Rollag To Celebrate 150 Years of J.I. Case

Case tractor and separator

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Rt 1, Box 28 Nome, North Dakota 58062

Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion at Rollag, Minnesota is planning the 1992 J.I. Case Exposition celebrating 150 years of the Case Company. We have been planning since 1990 in preparation for this exceptional event. A lot of time and long range plans have already been put into this J.I. Case Expo. All the committees meet every second Thursday of each month. The show will be held on Labor Day weekend, September 4-7, 1992. Anyone reading this article is most cordially invited to participate in this special event.

Photo #1: Engine #15288 - Case 20 HP built in 1905. Sold new in 1906 to Mike Eichsniller, bought in 1948 by N.B. Nelson, Rollag, now owned by son, Arlen Nelson. Case shop in background. Photo taken July 4, 1952; photo credit Arlen Nelson.

In the 1930s N.B. Nelson and his wife Violet ran a small country general store in Rollag. Mr. Nelson had been a farmer and thresherman most of his life. Mr. Nelson would make routine trips to Fargo, North Dakota, some 35 miles away, to secure stock for his store at Rollag. Since Rollag was an inland village with no railroads or major highways, Mr. Nelson would usually stop at the J.I. Case branch in Fargo to pick up parts for himself and other neighbors in the area. This was not unusual, as a distance of 35 miles in those days was considered a trip! Nowadays people will think nothing of driving 75 miles just to have dinner! Anyway, it was from this association with the Case Company of Fargo that the company persuaded N.B. Nelson to become a Case dealer at Rollag in 1941. There has since been a Case dealer there on up until today with the new Case IH dealership. By 1950 most all steam threshing outfits had retired from the long threshing runs when combines had taken over, a time when most farmers went on doing their own harvesting, taking on the more modern ways. During the 1940s and early 1950s a few neighbors in the Rollag area would get together a few falls to thresh a little with a 20 HP Case engine belonging to the Nelson family for old times sake. So it wasn't more fitting that N.B. Nelson, in 1954, along with his brothers and neighbors, organized a small steam threshing bee held October 2. The public was invited and the first show was held. The first show button was put out for this event. Nelsons steamed up their Case 20 HP engine and a 40 x 62 Case separator along with their old Gaar Scott 25 HP double simple, and with other engines put on a good show for the public. This little threshing demonstration then led to what is now WMSTR, which has become one of the biggest and best shows of its kind in the U.S. and Canada.

Photo #2: original photo (circa 1915) of a new 12-25 Case tractor and separator at the J.I. Case factory branch in Fergus Falls, MN. Also Case car in the background.

The Case dealership has stayed in the Nelson family from the start. N.B. Nelson let his son Noel Nelson take over the business in 1961. After a few years, in 1972, because of health reasons, Noel Nelson sold the dealership to another family member, his first cousin Lawrence Aakre, who is presently operating the Case IH dealership. Noel and Lawrence are both cooperating as co-chairmen of the planned 150 years of J.I. Case celebration.

WMSTR is expanding the show grounds with 15 acres of fenced area just for the Expo. Parking and food concessions will also be enlarged. There will be exhibitors from as far away as the east coast who intend to bring Case engines that we do not have on the grounds at the present time.

Plans are to have more than one of the scarce 1915 vintage 12-25 tractors at the Expo. These tractors came in either the gas or kerosene models.

The Case factory branch in Fergus Falls, MN was there as early as 1900 and probably before. (See Photo #2.) This photo depicts the scarce 12-25 and Case separator which were 'brand spanken' new at the time, probably just prior to delivery to a customer. The car in back of the tractor is also a Case! It appears that the man on the tractor is a sales rep or president of the branch office. He is dressed in a white shirt, tie and dress coat, and of course, a Case stick pin in his lapel! A four bottom plow with bottoms tripped back for transport is hitched behind the separator.

