In addition to the heavy-duty farm equipment one would expect to find at an Old Iron Show, the Wilson County Old Iron Club teaches young and old about the domestic ways of the past and how children contributed to the daily life of the family. Visitors to our show have an opportunity to see old-time laundry methods, various methods for making butter, open-fire cooking as well as cooking on a wood burning stove, making apple butter, sewing on a treadle machine, quilting and tatting, apple cider pressing, and other facets of rural life as it was lived in the past.
Apple Butter Making
Students enjoy seeing the many steps it takes to make such a delicious product. Linda Council has such fun talking with the students and sharing her knowledge.
Apple Cider Press
Nothing says “Fall has arrived” quite like the crank of the apple cider press! Shane Drybread enjoys demonstrating the simple art of turning apples into cider.
The invention of barbed-wire had a tremendous impact on the settlement of the prairies and on any farmer’s life. Lonnie Myers will demonstrate how this wire was made.
Blacksmithing has been around since the beginning of the Iron Age. Back in history the blacksmith made a lot of everyday items like silverware, hinges & door latches, wagon hardware, and chains. The same machinery that was used 200 years ago can still be used today. Blacksmiths had to know some science, such as the difference between iron and steel, and the impact of various amounts of oxygen on the heat of the fire. Every town had at least one blacksmith. They were sort of the local hardware store and fix-it shop. Byron VanFossen is enjoying working on his blacksmithing skills.
Ron Burns is our master broom maker, using equipment that has been in Wilson County for well over 75 years. It originally belonged to the Hardy family and they were well known in the area for the quality of the brooms they made. When Ron acquired the equipment, he consulted Stan Inman, the former broom maker at Silver Dollar City in Branson, MO, to learn how broom corn is used to construct the brooms. Larry Vail and Ron provide the Wilson County Old Iron club with a variety of high-quality brooms for sale each year at the show.
Butter Making and Milk Production
Having a milk cow or two greatly improved the quality of life for pioneers and early settlers. A demonstration area displays items formerly used for milk and butter production.
Barb Vaughn and Sandy Cox demonstrate how early pioneers made candles for daily use.
Rodney Meckley demonstrates the craft of chair caning, a form of basketry that has been used in furniture design for hundreds of years. The history of chair caning includes traditional cane bottom chairs that became popular in America during the Industrial Revolution, when chair frames were mass produced in factories and farmed-out to individuals in weaving communities. The seats were hand-woven until 1890, when a machine was developed to produce the cane mesh in sheets.
Barb Stich Myers has quite a collection of cast iron cooking items to use in the cook shack. Her wood-burning cook stove was purchased from the original owner.
Corn Husk Doll Making
The early settlers and farmers had to be very creative and resourceful in all that they did. Corn husk doll making is demonstrated by Mary Jean Browne and Jean Robertson.
The Johnny Eck family, and others, demonstrate the various methods that corn was processed for consumption by humans, cattle, hogs, and other animals with various corn choppers, grinders, corn shellers, and grist mills making corn meal. Corn products for sale are: cracked corn, whole corn, ear corn, and cornmeal.
How did people acquire their clothing in the past? This exhibit, presented by Cassie Edson, answers that question.
All kinds of engines were needed to power rural life. Visit the Engine Building to see a variety of power sources on display. Of special note is the 1888 Crossley-Otto Slide Vale Piano Base 2HP – Patent 1876. This Crossley Engine is one of the oldest operational 4-cycle engines existing in the world today and one of few in private ownership.
Feed and Seed Cleaning
Mike Olson has amassed quite a collection of seed cleaning equipment and enjoys sharing it with eager learners at Old Iron Days. His collection of seed cleaners includes those used by individual farmers, as well as commercial models.
This area features an egg hatchery that was used locally. Many thousands of eggs could be hatched at one time. In addition, you will learn how other animals were important to the daily life and livelihood of farm families.
Fredonia Portland Cement Display Area
Steam Engine “Dinky” has a new home! This steam engine and 2 of the cars were used to haul rock from the quarry to the crusher in the Fredonia Portland Cement Plant.
Pioneers and settlers often depended upon the rewards of trapping for their food, the warmth of the furs, and for their value in trade. Students visiting Old Iron Days enjoy viewing local trapper John Borror’s large collection of traps, as well as getting “up close and personal” with his collection of furs. John is a member of the Kansas Fur Harvesters Association.
