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Mennonite Heritage and

Agricultural Museum

Let's take a Look into the Past

Threshing Wheat

in Kansas and other Plains States



To see a video of harvest through the decades.

A horse drawn binder first cuts the wheat and ties the bundles.  Then the workers gathered the bundles to put them into shocks.

C. R. Voth threshing crew | Goessel Museum
Threshing crew on David Voth farm 1897 | Goessel Museum

The threshing crew at the David Voth farm near Goessel, KS in 1897

This story from the Voth threshing crew was told and retold : the "rig" (consisting of the prairie tractor pulling the threshing machine and the water wagon) was moving down the road to the next farm.  Travel of the equipment from one farm to another was done at night because during the daylight hours the wheat needed to be threshed.  No headlights in the day, so someone would have to walk ahead with a lantern.   The "rig" traveled at the breakneck speed of 3 or 4 miles an hour Suddenly a front wheel falls off the tractor.  This caused one of the crew to yell out to the tractor operator  "Hey !  You must have been going too fast".

   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".

W. B. Coston's binder Yuma County, CO.

The Mennonite Heritage and Agricultural Museum has authentic threshing machines, binders, a water wagon, and cook shack in the Turkey Red Wheat Palace.

Women played a huge role in wheat harvest also.

C. R. Voth threshing crew | Goessel Museum
C. R. Voth threshing crew | Goessel Museum

Linda Reimer Bartel remembers, that as a young girl, she heard the C.R. Voth "rig" coming from a long way off.  So she and her sisters ran to the road to watch this big prairie tractor and huge threshing machine pass by.  It was quite the parade.

Newton Milling & Elevator Co. Newton, KS

The Goessel area farmers then took their wheat to the Newton Milling & Elevator Co.  It was started and owned by Bernard Warkentin.  Read more about this man's role in bringing the Mennonites farmers and wheat to Kansas.


From the cookbook OFF THE MOUNTAIN LAKE RANGE  Published in 1958 (It is no longer in print). (These Low-German Mennonites, came from the same Molotchna Colony of Russia as the Goessel area Mennonites, but settled in Mountain Lake, Minnesota). 

It is early morning - so early that the sky in the east is lighting up the world with its rosy glow.  What made me awaken so early ?  Perhaps it is the sound made by Father and Mother as they are already busy with preparations for the day.  Or, perhaps it may be the excitement of the evening before, as the big engine with the threshing machine behind it, followed by a low trailer full of tools and equipment, came chugging into the yard.  All that evening it stood in our yard, it seemed to us, in an attitude of waiting to "gobble" up our grain shocks on the morrow.  Now it thrilled us to climb on top of the big machine and peer into its cavernous depths and explore its mysteries.

But that was last night.  After a hastily eaten breakfast, it isn't long and we hear the rumble of the hayracks coming from every direction.  Each one seems in a hurry.  We're too young to realize that it is an honor to bring in the first high-piled load in the morning.

One of the first places we head for is to scramble into the wagon.  The adventures are never-ending !  Barefooted we let the dumps of the grain spill over our feet, or sitting down, we let it fill our laps until our body is half covered.  We watch the grasshoppers and the crickets that have managed to come through the machine, some badly mutilated, others unscathed.  Last, but not least, should perchance some boundle pitchers take notice of us, we are really flattered.  A bit of straw thrown at us or a wink now and then, is all that is needed to get us on his side.  A shout from father and his pointing finger directs our attention to the water jugs underneath in the shade of the wagon.

We hurry to fill them at the pump for we know that the first thing a man does as he comes in with a load is to stop by the jugs for a drink, and another after he has unloaded.  So, carefully we place them and cover them with two thicknesses of jackets to keep the water cool.  We loiter here awhile.  It is always interesting, for it is here that the men stop to chat and joke.

Interruption comes this time by a call from our mother, and we know it is nine-thirty and morning lunch (mid-morning break) time.  We haul out the coaster and in it are piles of towel-covered pails and pans.  Very important, we pull off with our load of eats.  One by one or two by two, as each one finished unloading his rack, the men stop to lunch.  The big pail full of sandwhiches grows emptier and eagerly we watch, for well we know, when the last man has eaten, we may eat what is left.

From now until moon there is not much of a chance to be at the scene of action, for mother needs help with last-minute jobs to get the dinner (noon meal) ready.  One of our jobs is to set up an outdoor washstand, with soap, towels, basins and several pails of water, under a shady tree near the house.  We just picture all the threshers throwing their hats on the ground, some resting, others playing with the dog and cats, some washing while others tease in a good-natured way.  When all are ready they tramp single file into the house and seat themselves around the long drawn out, loaded table.  Without a word each bows for grace and then "falls" to.

This is a collection of photos showing a threshing company from west of Goessel, KS.  It was made up of families and neighbors that worked together and owned the theshing machine together.

Donation of Kansas State Agriculture Yearbooks and United States Agriculture Yearbooks dating back to 1877.  Available for research.

Threshing | Goessel Museum

Water wagon is visable in this threshing scene from Milton, ND

D. J. Regehr with threshing crew in ND 1912

1912 threshing wheat in North Dakota looked just the same as Kansas.

Threshing wheat in KS | Goessel Museum
 Engine Company | Goessel Museum
Bindering wheat in KS | Goessel Museum
Threshing wheat in KS | Goessel Museum
Threshing wheat in KS | Goessel Museum
Threshing wheat in KS | Goessel Museum

#0634 Engine Co. (Milt Reimer, P.A. Voth, Victor Schroeder, Will Reimer, Elmer Schmidt)  Field appears to be plowed already..

#0637 Victor Schroeder & brother Bethoveen "Bato" Schroeder bindering wheat.

#0635 Hungry chickens looking for wheat to eat. One of the threshing machine's nickname was " The Hungry Rooster Special."

#0636 Engine Co. (Milt Reimer, P.A. Voth, Victor Schroeder, Will Reimer, Elmer Schmidt) 

#0641 Threshing wheat in Goessel area.  Image shows a different angle of the two stack.

#0640  Two stacks of bundled wheat were put close together.  Then the threshing mackine was put in between.  Image shows men throwing the bundles into the threshing machine from both stacks.  These stacks were created in a shape that inabled rain to run right off and not soak in.

Mueum's water wagon used at early Threshing Days.

Bato Schroeder of hay rack | Goessel Museum

#0638 Bato Schroeder on hay rack.

Harvest Crew eating Faspa | Goessel Museum

Threshing crew taking a break.

Threshing crew in Saskatchewan, Canada

Threshing scene from Saskatchewan, Canada

Country Threshing Days mural in Wheat Palace Goessel Museum

Country Threshing Days mural hanging in the Turkey Red Wheat Palace

This scene from Canada looks to be the one that inspired and eventually ended up as the cover for A HARVEST OF MEMORIES by Randy Penner. Published 1996 Reiman Publications, L.P.  5400 S. 60th St., Greendale WI 53129     Cover illustration : The Threshing Crew

Women played a huge role in wheat harvest also.

A Harvest of Memories by Randy Penner

Eventually the scene ended up as the mural painted by Fern Bartel in 2004.  The mural was done as a backdrop for the Mennonite Heritage and Agricultural Museum and Country Threshing Days booth at the 2004 Kansas Sampler Festival that was held in Newton KS.

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2014-2023 Mennonite Heritage

and Agricultural Museum

Created by Fern Bartel nee Schmidt


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