Frick engine at the Berryville, Virginia 1972 Show. Courtesy of Roy Hartman, 2632 Parkland Drive, Suitland, Maryland 20028.
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 Aberdeen.
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.