A Tribute To A Legend

Many years ago, a tiller was loaned to my parents from a family friend. Prior to that, my father hand dug the garden with a shovel to break up the soil. The addition of a gas-powered tiller made garden work much easier for my folks and soon the loaner was turned into a permanent transfer. 

The tiller, manufactured by Gilson Brothers, served my family for over 25 years and was a faithful garden companion until it finally needed to be replaced.  

A Tribute to a Legend: Gilson Bros tiller, rear view

According to Wikipedia, Gilson Brothers Co. was founded in 1911 with headquarters in Plymouth, Wisconsin and manufactured a variety of outdoor power equipment. In 1988 Lawn-Boy purchased Gilson Brothers until they themselves were purchased by Toro in 1989. Wikipedia states it was then that snow and lawn equipment stopped being branded under the Gilson name.

The tiller we had came with a Briggs and Stratton engine. While the engine wasn’t very powerful, it was ultra reliable. It started each year in no less than 3 pulls. What a testament to how things were produced back then!

For years, we rarely added fuel stabilizer but just left what was in there from the fall and started it back up again in the spring. For oil changes, these were few and far between as maintenance cycles weren’t that important to us then. The air filter was likely never changed – nor were the belts and tires. I guess we figured if it kept running, then it must be Ok. These days, small engines require much more attention.

A Tribute to a Legend: Gilson Bros tiller

For functionality, the tiller was good enough for established dirt but really struggled with the clay-laden soil on our property.

It also lacked a kill switch (also known as a dead-man’s switch). This meant if you let go of the tiller, it would keep going. For someone into safety, I didn’t like this. On our new BCS tiller, there’s a red handle that must be pressed or the machine won’t run which is an excellent safety feature. 

Although the Gilson tiller lacked in a few departments, it was something highly valued to us. It tilled almost three decades without one visit to the shop.

We were truly blessed with this machine. Although it came to a point where it stopped being useful to us, we’ll always remember the reliability of this American made machine.

Job well done, Gilson Brothers Co.


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