On July 23rd and 24th, the Illinois Threshermen's Jubilee, Inc., of Colchester, Illinois, held its first reunion at the Neal McClure farm. It was estimated that between eight and nine thousand persons attended the demonstration.
The activity of the first day was started by threshing some very large bundles of long, wooly rye, using a 16 hp. Russell steamer and a Huber separator. The blower of the Huber was aimed at the mouth of the Buffalo-Pitts thresher which was powered by a double 22 hp. Geiser which was very interesting as I doubt if very many have witnessed a job of double threshing at one operation. Later in the program all of the 17 engines were tested on the threshers and the Prony brake, the latter being owned and operated by Bill Sater of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. The 16 hp. double Rumley was used for the most part at the saw mill.
The second day, oats instead of rye was threshed. The weather being extremely warm resulted in a lot of unthreshed grain being, left over and it was necessary to thresh part of four days after the reunion. As far as is known it is the only straw pile in the county, but it was a whopper.
In addition to the 16 steamers owned locally, and permanently located on the grounds, our old friend Milford Rees of Franklin, Illinois, sent us his under mounted Avery and our friends, Killing, of Coal Valley, Ill., Roos of Geneseo, Ill., and Flack of Alpha, Ill., were with us with their miniatures, which were very interesting and much appreciated as no reunion would be complete without them.
Cultivating with steam in Suffolk, England in the early 1900's. The driver of the leading engine is aged over 80 years and is still alive and in good health. As most of you know there was an engine at each side of the field to pull the cultivator. This is an arrangement that most of us in the Western world have to imagine.
The promoters of a show of this kind are always happy when it is over with no accidents of any kind. It is an enormous job to plan and operate a reunion, but I guess the reason we do it is for the pleasure we and our friends get from it. While it is a known fact the steam farm engine has become a scarce article, it is surprising to note that there is no shortage of experienced engineers and threshermen to operate the machinery efficiently. The majority of these old-timers are just itching to pull a throttle again or feel the movement of a good grain thresher under their feet. The equipment owned by the members of this association, has all been cleaned, repainted and mechanical repairs and adjustments made where necessary. And many compliments were heard as to the appearance and quietness of operation.
The local collection of steam engines consists of three 20 hp. Advance; one 16 and one 25 hp. Russell, one 14 and one 25hp. Aultman Taylor, one 30 hp. Huber, one 16 hp. Gaar Scott, one 40 Case, one 22 hp. Geiser, one 16 hp Rumley, one 21 hp. Baker, one 20 hp. Reeves, one 24hp. Port Huron and one 20 hp. Minneapolis. The nine directors of the newly organized association own a total of 41 steamers but felt that for beginners the cost would be prohibitive to transport all of them here for the first reunion.
Eight of our engineer friends arrived the day before the show was due to start and assisted in the final preparations. Among them was our genial friend Floyd Carter of Monmouth, Illinois. The little man with the big blonde mustache that we see at all the reunions. Floyd decided he would pilot the fancy looking 16 hp. Russell for the two days, and, wishing to be the first engineer to toot a whistle the next morning, secured some boards and cut sufficient kindling for his needs. But to his surprise the next morning, no kindling! Most of these fellows bunked in a tent on the grounds and apparently some vile plots hatched therein. The 17 engines were duly fired up and 16 of them were soon steaming nicely, but not Floyd's. The smoke was pouring out at both ends but very little out of the stack of Carter, and he sure was getting kidded by the others about his ability as an engineer. The next time I saw Floyd he was standing on the front end of the boiler with a pole, trying to push the heavy building paper out of his smoke stack. It is only to address him as 'Smoky', but it would be wise to be in a position to move fast.
Let us preserve these fine precision-built engines for future generations as well as for our own pleasure and enjoyment.