Have a tractor fan in your family? Gather up and make a beeline for Leesburg, where you’ll find the extraordinary Paquette’s Historical Farmall Museum. Discover everything you never knew about tractors by exploring the museum’s collection of 200 tractors, plus another 100 combines, graders, loaders and other historic farm equipment pieces.
“We’re trying to collect one of everything,” says Stewart Paquette, owner and founder of Paquette’s Historical Farmall Museum.
Looking at his impressive collection, one would assume Paquette grew up on a farm – but that’s not the case.
“I’m not a farmer. I knew nothing about tractors growing up,” says Paquette, who owned a construction and paving company for decades in his native New Hampshire and later in Leesburg. “I sold my company in 1998, and my wife and I decided to take time off, travel and see America.”
Paquette found himself at a crossroads in life when his wife passed away after a two-year battle with cancer in 2007.
“I didn’t have my business anymore. I didn’t have my wife of 40 years anymore,” he recalls. “I felt I wanted to do something, and I knew God had something for me to do.”
A Museum Is Born
While watching RFD-TV one evening, Paquette’s interest was piqued by a Max Armstrong program about tractor pulls.
“Up in New Hampshire, we had horse pulling, but I didn’t know about tractor pulling,” he says. “I decided to buy a tractor.”
And so he did – but not just any tractor. Paquette wanted a red International Harvester (IH), a legendary brand that was once considered the greatest single agricultural enterprise in the world. Paquette traveled with a friend all the way to a dealer in Canada to buy his first tractor – a 1959 International Harvester 560.
“We fixed it up and painted it, and then I found some other tractors that were in need of repair,” he says. “I already had trailers from having been in the construction business before, so I began buying more tractors and bringing them down to Florida. I kept them in a barn, and by the time I had seven or eight tractors fixed up, people started asking if they could come and see them.”
It was then Paquette realized a new vision for his life.
“I thought about how kids today don’t even know where their food comes from,” he says. “I decided I wanted to teach people more about agriculture through tractors.”
In 2010, Paquette opened his tractor museum, and in the years since, he has amassed quite the collection. Paquette’s Historical Farmall Museum gets more than 10,000 visitors each year from all over the globe, including Canada, Europe, Russia, Australia and South America. The museum is staffed by about 15 rotating volunteers.
“We get some tour groups and some children’s field trips,” Paquette says. “Our volunteers talk with them about how farmers plow the ground. They show them the instruments and machinery they use for planting, plowing and picking.”
The museum’s collection includes the oldest Farmall tractor ever built from 1923, which has been fully restored. It was the 106th one ever made in a line of 200, all built by hand.
“We also have the Garrett tractor, which is the only one in the world. It’s an International Harvester designed to haul logs out of the woods,” Paquette explains. “And we have the Travelall, which is like a big long station wagon with up to six or eight doors on the side. I got a 1972 one out of Boston with only 41,000 miles on it. It was like brand new.”
Two tractors in Paquette’s prized collection of eight from the rare International Harvester gold series that came out in 1970 are the only ones of their kind.
“They both came on a trailer to Louisiana from an International plant in Chicago,” Paquette says. “One was for sugar cane and one was for rice.”
A Tractor Lover’s Paradise
Visitors to Paquette’s Historical Farmall Museum begin their tour in The Dealership, a 1940s replica of an International Harvester dealership. It’s where you can purchase tickets; browse the Parts Department stocked with authentic IH parts, tools and equipment; and take a peek at restorations in progress in the shop. From there, visitors can explore the Tractor Barn and the International Hall of Fame. The nearby Show Barn hosts parties, weddings and special events. The museum property is also home to a herd of buffalo and some miniature donkeys that visitors enjoy seeing.
Every February, the museum holds its annual Tractor Pull and Show, which lasts for three days and attracted about 4,000 people in 2020. The festive event includes tractors of all types, fire trucks, live music and a barbecue dinner. The next show is slated for Feb. 5-6, 2021.
“At our February 2020 tractor show, we had a member of the McCormick family come, who is of the International Harvester lineage,” Paquette says. “I really enjoy meeting all the people who come. I learn a lot from them, and they learn some from me. People love to talk tractors.”
If You Go…
Paquette’s Historical Farmall Museum
Location: 615 S. Whitney Rd., Leesburg
Hours: Open year round Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The museum is closed December 25-26, January 1-2 and July 4.
Admission: $20 for adults and $15 for military and veterans. Children ages 9 and under are free. Group rates are available for parties of 10 or larger.