It's Silver Anniversary Time at the Mid-West Old Settlers and Threshers

The 14 foot

Courtesy of Mrs. Leo [Billie] Turley, R.R. 4, Mt. Pleasant, Iowa 52641

Mrs. Leo [Billie] Turley

Content Tools

R.R. 4, Mt. Pleasant, Iowa 52641.

1974 is the Silver Anniversary year for the Midwest Old Settlers and Threshers Association in Mt. Pleasant and plans are moving ahead for another big year. The fall Reunion dates are August 29 through September 2.

In 1950, several men had a dream a reunion of Old Threshers at Mt. Pleasant, and the Midwest Old Settlers and Threshers Association was born. Their hope was to be able to record and preserve much of the early history of the midwest territory and especially southeast Iowa and leave an authentic record that will be of interest and profit to future generations.'

That first Reunion had 15 steam engines and eight separators, and several thousand people attended from fourteen states.

Sideshows were banned, con games, carnivals, commercialism and advertising were taboo except for sale of food and soft drinks. These policies have continued to be the rule through the Association's 25 year history.

The Reunion was extended to four days in 1952 and antique autos were added to the attractions, plus events for the pleasure of the ladies.

For several years now the Reunion has covered a period of five days. Each year added attractions were included and crowds have continued to come in increased numbers.

The Reunion is now considered Iowa's largest 'out-of-state tourist' attraction. For the past several years, visitors have registered from every state in the nation and many foreign countries. Many return year after year. Camping has become a popular activity at Old Threshers and nearly 3800 separate units were on the grounds at the past Reunion, with an estimated 14,000 people camping in the large campground and other designated areas on the 152 acres encompassed by Reunion activities.

Activities at Old Threshers are no longer confined to the five days of the end-of-the summer festival. The summer Heritage Museum is open from Memorial Day week-end through the end of the Reunion. It covers 1-1/2 acres under roof and houses many ancient machines, agricultural implements, transportation relics, a country kitchen, and other vintage artifacts.

Year-round activities include conducted school tours, which this spring hosted more than 1500 elementary students from southeast Iowa and western Illinois schools, educational workshops, slide features, illustrated lectures, films, educational and historical books, permanent and temporary exhibits. About 300 volunteers work throughout the year and at Reunion time to make Old Threshers possible. Early Bird buttons are issued to those who work 10 or more hours on the grounds prior to Reunion time as a special kind of recognition from the Board of Directors. These people buy their regular $3 membership button, too, but wear the Early Bird with a special kind of pride.

At the 1973 Reunion, forty-four crafts from 10 different states made up the largest early-day crafts show to date, this representing an increase of 16 crafts over the previous year.

One of the biggest projects undertaken during the months preceding the 1973 Reunion was the dismantling, moving and reassembling of the large Allis-Chalmers cross compound Corliss engine, given to Old Threshers by the city of Marshalltown, Iowa.

The 130-ton, cross-compund engine had pumped water for the City of Marshalltown 46 years before being brought to Mt. Pleasant. Volunteers began disassembling the engine and its 14-foot fly-wheel weighing 11 tons in September, 1972, in Marshalltown, and the same crew of four men completed the disassembling of the main engine and pump in May, 1973. The entire time spent dismantling took approximately four weeks.

The move of the massive engine to Mt. Pleasant took place on June 10, 1973, using two of the Virgil Coonrod cranes of Cedar Rapids to load and unload eight semi-trailers with the engine, pump and associated parts, along with several smaller trucks. The main assemblies were directly placed on the awaiting cement pedestals which had been prepared well in advance of the engine's arrival, using 140 cubic years of concrete.

Fenton Powell, Canton, Missouri, Chief Engineer, Dale McLain, Asst. Engineer, Lockridge, Iowa, C. O. DaVault, Creston, Iowa, and Carl Kerkman, Newhall, Iowa, assisted by Scott Johnson, Minden, Nebraska and numerous Old Thresher volunteers worked fervorously in the weeks between the June 10th arrival date and Old Threshers Reunion time to get the engine in operation. Many said it could not be done but the 'mission was accomplished' and the engine was in operation for visitors to see and enjoy throughout the last Reunion.

