WMSTR CELEBRATES 150 YEARS OF J.I. CASE

Noel Nelson

Ray Treese is operator and chief mechanic on Noel Nelson's 1912 20-40. Ray should be well qualified for this job, as he has been repairing Case tractors for almost 50 years in the Rollag area.

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Co-Chairman, 150 Years of  J. I. Case Committee West. Minn. Steam Threshers Reunion Rt 3, Box 58 Hawley, Minnesota 56549

The largest collection ever of J. I. Case farm machinery will be assembled at the 1992 reunion of the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion (WMSTR) at Rollag, Minnesota. This show will be held over the Labor Day weekend-September 4-7. The special exhibition commemorating the 150th anniversary of the founding of the J.I. Case Company will appropriately be called '150 Years of J. I. Case/WMSTR.' All Case enthusiasts are invited to come celebrate this special occasion.

The Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion was organized in 1954. Even at that very first show, it drew a crowd of about 3000 spectators. From the 20-acre field which it rented in 1954, the organization has grown to a membership of more than 2500, owns a 200+ acre show grounds, and attracts a crowd of 50,000 to 80,000 people annually to its Labor Day weekend show. WMSTR has added a variety of attractions in addition to its collection of over 30 steam engines, several hundred gas tractors, and other farm machinery. A full-scale steam locomotive gives free rides on the railroad surrounding the perimeter of the grounds, while a scale-model railroad offers shorter rides. A large 'Miniatureland' features several scale steam engines, threshers, gas tractors, and saw mills, some run by scale-model engineers-in-training. A turn of the century farm has been built where power for all the field work is provided all year long by horses. A natural amphitheater provides a perfect place to sit, rest, and watch the horse-drawn machinery complete the harvest. Several large stationary steam and gas engines have been moved from various towns in the Midwest to Rollag; they are used to pull a generator, provide power to the blacksmith shop, and to grind flour. An antique steam-powered merry-go-round provides free rides to children of all ages. Demonstrations of pioneer living in the homes, the shops, the one-room schoolhouse, and the church on the small-town Main Street provide a taste of early farming communities.

But, as at most steam shows, the main feature is the steam and gas tractors which thresh, saw, plow, and do other field work in addition to running in the morning and afternoon parades.

Why such a celebration in Rollag? It seems fitting that WMSTR should feature Case. The Rollag area has a long standing tradition with the J. I. Case line of farm machinery. The small town, with a population of approximately 30, had had a J. I. Case dealership for over 50 years. Norman Nelson, one of the founders of WMSTR, opened the dealership in 1941- The business was next owned by his son, Noel Nelson, and is now owned by his nephew, Laurence Aakre. Laurence and Noel are co-chairing 'The 150 Years of J. I. Case Celebration' at WMSTR.

Norman Nelson's interest in Case machinery began early. In 1937 he purchased and eventually restored a 10 HP Case stationary steam engine built in 1882. It is now owned by his daughter, Leanna Freid of Virginia Beach, Virginia. The engine will be operating at this year's show.

At the original show in 1954, there were three Case steam engines operating: Norman's 20 HP, now owned by his son, Arlen; a 50 HP and a 75 HP, formerly owned by the late Carl Johnson of Lake Park, Minnesota and currently owned by the WMSTR. Since then several Cases including two 80 HP engines and three 110 HP have been added. For this year's show we hope to show most of the sizes of Case engines built.

The first Case gas tractor was displayed at the show in 1957, an early model 1912 20-40 tractor purchased by Norman Nelson. This tractor is now owned by his son, Noel Nelson. Since then, four more late-model 20-40's have joined our show.

One of the more rare Case gas tractors, a 1913 30-60 tractor owned by Norman Pross of Luverne, North Dakota was brought to Rollag in the mid-1960's to be a permanent part of the show.

These tractors, along with several cross motors, including the giant 40-72, the L, C, and R series, and numerous Flambeau Red and Desert Sunset series, all owned by WMSTR members, will be running. Our goal for the 1992 show is to have at least one model of every series of gas tractor built by Case on display. Although we have many of these tractors within our own membership, we are looking for help from outside our organization to complete this lineup of tractors and steam engines.

We now have several Case threshers on the grounds. Many more will be brought in, ranging from a small 18' to the giant 44 x 66. Several early Case combines, including the first Case combine sold in North Dakota, will be on display at the 1992 show. These will be complemented by the various machines from the 40s, 50s, and 60s. There will be many samples of other farm machinery from the very old to the current high-tech Case-IH machinery.

A large collection of Case literature and memorabilia, as well as an interesting display of Case toys, will also be exhibited.

WMSTR has set aside an extra 15 acres to display and demonstrate this Case machinery. This is in addition to the already large display area which will be left for other brands and types of antique farm equipment. Threshing with steam, gas tractors, and horses, sawing lumber with Case steam engines, and also cutting corn with a silo filler will certainly bring back memories of days past on the farm. Daily parades of the machinery, as well as demonstrations of field work and plowing, including six or more 110 HP steam engines, all plowing at the same time, will round out the day.

A special invitation is extended to all Case enthusiasts to visit our show. We also hope that some of you will bring your exhibits, whether they be machinery, memorabilia, cars, or anything else connected with Case. We're especially looking for help outside our membership in finding Case cars to exhibit. If you are interested in displaying a Case automobile or other equipment, please contact us at: 150 Years of J. I. Case/WMSTR, Route 3, Box 58, Rollag, MN 56549.

Although Rollag has no motels, there are four cities within 35 miles that have many hotels and motels-the twin cities of Fargo, North Dakota, and Moorhead, Minnesota, as well as Detroit Lakes and Fergus Falls, Minnesota. There is also room for well over 1000 campers located on the grounds.

For help with reservations or camping information, contact Ms. Teri Anderson, 17355 County Rd. 2, Wal-cott, ND 58077.

We welcome all Case enthusiasts to our 1992 show, '150 Years of J. I. Case/WMSTR.' We promise a weekend filled with the sights, sounds, and scents of our agricultural past in the J. I. Case tradition.