Louden Machinery Co., Fairfield, IA
The Louden Machinery Company, world-renowned manufacturer of barn equipment, remains Fairfield, Iowa’s most famous success story. William Louden was born on October 16, 1841 in Cassville, Huntingdon Co., Pennsylvania. His parents Andrew and Jane (Speer) Louden had recently immigrated from Ireland, having married on January 6, 1840 in Belfast. William’s older brother John had died as a baby in Ireland, leaving William the oldest of eight more children, the only one not born in Iowa. In the spring of 1842, when William was six months old, the Loudens moved to Jefferson County, Iowa, where Andrew worked at a sawmill on Cedar Creek before purchasing a farm in Cedar Township the following spring.
Growing up frail and sickly, William could not pitch hay as well as his father and younger brothers, and so set his genius to making farm-work easier. By 1867 he had obtained the first two of his more than 100 patents: one for hay-stacking, and one for hay-carrying. On January 2, 1868 he married his neighbor, Mary Jane Pattison, and began manufacturing his “universal hay pitcher” in his father-in-law’s barn. In 1870 he built a fifty-by-fifty-foot brick three-story factory near the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad tracks for $7,000. Then known as Louden Manufacturing Works, his factory stood on the north side of West Stone Street, between North Sixth and North Seventh Streets, where Fairfield Glove and Mitten Co. stands now.