For a century, the Lancaster (Pa.) stockyards rerouted livestock from the Midwest to east coast cities. It was the largest stockyard east of Chicago and operated from 1895 to the end of the 20th century.

With thousands of steer occupying a 25 acre site near the rail line through Lancaster, tons and tons of manure was generated that had to be removed from the pens, usually by local farmers, to fertilize their fields.

A vintage manure wagon dating back to somewhere in the mid-20th century  has been restored by Mount Joy chicken farmer Steve Hershey, his son Phil and son-in-law Alex Koser. The restored vehicle is a hybrid of an early 20th century wooden manure bed built for a horse team and re-mounted, probably by a farmer in the 1940s, on a Ford Model A chassis for work at the stockyards and retired to a Mount Joy farm sometime after that. The restored vehicle had a coming out party in early June at the Carlisle Fairgrounds at the Ford Nationals for Classic Cars where it received a celebrity choice award as well as second in its class.

Koser, a Mount Joy native married Emily Hershey, his school classmate, in 2019. Alex is a 2018 Pennsylvania College of Technology graduate with a degree in auto restoration. He not only loved Emily, but also had the strong feeling about restoring vintage vehicles. “It certainly was a marriage made in heaven,” father-in-law Hershey says, “as Alex was happy to take the lead in getting the vehicle and chassis ready to hold the manure bed to complete the restoration that Phil and I had been working on off-and-on for several years.” With Alex’s help, the vehicle, which had sat for decades in a building at the Bridge Valley Farm not far from some 400,000 laying chickens (and their tons of manure), has a new life. It took the young auto restorer nearly 20 months to get the Model A chassis and engine ready to accept the manure bed and it was completed Memorial Day weekend.

Art Petrosemolo is a freelance correspondent and photojournalist in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

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