Archive for Thursday, August 2, 2007

Threshing bee offers glimpse of past

Bob Cleavenger, left, and Herman Watson stand at the controls of a steam engine during the early days of the McLouth Threshing Bee. Watson organized the first threshing bee in 1957 on his farm east of McLouth.

Bob Cleavenger, left, and Herman Watson stand at the controls of a steam engine during the early days of the McLouth Threshing Bee. Watson organized the first threshing bee in 1957 on his farm east of McLouth.

August 2, 2007


Reader poll
Are you going to the McLouth Threshing Bee?

or See the results without voting

50th anniversary of the McLouth Threshing Bee

Mary Watson Hinds describes the history of the McLouth Threshing Bee Enlarge video

On a Sunday afternoon in 1957, Herman "Slim" Watson thought it would be a good idea to invite a few people to his farm to watch a threshing demonstration.

It was the start of a 50-year tradition that continues this weekend as thousands of people visit McLouth for the annual McLouth Threshing Bee. They still come to see antique farm steam engines and threshing machines, but the event now includes many other activities such as tractor and truck pulls and displays of antique tractors and cars.

"He had no idea," Mary Hinds said of Watson, her late father. "He was just trying to have fun and have some friends and neighbors over."

The first event was such a success it became a daylong affair the following year. It later expanded to two days and then to its current three-day extravaganza.

"My dad was excited that everybody enjoyed it as much as he did," Hinds said.

Hinds still lives on the farm where it all began east of McLouth in Leavenworth County. The threshing bee continued on the farm for several years, into the 1960s, until it was moved to its current 40-acre site in McLouth.

"It got to be too much for the farm to handle," Hinds said.

Hinds still owns her father's threshing machine, but she sold the 1919 Advance-Rumley steam engine to B.J. Robinson, of McLouth. The machines and others will be on display during this year's threshing bee Friday through Sunday.

"It's quite a machine for its day," Robinson said of the old steam engine. "It takes a lot of time to operate it."

The Advance-Rumley is actually the second steam engine Watson owned. He gave the first away to the government to help the war effort in World War II, Hinds said.

Robinson is a member of the Heart of America Antique Steam Engine Association, which has five steam engines. Steam engines were replaced by tractors in the 1930s and 1940s on most farms. Threshing machines were pulled first by steam engines and then by tractors until they were replaced by combines.

Hinds' father, with help from her mother, Myrta, also brought in antique cars for display. Watson invited the McLouth Kiwanis Club to serve sandwiches and soft drinks to visitors. They worked out of an open shed Watson built. The Kiwanis continued to serve the refreshments up until this year.

Other attractions in the early years included a small train Watson and a friend set up after buying it from a carnival. American Indians from the Horton area were invited to bake and sell bread, Hinds said.

This year's threshing bee kicks off at 7 p.m. Friday with the antique and classic tractor pull. A live band and dance follow, from 8 p.m. to midnight. The cost for the three-day event is $10. Children 12 and under get in free. There will be children's activities such as pony rides and inflatable slides. Beer and food will be sold. Those attending are encouraged to bring lawn chairs.


Janet Lowther 10 years, 8 months ago

This story could leave an implication that threshing machines were pulled through the field like the early tractor-pulled combines were.

Threshing machines were pulled to a convenient location, usually near the farm house or barn, where they were set up and the sheaves of wheat were brought and forked into the machine which separated the grain from the straw and chaff.

big_blue 10 years, 8 months ago

given the recent sensationalism at ljworld....i'm shocked that the two guys on the steam engine aren't kissing...

perkins 10 years, 8 months ago

I try to make it to as many of the neighboring small town blow-outs as possible. Maple Leaf in Baldwin, Old Settlers in Oskaloosa, and McLouth's Threshing Bee are all enjoyable.

I'm a bit surprised the Kiwanis Club is not handling concessions. I thought that was their big fund-raiser for the year. Anyone know the scoop on that?

Commenting has been disabled for this item.