Itasca Pioneer Farmers show makes old times new

Noah Dillon of Lake Park, Caleb Wright of Nevis and Ken Griffis of West Fargo, N.D. operate a 28-horsepower, 1917 Minneapolis steam engine Saturday at the entrance to the Lake Itasca Region Pioneer Farmers show.

In spite of major mechanical problems during part of last weekend’s Lake Itasca Region Pioneer Farmers (LIRPF) show, the club’s 1930s Wood Bros. threshing machine got to work on Sunday separating the grain from the straw.

Club members actually fabricated the needed part and got the thresher going, powered by a tractor attached via a long belt. Getting the wheat into the machine, however, was a matter of pure muscle. And woe to anyone who was downwind when the chaff started flying.

The LIRPF club’s summer show demonstrated life in a country village as it may have been in the early 20th century, making allowances for refrigerated drinks and live gospel music.

The village featured a school, a church, a log home, a post office, a smithy and other shops making meals, shingles, brooms and more. A few latter-day extras included a parade, a vintage tractor show, a kids’ pedal pull, a children’s playground and a king and queen contest.

Members of the widespread Hemmerich clan reunited from Indiana, Kansas, New Mexico, California and various parts of Minnesota to demonstrate their family’s collection of logging equipment, much of it still operational.


Family members showed how to load logs on a sledge using little more than two horses and a lot of chains, as well as how to turn tree trunks into boards with a few swift strokes of their sawmill’s 52-inch circular blade.

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A little way off at the J. Neils/Redby sawmill, club members ran more timber through a band-saw powered by a 119-year-old steam engine with a wood-burning boiler. The 340-horsepower engine ran everything from the mill’s 34-foot-long, 12-inch-wide bandsaw to the log carriage’s “shotgun feed.”

Crowds gathered to see this piece of history come to life, rebuilt in part through three Minnesota Legacy Grants.

Brad Ice of Wadena, a lifelong friend of the Hemmerich family, said, “It’s very good to let people see how stuff used to be done. Kind of like teaching kids that milk doesn’t come out of a grocery store, but out of a cow.”

Robin Fish is a staff reporter at the Park Rapids Enterprise. Contact him at or 218-252-3053.
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