Out of the Attic: Threshing Ring

| May/June 1995

  • # Picture 01

  • # Picture 01

The following article was sent to us by Mike Bandow, Bandow's Wood, Wind & Water, Rt 3, Box 3329, Hayward, Wisconsin 54843. Reprint permission granted us by Country Journal, Box 870, Manchester Center, Vermont 05255. Edith Chase, Mill Hollow, Alstead, New Hampshire 03602, provided the original photo, which is no longer in her possession.

A century ago Temple and Adison Newlin were well known to the residents of Plainfield, Indiana, a farming community some 15 miles southwest of Indianapolis. Every year, just after spring planting, the brothers would visit the farms in the area to see who had put in wheat or oats and to learn how many acres of each grain had been planted. Using this information, they would form a 'threshing ring,' a group of up to twenty farmers who would cooperate on the threshing. Each year there would be a ring for oats and one for wheat, and when the grains ripened, the Newlin brothers would move their steam powered threshing machine to each farm in turn, threshing grain at the rate of 7 cents a bushel. The harvest season was one of community effort, with each farmer in a ring contributing his labor on the other farms. Usually a farmer would contribute his time in proportion to the sizes of his grain fields. Customarily the oat farmer only contributed to the oat ring and the wheat farmer to the wheat ring, although there were exceptions, and some farmers were members of both rings.

Unfortunately, we haven't a clue as to the identities of the people in this photograph, although Temple's granddaughter, Edith Chase, of Alstead, New Hampshire, guesses that the bearded man on the steam tractor in the foreground is one of the Newlin brothers and the woman beside him is his wife. Our thanks to Mrs. Chase for sharing this account of community cooperation