This equipment demonstrates the labor-intensive work of turning loose hay or straw into bales after threshing. This is just one of the examples of how many of the tasks on farms of the past required people to work as a team.
Every year at Old Iron Days, the Wilson County Conservation District hosts an exhibit related to use of our natural resources, past and present. Previously, they have taught about the Dust Bowl, grassland resources, Bees: Our Hardworking Pollinators, and most recently they taught about egg embryology and egg candling with an active egg hatchery.
Have you ever wondered how horses are fitted for new shoes? This demonstration shows how that happens.
Everyone’s favorite! This popular area features freshly-churned ice cream, made in large freezers powered by an antique small engine.
Nancy Timmons & Gyla McVey demonstrate quite a collection of old washing machines and ways to clean clothing. From the wash board beginning around 1797, to hand powered machines in 1865, to early electric powered machines in 1911, to gasoline engine powered Maytags in 1928 and more – you’ll see it all here!
License Plate Collection
Dan Millar has amassed quite a collection of old license plates and will share information about how they were made and why they look the way they do.
Dale Tharp has quite a collection of “old iron” used to power all sorts of projects. Stop by for a visit and a tour of the variety of items the old machine sheds used to hold.
Oil Field Pulling Unit
Dan Millar demonstrates a 1938 AC Cooper pulling unit. This factory made, 55’ tall unit is powered by an Allis U engine, that originally came from Wellington KS in 1971. It is capable of pulling wells up to 1500 ft. deep.
Open Fire Cooking
Marty VanFossen enjoys open-fire cooking and demonstrating the methods to students. She has been cooking on an open fire with cast iron since she was a very young girl, and still does frequently at home. Her favorite cookbook is “The Laura Ingalls Wilder Cookbook”.
Stop by Kenny Tharp’s Power House for a look at a band wheel that was in operation in Wilson County from 1901 until 1974. This band wheel was in use on an oil lease on the Joe and Lillie Snavely property east of Neodesha.
Quilting/Sewing/Spinning/Bobbin Lace & Tatting Demonstrations
Join our local artisans led by Connie Vail, as they demonstrate the intricacies of the crafts that brought woman together and helped to turn their houses into homes.
Owner Kenny Tharp has amassed what is believed to be the mid-west’s largest collection of vintage rock crushers. His collection includes a Rogers Iron Works rock crusher (circa 1930), an Aurora rock crusher (circa 1890-1900), a 1935 Rogers Iron Works crusher, and a Jeffry Lime Pulver, which is the machine that made lime cheap. A 1926 Fairbanks-Morse engine, as well as 2 cycle and 4 cycle Superior engines from the 1920’s are used to power the rock crushers.
Everybody loves to help make a rope! Each class that attends Old Iron Days in September has an opportunity to participate in rope making. Ropes of various lengths and thickness can also be purchased at the show.
Watch logs being turned into useable lumber at the Wilson County Old Iron Days! If you have some logs to be sawed, contact head sawyer, Anthony Gonzalez (620-330-6390). The club-owned sawmill was manufactured sometime just after 1900 by the American Sawmill Company. Some modifications have been made over the last century, but the mill operates much as it did 100 years ago.
Byron Githens and Eric Studebaker demonstrate the shingle mill that is labeled “Lloyd Manufacturing Co., Kentville, Nova Scotia”. No date is on the machine, but we believe it to be made between 1870 and 1890 because it has “S” shaped spokes in the pulleys. The technology to make straight spokes in the cast iron did not exist until approximately 1900. Before 1900 straight spokes would crack when they cooled. There are very few of these mills that are self-feeders.
Connie Vail demonstrates her circa 1920’s Canadian Auto Knitter Sock Machine that she purchased on eBay. Until the Circular Sock Machines came along about 100 years ago, socks could only be made by hand knitting, a very slow process.
Kelly Starbuck is one of the largest Minneapolis Moline collectors around! Enjoy his collection, along with many varied items he collects. You’ll also find a quilter at work!
What an exciting time it was on the farm when the threshing machine and crew arrived! And it still is exciting to watch the Old Iron Club crew, led by Tom Vorhees, pitch those bundles! The 1939 John Deere Thresher is powered by a 1956 JD 60 tractor, utilizing a belt pulley on the tractor. This machine threshes the grain and separates the straw and chaff from the grain. The bundles of wheat were harvested in late June using the club’s wheat binder.