Photo #3 is a 1989 picture of a 1917 kerosene 12-25 completely restored and owned by Wayne Schmidt of Monroe, South Dakota. This tractor is one of the 12-25's that will be shown at the Case Expo at Rollag in the fall. Wayne bought his tractor in 1978 from his good friend Don Hinds, also from S.D. Don had found this tractor in Worland, Wyoming where he bought it in 1976 and brought her home. The tractor is a 1917 kerosene burner. Wayne says the tractor was pretty much complete except for the missing bull pinion. Wayne had the parts cast by Charley Simpson, all being done to original specs. This being no easy task, it had to be done to get the tractor restored to original condition. Mr. Schmidt restored the tractor from the frame up and she looks like a beauty! Wayne says the job took at least 150 hours to complete. He did the job from January 1989 to August 1989.

The 12-25 Case tractors made their first public appearance at the Winnipeg Motor contest in 1913 where they won the gold medal producing 33 percent more drawbar pull than the closest competitor.

Plans are to have six or more 110 HP Case steam engines at the show along with 80's, 75's, 65's and most of the models to be on display sawing lumber, threshing or plowing. We plan on having all the Cross Motor Case models, including the rare 40-72, of which only five are known in the world. We plan to have all sizes and models of Case steam or gas tractors, cars, horse and tractor machinery, that is humanly possible to get, on up to present day, to exhibit or demonstrate for this great event.

Photo #4 was taken prior to July of 1913, being the date this postcard was mailed from Joplin, Montana. The message side of this picture postcard tells of the two young ladies on the plow who are girl friends of the operators. The card had been mailed to their friend at Kenmare, N.D. The plow appears to be a John Deere eight bottom and seems to be doing an excellent job of laying the sod. The Case 60 HP oil tractors received the highest score for design and construction at the Winnipeg Motor Contest in 1912. The Case 60 tractor had a two-cylinder engine that ran at 350 r.p.m. with a 10 x 12 bore and stroke. Their ignition system was the make and break type using batteries only for starting purposes. This tractor was actually designed and built for the Case Company by Twin City Steel Machinery of Minneapolis, Minnesota. The 60 oil tractors would burn gas and lower grades of fuel such as kerosene, naphtha, distillate, the fuel used mostly being determined by price and supply.

The Rollag Show's rare J.I. Case 30-60 tractor is shown in Photo #5. The picture was taken during the 1991 show last fall. They are plowing with an eight bottom John Deere plow in heavy wet soil adjacent to the show grounds. Mark Pederson is driving the tractor and Bob Jostad is on the plow.

Photo #6 is of Rollag's Case 30-60 tractor belted up to the Case 36-58 separator during the 1991 show.

The 30-60 in these two photos (#'s 5 & 6) is now owned by WMSTR. The tractor was formerly owned by Norman Pross of Luverne, North Dakota. Norman generously donated it to the association. Norman is well noted for his knowledge and collecting of tractors or steam engines. This tractor is quite rare, as it seems there are only six or seven known today. The tractor will, for sure, be one of the unique tractors for the Case display during the Expo.

There will be a good display of Case memorabilia, literature, watch fobs, pins, signs, toys, etc. We intend to have a secure place for exhibitors to show these items. We plan to have security around the clock in the expo area besides the main show grounds.

We plan on having some large tents for the representative J.I. Case organizations to house their displays.

The 1992 show will be for the J.I. Case enthusiasts for sure, but will not be only be Case of course, as we have about 40 steam engines, 200 gas tractors, 300 gas engines, of various makes and models. Also a turn of the century farm area featuring draft horses doing haying, threshing with horse power and other jobs of that era, near our 1910 vintage farm house and barn.

There are also ladies' activities, a steam locomotive that circles the grounds, a merry-go-round, the largest collection of Otto gas engines in the world and much more. All this is free with the gate admission.

So we at WMSTR urge you to start making plans to come and see us in 1992. We are eager to meet you, and for you to help make this a great show and a good time for all. This will certainly be a fitting way to celebrate J.I. Case and his company's 150th birthday.