Local Steam Engine Celebrates Its 100th Birthday at Rollag

In 1916, a brand-new 28 horsepower steam engine manufactured by the Minneapolis Threshing Machine Company was delivered to the Flom Brothers Threshing Company of rural Milton.

RollagSteamengine

Posted on 8/27/16

By Melissa Anderson

One hundred years later, this same 17 ton steam engine has found its way to the Western Minnesota Steam Thresher’s Reunion (WMSTR) in Rollag, Minn. where the engine roars to life and serves as a demonstration piece. To celebrate  the engine’s 100th birthday, the descendants of the Flom brothers will be gathering at Rollag to not only reconnect with but also spend some time operating the same levers that their ancestors used a century ago.

The gathering coincides with the Great Minneapolis Line Expo at Rollag September 2 through the 5 where, in addition to Rollag’s many other living history exhibits, there will be at least 20 Minneapolis Threshing Machine Company steam engines along with many gas tractors and other farm implements made by Minneapolis Moline and the Twin City Iron Works in operation.

In 1882, Torjus and Gunhild Flom, who were both born in Norway and immigrated to the United States, traveled by covered wagon to a site six miles south of Milton. There they built a sod house on the west bank of the south branch of the Park River. Later, the family built a log house across the river from the sod house. The Floms raised a total of 12 children, all of whom attended the Tiber Township School. All but one of those 12 children stayed in Montrose, Osford and Tiber townships, working and raising their families.

“Some descendents of the Flom family continue to farm near the original homestead, including members of the Flom, Seim, Hurtt, and Kenny Johnson families,” according to Melva Boe, a descendent of Herman Flom.

The specific steam engine the Flom Brothers Threshing Company purchased is a Minneapolis Threshing Machine Company engine #7700. The steam engine is capable of operating the largest threshing machines built or pulling a 12-bottom 14-inch plow.

The Flom Brothers Threshing Company was incorporated before 1900, working for over 40 years before being disbanded in 1946. The Floms purchased the steam engine in 1916 when they traded in a smaller Rumely steam tractor for the larger Minneapolis engine. They used #7700 until 1930 when they traded it in for a Rumely Oil Pull internal-combustion tractor.

Time passed and agricultural innovations moved forward leaving the steam engine behind. The #7700 steam engine was found sitting in a shelter belt near Fairdale with a large tree growing through one of its front wheels. Eventually, the storied piece of farm machinery was purchased and made operable once more by Norman Pross of Luverne. Pross sold the engine to Dr. Gerald Gysler Parker of Casselton who later sold it to the Edin family of Askov, Minn. It was with the Edin family that #7700 has found new life.

During Rollag’s “Steam School” in June, the engine was used to plow, thresh, power a sawmill, and as a living history demonstration to teach interested people the art of operating a steam traction engine.

“It is really special to my immediate family that we have this piece of history as it binds us together,” Boe said, “Most of us grew up on farms or at least in farming communities so when we attend WMSTR we remember farming the same as it was when we were young.”

Boe’s father, Howard Skrogstad of Milton, was very interested in old farm machinery and engines. That interest has been passed down to Boe and other family members.

Another reason for the excitement over the reunion is that the present owners of the steam engine, the Edin family, have been so eager to include members of the Flom family in celebrating the history of the engine.

“They are excited to visit with us and have let several of us climb on, ride on and even drive the tractor,” Boe said.

Minneapolis Threshing Machine Company engine #7700 will once again be the center of the Flom family as it brings together various descendants of its originally owners for the first time in years to celebrate a century old family tradition.

“My brother, Merlin Skrogstad of Owasso, Okla., was the first to come up with the idea of celebrating the 100th birthday of the steam engine,” Boe explained, “I decided to make it known to as many other Floms that it would be a good time to get together.

“Families live so far apart that we forget how important it is to have family connections. In searching for family members to invite to this reunion I have had contact with people I haven’t heard from for 50 years or more.  Neither have we seen each other for those many years,” Boe added

For more information about Rollag or the Expo, visit www.rollag.com or call 701-212-2034.

If you are related to the original owners of the steam engine and would like to be included in the engine’s birthday celebration, contact Melva Boe at emboe@msn.com.

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