Farm Collector

A Tribute To Milo Mathews & Neil McClure

Route 1, Danville, Iowa 52623

In November and December 1987, the steam engine hobby lost two
of its founders, and many of us who knew them lost two good friends
(see ‘The Golden Roll’, Mar/Apr 1987 Iron Men Album).

MILO MATHEWS was a farmer and thresherman all his life and was
one of the original board members of Midwest Old Threshers here in
Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. He served on the board of directors for many
years and was ready to talk steam engines and threshing to anyone
and everyone at any time.

I can remember spending many hours over the years talking to
Milo about the early days on the farm as well as the early years of
our Reunion.

NEIL McCLURE of Colchester, Illinois, started collecting steam
engines and separators in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s.
He came to Old Threshers with his engines in 1951 or 1952 and has
always had one of the larger displays of steam engines each
year.

Neil always headed up the threshing end of the show, and I can
see him yet standing in a cloud of dust and chaff on top of his
28′ Huber separator.

Milo and Neil both saw the shows grow here and everywhere from
next to nothing to the large gatherings we enjoy today. These men
realized that as the shows grew and new people from all walks of
life began to attend, the shows needed to change to suit these
people’s interests if they were to survive. But, more than
anything else, they knew that threshing grain and sawing lumber
were what started these shows and that fact should never be allowed
to die.

I read a story in the Iron-Men Album a few issues back where the
gentleman stated that some shows he attended were simply running
straw or weeds through the separator just to go through the
motions. I feel this is very wrong. We owe it to people like Milo
and Neil and others around the country who have passed on before
them not to allow this sort of thing to happen.

Much has been written the last couple of years about the merits
of one make of engine over another. I have my favorites as did both
Milo and Neil, and I guess just about everyone who has pulled a
throttle. But, I also think people seem to forget that these
engines were designed to pull separators and sawmills rather than
fans, and, that, I feel, is how they should be compared.

I can remember Neil saying many times that a certain engine was
real good at grading roads, but was only fair when it came to
threshing or other belt work.

The point is, no matter how much our shows change or people
change, we must never allow ourselves or the public to forget what
these old engines and separators were intended for. We owe it to
Milo, Neil, and all the others who were old threshermen and carried
the cross for us in the early days, not to let grain threshing and
sawmilling take a back seat at our shows. Long live steam!

  • Published on Nov 1, 1988
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