R.R. 4, Mt. Pleasant, Iowa 52641.
1974 is the Silver Anniversary year for the Midwest Old Settlers
and Threshers Association in Mt. Pleasant and plans are moving
ahead for another big year. The fall Reunion dates are August 29
through September 2.
In 1950, several men had a dream a reunion of Old Threshers at
Mt. Pleasant, and the Midwest Old Settlers and Threshers
Association was born. Their hope was to be able to record and
preserve much of the early history of the midwest territory and
especially southeast Iowa and leave an authentic record that will
be of interest and profit to future generations.’
That first Reunion had 15 steam engines and eight separators,
and several thousand people attended from fourteen states.
Sideshows were banned, con games, carnivals, commercialism and
advertising were taboo except for sale of food and soft drinks.
These policies have continued to be the rule through the
Association’s 25 year history.
The Reunion was extended to four days in 1952 and antique autos
were added to the attractions, plus events for the pleasure of the
For several years now the Reunion has covered a period of five
days. Each year added attractions were included and crowds have
continued to come in increased numbers.
The Reunion is now considered Iowa’s largest
‘out-of-state tourist’ attraction. For the past several
years, visitors have registered from every state in the nation and
many foreign countries. Many return year after year. Camping has
become a popular activity at Old Threshers and nearly 3800 separate
units were on the grounds at the past Reunion, with an estimated
14,000 people camping in the large campground and other designated
areas on the 152 acres encompassed by Reunion activities.
Activities at Old Threshers are no longer confined to the five
days of the end-of-the summer festival. The summer Heritage Museum
is open from Memorial Day week-end through the end of the Reunion.
It covers 1-1/2 acres under roof and houses many ancient machines,
agricultural implements, transportation relics, a country kitchen,
and other vintage artifacts.
Year-round activities include conducted school tours, which this
spring hosted more than 1500 elementary students from southeast
Iowa and western Illinois schools, educational workshops, slide
features, illustrated lectures, films, educational and historical
books, permanent and temporary exhibits. About 300 volunteers work
throughout the year and at Reunion time to make Old Threshers
possible. Early Bird buttons are issued to those who work 10 or
more hours on the grounds prior to Reunion time as a special kind
of recognition from the Board of Directors. These people buy their
regular $3 membership button, too, but wear the Early Bird with a
special kind of pride.
At the 1973 Reunion, forty-four crafts from 10 different states
made up the largest early-day crafts show to date, this
representing an increase of 16 crafts over the previous year.
One of the biggest projects undertaken during the months
preceding the 1973 Reunion was the dismantling, moving and
reassembling of the large Allis-Chalmers cross compound Corliss
engine, given to Old Threshers by the city of Marshalltown,
The 130-ton, cross-compund engine had pumped water for the City
of Marshalltown 46 years before being brought to Mt. Pleasant.
Volunteers began disassembling the engine and its 14-foot fly-wheel
weighing 11 tons in September, 1972, in Marshalltown, and the same
crew of four men completed the disassembling of the main engine and
pump in May, 1973. The entire time spent dismantling took
approximately four weeks.
The move of the massive engine to Mt. Pleasant took place on
June 10, 1973, using two of the Virgil Coonrod cranes of Cedar
Rapids to load and unload eight semi-trailers with the engine, pump
and associated parts, along with several smaller trucks. The main
assemblies were directly placed on the awaiting cement pedestals
which had been prepared well in advance of the engine’s
arrival, using 140 cubic years of concrete.
Fenton Powell, Canton, Missouri, Chief Engineer, Dale McLain,
Asst. Engineer, Lockridge, Iowa, C. O. DaVault, Creston, Iowa, and
Carl Kerkman, Newhall, Iowa, assisted by Scott Johnson, Minden,
Nebraska and numerous Old Thresher volunteers worked fervorously in
the weeks between the June 10th arrival date and Old Threshers
Reunion time to get the engine in operation. Many said it could not
be done but the ‘mission was accomplished’ and the engine
was in operation for visitors to see and enjoy throughout the last
This picture/of the 130 ton, cross-compound engine/taken in late
July shows the progress made on reassembling the engine in an
extension built on the Old Threshers Heritage Museum building
during the summer of 1973. The massive engine, given to Old
Threshers by the city of Marshalltown, Iowa, was moved to Mt.
