Sunday, July 28, 1979, I attended the Living History Farms 'Threshing Show.' I wanted to see this show, take some pictures and do a write-up on it, (simple I thought). After arriving there I saw there was no way I could write an article without explaining the Living Museum. This attraction is ideally located on Interstate I-80 and I-35. In fact, it lays on both sides of these interstates which join each other around the west and north side of Des Moines, Iowa.
On Living History Farms there is a 1840 farm of 40 acres. Farming is done by plowing with oxen, cradling grain, threshing with a flail and using all primitive types of labor. Also in this 1840 plot of land is a cabin, barn, chicken house, etc., all made from local logs and I believe all fenced with rail fence. Also located on the plot is an 1840 stagecoach stop and trading post. Darwin Thede runs this and the building is made from two old original log cabins. Darwin is also the man who got the 1840 farm started and going strong by building the log buildings, etc. In talking with Carol Gallagher, who works at the trading post, I learned that Barry Haglan is now the 1840 farmer. Carol showed me the patch of corn growing on this farm and said the ground was plowed with oxen; but when it was planting time a man, Barry Haglan I presumed, went on ahead and chopped holes in the ground with a hoe and she followed and dropped the grain of corn in these holes and covered them. She said they planted three different kinds of corn. I think the varieties were Hickery King, yellow dent and white gourd. There are gardens at both the Oak Grove Stagecoach stop and the 1840 farmstead. We arrived too late to see the grain cradling and bundle tying demonstrations, but did see flail threshing in the afternoon.
In another location there is a 1900 farmstead. All work here is done with horses. I would say the most modern piece of equipment on the place is the windmill.
Another addition to the Farms was opened to the public June 23, 1979, when the Henry Wallace crop center was dedicated. This crop center is a part of the farm of today and tomorrow.
The tour to all these attractions starts at the site of the old Flynn Dairy Farm and the Flynn mansion is being restored to the splendor known of such places in the 1870s. At this location there is an old-time one-room schoolhouse, a pottery building where pottery is being made and a pottery kiln where it is fired. There is an old carpenter shop, textile shop, blacksmith shop, veterinary infirmary and in time there will be a complete village of the 1870s. This Living Museum opens in April and closes in October. It is open seven days a week and at any time you can tour each of these points of interest and actually see work in progress at each farm for this particular time of the year.
Now for the threshing. Threshing was being done with a Woods Brothers steam engine and this engine was made in Des Moines, Iowa. Threshing was not in progress when I arrived. Sixteen-year-old Richard Behrens of Williamsburg, Iowa was looking after the engine. I learned that he is no newcomer to steam engines and that he has helped out at the Mt. Pleasant, Iowa threshing show and various other places. When the threshing started, I met Bob McLaren of Manilla, Iowa who was also on the engine. I learned from him that he used to own this engine. He had sold the engine to Leslie Sterek and when he passed away Mrs. Sterek donated the service of the engine to the Farms. The engine was belted to a Huber separator. At the time I took the picture of flail threshing, Dave Jones of Waukee, Iowa, was giving the demonstration.
Another activity of 'Threshing Day' was a parade with around 50 entries including 14 horsedrawn vehicles. The Vickers families of Adel and Creston, Iowa, had three different entries: a 2-pony hitch, a 4-pony hitch and a 6-pony hitch. A restored stagecoach was part of the parade and I think also gave rides. A number of restored Model T Ford cars, other old cars, old tractors, and the up-to-date farm equipment including a new IHC 1460 axial flow combine and a new John Deere 4640 tractor with 6-bottom plow were parade attractions. David Campbell of Lamoni, Iowa, a Central Hawkeye Gas Engine member, paraded a trailer load of old gas engines. In a grove of trees other Hawkeye members exhibited engines.
On the grounds near the Oak Grove State stop, a re-enactment group of Dragoons (that in the mid-1800s were known as the Cavalry) were camping. While I was visiting at the stagecoach stop, the shopkeeper, Darwin Thede, had these soldiers looking for Barry Haglan who Darwin said was squatting in Indian territory. He said the scoundrel had also defrauded the store. I don't know how this came out but I did hear some shots coming from the 1840 farmstead and I really don't know who got who.