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Threshing crew at David Voth farm 1897 | Goessel Museum

The Cook Shack

   C. R. Voth operated a threshing "rig" business in central Kansas for nearly 30 years from 1902 to 1930. During this time he had up to four "rigs" out in the fields.  His crew primarily threshed two grains; wheat and oats.

   His sons Moses and Waldo helped with the business as soon as they were old enough.  Moses recalled helping at the age of eight, and later he was put in charge of one of the "rigs".

1897 Threshing crew at the David Voth farm near Goessel, KS

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See an authentic cook shack at the Mennonite Heritage and Agricultural Museum

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Women played a huge role during wheat harvest also.

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THE COOK SHACK- Compiled by Tracy S. Schmidt

Local farmers and their families know the threshing season had begun when the cook shack and threshing "rig" arrived.  The cook shack accompanied the threshing "rig" as it moved from one farm to another.  The threshing "rig" consisted of units that operated together during a threshing season.  These units were the steam engine, separator, water wagon, and coal wagon.  Another vehicle was provided to make daily trips to the grocery store.  The crew for the units included at least nine people -- an engineer, separator/thresher tender, a water boy, four field pitchers, (men who tossed wheat bundles into the bundle wagon and fed the bundles into the separator) and two cooks.  The cook shack served as the kitchen and dining facility plus sleeping quarters for the cooks.  But, it was more then just that, it was the headquarters for the entire threshing "rig".

The cooks served three meals a day in the cook shack and they were responsible to deliver two light lunches to the field for the 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. coffee breaks.  A hired girl in Saskatchewan during the 1928 harvest season describes the meals like this - "Breakfast consisted of bacon, eggs, hashbrown potatoes, and a gallon of coffee.  For dinner at 11:00 a.m. we cooked a 15 pound roast, 2 types of vegetables, and what seemed to me to be a 1/2 bushel of potatoes.  All men liked pie for lunch out in the field.  This was another gallon of coffee, sandwiches, and cookies.  For supper we had cold meats, potatoes, salads, and cake for dessert".  These five meals made it necessary to keep the wood-burning stove hot nearly all day.  Later, kerosene burning stoves were used.

Locally, cook shacks reached their peak during the late steam engine era (1900-1920).  The cook shack was about eight feet wide, sixteen feet long, and seven feet high.  It sat on a high wheel wagon gear.  To enter, a set of portable steps were necessary.  Two small screened windows on either side of the cook shack allowed for some ventilation to occur.  On all four corners guy ropes to anchor the shack were driven into the ground.  There was an elevated roof section, small interior cupboards, and the hole in the floor which allowed easy access to food and other supplies in the storage area under the floor.  This space beneath the floor was used as storage for potatoes, canned goods, and cleaning supplies.  During the day, the bedding was folded to provide more space for the dining table and the two benches.

Outside the cook shack, lavatory facilities consisted of wash basins set on benches.  Towel racks were improvised by using a nail partially protruding on the outside wall of the cook shack.  A mirror and comb were attached to the wall in the same manner. 

When it was time to move the cook shack the steps were removed and placed inside the shack on the floor.  The cook shack was pulled by two horses or mules.  The driver stood in the doorway with the screen door open so that he could see the rough road that was ahead of him.  When going over rough roads several men walked on either side of the cook shack so that it didn't tip over.  Thus, the cook shack was on it's way following the threshing "rig" to the next destination. 


                            -- Compiled by Tracy S. Schmidt


Memories shared by Bertha (Mrs. Herb) Schroeder about how her family experienced wheat harvest time.  (During this time there were neighborhood or family threshing crews that did not have a cook shack crew, and so the farm family was responsible for feeding these hungry men).


Read this account of a Goessel area farm family during wheat harvest.



Cook shack interior | Goessel Museum
Cook shack for threshing crew | Goessel Museum
Wheat field near Goessel KS. | Goessel Museum

Cook shack in the Turkey Red Wheat Palace.

Peek inside the Cook Shack

Students on a field trip, look inside a cook shack | Goessel Museum

Student on a field trip get to climb inside the cook shack.

2014-2023 Mennonite Heritage

and Agricultural Museum

Created by Fern Bartel nee Schmidt


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