MIDWEST OLD SETTLERS AND THRESHERS ASSOCIATION
Mt. Pleasant, Iowa
As the sixty five steam engines, large and small, chugged away and visitors roamed around the grounds at McMillan Park in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, the general consensus of opinion was that the event was a huge success and growing. As in years before, there were several new engines added again, another event or two, and changes that helped make the show easier to see and a more continuous program so that there was always something doing.
The grandstand was jam-packed every afternoon and evening and row of spectators stood or sat alongside the track for the parade while hundreds milled around the ground. Previous attendance records were surpassed and a count of cars was made for the first time on Saturday, the record day, resulting in an estimated attendance of over 50,000 for the day and over 100,000 for the entire 4-day reunion.
The addition of 5 acres of ground from the year before and the large new building for the display of antiques, booths and demonstrations made it possible to spread out over an area without crowding and run several engine operations at the same time.
The free gate, grandstand and parking and freedom from commercialism continues to be the policy of the association and probably the main reason visitors come back year after year bringing the whole family and making the event a vacation. As in the past practically all the states in the union were represented and a number of visitors from Canada were here.
The 'Old Thresher of 1958' honor went to six Pratt Brothers from Van Buren County, Iowa, ranging in age from 65 to 80 years. The 'Old Settler of 1958' award was presented to John Van Syoc, of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, an 89-year-old.
Iowa's Governor Loveless rode on an engine in the Cavalcade of Power and spoke a few words to the visitors in the grandstand and around the track. Other notables were in attendance. A television news reel made pictures on the grounds and later these were shown over stations scattered throughout the country. High School bands and floats took part in the Cavalcade of Powers which was a twice daily feature made up of steam engines, old tractors, antique cars and displays.
The five tents did their usual good job of furnishing thresher meals to the visitors, the church women and men doing the work that has mad: their meals one of the big attractions of the reunion.
New on the grounds was an old saddle tank railroad engine which the association has purchased and partly restored. Since then a depot has also been secured and moved to the grounds. A small locomotive with cars took youngsters on rides this year, too.
Biggest engine on the grounds was the 40hp. Avery, bought by Robert Willits, of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, this past year and hauled from Tonkawa, Oklahoma. This is a companion for his 18hp. Undermounted. Largest model was the half-scale one of a 20hp. Star, double cylinder under-mounted just completed by Nat Lang of Charleston, Illinois.
The association was presented a 22hp. 1917 Wood Bros. engine by Miss Helen Wood of Des Moines in honor of her father, F. J. Wood who designed and built with his brother, the Wood Bros. engines. Mr. Wood was an annual visitor to this reunion, a strong booster for it and 'Old Thresher of 1951' recipient.
An outstanding program for the ladies by the Auxiliary included music, kitchen and home appliance demonstrations, party idea demonstrations, floats and home talent contest. A daily band concert, an antique car show, rides for the kiddies, square dancing and movies in the evening made a well-rounded program with something of interest for everyone in the family.
And, of course, the daily operation of large and miniature sawmills by steam, the shingle mill, Prony brake, Baker fan, the threshing, teeter board balancing and the usual steam engine activities are to be expected The model engines, too, were numerous, of a great deal of interest to visitors and took their part in the Cavalcade of Power and performing
The volunteer help of interested persons and organizations in and out of Mt. Pleasant and Henry County have made possible the yearly growth and expansion of the reunion. The addition of more land and a large building has been a result of a long range program toward the establishing of a museum on the grounds. With this in mind the organization has made arrangements for accepting and preserving relics of pioneer living and farming, and has a good beginning of donations of historical value. These are displayed with identification during the reunion.
The Ninth Reunion closed on a day which saw the largest attendance with much talk of 'coming back new year.' Those dates are September 9-10-11-12, 1959.