1974 The Wheat Centennial Year

The early Mennonite settlers

The threshing stone as it was used by the early Mennonite settlers with the Alexander whole Mennonite Church in the background. It is rather unique that the first ''Church Book'' dating back to the early 1700s is still in the possession of the local churc

Ben Boese

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Mound ridge, Kansas 67107

I became acquainted with the Iron-Men Album a year ago. Although I don't have the time to read all the articles, I get a lot of enjoyment just looking at the pictures. They bring back some pleasant memories of the few years that I participated in this annual event. June 1938 was a wet month and farmers did not get their wheat cut with the binders. When the field finally did dry out it was more economical to have the grain combined. The 'ice' was now broken and threshing in the Goessel, Kansas area was a thing of the past.

Our local 'company' was composed of nine farmers, mostly relatives and neighbors. Another neighbor, C. R. Voth, who made threshing his business, was engaged to do the threshing. His four rigs were mostly Minneapolis separators and powered with the BIG Rumely engines. The crew consisted of the separator tender, the engineer and four field pitchers. The bundles were hauled with six teams. Three more teams were used to haul the grain to the farm storage and scooped (yes, by hand) into the granary.

Mr. Voth was very generous with his weights per bushel. The machine was set for 70 pound bushels and farmers paid him on this basis. This was appreciated of course, but it did cause some confusion, especially when the government commenced to pay subsidies. Farmers who had reported their average yields on the 70 pound basis received less government payment.

I have made the observation that most of the articles written in Iron-Men Album about wheat threshing concentrate on steam power. I just faintly remember the steam engines and certainly do not want to belittle them, but I would like to back track nearly a hundred years, to the year 1874.

This was the year that my forefathers migrated from South Russia to the plains of Central Kansas and settled in an area now known as Goessel. They brought with them small amounts of seed wheat, a hard winter wheat variety commonly known as Red Turkey. It was this variety that eventually made Kansas known as the 'Bread Basket of the World.' Among other Mennonite groups credited with bringing this seed, the Alexander whole (Church) group was by far the largest. It is estimated that each of the 100 families brought approximately 20 pounds of seed.

Just briefly, I would like to refer to their unique way of threshing their grain in Russia and evidently planned to continue this same pattern in America by means of a threshing stone as illustrated. History records that they had a hundred stones cut, but American methods were much farther ahead that they soon adopted these methods and consequently did not use the threshing stones very long. The stone was 24 inches in diameter and 30 inches long. It had seven cogs each being three inches on the outside and seven inches at the 'V' points. This stone was pulled over the loose wheat by one horse and its rider. It would be interesting to know how this design was derived at. Did they make experimental models and finally arrived at this one? Or could they perchance have given consideration to the number 'Seven' as being a sacred number as referred to in the Bible -Seventy times seven, seventy fold, etc.

The Mennonite Immigrant Historical Foundation was incorporated as a non-profit organization nearly two years ago. Its purpose and goal is to erect a small museum complex in memory of the migration, as well as the introduction of the Red Turkey Wheat in 1874. This complex will include a replica of an 'Immigrant House' built by the Santa Fe Railroad as temporary living quarters, and a 'Wheat Palace' to feature wheat farming as it existed in the late 1800s. (Incidentally, we need a small horsepower sweep for this exhibit). It is not too early to plan your vacation for 1974 and to attend the Wheat Centennial Celebration in Goessel, Kansas. Goessel is located 50 miles South of Abilene, the boyhood home of Dwight Eisenhower and 40 miles North of Wichita. This celebration should be of National significance as efforts are currently underway to declare 1974 at the Wheat Centennial Year.