Origin of the reunion at Rollag


Mega Poster
WMSTR Lifetime Member
I was going through some of my old show books and came across this article I thought it would be a great idea to put it on the forum. This is word for word from the 1972 show book.

Origin of the Reunion at Rollag
Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion at Rollag is one of the oldest in United States, and although 1972 is the 19th reunion since the organization was officially organized, the event actually started earlier. The following report read by Secretary N.B. Nelson at the thresherman's banquet held December 1960, gives an account of the beginning:
This being the first time the group has gathered far an occasion of this kind, I should like to take a few minutes to reminisce about the beginning of WMSTR and how and why we got started on this venture. It may be of interest to know that this steam threshing reunion had its beginning over 20 years ago, making us one of the oldest of its kind in the nation today.
Steam engines had been the chief power for threshing machines in this community for over 50 years before they finally bowed out to gasoline tractors. 1937 was the last year that steam was used as power in the old Nelson threshing run and the steam rig was the last to operate in the Rollag community. The Gaar Scott was then put away in the shed and it was assumed that it would never be used again. After threshing with a gasoline power rig for a few years, however, we began to miss the smooth power of the double cylinder steam engine that had served us so faithfully for so many years.
It was during threshing time on the William Nelson farm one sunny day in August 1940, while the threshing crew was seated around the long dinner table, participating of a luscious noonday meal prepared by Mrs. Nelson and her helpers, that the conversation led to steam engines and steam powered threshing. Several of the old timers expressed their desire to see a steam engine work again.
Someone finally suggested, "Why don't we take the Gaar Scott out of the shed and steam it up and thresh with steam for a day?" The response to this suggestion was unanimous and it was decided that when the threshing machine and crew came back to the old Nelson homestead, where the Gaar Scott was shedded at the time, the engine would be groomed for action and taken to the field to power the threshing machine again.
So then and there the idea for the first steam threshing reunion was born. August 20 1940, the day set for this first event, turned out to be one of those lovely harvest days with lots of sunshine and blue sky above. The Gaar Scott was lined up to the old Case separator and we threshed with steam again. Several of our neighbors came to watch the old engine work, and I.B.Leverson of Hawley, who had a moving picture camera at that time, took a full reel of colored movies of the event.
After this first steam threshing show was over, whichwas enjoyed very much by those participating and by the friends and neighbors who came to watch us thresh, we decided to make this an annual event. Due to the war clouds hanging over us in 1941, and the drafting of many of our young men into the armed services that year, a very acute labor shortage was created in our community so the steam threshing reunion idea was abandoned for the time being.
In 1947, however, the dream of steam threshing was rekindled in the minds of some of us. Helmer Nelson purchased a 16-50 Nichols and Sheppard steam engine that year and in the fall we had the pleasure of seeing our dreams come trues when Helmer belted his engine to his threshing machine. In 1948, more engines were purchased and the interest in steam threshing reached a new high. Several days were set aside for steam threshing that fall.
In 1949, Carl Johnson of Lake Park joined the group and purchased two Case steam engines, and also set aside a day for steam threshing on his farm. From then on, when Carl had his steam threshing day, a group from Rollag would go help him, and when we threshed here Carl and some of his neighbors would help us. Each year the crowd of spectators at these steam threshing days grew larger and larger. In 1953 when threshing on the Carl Johnson farm, we had an estimated crowd of 500 interested spectators. the ladies aid of Eksjo Lutheran Church severed lunch all day and everybody had an enjoyable time.
And thus came into being the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion.

Thanks for finding this and posting it.

Would it be worth while to ask Jean to reprint this in another year book?

Jerry Christiansen
Thanks for posting that Ned. I would love to know if the movie shot by I B Leverson at that first event was still in existence. That would be wonderful to see. I imagine one of the Nelson's may know if it still exists.
Thanks for posting that Ned. I would love to know if the movie shot by I B Leverson at that first event was still in existence. That would be wonderful to see. I imagine one of the Nelson's may know if it still exists.
I believe it does exist. It made a brief appearance in the 50th anniversary show dvd. Maybe Jerry Swedberg or Elaine Eversen would have more information.