The First Thresher Reunion

Steam engine

Courtesy of LeRoy W. Blaker, Alvordton, Ohio 43501

LeRoy W. Blaker

Content Tools

Alvordton, Ohio 43501.

There were several groups of threshermen having demonstrations of grain threshing about the time of World War Two.

Mr. Perry Hayden, A Quaker miller of Tecumseh, Michigan in Lenawee county planted a cubic inch of wheat containing 360 kernels in the Fall of 1940. The next July 1941, the wheat was carefully harvested by cutting off the heads and putting them in a sack to dry on the back porch of the Hayden home.

They were carefully threshed with a carpet beater and winnowed and every kernel saved that made 18,000 kernels, or 50 cubic inches. After Mr. Hayden gave his tithe or one tenth to his Quaker church, he had the remaining 45 cubic inches planted on September 26, 1941. Mr. Hayden and his Quaker pastor, Rev. Escolme named this project-'Dynamic Kernels'.

This 45 cubic inches of wheat was equally divided into 45 envelopes, and given to 45 children to plant. Before planting started, it was discovered one of the boys had chewed his cubic inch of wheat into wheat gum and swallowed it, so another cubic inch of wheat of the same variety was gotten elsewhere to replace the wheat that was eaten.

This second crop was cut with cradles on July 4th, 1942 in a cradler's contest, and the oldest- 92 was Harmon Russ of Adrian, Mich. This 1942 cradled crop of wheat was taken to Michigan State College to be threshed in a special small thresher used for that purpose. It yielded 70 pounds of wheat, or 54.4 fold yield. This was 1.16 bushels of wheat from the original cubic inch in two years or 2448.6 cubic inches or 881,499 kernels from the original 360 kernels.

On the following Sunday, 10% or 7 pounds were taken to the Quaker church as the tithe.

This 63 pounds of wheat was planted on a .77 acre tract in early October 1942. Early in 1943, Henry Ford heard about Mr. Hayden's wheat tithing project, and sent some of his antique threshing equipment from Greenfield Village to thresh this 1943 crop. This third crop of wheat amounted to 861.3 pounds. This wheat planted 14 acres on the Ford farm one third mile east of the Hayden-Ford original water wheel powered flour mill. This fourth planting was done on September 25, 1943, and it was harvested with a grain binder on July 8, 1944.

Henry Ford sent several steam threshing engines and threshers, a horsepowered threshing machine, and other threshing equipment. This fourth crop yielded 379 bushels and 49 pounds after the one-tenth tithe was taken out, and was threshed on July 22, 1944. This fifth planting of wheat covered 230 acres, and I do not have a record of the number of bushels.

The sixth planting in the Fall of 1945 of 5,000 bushels was loaned to 276 co-operating farmers to grow the final and 1946 tithing crop on approximately 2,500 acres. After this last crop of tithing wheat was harvested on the farms, the 276 growers brought the 'Dynamic Kernels' tithe to Adrian to the Lenawee County Fairgrounds. Perry Hayden's book 'God Is My Landlord' states the line of cars and trucks that brought in the 7,500 bushels of tithe wheat to the fairgrounds for the big celebration on August 1, 1946, was nearly a mile long.

I attended the wheat harvesting at Tecumseh in July, 1943, and the big threshing with lots of Henry Ford's antique threshing equipment from Greenfield Village on July 22nd, 1944. Perry was a very dear friend of mine and called on me many times. If you saw a Ford car on the highway with a banner on it reading 'In God We Trust', that was Perry Hayden's.

At Hayden Ford Threshing Project, Tecumseh, Michigan, July 22, 1944. That is a Westinghouse steam engine. Men in photo are Mr. Schurman, Vic Wintermantel and that is Rev. Elmer L. Ritzman at right in black coat.

From those interesting demonstrations, I was inspired to have the first Thresher's Reunion gathering on my farm on June 30, 1945. I sent out 100 printed postal cards, inviting anyone interested to attend, and about 300 people came to see my three Port Huron steam engines, machinery, and sawmill operating. Lunch was served by ladies from Silver Creek Church Of The Brethren in my home, and cooked on the wood burning kitchen range.

Rev. Elmer L. Ritzman, founder of this IRON MEN ALBUM magazine named this gathering 'Thresher's Reunion', and I was proud of him for doing that. He and Vic Wintermantel came to see the Ford-Hayden wheat threshing on Saturday July 14, 1945, and found that Henry Ford had withdrawn from the Perry Hayden project, so they decided to come and see me. When they neared my farm, they saw coal smoke and saw me threshing with the 32-100 hp. Port Huron steam engine, and 28-46 inch McCormick-Deering steel thresher. This year, June 21-24, 1973 our National Threshers Reunion held near Wauseon, Ohio had an attendance of about 25,000. Next year, it will be the 30th annual reunion, and no doubt the dates will be June 27, 28, 29, 30,- 1974.