Threshing Bee History
District 12 School - Many visitors make their way into the District 12 school house. For older visitors, it may remind them of when they went to school during the one-room schoolhouse era. This school is originally from the Odin area. Eight grades were taught within its four walls. Located two miles east of Odin, the school was built in 1879. It was moved onto a gravel road one-half mile east and one-fourth mile north. In those days, students generally walked to school no matter what kind of weather. The last year that students attended this school was in 1968. In the nearly 90 years the school was in session there were 65 different teachers. The site on which the school was built was bought from Ole Wolner, who was paid $30 for the tract of land. Not long after, the school was moved to a new site by a team of horses. The cost of the original school was $100 plus another $179.15 to help pay for such things as the chairs, books, desks and other items needed. Kerosene lamps brought light into the school before electricity. Getting electricity had been approved earlier, but because of the ware, it wasn't installed until 1944. The first teacher was paid $24 a month. They used the New Testament for their devotions. Receiving report cards every six weeks came later in the school year. Since children spoke Norwegian at home, they had to learn English at school. Because students had to help with farm work, ages varied from about six up to 23 years of age. In 1899, five students were older than age 18. The first teacher with a certificate was hired in 1910. Notice the early school books that they used along with the souvenir pamphlets given to students by the teacher at the end of the year. Also notice the maps on the wall. The water bucket which you see in front of the building. The school bell, an integral part of every pioneer school. On the wall you'll see a picture of the first president of the United States, George Washington.
Tuberg Homestead - The Tuberg Homestead is more than 130 years old and has been on display at Voss Park since 1974. Tuberg, who was born a Johnson in 1849, came to American from Sweden when he was 20 years old. When he arrived in this area he found out there were already six Andrew Johnsons. Since he didn't care to be the seventh, he changed his name legally to Tuberg. Tuberg caught a train in New York City and headed west until he got to St. Peter. From there he walked all the way to Jackson. He wanted to buy some land in Watonwan County, where he heard the soil was rich. He chose Butterfield and brought his Swedish bride there to live. This house was home to a family of five children. Seven children were actually born to the Tubergs but two died in infancy. The children reached the second-floor bedroom by climbing up the stairs on the outside. One of the things Tuberg's education helped him do was build a mill which could grind the grain grown in the area. A replica of that mill is close by. You'll probably notice the absence of closets. The pioneers didn't have as many clothes as we do. Normally they hung what few they had on nails or a peg. You'll even see a few samples of the kinds of clothes they might have worn. You'll see an Edison phonograph which provided the family with music. You'll also see a watch fob of human hair, an old crazy quilt on the sofa, a cream separator, plus a Battenberg lace tablecloth. The old silverware came from Sweden.
Lefse - A long-standing tradition at the Threshing Bee is the Lefse booth under the trees at the west end of th ash grove. This Norwegian treat is made fresh throughout the weekend and samples are sold to Bee guests for a mere dime. Lefse is a type of thin bread, like a crepe, that is most often served with butter and sprinkled sugar. It is grilled on a special griddle and turned with a flat stick.
General Store - You can't have a business area without a General Store. The shelves from floor to ceiling, as well as the counters, are filled with merchandise from the past. Papers and books on display include an 1858 Harper's Weekly. A 1917 issue of the Butterfield Advocate is there, too. How about some kettle-rendered lard? Or if you are getting ready to do the laundry, don't forget your Linnet starch. If you want your new straw bonnet to look right up to style, renew it with some Colorite. The store is full of all kinds of 19th century merchandise.
Blacksmith Shop - One of the traditional "hot spots" at the Threshing Bee is the Blacksmith Shop. Among other things done in the Shop is miniature horseshoes, which you can buy for a dollar each. Long ago, the Blacksmith was a big help to the farmer who might need to have him shoe a horse, sharpen his plow shares, or make repairs to one of his machines. Take a good look at the steam-driven trip hammer. Two machines also on display are an antique welder and steam press.
Slaalien Livery Barn - During the weekend of the Bee, the barn is home to the Peterson equine. The Livery Barn gets it name from Hans Slaalien, a Norwegian pioneer who immigrated to America in 1882 at the age of 20. The Voss Park livery barn is a copy of Slaalien's historic barn, built in 1983 by a group of volunteers using a photograph of the original. Members of the Slaalien family who were still alive at that time were delighted with the result. Slaalien loved horses and he loved his new home - America. His bride came to America from Norway in 1891. They were married the same day she arrived and the couple settled south of Butterfield. The Slaaliens had 13 children, one of whom died in infancy. There were 10 girls and three boys. Slaalien not only built the Livery Barn but also a house for his family. Slaalien rented sleighs, cutters and a carriage and he charged 15 cents to bring passengers from the train depot to the center of town. He would also pick up freight at the train station and bring it back to the Livery Barn for customers to pick up. He cared for teams of horses while the owners conducted business or did some shopping. He did very well until the arrival of the automobile. Little by little he sold his horses until he had only two left. Fritz and Sam. He drove a taxi for awhile and also had a cafe where his family served meals to customers. His daughters served the customers while his wife did the cooking. For a time he was the town marshal. Slaalien died during a snowstorm in 1929. How fitting that his body was taken to the cemetery by horse and wagon because of the drifted conditions. He would have appreciated that.
