Rollag To Celebrate 150 Years of J.I. Case

| March/April 1992

Rt 1, Box 28 Nome, North Dakota 58062

Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion at Rollag, Minnesota is planning the 1992 J.I. Case Exposition celebrating 150 years of the Case Company. We have been planning since 1990 in preparation for this exceptional event. A lot of time and long range plans have already been put into this J.I. Case Expo. All the committees meet every second Thursday of each month. The show will be held on Labor Day weekend, September 4-7, 1992. Anyone reading this article is most cordially invited to participate in this special event.

Photo #1: Engine #15288 - Case 20 HP built in 1905. Sold new in 1906 to Mike Eichsniller, bought in 1948 by N.B. Nelson, Rollag, now owned by son, Arlen Nelson. Case shop in background. Photo taken July 4, 1952; photo credit Arlen Nelson.

In the 1930s N.B. Nelson and his wife Violet ran a small country general store in Rollag. Mr. Nelson had been a farmer and thresherman most of his life. Mr. Nelson would make routine trips to Fargo, North Dakota, some 35 miles away, to secure stock for his store at Rollag. Since Rollag was an inland village with no railroads or major highways, Mr. Nelson would usually stop at the J.I. Case branch in Fargo to pick up parts for himself and other neighbors in the area. This was not unusual, as a distance of 35 miles in those days was considered a trip! Nowadays people will think nothing of driving 75 miles just to have dinner! Anyway, it was from this association with the Case Company of Fargo that the company persuaded N.B. Nelson to become a Case dealer at Rollag in 1941. There has since been a Case dealer there on up until today with the new Case IH dealership. By 1950 most all steam threshing outfits had retired from the long threshing runs when combines had taken over, a time when most farmers went on doing their own harvesting, taking on the more modern ways. During the 1940s and early 1950s a few neighbors in the Rollag area would get together a few falls to thresh a little with a 20 HP Case engine belonging to the Nelson family for old times sake. So it wasn't more fitting that N.B. Nelson, in 1954, along with his brothers and neighbors, organized a small steam threshing bee held October 2. The public was invited and the first show was held. The first show button was put out for this event. Nelsons steamed up their Case 20 HP engine and a 40 x 62 Case separator along with their old Gaar Scott 25 HP double simple, and with other engines put on a good show for the public. This little threshing demonstration then led to what is now WMSTR, which has become one of the biggest and best shows of its kind in the U.S. and Canada.

Photo #2: original photo (circa 1915) of a new 12-25 Case tractor and separator at the J.I. Case factory branch in Fergus Falls, MN. Also Case car in the background.

The Case dealership has stayed in the Nelson family from the start. N.B. Nelson let his son Noel Nelson take over the business in 1961. After a few years, in 1972, because of health reasons, Noel Nelson sold the dealership to another family member, his first cousin Lawrence Aakre, who is presently operating the Case IH dealership. Noel and Lawrence are both cooperating as co-chairmen of the planned 150 years of J.I. Case celebration.