Danny Norman’s farm, the Tea Grove Plantation, is so named because his great-great grandfather attempted to grow tea in the 1830s. Located near Savannah, Ga., in Allenhurst, he has amassed an array of antique tractors, cars and other old equipment.
On his farm Danny recreated the village of Walthourville. A post office stood onsite from 1905-52, before the village was moved, and his grandfather owned the general store that housed the post office. Danny has reassembled about 40 buildings that include a chapel, general mercantile, fire station and more. He surrounded the village with a workable train track and has a train depot with an 1890 steam locomotive.
Danny’s collection began when he bought a buggy, at the age of 11. “I used it to date a girl one day older than me,” he reminisced. Next, he bought a Model A Ford purchased with a loan for $10 from his grandmother: “My grandmother was a person I thought of as much as anyone in the world.”
He towed the Model A home and a friend’s cousin happened to see the project and wanted to buy it. He priced it high, at $35 – and the guy took it, much to Danny’s surprise.
“I paid Grandma and came back armed with $25,” Danny said.
His parents were thrilled the A was out of the yard, and they thought it was a done deal; however, it wasn’t long before he found a use for that $25. Danny rode his horse to the post office and on the way he spied a more complete Model A. So, he contacted the owner, Helen Rohn, who said the A belonged to her son, Tommy, and she wanted it gone.
After convincing his father, Danny and he took possession of the Model A with a pickup and trailer. Once they got there and Danny paid the $25, they found Rohn wanted the car and parts removed from the premises. “It took three trips!” Danny added.
Home with his treasure, he resorted to the basics: “I ordered a manual from Sears & Roebuck. It cost me $1.95; I still have it today.” He and his friends pored over the project, learning as they went.
With some rigging, tweaking and advice, the car started. “If someone would have given me a million dollars, I couldn’t have been happier. We rode down the street and a ride hasn’t been as good before or since,” Danny said.
“I’ve still got that car. My wife and I dated in it in high school. At 16, my mama put an interior in it for me and Grandma had it painted apple green with black fenders.”
This is just one of the items in Danny’s amazing collection. He explained, “I’m trying to preserve, not amass. It is kind of a passion.”
His Ford building is just one of the places where he keeps his collection: “I set this up like in the 1950s. I try to create a mood. I try to preserve a period of time. While I don’t dwell on the past, I respect it.”
Over his parts counter is a Ford sign. “In the early 1970s I worked for the Georgia Army National Guard. There was a Ford dealer we would go by at lunch. One day I noticed the sign wasn’t up.
“That day, a Ford representative had come by to remind the owner to take down the old Ford sign or he would lose his Ford franchise.” The owner was so angry he put the sign out in the burn pile and planned to torch it. Danny rescued the sign, and now it is preserved for another generation to enjoy.
Others in his collection include a 1931 Model AA Ford ton truck Express, a cool B&O 25 Ford tug tractor that was used by the military to pull airplanes and a 1918 Fordson from Macon, Ga. Other special tractors in Danny’s collection include a 1931 Fordson Model N English Ford and a 1951 8N on stilts, used for spraying and detasseling corn, a Ford 541 offset Workmaster and a Ford 200LCG low-gravity tractor that served at a golf course in Orland Park, Ill.
Perhaps one of the most unusual items is a Ford tractor that is not a Ford. “The Ford Tractor Company hired a guy named Paul Ford, to use his name,” Danny explained. “The whole intent from what was written was to build the tractor, then go to Henry Ford and get him to buy the rights.”
Readers with questions or comments for Cindy Ladage may write to her in care of this publication.