Rt. 2, Box 248, Albany, Minnesota 56307
The summer of 1975 was spent getting ready for a good old-fashioned threshing bee. My husband, John Peternell of Albany, MN, and I had a nice collection of antique farm equipment, steel wheel tractors and a couple of old steam engines and we decided it was used by our ancestors. I spent most of my spare time for a couple of months stripping old paint, sanding some of the old tractors like the 40-70 Flour City, the big 30-60 Aultman Taylor, the 25-85 Nichols & Shepard steam engine, and many more. A sawmill was set up on the Peternell farm. Grain was cut, shocked and later 'stacked' by some of the old-timers in the area. Two huge stationary engines were set up in an open shed. One, the 75 HP Bessemer two cycle engine was to be used to run the sawmill. This engine weighs over 13 ton. The other engine is a Fairbanks upright 40 HP and both these engines run every year during the show. It took alot of muscles and occasionally some 'colored' language before these engines were in place and running. On Sept. 13 and 14, 1975, the first 'Albany Pioneer Days Threshing Show' was a great success.
There was so much interest in the idea of a show each fall that the Stearns County Pioneer Club was formed in January of 1976. The club started with about 25 members and it has grown along with the show. We now have about 150 members who come from many different states.
The show itself has grown tremendously in the past 10 years. Another couple of steam engines, a 24 HP Minneapolis and a 28 HP Minneapolis, have been added. There are also a number of miniature model steam engines and some stationary steam equipment displayed each year. The Albany show features one of the most complete collections of the Rumely Oil Pull tractors in existence today with 19 of the kerosene burning tractors on the show. Some of the other big steel wheel tractors include a 20-40 Case, 35-70 Minneapolis, Twin City 40-65, a 20-40 Mpls., a 30-60 Hart Parr, a 30-60 Mogul, and many more. There are many smaller tractors on display also including and 8-16 International, a Centaur, the Toro, Hart Parr's, a 5-10 Avery, a 10-20 Mogul, to name just a few. You can also see a 15-30 Townsend tractor and a scale model of it built by its owner.
The second year of the show we started a flea market along with it and this has grown to be one of the biggest in the area. In 1977 the club purchased, moved to the grounds, and restored an old one room school house which is in operating during the show. An old log house was moved to the showgrounds in 1981 and is now furnished in the style of the Pioneer era. In 1982, the railroad was going to dispose of the Albany Train Depot, so the club took on the task of moving and preserving it by restoring it and using that depot as a women's activities building during the show. In this building the ladies guilt, make rugs, churn butter, etc., so everyone can see how these things were done by our ancestors. We now have over 15 buildings on the grounds. In 1983, the club purchased the land that makes up the showgrounds and all the buildings on it. This was a very big step for the club and it was made possible by the help and cooperation of all the club members and many donations and loans from area businesses and other interested persons.
The show is now a 3 day event that attracts about 10,000 people each year from all across the country and usually some from a couple of foreign countries as well. We have a parade on Sat. and Sun. through which most of the steel wheel tractors, steamers, antique cars and trucks, etc, are driven for everyone to enjoy. Many musicians come from far and near to present us with hours of enjoyment during the show and especially on Friday and Saturday evenings. We have free primitive camping right on the showgrounds. Many campers spend almost an entire week with us. A lot of these campers are a really big help to us those days before the show because they're all so willing to pitch in with helping hands wherever we need help during those hectic days before the show starts. During the show, you can see lumber sawing, grain threshing with 3 different threshing machines, including a Champion hand-fed, all wooden machine built in 1871. There is a shingle mill, lathe mill, silo filler, corn sheller, etc., for everyone to watch. We have a new miniature land with a little red barn that houses a small 'petting zoo' for the kids. We have many exhibitors who bring in equipment to display each year. The variety of gas engines is unbelievable. For the 10th annual show we had over 200 engines displayed by enthusiastic engine collectors from near and far.
Our biggest project is now beginning. In the fall of 1982, the club purchased an 1897 Corliss engine at Wittenberg, Wisconsin. After about 2000 man hours of labor, the engine was torn down and loaded on 3 semi trucks and hauled to the showgrounds. The flywheel is 16 feet high and weighs about 32 tons. Last fall the first cement was poured for the base of the engine and this summer the members will be working to reassemble this huge engine. This will be a fantastic exhibit to see once it is completed.
Who could have imagined that our 1 day threshing bee 10 years ago would turn into such a grand display of equipment and old-time activities. The show is fun, but the thing that I've come to enjoy the most is all the friends and acquaintances we've made from far and near who come to our show each year to be 'pioneers' for 3 days each September.