Mt. Pleasant, Iowa
‘Unless you see it you can’t imagine what it is,’
commented a California visitor at the Midwest Old Settlers and
Threshers Reunion and he just about hit the nail on the head.
It was bigger, it was better, and it was different than it has
been in the past. The difference was due to added room, added
features and another big building.
The steam engines and old tractors were there – over a hundred
of them, big and little, and the most of them in the Cavalcade of
Power – the parade around the track before the big crowd.
Over a hundred antique cars were on display -many of them in the
new 89′ x 120′ concrete and steel, clear span, two-story
building completed just in time for the reunion. It was in the
northwest section of the grounds to which over 4 more acres had
been added this year.
Last year’s visitor will recall the old cabbage stack
locomotive that had just been reconditioned and ran on a short
track. This year a passenger coach had been added and over ten
thousand rode the line which now extends half way around the fair
grounds. They were paying passengers, too, either in the nature of
stockholders – it costs a $10 share to be a stockholder and one
gets a lifetime pass on the train with this – or ticket purchasers
at the depot. The The train was on the go, almost continuously
except when taking on passengers, water or coal, and the passengers
got a round trip ride with a stop-over at the engine house to
inspect displays of other equipment.
A short wave radio station was set up in the depot and many
visitors sent messages, among them the governor of Iowa, and a
local resident to relatives in Alaska who carried on a clear
A larger exhibit of old tractors and stationary gas engines was
on the grounds. Many different machines of pioneer vintage were
exhibited and some operated. There was the usual Prony brake
testing and Baker fan operations by the large steam engines. The
large sawmill that had been at previous reunions was again in
operation and ran almost steadily. Threshing with the various old
time separators was a daily occurrence. Pete Bucher did his steam
engine balancing demonstration on the teeter-totter before the
A locally produced pageant commemorating the 100th Anniversary
of the Civil War with a cast of nearly seven hundred taking part
was the outstanding evening feature. Over 5,000 viewed it the first
showing which was to be the only performance but due to the demand
a second evening was taken and over 4,000 attended. Many expressed
the wish that a similar program- possibly with a pioneer theme
would be presented at future reunions.
Although the attendance was large -the exact total unknown but
thought to be equal to or somewhat over the total of last year, and
exceeding the peak days – the added land made it possible to
arrange engines and exhibits so that no place was ever crowded to
excess. Visitors came from all but 4 of the states, with the
majority as would be expected, from Iowa and the neighboring states
-also the sources of the large engines. With the several large
buildings on the grounds many engines stay here the year round,
A late 1800 or early 1900 vintage steam operated carousel –
‘merry go round’- was new to the reunion and did a land
office business in riders – both young and old. It was accompanied
by calliope music. It came from Perry, Missouri, and had been on
the road until the early 1930’s.
There was something of interest for everyone. The ladies had
programs of their own which included a musical comedy, a cooking
demonstration, a flower demonstration and several barbershop
choruses of contest fame.
Various exhibits and demonstrations in the buildings provided
something of interest all day long. There were benches in the shade
for resting and of course the churches again had their eating tents
with ‘old thresher meals ‘which have been one of the main
reasons for the success of the reunions. No one need be a stranger
anywhere and new friendships were constantly being formed, and old
ones begun at previous reunions renewed.
In addition to the old railroad depot, a one-room school was
furnished and ‘open’ and also an old time barber shop.
Interesting visitors were several Indian families from the Sac and
Fox reservation at Tama, Iowa who were decked out in their
beautiful feathered head dresses and buckskins. They had a booth of
The usual exhibits of antiques in glassware, china, guns, and
general items were on display and new ones were elaborate Indian
relic collections, and coins. Exhibits of rocks, native and
foreign, polished, mounted and in the rough; and gemstones mounted
and in the rough, too, were attractive.
Itemizing some of the displays: there were 50 big steam engines,
20 model engines of parade size, and 30 others. There were 126
antique cars, 24 old tractors and 30 stationary gas engines. There
were two mail buggies which have been displayed around the country
and are now prized antiques. There were 2 corn shellers, 4
separators, large and miniature sawmills, a shingle mill, a corn
shredder and a steam-driven rock crusher.
Those honored this year with the award of Old Thresher were
Herman E. Elgar and Robert Willits, both of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, and
founders of, and early officers of the Midwest Old Settlers &
Mr. and Mrs. Frank Hutchinson of nearby Lowell were designated
Old Settlers of the year.
Plans are already under way for the 1962 Reunion. The board of
directors is meeting regularly and Mt. Pleasant’s civic-minded
organizations are setting up work committees to make the next
reunion even bigger and better. And the cost will still be just a
dollar membership for adults which will let you in the grounds and
exhibits and demonstrations any or all four days. These will be
September 5, 6, 7 and 8, 1962.
Better plan to come !