Steam engines

Line up of steam engines at the Dalton, Minnesota Show. Photos courtesy of Milton Martinson, Box 196, Ashby, Minnesota 56309.

Milton Martinson

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Moorhead St. University, Moorhead, Minnesota, 56560

When speaking of the 1976 Lake Region Pioneers Threshermens Reunion, Ada Boone of Buffalo, Minnesota says, 'It reminds me of yesterday.'

A newcomer from Battle Lake, Minnesota, A. K. Botts, added, 'I heard so much about it, I just had to come out and see it myself.'

From Los Angeles, California came Louis Alsaker who described the show as, 'Wonderful, absolutely out of this world.'

Lawrence Ziedarth traveled from Sisseton, South Dakota for the Sunday morning breakfast and said of the Threshermens Reunion, 'It's pretty darn interesting.'

And a five year old Dalton, Minnesota youth added, 'I like the engines and the (Parade) clowns.'

On September 9,10,11,1977, the Lake Region Threshermen will be holding their 24th Annual Reunion. It was in 1954 that George Melby, Kenneth Bratvold and Ralph Melby did something to preserve a dying age-an age when neighbors were, as the name implies, neighbors, a more relaxed and conservative age-the something they did was to hold a Threshing Bee.

Last year attendance soared past the ten-thousand mark, and tourists from nearby farms, distant cities, and from several states gazed in awe at the beautifully kept grounds and the finely tuned machinery. Among the large crowd you found grandma and grandpa vividly recalling the days of community threshing to harvest the grain, grandchildren held in total awe by the black giants of steam and the festive atmosphere. You found city folks inspecting remnants of their forefather's agricultural past, and machinery buffs thrilled by the loud roar of the old engines in action, and by their sides you may have found your neighbors just enjoying a nice, leisurely day.

Thresherman George Melby, now four score and one year young says, 'I never, never, never expected anything like this...We never had the slightest inkling that it was gonna get this big. Back then we thought if we had a 1/2 dozen engines we'd be at the end of our ropes. But now, this is one of the three biggest Threshermens Reunions in the whole United States; Mount Pleasant, la., Rollag, Minnesota and Dalton -- Those are the big three.'

From three steam engines in 1954 the Threshermen's Association has gone a long way, and every inch of that way is up. The grounds for the reunion now encase 16 acres. Besides the steam engines, which number over 30, there are 50 old gas tractors, a large conglomeration of stationary steam engines, over 100 gas engines, all of which are operable and numerous antique cars and trucks.

In 1973 a museum was built and last year a housing for the stationary gas engines and Blacksmith Shop and Foundry was added. In the steam room is a 30 HP stationary steam driven engine with a 15 foot flywheel, along with other tourist attractions.

During September's three days of festivities, there is a which all the steam engines are displayed, a weekend of threshing, plowing, and sawing, and a tractor pulling contest. That's what the men can look forward to. For the women, there are homemaker displays, demonstrations on rug-weaving, quilting, and butter churning. And for everyone is the talent show and Queen of Steam coronation, both of which are held Thursday night. Friday and Saturday nights, there is other entertainment plus entertainment throughout the day.

The Dalton Threshers pride themselves on their past accomplishments and the long hours spent preserving the old engines in the rural American heritage. Says one of the original Dalton Threshermen, 'If it (the Thresher's Reunion) was just to show that I could drive a steam engine, I'd quit today. I'd go home and I wouldn't come back. But the whole idea is for the young people so they can see how things were in the early days. Why if we hadn't of started this thing, none of the young fellers would ever know what things were like. They'd never know.'

And as an elderly Minnesota lady so finely put it, 'I was here 15 years ago, and I just can't believe how much things have changed...You know if I come back in another 15 years it will probably be better still!'