Children's Barnyard - One place where you are sure to find young Threshing Bee visitors is the Children's Barnyard, which premiered in 1979. Children love the animals which can be seen there; many can be held in their laps. The kittens and puppies often go home with some of the little ones before the Bee is over. In addition to the cats and dogs, they generally have geese, and perhaps some goats. There is often a new calf to delight the young ones. The hay bales give the visitors a chance to sit down and watch the antics of the animals or hold a wriggling puppy.
In 1967, the Butterfield Steam & Gas Engine Show made its debut at Voss Park. That first year the Bee was just a one-day event. Members of the first board included Wayne Kispert, President; Frank Harder, Secretary; John Ekstrom, Treasurer; Wayne R. Hanson, Ed Streich, Otto Wolner, Art Ommodt and John Pankratz. The first show was a tremendous success as attendance was estimated at about 15,000 people. Voss Park has hosted the Bee every year since then. The non-profit event was changed to a two-day event in 1968. It is coordinated by dozens of volunteers each year.
Pioneer Town - Many of the historic buildings found on the park grounds have local historical significance and are filled with genuine artifacts from the pioneering past. Take a step back in time to the days of the pioneers - when the land lay untamed and the promise of a new life in a new country thrilled the hearts of the European immigrants to this area.
The Log Cabin was brought to Voss Park in 1988 from the Nibbe farm. It was originally built around 1875 by Lars Hanson and was discovered by Arnold and Thea Carlson in 1932 when they were doing some remodeling and found the cabin walls under the siding. The cabin includes the main floor which made up the kitchen, living room, dining room and parents bedroom. There is a loft that would be the bedroom for the children. Outside the Cabin is a corral that was built by Bruce Koenig, which used to hold Morgan horses during the show. Bruce now uses his team of Percherons to demonstrate how horse equipment was used for farm tasks that are now done with tractors and other modern equipment. During the Bee you will find Robin Koenig demonstrating how life was back in the olden days.
Pioneer Church - The Pioneer Church has made its home in Voss Park since 1970. Built in 1900, it was formerly the First Presbyterian Church in Butterfield. It closed in 1969 when a replacement pastor could not be found. Notice old hymn books in hymn racks which the congregation had used years ago.
Granada Depot - Want to ride on a miniature train around the northern rim? You can have your opportunity t Voss Park at the Granada Depot. You and old alike can ride a miniature train that boards here. The depot, which came originally from Granada, arrived at Voss Park in 1977. Granada, located about 25 miles southeast of Butterfield, was on the Milwaukee line. The Chicago-Northwestern served Butterfield for many years. On the wall inside the depot is a plaque commemorating Bob Casey, a longtime depot agent for Butterfield. Casey was instrumental in teaching Butterfield young people about telegraphy.
Copying Lathe - If you don't mind the noise, the copying lathe offers a rare view into early mechanized woodworking. The machine can produce such items as spindles, duck decoys, rolling pins, bowling pins and baseball bats. The Butterfield Threshermen's Assn. discovered this machine at Osakis in someone's back yard. As rusty as it was they brought it back and were able to get the machine back into working condition. Come take a look and see how the machine does its job. The lathe has been at home in Voss Park since 1981.
Tuberg Mill - The Tuberg Mill was erected in Voss Park in 1976 but it wasn't ready for use until the following year. Millstones had to come from West Virginia to make the mill operational. In earlier years the original Tuberg Mill stood about five miles southeast of Butterfield. It served the community from 1877 to 1905. This copy of the Tuberg Mill has a 12-foot base and goes up about 20 feet. The handmade wooden gears make use of the wind if there is any. The mill has 5 1/2' wooden gears in the headhouse and contains 61 teeth which are meshed to a smaller 18-inch gear driving a shaft down to the millstone. Andrew Tuberg built the original mill. His homestead stood just northwest of the mill. The Kasota quarry provided the original millstones. Castings made in 1877 came from the Meyers Brothers foundry in Mankato from specifications which Tuberg gave them. This Dutch style windmill had a wingspan of 36 feet.
Pete's Harness Shop - In the days when the horse was key to the life of a farmer; Pete's Harness Shop did good business. You could get bridles, saddles, bits, cowboy hats and other items you needed for your horse or rider. No one could miss his shop since it was right on the main intersection across the street from the bank at that time. In 1983, the BTA brought his equipment to display for visitors at the Bee. The building is a recreation of the original. The harness business declined after the advent of the automobile. People began using horses for leisure activities only.
Commemorative leather "BTA" keychains available for purchase.
Rope Making - The rope making demonstration is one of the quieter exhibits at the Bee and takes place under the trees in the center of the park. The twine comes in an assortment of colors that brighten things up. The twine is strung from a rope maker consisting of a lever and gears to a small hand tool with four notches held by one of the workers.
