JEWELL COUNTY

HISTORICAL SOCIETY


| September/October 1982



Steam engine

Thoughts of Kansas in July always revolve around one subject Wheat Harvest! This yearly occurrence in the Great Plains would normally culminate in a community event The threshing bee. Everyone brought their newly harvested shocks of wheat to a central site for threshing. The powerful steam engine would be attached to the threshing machine the men supplied the labor; the women the wonderful home-cooked food; and the children the fun and games!

Five years ago the Jewell County Historical Society, headquartered in Mankato, Kansas, decided to recreate this unique event from our past as a means of preserving our pioneer heritage.

So, complete with steam engines and threshing machines, home-cooked food and fun and games, a unique event has evolved the Jewell County Threshing Bee and Antique Machine Show.

Since the first threshing bee five years ago, over 3500 visitors and 250 exhibitors from Pennsylvania, California, Texas and all regions in between have participated. A special participant was Trevor Sprigg, from western Australia, who, during a visit to the United States, spent over thirty days in Mankato helping to prepare for the threshing bee.

The threshing bee offers something for everyone. The two-day event is held in a shady ten-acre plot belonging to the Jewell County Historical Society, Dr. William Schlotter back and the City of Mankato. Home cooked meals, lemonade, ice cream, funnel cakes and other delights can be enjoyed in the shade on the many benches supplied for spectators. Antiques, flea markets and crafts booths provide hours of browsing. Actual demonstrations of such age-old crafts as wheat weaving, blacksmithing, quilt making, rope making, limestone fence post construction and babbit pouring offer an interesting interlude to the main events.

Binding wheat with a three horse hitch of Percherons

The action begins on Saturday morning at 8:00 AM. The crowd gathers early to watch the steam engines build up steam and the antique tractors warm up as the stationary engines begin to pop and smoke in preparation for the events of the day. By 11:00 AM the steam engines are belted up and the first of many threshing demonstrations begin. The steam engines are given no rest, as on to the parade they move! Along with the antique tractors, cars, fire engines, horse and buggies and teams of work horses, they parade through downtown Mankato and the threshing bee grounds, much to the delight of the 3500 spectators in attendance.