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John Deere stone monument planned in Vermont

RUTLAND-Everyone knows JohnDeere, the famous tractor imprint from Moline, Ill. It can be seen on American-made tractors and other farm vehicles worldwide. Few people realize that the real John Deere-the inventor who revolutionized agriculture-was a native son of Rutland, Vt.

Deere was born in Rutland in 1804.

Now State Rep. Bob Helm of Fair Haven wants to memorialize the 19th-century giant of agribusiness who started Deere & Company in the Vermont city.

Helm told reporters last week that he is co-sponsoring legislation in Montpelier that will earmark $20,000 of taxpayer funds for a John Deere memorial along South Main Street (U.S. Route 7) in Rutland City.

Helm's suggested site is near the Rutland Vietnam War Memorial.

According to Helm, a native stone monument-either composed of marble or granite-would be a dignified way to honor the inventor.

Helm didn't seem to be bothered about going, hat-in-hand, to taxpayers for a Deere monument, despite a multi-million dollar shortfall in the state budget.

"John Deere was born in Rutland and is known worldwide," Helm said. "It's an important monument. He was a Vermonter."

Deere moved from Rutland to Middlebury to learn the blacksmith trade.

Deere's Addison County shop was located in today's Canon Park in downtown Middlebury, across from the Ilsley Public Library.

Middlebury erected an historical Deere marker in the 1960s. It stands along Main Street near the former blacksmith shop site.

After a few years of working in Middlebury, Deere followed the nation's "move west, young man" mantra. He settled in what was then frontier country-Grand Detour, Ill. He died there in 1886.

Deere's revolutionary invention, the steel plow, was celebrated as "the plow that broke the plains."

It was a rugged cast-steel device that could be drawn by horse, mule or oxen. It helped America's farmers break through the thick, fertile ancient glacial soils of the vast midwest region.

Helm noted that a local group, headed up by Mike Taranovich, whose family operated the Proctor John Deere dealership, wants to construct a bicycle-jogging trail that would be named after the inventor.

Recently, the group asked the John Deere company to donate $120,000 of the proposed $1.2 million cost. The funding request was rejected.

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