Threshing Bee Train - Be sure to have your ticket available when the trainmaster comes around. Passengers have the opportunity to view the lovely flowers which have been planted near the train track. The engine for the train is a 1/8 scale model of a Mogul steam engine, powered by propane gas.
Hollenitsch Drug Store - The Hollenitsch Family opened a drug store in Butterfield at the turn of the century. Think of the Drug Store and you think of ice cream cones - vanilla, of course. You can buy yours for 50 cents through the north window during the days of the Bee. About 4,000 cones are sold every year during the Bee. While you're in the Hollenitsch Drug Store be sure to notice where the prescriptions were taken. It made it handy for the local doctor to have a drug store in town. You'll find all sorts of things here such as the new Bobbi rollers for your hair, or even the Lady Merwin Wave clips. Take a look at the California Perfume Balls or the Fitch's talcum powder. Got a scalp problem? How about some Radelle Scalp Freshener. There is also a collection of pipe tobacco and fancy cigars.
Walt's Barbershop - Walter Bedford bought out John Kob and started Walt's Barbershop in Butterfield in 1934. He continued at the same location until his retirement in 1984. Walt was a native of Sherburn and worked for a time in Mt. Lake. He met his wife, Barbara Helvig of Butterfield, at a Mt. Lake Pow Wow and the two were married in 1929. The Butterfield Threshermen's Assn. constructed the building next to the general store and Walt and his family installed the equipment that he used during his 50 years of barbering in Butterfield. People will enjoy checking out his barbershop to see what kind of tools he used. He died in 1993. At times you'll find some of his children serving as hosts in the building.
Advocate Print Shop - When you enter the Advocate Print Shop, you will step back in time to a period when type was set by hand to put out the village newspaper. The Chandler and Price press was used to print the type onto paper back when the Advocate office was a door or two down from the main intersection in Butterfield. Merging of the Mountain Lake Observer and the Butterfield Advocate came about in 1974. They had been separate papers from 1896 until then. The Intertype is a fascinating array of 10,000 moving parts that operate in precision to set type from a keyboard. The first model of the Linotype was invented by Ottmar Merganthaler in Baltimore in the 1880s, revolutionizing the printing industry.
Flour Bin - The Flour Bin gives you an opportunity to buy flour ground right on the premises. The Tuberg Mill, which originally was powered by wind, now receives it power from electricity. The Mill grinds a variety of organic grain flours including whole wheat, rye, buckwheat and cornmeal. A crew of volunteers bag and sell the flour during the Bee, where visitors can purchase bags of flour. Most of the grain is ground in advance but some is ground at the Bee. There are recipe books for sale as well as some free food samples made from the recipes using the flour. Miniature sacks of flour are also sold, which makes a fine souvenir from the Steam and Gas Engine Show.
Broom Making - Broom straw. boom handles and twine are used to make the various kinds of brooms. Broom straw is not produced locally so it has to be imported. Check the display on the wall to give yourself some idea of the brooms being prepared during the Bee. Even the colors are not all the same. Choose from an RV broom, a fantail or double fantail, a short fireplace broom, a corn husk mop, whisk broom, an ordinary broom, or an unique pencil broom. Watch as the brooms are created. The handle is held securely in a vice by the makers feet to free their hands to first attach the straw to the handle with wire, the straw is sewn to add stability and decoration and the last step is trimming the straw to length.
Summer Kitchen - Early settlers kept their homes cool in the summer by doing all cooking and baking in the "summer kitchen" - a separate room off the main house with open windows to let cooler air in. The Mennonite House summer kitchen is just a few steps away from the back door of the house. The sweet aroma of fresh-baked bread drifts on the breeze when you visit the summer kitchen. The ladies make several loaves in the morning and another batch in the afternoon. The flour they use comes freshly ground from the Tuberg Mill. They also dabble in such baked delicacies as schnetke and sweet rolls. The oven in the summer kitchen is made of brick. Pioneer women used such things as corn cobs and prairie grass for fuel. During the Bee, summer kitchen volunteers use cobs. Heating the oven in the summer kitchen takes about a bushel and a third of cobs. You can buy a recipe book for only $2 which tells you how to make some of these goodies in your own kitchen and it also details some of the customs of the pioneer culture.
Mennonite House - Built in 1871, the Mennonite House is a beautifully preserved museum of the domestic life of 19th century Mennonite immigrants. The original owner of the house was Aron Peters. He and his family immigrated to America in 1865. He bought this home in 1880. Many Mennonites came to America in the 1870s and 1880s. In 1973 the house was moved to Voss Park. Mennonite pioneers would often have a summer kitchen for cooking so that the house would stay cool. You can find the summer kitchen right outside the north door of the kitchen. Inside the house, you'll see the baskets used to gather eggs, some for storing, some sewing baskets, and also baskets to gather grapes. The downstairs area has only three rooms. You'll find old fashioned items in the kitchen and the living room that may remind you how your grandparents furnished their houses. The upper level is not open to visitors. Not many of us sleep on straw mattresses, but the pioneers did. Plumbing was one thing the house did not have, so at night they often used the chamber pot, usually located under the bed. When bath time came on Saturday, the reservoir on the stove in the kitchen provided hot water for baths.