This picture/of the 130 ton, cross-compound engine/taken in late July shows the progress made on reassembling the engine in an extension built on the Old Threshers Heritage Museum building during the summer of 1973. The massive engine, given to Old Threshers by the city of Marshalltown, Iowa, was moved to Mt. Pleasant June 10, was reassembled and placed into operation by Reunion opening date. Chief Engineer Fenton Powell, Canton, Mo., CO. DaVault, Creston, Iowa, Carl Kerkman, Newhall, Iowa, and Dale McLain, Lockridge, Iowa, [shown left to right] directed the major activities in connection with the dismantling and reassembling.

Information compiled by Mr. Powell regarding the big engine was as follows: 'This is an Allis-Chalmers, horizontal, cross compound, condensing, corliss crank and flywheel, high duty opposed type pumping engine.' It has a capability of pumping 6,750,000 gallons of water into a water main against 208 lbs. of head pressure in a 24-hour period. It was purchased by the City of Marshalltown on the 11th day of December, 1922, at a cost of $37,700.00. The engine being housed, it continued to remain in excellent mechanical condition.

It operates at 36-2/3 RPM. The high pressure piston is 22 inches in diameter and travels 36 inches per stroke. The low pressure piston is 44 inches in diameter and also travels 36 inches per stroke. The main bearings are 11 inches in diameter and are 20 inches long. The flywheel is 14 feet in diameter and weighs 22,000 lbs. The pump includes 8 sets of valve assemblies containing 3 cages each with 21 valves per cage. This makes an aggregate total of 504 valves in the pump. The normal operating steam pressure is 125 lbs. with a 5-inch steam supply line and a 12 inch exhaust line. The engine will develop 137,000,000 foot pounds of work for every 1000 lbs. of dry steam supplies to the engine. The total weight of the engine and pump is approximately 260,000 lbs. or 130 ton.

To prepare for movement of this engine, due to its large size of 35 feet in length and 17 feet in width, it was necessary to compile a set of drawings. A series of six drawings were made by directly measuring the engine and its cement pedestals. These drawings required numerous trips to the Water Works at Marshalltown and were two years in the making.

There are 11 levels of cement on each side of the engine flywheel for each pedestal on which the engine is mounted. There are 36 mounting bolts that hold the engine to the base and are mounted in the cement. It required that the bolts be centered within one eighth of an inch from one end of the pedestal to the opposite end.'

Interest was added to the trolley line by the addition of the refurbished Waterloo car which was in operation for the first time in 1973. This fall an additional two open-bench South American cars are expected to be in operation and the plans are to extend the trolley tracks farther into the main campground and perhaps even complete the loop through this area.

In observance of the 25th Anniversary year, a silver coin is being minted by the Providence, Rhode Island Mint. A limited quantity (250) of the silver coins will be made and sold for $25 each. 2500 bronze coins are also being made and they will sell for $2.50.

The anniversary Heritage collector's plate, the final edition of the three-plate series to be made by Greentree Pottery of Audubon, Iowa, will feature a 1907, 18 horsepower, portable, Case engine, owned by the late Herman Elgar, one of the association's founders and its first secretary. The engine is still owned by the Elgar family. This engine has has been exhibited at all 25 Reunions and last year was put into operation to provide power for the vintage carousel when its own boiler failed. The engine is also pictured on the silver anniversary membership button and membership card, which are available from the Old Threshers office at $3 each.

The 14 foot, 11 ton flywheel being lowered into the crankshaft. On right the 16 ton, low pressure cylinder being lowered into position on the pedestals.

Crowds overflow the grandstand as they watch the daily Cavalcade of Power during the Annual Midwest Old Settlers and Threshers Reunion in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa.

In 1973, a quarterly newspaper was first published about the activities of the Old Threshers. It is known as THRESHERS CHAFF and is an eight to twelve page tabloid which goes to subscribers in the months of January, April, July, and October.

A full schedule of entertainment is planned for the five days of the Reunion. Grand Old Opre stars will be on stage Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Sonny James, Tom T. Hall and Hank Williams, Jr., will headline talent on these three days, respectively.

Of continued interest will be the Giant Cavalcade of Power featuring 100 or more large and small steam engines, a like number of vintage cars, old tractors and horse drawn vehicles. There will be demonstrations of wood sawing, threshing and baling by horsepower and steam power, sorghum making, and operation of the shingle and veneer mill.