Midwest Ole Threshers, Mt. Pleasant, Iowa.
In 1950, several men had a dream a Reunion of Old Threshers in Mt. Pleasant . . . and the Association was born. Their hope was to record and preserve much of the early history of the midwest territory and especially southeast Iowa and leave an authentic record that will remain of interest and profit to future generations.
The first Reunion had 15 steam engines and eight separators and several thousand people attended. Sideshows were banned, con games, carnival and commercialism and advertising were taboo except for sale of good food and soft drinks. These policies have continued to be the rule through the Association's 28-year history.
Yesterdays in rural America are relived here in the land of the steam powered threshers, vintage trolleys, antique autos, gas tractors and gas engines, and a narrow-gauge railroad. All are part of the hundreds of working exhibits.
Early last fall following the 1976 Reunion, the Board of Directors named a 6 horsepower, 1888 Russell steam engine, owned by Charles and Alden Fricke, Mt. Union, Iowa as the steam engine of the year for 1977. The brothers had acquired the engine in the summer of 1976 from an owner in Cedar Falls, Iowa. It had earlier belonged to the late J. J. Hingtgen of LaMotte, Iowa. It has been featured in many ways during the year and will be the star of this year's show.
The Fricke Brothers own and exhibit three other engines at the Reunion. They include a 6 horsepower Nichols and Shepard, a 16 horsepower Russell, and a 25 horsepower Russell. They also own. and exhibit other vintage equipment at the Mt. Pleasant show.
The couple chose the platform of the Midwest Central Railroad caboose at the Old Threshers grounds as the setting for their wedding. The groom has a special interest in railroading and plans a career in that field after college graduation. The bride has been a volunteer worker with Old Threshers through Iowa Wesleyan's Responsible Social Involvement Program.
The engine of the year was one of the steam engines in a historic segment on American agriculture filmed last fall at Old Threshers for Farmland Industries, Inc. and later shown on national television.
In early July the oats were cut with a binder, shocked and later placed on wagons to await threshing days at the Reunion, both with steam power and horsepower. Sorghum is also growing on the Old Thresher grounds for cutting and processing when festival time is at hand.
Many volunteers give assistance taking place at Old Threshers with school tours, hosting visitors to the museums, assisting with the Bluegrass Festival and camping activities but this number will reach 4000 as the giant Reunion gets under way.
The Heritage Museum, with new addition, and now covering approximately 3 acres, has been under construction and reorganization since last year's Reunion. It was opened officially on Memorial Day week-end when nearly 400 people attended open-house activities that week-end. Displays are arranged with a seasonal usage of equipment, such as spring, summer, fall, and winter. The 'new' country kitchen has also been relocated in the new addition.
The original museum building is the location of the steam engines, along with the Corliss engines, the Page engine, gas tractors and gas engines. These displays all become a 'part of the action' at Reunion. Those that move out of the building will be replaced by historical exhibits now being developed for this area.
Efforts have been made to further develop the log settlement. The stagecoach barn, leveled during an early May windstorm, has been reconstructed. One of the log cabins destroyed during the same storm will not be reconstructed. A log school-house moved to the grounds this summer from nearby Lee County is taking shape.
Volunteers at the Midwest Central Railroad engine shop have been busily building another passenger coach, which will greatly assist in handling the peak loads on hand. Last year 40,000 passengers took rides on the Midwest Central.