Farm Collector


1302-6th Ave., N. E., Aberdeen, South Dakota 57401.

Another thrilling and exciting year for me has just passed into
eternity. And again I renewed my subscription to Iron Men Album for
the 22nd year, as the magazine is always full of very interesting
pictures and articles, such as on page 27 of the November-December
1969 issue, where my friend, R. F. Somerville, Haney, B. C. Canada,
has some very interesting details about the Bryan Steam Tractor.
Also as we of the 1970’s are entering a period of time when
many are working desperately to get the steam engine back in
business by testing steam to operate buses as well as autos, and I
have been told that the railroads are thinking strongly of getting
back to steam power. We here in the clean fresh air of the Dakotas
do not realize the seriousness of the smog until we travel in
heavily traveled areas like Minneapolis and St. Paul and notice how
soot-like particles from other autos and trucks quickly gather on
windshields and glass of our autos. I cannot help but believe the
1970’s will mark a great advance in steam engineering.

Now looking back to page 48 of the Iron Men Album of May-June
1963, my brother Dustan and I were aboard that Duluth-Mesabi and
Iron Range train of 600 rail fans of Minnesota and Illinois. We
were riding in the front coach next to the baggage car shown in the
picture so as to hear more of the engine, the same as we were
aboard the same sightseeing steam trip pulled by No. 222
locomotive, same size and all identical, just one year before July
3, 1960, when our engineer, George Earl Holmes of Two Harbors,
passed away at the throttle as we were leaving the city after
dinner. I took a picture of No. 222 identical to this picture,
except from the other side, even to part of the baggage car, and I
can furnish this picture complete with details to anyone wishing
one, and also of a heavy Penn R. R. steam locomotive with four
separate smokestacks showing, standing on a large turntable. It
surely was a grand sensation when on the Duluth, Mesabi trips when
at a top of high ground we photographers were let out to take
pictures of train as it would back perhaps a mile down grade and
then come roaring and whistling upgrade past us, taking us back to
when we lived with the steamers, both on the railroads and on the
farms during threshing days, hearing the different steamers break
the morning with their beautiful whistles from all directions.

I really was taken back when I read a short write-up in a steam
magazine sometime ago from a man who wrote that he could not
understand why the steam shows had such a success in drawing and
keeping such large crowds, as he said when you see one show you
have seen them all. Well! With us older persons who have grown up
with the steamer, the aroma of hot steam, oil, smoke and new
threshed straw is really something that has never been replaced and
up to the late 1940’s we never expected to ever be able to
enjoy those days again. We had never tired of working around the
steamer or hearing them on neighboring farms. They were always
grand sights.

Some might ask, ‘If they were so grand, why did we quit
them?’ In answer, in the early days as the large steam
threshing rigs became popular with the large grain farms, they
became dependent upon the fine young men and older men who came
year after year from the south and east following the harvest from
Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, to South Dakota and on to North Dakota
and Canada, many earning enough to take it easy until the start of
harvest again the next spring in Oklahoma or Texas. The first World
War changed conditions for the large operators as help to keep the
large rigs running was no more. Very few farmers wanted to discard
the steam, but in order to thresh those heavy grain crops of 1917
and 1918 they had to resort to the small gas and oil tractors and
small threshers where 2 or 3 farmers worked together and did their
own threshing easily. It was surprising how many single farmers
with their own families did all their own threshing, then used the
light tractors to plow and work the fields for the next year’s
grain crop, relieving the faithful work horses of those hot days,
working amid flys and mosquitoes of all sorts. Then the coming of
the combines and diesel farm tractors and railroad and truck
diesels, but all of these never held the love and respect of the
public as did the steamer. In our area of Groton and Andover, South
Dakota, the steam thresher operator, a farmer, would completely
rebuild his rig after spring’s work and just as harvest got
nicely started, set a Saturday afternoon when farmers who were
usually short on hog, cow and horse grain, would bring in bundle
loads of oats and barley to get threshed, and to check that the rig
was all in good running order, and how so many older as well as
younger persons would gather to enjoy the steamers.

As the railroads changed from steam to diesel to save expense,
how quickly the public lost interest in traveling by rail. I always
love to think back to when I rode back of those engines with
two-toned whistles and listened to them coming in and going out of
Kansas City, Minneapolis and Aberdeen whenever I lived and worked
in those cities. Today I just cannot hear and enjoy the diesel as I
did the steam, yet I do enjoy operating the heavy diesel farm
tractors even while I am thinking of the steam.

