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When horsepower replaced horse power

Staff writer

Antique farm equipment collector Jerry Toews will bring equipment that revolutionized farming between 1910 and 1920 to Goessel’s 46th annual County Threshing Days Aug. 2-4.

“The things we take over are our large prairie tractors and a steam engine,” Toews said. “They weigh about 25,000 pounds each. They were really a miraculous part of farming from 1910 to 1920. In the days these were made, most farming was done with a horse pulling a plow.”

Toews and his wife, Leann, like to collect the largest model of equipment made by manufacturing companies.

“I mostly focus on the very earliest internal combustion engines — some that date back into the 1800s — and steam and gas tractors,” Toews said.

The equipment took farming, into the modern era, Toews said.

“They cost $3,000 to $4,000 in their time, and that took it out of the hands of most farmers,” he said. “What farmers did was go together to buy them. They would do custom work in their community and drive from one farm to the next. Usually they’d go there a week or two and then drive to the next farm where they had work to do.”

Toews doesn’t know how many such machines were bought in the Goessel area, but he has early photographs of Goessel threshing crews using the equipment.

“I would guess there were six or seven crews that operated in the Goessel community,” he said.

Farming techniques before the machinery came into use meant heavy manual labor.

“There was a reason families had a lot of kids,” Toews said. “Everything was done by hand, and if you were going to farm, you needed a bunch of kids to help do the work.”

Another difference was typical yield.

“Back in those days 15 bushels an acre was a pretty good crop,” he said. “Today if they had 15 bushels an acre they wouldn’t even bother to go cut it.”

Toews’s steam engine will be belted up and running a sawmill during Threshing Days.

Toews grew up in Nickerson and worked for farmers before getting a degree in music education at Bethel College. Now retired from teaching, he and his wife live just beyond the east edge of Goessel with three large steel buildings to store their collection.

Gates to Threshing Days open at noon Aug. 2.

Buttons are available for $4 in advance or $5 at the gate. Museum admission is included in the price of the button. Buttons are good for entry all three days, and are available at the museum or Keith’s Foods in downtown Goessel.

An Irish Celtic band, Knocknasheega, will perform old and modern folk music at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 2 at Goessel High School auditorium.

Aug. 3 activities will kick off with a parade at 9:30 a.m.

Engines will fire up Aug. 3 for demonstrations.

“After that we have a low German meal at 10:30 a.m. in the elementary school,” Mennonite Heritage and Agricultural Museum curator Fern Bartel said. “They serve until 1:30 p.m.”

Barbecue sandwiches and bierocks, chips, cookies, and drinks will be sold in the 1906 Prep School on the museum grounds.

Kids’ crafts will be available in Uncle Milt’s Shed.

On Aug. 4, an open house at the Schroeder Barn will give visitors a chance to see restoration work on the barn, which is nearing completion.

Bartel said the Schroeder family lived in two rooms of the barn for a few years, with four children born there. Later the family moved into a house built on their property.

“One thing I think was cool was that during the restoration they found, in one section of wall, stuffed straw, very tightly packed to insulate,” Bartel said.

Toews said a tram would run for people who can’t or don’t want to walk through the entire grounds.

Last modified July 2, 2019

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