Reunion Reports

PIONEER HARVESTERS -- 1961 Activities

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810 South Judson, Fort Scott, Kansas

1961 was Centennial year for Kansas, making a very busy season for the Harvesters, as they had many items desired in various celebrations, also many items came out of the brush, weeds, sheds and attics for restoration.

With some 200 members, a very busy season ahead, our attorney recommended and proceeded to complete our incorporation papers and formality of setting up several thousand shares of stock for sale for the purpose of obtaining more equipment and to cover expense of restoration, our 1961 quota was over subscribed at our first meeting and sure helped several individuals to obtain and restore pieces of equipment that otherwise would have been impossible. Our stock plan sure promises to be a very attractive one and we feel it will do much in adding more equipment to our display during 1962.

The 19th and 20th of May were the dates set for the first centennial celebration in this territory at Cato, a town or community most of us had never heard of, did not know where it was located, it did not appear on any of the convenient maps. Cato is located some 14 miles south and 2 miles west of Fort Scott, in the brush and weeds. Outside of a comparatively new church constructed some 50 years ago there are only two buildings left there - an old store built of native brick, and a school building built of stone from a nearby cliff. The store and school have not been used for years but are in a fair state of repair. They were built on opposite sides of the Old Military Trail, that ran from Fort Leavenworth, (near Kansas City) to Fort Gibson, Indian Territory, (Okla.) Except for a very active church group, Cato had been deserted for years. It was a thriving town in the wagon trail days that became a victim of desertion when new towns sprang up around with Railroad service. But Cato was picked as a promising location for a Centennial celebration because of these facts. It was proven to be good judgment to select this location, except that it was disappointing to many sightseers who could not get there because of the crowd.

The Centennial Committee for Cato cut brush, weeds, graded roads and put up signs, constructed a one room log cabin, equipped it with furnishings of over a century ago, constructed a speakers' stand, wired the grounds for electric lights and tended to the million other chores in preparation.

The Pioneer Harvesters did their chores, too. In addition to having several members on the Centennial Committee, we had members who had items to prepare for display, members to prepare display settings such as the constructing of a brush shed for the blacksmith shop, (the first blacksmith, we were told, came to Cato in a covered wagon, set his tools up under a brush shed, and lived in the wagon.) Later at this point he constructed a permanent shop, the foundation which was of stone had been covered with dirt for many years. But when digging the holes for the new brush shed poles, we found the stone of the old blacksmith shop foundation, so were of the feeling that our shed was close to the old original brush shed location.

Spring showers were plentiful, also all that goes with the showers, streams overflowing, washouts and hot sultry days all took their toll of delaying a busy schedule along with a fresh crop of mosquitoes - well, we itched for it and we were willing to scratch for it. We found out that even the rain and mud help to get a good job done on painting a steam engine -don't know if it will work on anything other than a Port Huron. Haven't tried it.

We selected Carl Fisher's 19-65 Port Huron engine for the steamer and the Pioneer Harvest Fiesta's 36x62 Aultman-Taylor separator for the threshing scene, located near the center of the grounds. They sure made a fine looking pair at each end of that long drive belt.

Other Pioneer Harvesters displaying their prize items included Johnnie Merietta, Pittsburg, with his newly restored one horse steam popcorn wagon, a beautiful piece of equipment, John Markley, McCune, with his Parker merry-go-round steam engine and several rare pieces of farm machinery, John Carlson, Cherokee, a 50 year old grain binder, powered with a small electric motor for slow motion, Allen Smith, McCune, had his scale model of a 65 Case steamer completed and made a nice show piece, Raymond Pellet, Fort Scott, had his very interesting collection of stamps, documents, pictures and many other items on display in the Museum Tent. Ray also served on the tent committee, which displayed one of the biggest and best temporary collections that I have ever seen.

This Centennial Committee was headed up by Alva Smith, Girard. Alva is Promotion Chairman of the Pioneer Harvest Fiesta Inc. for Crawford County. Alva enjoys festivities of constructive nature, likes to see them successful, has been around enough to know there is no substitute for work and hard work. No doubt that is the reason he likes shows and why he has a lot of interest stirred up in Crawford County.

In concluding the first of a series of events of the Pioneer Harvesters for 1961, Cato was a grand success, a capacity crowd, ideal weather and more to follow.