “I was one of twenty-two entries. Last year, I was the parade grand marshal. The parade in 2015 had 80 entries. I just love it.”
The King Agriculture Museum is open seasonally (spring through early fall) Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. Be sure to mark your calendar for April 30 – that’s the opening day for the museum. Local band, Destination Constellation, will be on the premises performing live music from 1:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. along with Jerry Kelley who displays a “what is it antique tool show.”
Come support the museum and visit with Aunnitta White, Lee Miller, Fred Moses and Dave King. On opening day the fee is $3 per person. Normal price is $5. Enjoy a cookie and some coffee.
King Agriculture Museum
213 E Maple Street in Centralia