How the people would always gather at the railroad depots in
towns and cities to see and hear the steamers. One pioneer lady in
Aberdeen, Mrs. Elizabeth Strohmeier, enjoyed steam so much she
obtained a steam license, entitling her to operate the engines.
During the Redfield, South Dakota, 75th Anniversary Celebrations in
late 1950s, the operator of the 75-H. P. Case steam engine was
asked to bring his engine over to the rest home and I heard that
the elderly people housed there really enjoyed the whistling and
operation of the steamer as they did in their younger days.

We steam people attend the steam shows hoping to hear more of
the double whistles. The closer I am to them the better I love to
hear them. They are real music to me.

All of the grand days I have attended the Midwest Threshers Show
in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, the day was always opened by a prayer from
our Chaplain, the Rev. Elmer L. Ritzman, or a minister of Mt.
Pleasant, which I feel is very important.

One Sunday morning we arrived early enough at Rollag, Minnesota,
for the 9 a. m. church service to open up the Western Minnesota
Steam Threshers Reunion, Inc., show for the day. The large building
was filled to standing room at the doors and such grand singing by
three girls and a men’s quartet, and a fine sermon and talk by
the Lutheran minister really put us all in better spirits to enjoy
the day’s show. We were told that we should have been there at
the church service the Saturday night before as it was really
inspiring. I am certain that the organizing of all the steam
reunions over the United States and Canada has been a real boost to
living for both young and old.

In regards to Mrs. Strohmeier, Aberdeen, mentioned earlier, it
was well known she had, as Elizabeth Edgoose, been born in England
and being very full of life learned to be a dressmaker at age 13,
and associated with the Royal Family until she developed quick
consumption at age 21. She then left by ship for the United States,
as she had sisters here and had heard of the dry climate here. The
folks she left in England doubted she would live to see the United
States, but she did. After living several years in Chicago she
moved to Manastee, Michigan, where she and another lady opened up
the first laundry in Manastee.

After a few years the cough was bothering her badly and she
moved to the dry climate at Aberdeen in Dakota Territory early in
1885. After a chilly ride on the train for three complete days, she
rented a room in a doctor’s home, who thought she was so near
done he somehow doubted if she would be alive the following
morning. But after a fine rest in a warm room, she was very much
alive and cheerful and after breakfast, looked over the town. After
buying some lots and making arrangements for buildings to be
erected, she made plans for a walking vacation to see the roaring,
muddy Missouri River about 125 miles west of Aberdeen, seeing lots
of tall grass that on windy days waved just like the waves of the
sea, and lots of buffalo, deer, and prairie chickens. Upon reaching
the river she sure was disgusted as on account of a dry spring she
could just about jump across it, whereas she had heard it was a
roaring, muddy river. Back in Aberdeen, by great determination, she
opened up and operated the first modern steam laundry equipped with
a steam boiler. She understood steam so well, she could operate any
steam engine. Also, she built the first green house in Aberdeen. A
Richard Strohmeier came from Minneapolis and was hired to take over
the greenhouse and a year later Elizabeth and Richard were married
in the early 1890’s.

After selling the greenhouse, Mrs. Strohmeier started the first
bakery shop and I am certain she opened up the first bakery shop
and I am certain she opened up the first feather shop in Aberdeen
in the 90’s. Thus, for a lady who in her young life was twice
feared to be very near Eternity, but with great determination
battled along to make life really livable and thrilling for herself
and all who knew her.

She lived to be 92 years old and was one along with many others
to spend a lot of her time at the Aberdeen depots to see and hear
the great steam locomotives pulling the heavy trains in and out of

Mr. and Mrs. Strohmeier’s daughter, Mrs. Lawson Clark,
living now at 819 North Washington Street, Aberdeen, keeps busy as
a member of several organizations, and also builds the most
beautiful trinkets for sale a person could wish to see. Mr. Clark
still owns his old home farm near Glynden, Minnesota, just east of
Moorhead. He is a very well known steam engineer at a number of
steam reunions in North and South Dakota and Minnesota and probably
Nebraska. In late 1969 he was given special recognition as a steam
engineer by the Steam Engineering and Locomotive Department of New
York City.

  • Published on Jan 1, 1973
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