Mt. Pleasant, Iowa
Several acres added to the grounds, more engines on display and
several new exhibits, all helped to make the tenth annual reunion
of the Midwest Old Settlers & Threshers Association the best
yet, seemed to be the opinion generally expressed by visitors.
Although scheduled for September 9-10-11-12, engines began
arriving several days in advance and visitors, too. The first
day’s count showed there were 90 engines on the grounds; 40
large steam engines, 23 models and miniatures, 8 stationary and 19
kerosene or gas tractors.
Visitors registered from most of Iowa’s counties and the
surrounding ones in Illinois and Missouri; from more than
two-thirds of the states and several from foreign countries —
Germany, Canada, and the one the farthest from home, from western
There was always something to see and some engine activity.
Special events were arranged for each day in addition to the
parade, the Cavalcade of Power, in which engines passed before the
grand stand and were announced and described over a public address
system. High school marching bands led the parade. Floats prepared
by the Ladies Auxiliary took part showing a country home of pioneer
days — the kitchen and wash day. Others represented the country
church and the country school. Antique cars paraded on several
The annual award to the surprise selection of Old Settler and
Old Thresher was given to two, who as children had grown up and
gone to school in the same Trenton community near Mt. Pleasant.
Mrs. Kate Monson who for the past six years has demonstrated wool
carding and spinning wheel operation at the reunions was selected
as Old Settler of 1959. Pete Bucher, a thresherman of 44 years
experience, an originator of the Reunion and an active worker in it
— balancing a Port Huron engine on the teeter board being one of
the jobs he handles — was selected as Old Thresher of 1959.
Land has been added three times to the original grounds of
McMillan Park and this increase in space has provided plenty of
parking and room for activity so several activities may go on at
the same time. The Prony brake and Baker fan demonstrations
attracted crowds as usual and the portable sawmill was likewise of
continual interest. Several loads of bundles were threshed with the
old time rigs; the shingle mill was in operation; likewise several
miniature saw mills.
Rain cancelled one parade but did not seem to keep many away.
The exhibits in the large metal building and the smaller ones, too,
provided plenty to see. Many more antiques and pioneer farm and
home relics were on display this year. The association has
accumulated some of these and others have been loaned.
Interest in railroading has increased since the association
purchased a small saddle tank engine in 1958. Again this year there
were the kid rides on the miniature train which circled on a track
just north of the large building. A small railroad depot has been
added to the collection, complete with loading dock, and telegraph.
A separate portable building housed a model railroad built by the
Rev. Harold Thiessen of near-by Donnellson. This elaborate display
included 75 turnouts, 50 cities, about 20 industries, 25
locomotives — several of them collector’s items dating back to
the 1850’s, 150 freight cars and 35 passenger cars.
Added this year was a one-room school moved in from the country
intact and furnished as in actual use.
An Old Fiddler Contest was held, likewise checker tournaments
and horse shoe pitching. There was square dancing each night.
Special features included a parade of the antique car club and
their selection of their queen — Mrs. Ralph shellabarger,
who with her husband is also a steam engine fan — dressed in a
1912 model bathing suit.
Music by bands, girl’s quartets, and the old Fife & Drum
Corps with their instruments of ancient vintage, some dating back
to Civil War days, furnished other entertainment. Iowa Governor
Hershel C. Loveless rode a steam engine in the parade and spoke
An antique auction one evening was a new feature. Organ music
and playing request numbers at the shelter house where the Ladies
Auxiliary exhibits, handicrafts, and demonstrations of cooking and
appliances, singing and dancing took place, were enjoyed by folks
as they wandered around looking at the many interesting
The five church tents were busy as usual serving their delicious
‘old thresher’ meals — credited by many with contributing
greatly to the success of the reunions.
The association is accumulating more display material —
engines, pioneer farm and home equipment and furnishings — each
year and is working toward a museum located on the grounds and open
to the public during the travel season. The success of the reunions
has been due to a hardworking board of directors, the hundreds of
volunteers, the backing of the community, and the increasing
willingness of visitors to purchase a dollar membership to help pay
the cost of getting engines here and putting on the reunion. This
increase in memberships and a sizable contribution from the local
Chamber of Commerce has enabled the association to pay ahead, for
the first time, on the debt against the building and land.