Pleasant June 10, was reassembled and placed into operation by
Reunion opening date. Chief Engineer Fenton Powell, Canton, Mo.,
CO. DaVault, Creston, Iowa, Carl Kerkman, Newhall, Iowa, and Dale
McLain, Lockridge, Iowa, [shown left to right] directed the major
activities in connection with the dismantling and reassembling.
Information compiled by Mr. Powell regarding the big engine was
as follows: ‘This is an Allis-Chalmers, horizontal, cross
compound, condensing, corliss crank and flywheel, high duty opposed
type pumping engine.’ It has a capability of pumping 6,750,000
gallons of water into a water main against 208 lbs. of head
pressure in a 24-hour period. It was purchased by the City of
Marshalltown on the 11th day of December, 1922, at a cost of
$37,700.00. The engine being housed, it continued to remain in
excellent mechanical condition.
It operates at 36-2/3 RPM. The high pressure piston is 22 inches
in diameter and travels 36 inches per stroke. The low pressure
piston is 44 inches in diameter and also travels 36 inches per
stroke. The main bearings are 11 inches in diameter and are 20
inches long. The flywheel is 14 feet in diameter and weighs 22,000
lbs. The pump includes 8 sets of valve assemblies containing 3
cages each with 21 valves per cage. This makes an aggregate total
of 504 valves in the pump. The normal operating steam pressure is
125 lbs. with a 5-inch steam supply line and a 12 inch exhaust
line. The engine will develop 137,000,000 foot pounds of work for
every 1000 lbs. of dry steam supplies to the engine. The total
weight of the engine and pump is approximately 260,000 lbs. or 130
To prepare for movement of this engine, due to its large size of
35 feet in length and 17 feet in width, it was necessary to compile
a set of drawings. A series of six drawings were made by directly
measuring the engine and its cement pedestals. These drawings
required numerous trips to the Water Works at Marshalltown and were
two years in the making.
There are 11 levels of cement on each side of the engine
flywheel for each pedestal on which the engine is mounted. There
are 36 mounting bolts that hold the engine to the base and are
mounted in the cement. It required that the bolts be centered
within one eighth of an inch from one end of the pedestal to the
Interest was added to the trolley line by the addition of the
refurbished Waterloo car which was in operation for the first time
in 1973. This fall an additional two open-bench South American cars
are expected to be in operation and the plans are to extend the
trolley tracks farther into the main campground and perhaps even
complete the loop through this area.
In observance of the 25th Anniversary year, a silver coin is
being minted by the Providence, Rhode Island Mint. A limited
quantity (250) of the silver coins will be made and sold for $25
each. 2500 bronze coins are also being made and they will sell for
The anniversary Heritage collector’s plate, the final
edition of the three-plate series to be made by Greentree Pottery
of Audubon, Iowa, will feature a 1907, 18 horsepower, portable,
Case engine, owned by the late Herman Elgar, one of the
association’s founders and its first secretary. The engine is
still owned by the Elgar family. This engine has has been exhibited
at all 25 Reunions and last year was put into operation to provide
power for the vintage carousel when its own boiler failed. The
engine is also pictured on the silver anniversary membership button
and membership card, which are available from the Old Threshers
office at $3 each.
The 14 foot, 11 ton flywheel being lowered into the crankshaft.
On right the 16 ton, low pressure cylinder being lowered into
position on the pedestals.
Crowds overflow the grandstand as they watch the daily Cavalcade
of Power during the Annual Midwest Old Settlers and Threshers
Reunion in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa.
In 1973, a quarterly newspaper was first published about the
activities of the Old Threshers. It is known as THRESHERS CHAFF and
is an eight to twelve page tabloid which goes to subscribers in the
months of January, April, July, and October.
A full schedule of entertainment is planned for the five days of
the Reunion. Grand Old Opre stars will be on stage Friday, Saturday
and Sunday. Sonny James, Tom T. Hall and Hank Williams, Jr., will
headline talent on these three days, respectively.
Of continued interest will be the Giant Cavalcade of Power
featuring 100 or more large and small steam engines, a like number
of vintage cars, old tractors and horse drawn vehicles. There will
be demonstrations of wood sawing, threshing and baling by
horsepower and steam power, sorghum making, and operation of the
shingle and veneer mill.