Publicity Chairman for Midwest Old Settlers and Threshers Association
It must have been midnight or later the night of September 7th, 1963, when the final blatant peal of the whistles of the giant black steam engines and the small scale model miniatures dimmed and the black smoke settled over the grounds of the Midwest Old Settlers and Threshers Reunion in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. This brought down the final curtain of the 14th Annual Reunion, called by far the most successful to date. Attendance was estimated in excess of 100,000 for the four-day event which began September 4th and continued through the 7th.
Now internationally famous, guests registered this year from 37 states, Mexico, Canada, Germany, South Africa, Brazil and Washington, D. C. Many come to the event year after year.
From the first annual Reunion in 1950 with the display of 15 steam engines, the event has grown until, now in the 14th year, some 116 large and small steam and gas engines and miniature models can be seen. The largest engine on the ground is an under mounted Avery belonging to C. R. Willits and son of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. It is 40-120H.P. and was built in 1923. This year 23 old farm tractors were on the grounds, along with 54 stationary gas engines, ranging in size from to 7 horse power, one stationary steam engine and one hot air engine.
Over 100 antique cars are on exhibit, by many considered the most outstanding display in the Midwest. They range from a Stanley Steamer to the sports roadster and some of the cars are worth as much as $10,000 as collector's items. The cars 'come alive' and can be seen in operation as they parade in front of the grandstand.
The steam engines, giant sources of power of yesteryear, are used at the Midwest Old Threshers to thresh grain, saw wood, and make shingles. These are authentic exhibitions.
The daily 'Cavalcade of Power Parade' brings out all of the engines, both large and small, plus the old tractors. Included are many of the miniature steam engines, built by the engineer who drives it in the parade. All of the engines hold a peculiar fascination for old and young alike, and their combined noon whistle is a delight to all. There are no 'hands-off' signs and each engine man is glad to visit with anyone interested.
Relics of pioneer days -- household and farm appliances and equipment, antique guns, Indian artifacts, and items of early Iowa history are housed in permanent buildings on the grounds. Colonial Spinning demonstrations are given twice daily by Mrs. Frank E. Monson of Mt. Pleasant, using her mother's old flax wheel which is known to be well over 150 years old.
In the pioneer village, one can s e e a country schoolhouse, barber shop, country store fully equipped, log cabin and blacksmith shop. A country church will soon be added and possibly a jail, tavern and hotel. From the country schoolhouse one might hear the strains of the old organ with groups gathered around to sing the old songs.
A C. B. & Q. railroad depot and its companion engine, an 040 Saddle Tank type railroad engine, a model railroad display, ham radio shack where messages are sent daily for visitors, a medicine wagon with hawker are all an important part of the Reunion.
Again this year as last, thousands of visitors relived yesteryear by riding the authentic narrow gauge (36') railroad, the Midwest Central RR. This 1891 Baldwin locomotive with cabbage stack-- named 'Maria'--is equipped with two coaches and caboose of the 1890s and completely circumvents the Reunion area. It leaves the antique depot, crosses a trestle, rolls along between the trees, down and up steep grades, and eventually back to the depot. 'Train robberies' staged this year were an added feature and proved a thrilling experience for both the riders and the spectators.
Adding a new dimension to the enjoyment of Reunion goers this year were Chautauqua programs, staged morning and afternoon for four days, and on two nights in a 'Big Brown Tent' on the grounds. The informal atmosphere of the Midwest Old Settlers and Threshers Reunion was the perfect setting for Chautauqua and performers played to overflow crowds. Plans are now underway to again stage old-time Chautauqua next year.
Likewise, other plans go forth daily for the 15th Annual Reunion of The Midwest Old Settlers and Threshers which begins each year on the Wednesday immediately following Labor Day. The busy officers and directors of the Association are: Wm. O. Sater, President; Philip Crawford, vice-president; Herbert Hult, secretary; Milo Mathews, treasurer; Elmer Ritzman, chaplain; directors _ Pat Holtcamp, Stan Mathews, Stanley Mouser, Harry Coder, Ed Kitch, C. F. Hayes, Lawrence Walker, John Brown and Art Salzman.
Perhaps the Reunion means the most to the engineers, but it is here that old friends meet, friendships are cemented, and new friendships made. It is truly a gay, happy and relaxed time for all. Everyone coming to the Reunion relives the good old days as threshing memories come back in reality during the four-day event.