Railroad Depot, Saddle Tank Railroad Engine and Miniature Railroad at the Midwest Old Settlers and Threshers Association Reunion, Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, 1959.
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 Australia.
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 occasions.
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 briefly.
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 displays.
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.