Home on the Range: Meriden Summer Show

Meriden Antique Engine and Threshers Assn. showground expansion brings old-time Kansas village to life.

| October 2017

  • The general store at the Meriden Antique Engine & Threshers Assn. grounds. The club’s monthly meetings are held in the general store. During the winter, an antique wood stove heats the space.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • Pitching bundles at the threshing demonstration. Grain for demonstrations is grown on the club’s show grounds.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • Built as a United Brethren Church in 1895, what is now the Bloomfield Church served as a community center for nearly 60 years before being moved (with its original stone foundation) to the Meriden grounds in 2003. The steeple was long gone at the time it was moved, but, working from a photo, volunteers led by Jim Noll built and installed a new one. The entire structure has been restored; some of the furnishings are original. The church now hosts the occasional wedding – and an old fashioned bazaar every November.
    Photo by Kevin Kirkwood
  • Self-taught blacksmith Eli Henry, McLouth, is a bit of a chip off the old block: His great-grandfather was a blacksmith.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • Left to right: Sally Schreiner, Hannah Schreiner, Emily McGrath and Carolyn McGrath. During the show, this crew of sisters, niece and granddaughter run the general store. “We just try to make everybody feel at home,” Carolyn says.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • This 1914 Rumely 16-48 is owned by Austin Chapman and Caleb Kearney, both of Oskaloosa, Kansas. After buying the engine in 2012, the two had it completely redone. At Meriden, it’s used to power the threshing machine. Formerly owned by the Harold Royer family, the Rumely has been part of the Meriden show since the beginning.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • Volunteer Paul Dunlap helps out in the Meriden wheelwright/livery stable. He’s shown here with a Hercules buggy built before 1902. “These are exciting times for this club,” he says. “We’re having fun; we have room to grow now.”
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • Four generations of the Knudsens pitch in – literally – to produce demonstrations of antique hay baling equipment.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • The sawmill runs nearly full time during Meriden events. For years, a steam engine powered the sawmill. Now a McCormick-Deering WD-9 does the job. “It was pretty well made for this mill,” Jim Noll says.
    Photo by Kevin Kirkwood
  • This 1899 20 hp Reid oil field engine was built in Oil City, Pa. Capable of running at 160 rpm, the engine was noteworthy for design that allowed it to run reliably unattended, somewhat of a novelty in that era.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • Gary and Susan Naylor and Patricia and Rachel, two of their three daughters, all avid engine enthusiasts. “The antique engines are fascinating,” Susan says. “I love things that are old.”
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • Listed on the Kansas Register of Historic Places, the Benedict Meyer cabin was built northeast of Valley Falls, Kan., in 1854. The cabin was moved to MAETA in 1983. The porch was added later to protect the log structure from the elements.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • Looking for a nearby show where they could work their equipment, members of Chapter 1 of the Antique Caterpillar Machinery Owners Club (ACMOC) settled this year on Meriden. ACMOC members hauled heavy equipment hundreds of miles to build a pair of new loading docks for MAETA. Here, Al Engnes, Liberty, Mo., is at work with his Caterpillar D2.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • Jeffrey Agosto Jr., 6, the youngest member of the Knudsen baling operation, pulls what appears to be more than his weight.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • This scale model was made decades ago by Melvin Rees at age 12, after watching the neighbor plow with a 30-60 Rumely OilPull. It is on display in Meriden’s general store.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • Bushel weight equivalents posted in the flourmill.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • Cottonwood Station Milling Co. is a labor of love produced by members Gary Bowen and Bob Hjetland. The two gathered and restored all equipment needed to re-create a 19th century mill; the club provided the structure. Though the mill is fully operational, for practical reasons it is no longer used to mill grain.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus

One of the fastest growing summer family destinations in the Midwest. When Kevin Kirkwood used that phrase to describe the Meriden (Kansas) Antique Engine & Threshers Assn. (MAETA) summer show, I struggled to keep my eyebrows in place. But after spending a day at the show, there was no doubt in my mind that Kevin nailed it: The Meriden show delivered on every count.

Fastest growing – and still growing

Founded in 1977, the Meriden club started out on 8-1/2 acres along K-4 Highway, about 1 mile northeast of Meriden (and about 10 miles northeast of Kansas’ capital city of Topeka).

For decades, show displays, demonstrations, a re-created village, tractor pulls, parking, concessions, vendors and basic facilities were set up cheek to jowl in a very small space. And everybody made it work. But when opportunity knocked in 2014, the club was ready.

“We were at the point where we knew we needed to do something,” says MAETA President Jess Noll. When 32 adjacent acres became available, the club and the community rallied. “Money was a big factor,” he admits, “but we came up with a phenomenal down payment.” In short, club members and supporters provided about $35,000 toward the $100,000 purchase price.



It’s not a big operation – the Meriden club has 80 to 90 paying members – but it’s a strong one. “Attendance at our monthly meetings is increasing,” says Jess, MAETA president since 2011. The average age is deep into the 60s and there aren’t many members in their 40s, but come show time, everything falls neatly in place. “Some of our older members are extremely dedicated to making this succeed,” Kevin adds. “And that dedication keeps us all going.”

Using every bit of it

At the summer show in July, cottonwood seeds drifted lazily on a wisp of a breeze. That was the only laziness on display. Threshing and baling demonstrations took place daily, lumber was being cut at the Thick and Thin Sawmill, a fully operational flourmill was open for business, a smithy or two were clanging away in the blacksmith shop, and displays of engines and tractors sprouted around the grounds.



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