Publicity Chairman for Midwest Old Settlers and Threshers
It must have been midnight or later the night of September 7th,
1963, when the final blatant peal of the whistles of the giant
black steam engines and the small scale model miniatures dimmed and
the black smoke settled over the grounds of the Midwest Old
Settlers and Threshers Reunion in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. This brought
down the final curtain of the 14th Annual Reunion, called by far
the most successful to date. Attendance was estimated in excess of
100,000 for the four-day event which began September 4th and
continued through the 7th.
Now internationally famous, guests registered this year from 37
states, Mexico, Canada, Germany, South Africa, Brazil and
Washington, D. C. Many come to the event year after year.
From the first annual Reunion in 1950 with the display of 15
steam engines, the event has grown until, now in the 14th year,
some 116 large and small steam and gas engines and miniature models
can be seen. The largest engine on the ground is an under mounted
Avery belonging to C. R. Willits and son of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. It
is 40-120H.P. and was built in 1923. This year 23 old farm tractors
were on the grounds, along with 54 stationary gas engines, ranging
in size from to 7 horse power, one stationary steam engine and one
hot air engine.
Over 100 antique cars are on exhibit, by many considered the
most outstanding display in the Midwest. They range from a Stanley
Steamer to the sports roadster and some of the cars are worth as
much as $10,000 as collector’s items. The cars ‘come
alive’ and can be seen in operation as they parade in front of
The steam engines, giant sources of power of yesteryear, are
used at the Midwest Old Threshers to thresh grain, saw wood, and
make shingles. These are authentic exhibitions.
The daily ‘Cavalcade of Power Parade’ brings out all of
the engines, both large and small, plus the old tractors. Included
are many of the miniature steam engines, built by the engineer who
drives it in the parade. All of the engines hold a peculiar
fascination for old and young alike, and their combined noon
whistle is a delight to all. There are no ‘hands-off’ signs
and each engine man is glad to visit with anyone interested.
Relics of pioneer days — household and farm appliances and
equipment, antique guns, Indian artifacts, and items of early Iowa
history are housed in permanent buildings on the grounds. Colonial
Spinning demonstrations are given twice daily by Mrs. Frank E.
Monson of Mt. Pleasant, using her mother’s old flax wheel which
is known to be well over 150 years old.
In the pioneer village, one can s e e a country schoolhouse,
barber shop, country store fully equipped, log cabin and blacksmith
shop. A country church will soon be added and possibly a jail,
tavern and hotel. From the country schoolhouse one might hear the
strains of the old organ with groups gathered around to sing the
A C. B. & Q. railroad depot and its companion engine, an 040
Saddle Tank type railroad engine, a model railroad display, ham
radio shack where messages are sent daily for visitors, a medicine
wagon with hawker are all an important part of the Reunion.
Again this year as last, thousands of visitors relived
yesteryear by riding the authentic narrow gauge (36′) railroad,
the Midwest Central RR. This 1891 Baldwin locomotive with cabbage
stack– named ‘Maria’–is equipped with two coaches and
caboose of the 1890s and completely circumvents the Reunion area.
It leaves the antique depot, crosses a trestle, rolls along between
the trees, down and up steep grades, and eventually back to the
depot. ‘Train robberies’ staged this year were an added
feature and proved a thrilling experience for both the riders and
Adding a new dimension to the enjoyment of Reunion goers this
year were Chautauqua programs, staged morning and afternoon for
four days, and on two nights in a ‘Big Brown Tent’ on the
grounds. The informal atmosphere of the Midwest Old Settlers and
Threshers Reunion was the perfect setting for Chautauqua and
performers played to overflow crowds. Plans are now underway to
again stage old-time Chautauqua next year.
Likewise, other plans go forth daily for the 15th Annual Reunion
of The Midwest Old Settlers and Threshers which begins each year on
the Wednesday immediately following Labor Day. The busy officers
and directors of the Association are: Wm. O. Sater, President;
Philip Crawford, vice-president; Herbert Hult, secretary; Milo
Mathews, treasurer; Elmer Ritzman, chaplain; directors _ Pat
Holtcamp, Stan Mathews, Stanley Mouser, Harry Coder, Ed Kitch, C.
F. Hayes, Lawrence Walker, John Brown and Art Salzman.
Perhaps the Reunion means the most to the engineers, but it is
here that old friends meet, friendships are cemented, and new
friendships made. It is truly a gay, happy and relaxed time for
all. Everyone coming to the Reunion relives the good old days as
threshing memories come back in reality during the four-day