Time Out From Gas Engines

By Staff
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The church on its journey to Pioneer Club showgrounds.
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A 30-60 Hart Parr on parade at our annual show.

Sec, Steams County Pioneer Club, Inc., Box 482, Albany,
Minnesota 56307

Engine and old iron enthusiasts take time out to preserve a
different piece of history!!! Every once in a while (once in a
great while!!) something comes up that requires even the most
dedicated antique equipment restorer to ignore the old iron and
help with an entirely different kind of project. This happened in
August of 1989 to some of the members of the Stearns County Pioneer
Club of Albany, Minnesota. Dedicated to preserving our heritage in
all forms, these members received word of an old church whose
parish was being dissolved. The church itself would be vacated and
could be torn down or whatever.

The members of the Pioneer Club just couldn’t bear the
thought of having this 85-year-old part of our heritage destroyed
or left standing vacant and a sure target for vandals. This
building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. So
the club bought the church and decided to move it to their
showgrounds to preserve it. Moving any building is a task, and if
that building is 54 feet wide and 96 feet long and weighs about 280
tons, it gets to be a big and EXPENSIVE task.

So a big fund-raising drive was launched to see if the $35,000
in moving costs, wire cutting, etc., could be raised because, as
with most nonprofit organizations, there was no surplus in the
club’s bank account. The fund drive started in August, and by
mid-October enough donations and pledges were gathered to give the
project the go-ahead.

Club members took inventory and began removing many of the
smaller artifacts from the church as it was prepared for its
journey to their showgrounds. In November, the building movers’
crew started the process of punching holes in the old rock
foundation so they could get their long metal beams under the
building. In one week it was jacked up and ready to move.

December 12 was the day picked for the actual move. The snows
stayed away, so the roads were clear. It was very cold with temps a
few degrees below zero that morning, but the movers decided to go.
(They debated because the iron beams, etc. get really brittle in
the extreme cold and the risk of breaking things is much greater!!)
So, at 9 a.m. that cold December 12, 1989 morning, the church
started its eight-mile journey to the Pioneer Club Showgrounds
which was to be its new home. Pioneer Club members needed to go
ahead of the building and take down all highway signs, etc.,
because the church was so wide. Another crew followed behind and
put them up again. The power companies had to cut over 30 wires to
permit the church with its high steeple to pass. At 3:30 p.m.,
61/2 hours later, the church had reached the
club grounds. It took almost two more days to get the building
pulled in place across the hole that had been dug for the basement.
The weather stayed below zero and the movers did snap off one of
their big booms as they were pulling the church into place.

In January the block layers laid up the cement block walls,
etc., and on January 25, 1990, the church was lowered down onto its
new basement walls on the southwest corner of the club
property.

The members’ goal was to have the church open to the public
for viewing at the 16th annual Albany Pioneer Days Threshing Show
which was held on September 14, 15, 16, 1990. The week before the
show, the steps were finally installed for visitors to get into the
church.

As the exhibitors started arriving for the show with their 350
plus engines of all shapes and sizes, they found themselves
unloading their equipment in front of this towering church
building. The weather was beautiful all three days of the show. The
record crowds watched the giant parade of old tractors, steamers,
trucks, horses, etc., wind along the parade route and pass by in
front of this majestic old church building.

Much work needs to be done yet. Our funds are once again
depleted, so we need to raise more money to finish this huge
project. Plans are to pour the cement floor in the basement in
early spring of 1991. Landscaping needs to be done. We also hope to
put in a small kitchen, bathrooms, etc., in the near future, as
funds will allow.

We thank everyone who has helped us in any way with this
project. We also invite everyone to come to our annual threshing
show, which is held the second weekend after Labor Day each
September, and see what a magnificent showpiece this old church
turned out to be.

Looking out across our showgrounds, all the members and ‘old
iron’ lovers can be very proud of their decision to take time
out from engines to save this priceless part of our heritage.

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