All roads led to Rollag, Minnesota, again last fall where the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers held their fourth annual Reunion, a three day celebration, September 27, 28, and 29. Even the weather became cooperative for this event: after weeks of rain and cloudy skies, the sun came through and smiled pleasantly on the activities on Threshermen's Hill those days.
In many respects this was the biggest and best reunion we have enjoyed here so far.
The immense gatherings each day spoke well for the fast growing popularity of this organization.
More coal, more smoke, more steam and more power seemed to be the by-word wherever you turned, with several newly rejuvenated engines in the parade this year followed by a long line of gas tractors of various ancient designs.
In going back into the history of Western Minnesota, we find that the Rollag community holds its place as one of the cradles of civilization where the immigrants from Norway and Sweden and the American Yankees settled along the timberline country in the rugged hills of eastern Clay County in the early seventies, where they organized and built one of the first schools and churches in this county. Both these institutions are still going strong and situated within half a mile of the threshing grounds.
In organizing and promoting the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion, Rollag has again pioneered and come into its own, and with the help of our friends both in Minnesota and the Dakotas, this is now an annual event that will be looked forward to with greater anticipation from year to year.
First to register on the morning of September 27 was Christ Christianson of Baker, Montana. On hand also was J. L. Stevens of Marnard, South Dakota, who took on the job of feeding the hand feed separator in operation there. Also present was Grice from Mankato, Minnesota, Albert Hiemark from Cormorant, Minnesota, and T. A. Paulson from Pelican Rapids, Minnesota, who displayed his model steam engine and saw mill. These men are all in their eighties and nineties, but still active threshermen.
Among the new attractions in the model display was N. B. Nelson's scale Advance engine and scale Case separator, doing a very fine job of threshing oats; and a one-third scale Oil Pull tractor built by Elmer Larson of Moorhead, Minnesota. This tractor was used to power the model threshers and saw mill and is a very fine piece of work. Elmer spent many hours in making this tractor and has a right to be proud of his work.
Some heavy equipment was trucked in such as Stanley Ellingson's Avery undermounted from Christine, North Dakota; Bill Danielson's Reeves double simple 25 hp. from Rothsay, Minnesota; Ted Thompson's Advance 30 hp. from Hawley, Minnesota; Carl Johnson of Lake Park, Minnesota trucked in two Case steamers, Bill Fish of Watertown, South Dakota, trucked in a Townsend tractor, Harold William of Ada, Minnesota, an Avery tractor and George Melbye, of Ashby, Minnesota was there with his seventy-five-year-old Doylestown hand feed separator. Besides these there are 22 units locally owned and housed on the threshing grounds. Ellsworth Grahn was there with his saw mill and got so many logs he was busy sawing for many days. Bill Aitkins again brought his Birdsell Clover Huller which stayed in the community until after New Years, taking advantage of this remarkably nice winter weather in threshing alfalfa and clover which was left after a very wet fall.
Many model engines, saw mills, old cars and other relics were brought in, some from great distances. Les Olson brought his scale Case engine in from Mora, Minnesota. These together with the local supply of model engines and separators, mostly made by our Secretary, N. B. Nelson, made this a very fine display. There were about 20 steam engines in operation, both big and small, but there was no shortage of engineers, with at least two or three available for each unit and enjoying a turn at the controls. To these men and to all the others who helped with all the other jobs in preparing for and in staging these shows; the officers and directors are most grateful. To our ground manager and announcer, the genial Mr. Clarence Bang, we give our sincere thanks. To the Ladies Aid of Rollag, Gran, and Parke churches, for their successful efforts in serving refreshments to these immense gatherings, we are most thankful.
One of the star features of this serving business is the Old Fashioned Thresherman's breakfast, served at the crack of dawn and is now a must at these reunions. Many favorable comments one these breakfasts were heard with people coming from local towns and surroundings to enjoy this hearty meal. Plans are going forward for our 1958 Reunion to be held September 26, 27, and 28, with added attractions such as an evening entertainment with old time music, quartette singing, and pageantry in keeping with our states centennial observance.
See you there.