Mt Pleasant News

Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Jul 23, 2018
Midwest Old Threshers Reunion

Volunteers enjoy tradition of preparing Log Village

Aug 25, 2017
Photo by: Grace King Tom Boston-Kemple, post advisor for Log Village for 20 years, directs volunteers on cleaning on Aug. 19, as they prepare the grounds for Old Threshers.

By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News


To Tom and Karen Boston-Kemple, Cassity Cabin on the Old Threshers grounds in Log Village is like a second home.

Tom rebuilt the cabin with his own two hands, trying to preserve the structure for future generations to enjoy. He took apart every log and put it back together again, he said. He knows the cabin inside and out. It’s the place where all of their children had their graduation parties, and it’s the place of family reunion during every Old Threshers.

As the volunteer coordinator and post adviser for Log Village, a position he’s held for over 20 years, Tom walked the grounds Saturday morning, Aug. 19, greeting volunteers and handing out tasks as they prepare the cabins to use again for Old Threshers from Aug. 31 to Sept. 4.

It’s no wonder the Boston-Kemple’s are so at ease in a setting without electricity or running water. They lived their own, personal “Little House on the Prairie” before moving to Mt. Pleasant. After working as camp directors at a year-round conference and retreat center, Tom and Karen wanted a break from everyday life and took a sabbatical. They spent a year building a log cabin, and then a year living in it while they home-schooled their children.

As Tom and Karen got to work airing out Cassity Cabin, they talked about how excited they were to dress their grandchildren in costumes their children once wore to Old Threshers. As for themselves, they have been wearing the same costumes for decades.

“The more tattered the better,” Karen said. “That’s what makes them look authentic. We just patch them up every year.”

Volunteers are told to make their costumes out of 100 percent cotton material, not because it’s historically accurate, but because it will “keep you from dying” in the heat, Melissa Bacher said, who has volunteered with her son for 12 years.

Bacher assures that although it’s still hot to wear two to three petticoats, it isn’t as hot as it looks. To be historically accurate, a woman from the 1800s would be wearing six petticoats, which isn’t a requirement for volunteers at Old Threshers.

Bacher was one of the earliest volunteers to arrive on the grounds on Aug. 19, literally kicking down doors as she tried to open cabins that had been shut tight since last year.

Bacher got involved in Log Village because of her youngest son, Ben Bacher, who was a first-grader at the time. This year, Ben will be in the blacksmith cabin and Bacher will bounce around to wherever she is needed.

One of her favorite parts of volunteering in Log Village is serving as an interpreter on the grounds. Interpreters are the volunteers who explain what public life was like in the 1860s.

“At the (historical) time, Iowa had been a state for 10 years,” Bacher said. “The Civil War would start in five years. We had an underground railroad through Iowa. (During Old Threshers), there’s people demonstrating, taking care of animals, cooking, musicians on the porch,” Bacher added, as she reflected on the history Log Village holds.

In the kitchen cabin, three to four women demonstrate what cooking was like in the 1800s. The food they prepare there goes to serve the volunteers throughout the day. Although now there are too many volunteers to feed just with the wood-burning stove, and they often have to finish food in a 21st Century kitchen in back of the Public House to feed everyone.

Because of the surplus of volunteers in the past, volunteers in Log Cabin have to be referred by someone who has volunteered in the past.

“We’re always looking for volunteers, but we’re kind of like the Marines,” Director of Log Village, Dr. Bob Welander said. “We need a few good people. We have children at Log Village and we have to be very careful about background checks and everything else.”

Log Village has about 100 to 120 volunteers every year with a 95 percent retention rate, Welander said. Like Bacher, a lot of people volunteer with their children, so they lose volunteers when children graduate from high school.

Volunteer training is in June and July every year. The required orientation teaches about the history of Log Village, what it was like on the Iowa Prairie and what kind of clothing they should wear.

“(Log Village) is a bit quieter than the rest of the grounds during the reunion,” Bacher said. “Sometimes you just kind of need that.”

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