Rich Seberg attended the first Old Threshers Reunion in Mt. Pleasant in 1950. He was born in July of that year and his mother took him in a basket and stowed the basket under a table. He fussed some so people knew he was there.
Tours of the Log Village have been going on for 50 years, since 1973. It was only natural that Rich Seberg would get involved as a volunteer. He has been conducting school tours for 10 years. Many people know Rich Seberg as the Courtesy Door guy in Mt. Pleasant (yes he is courteous). His family runs the business now.
For the month of May, school tours are conducted every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. On the day Rich invited me to tag along, Keota and Mediapolis sent bus loads of kids, typically third, fourth and fifth graders. Tour guides meet in the break room over coffee and donuts before tours start.
The tour is unique, historically interesting and covers a lot of different sites, like steam engines, an authentic working mill, old tractors and farm equipment, old cars and trucks, an original replica of a one-room log school, pioneer inn, a turn of the century home (late 1800's), a horse-drawn school bus, steam locomotive, the Bussey Doll Collection, old fire engines and equipment, and even an old truck that purportedly belonged to Al Capone. For a special treat, the kids get to ride on a DC electric powered trolley to the Log Village and a steam driven carousel. Hy-Vee provides a little snack along the way. For sake of brevity, I will describe only a couple of stops.
I've heard of check wire corn planters but didn't really understand how they worked. In the early 1900's a typical field of corn was 20 acres. The farmer might have two 20 acre fields, and the corn was used to feed livestock, not sell. Check wire was strung across the field to trip the two-row, horse-drawn corn planter, and plant a seed every 40 inches. (40 inches is the width of a horse.) When the farmer got to the end of the field, the farmer moved the check wire over 40 inches and planted back the other direction, and so forth until the field was planted. With 40 inch rows, and a seed planted every 40 inches, the farmer could cultivate the field in all four directions with a horse-drawn cultivator. Cultivation was the method used to keep weeds down. 20 bushels of corn to the acre was considered a good yield.
Typical labor required in those days was 9 hours per acre. For two 20 acre fields of corn, that would be 9 x 40 = 360 hours of labor, not including harvesting. Today, with a 16 row no-till corn planter, it takes 3 minutes per acre and yields exceed 200 bushels per acre.
The 1894 steam powered Norman and Evans Carousel is the only one still in existence in the world today (that Old Threshers knows of) and is a favorite with kids and adults. The horses are carved from wood and the tails are actual horse-hair tails. The horses do not go up and down on a pole but rock back and forth. The carousel is portable and traveled on a circuit between Iowa, Missouri and Illinois. It is a track style carousel. The Old Threshers volunteers took it down and set it back up each year until the Hazel Grace Pierson Pavilion was built to house the carousel. There are only 14 track-style carousels still in operation today and only six of them are steam powered. Each horse has an emblem on its chest and that emblem corresponds to the horse's name. No tour of the museums is complete without a ride on the carousel.
Wore out at the end of their three-hour tour, the kids go home a little more educated about how things were done over a hundred years ago, and perhaps more appreciative of modern conveniences like notebook paper, cell phones and indoor plumbing. The volunteers go home with a feeling of having shared their knowledge with an energetic and enthusiastic group of possible future volunteers. If you would like to volunteer, call the Old Threshers Office in Mt. Pleasant at 319-385-8957.
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