History of the Great Oregon Steam-Up
Julius Dalzell et al
The establishment of Powerland was the result of an effort on the part of the Western Steam Fiends to acquire a permanent home for their popular threshing bees. To trace the history of the process by which the Steam Fiends made the decision to proceed, it is informative to go back to their beginnings.
The threshing bee gatherings were set up by the farmers and harvesters who had worked the fields using steam, and wished to occasionally “live in the past with their engines.” They wanted yet another chance to “get the boiler hot, smell hot cylinder oil, hear the hiss of steam, operate the injector, belt her up and thresh a few bushels.”
And of course there was the camaraderie and the renewing of friendships at the gatherings not to mention the showing off of the latest acquisition or restoration, the exchange of ideas, the telling of stories, and the great feeds that came with the events!
Threshing bees began to become popular about three decades later or the late 1940’s – early 1950’s. With that popularity, the die was cast for the formation of a group of enthusiasts like the Steam Fiends…
Mikkelson and Pitts Shows
Two threshing bees of particular relevance to our story were those held by Harvey Mikkelson and Rodney Pitts, two individuals who played significant roles in the establishment of Western Antique Power, Inc. (WAPI) and the Antique Powerland Museum (Powerland).
Rod Pitts sponsored five shows at his place from 1955 to 1959 before circumstances caused him to conclude that activity. Harvey Mikkelson put on 11 such shows on his farm from 1954 to 1966, skipping 1963 and 1965. The event was held at Mikkelson’s in conjunction with the annual Silverton Harvest Festival. Show attendance grew soon numbering between 3000 – 4000. In fact, it was the very success of the show that resulted in Harvey and his wife Myrtle deciding to call a halt to the annual event in 1966.
In the interim, the Steam Fiends organization continued to grow in numbers as did a collective interest in finding a home. Following the conclusion of the Mikkelson event, WSFA decided to hold their show in Woodburn in conjunction with the Marion County Fair. It was at this time that the Steam Fiends adopted a name for the show, The Great Oregon Steam-up. Rod Pitts is credited with coming up with the name.
After an unsatisfying relationship between North Marion Development Corporation (NMDC) and Western Steam Fiends for the shows in years 1967-1969, Steam Fiends held a meeting at Mikkelson’s and it was decided “then and there” that what was needed for the Steam-Up was a permanent location owned by a corporation to be set up for that purpose
Steps Leading to Powerland
Frank Petzel owned 62 acres in Brooks and was interested in leasing part of the land to the Steam-Up group that by this time was being organized as Western Antique Power, Inc. He would be able to farm part of his property and lease some of his land. A zone change from farmland to recreation was necessary.
A Portland attorney and a WSFA member, Lemar Tooze recommended that a for-profit corporation be set up and shares sold to raise funds that would be needed for operations. The $1,000 needed to file for incorporation was made available by individual members in exchange for future shares. The certificate of incorporation was received December 17, 1969 thus establishing an official birthday date for Powerland! Zoning was changed and the Petzels and WAPI signed a lease in 1971.
Steam-ups continued annually and have been held on this site since 1970.
In March 2001, Antique Powerland Museum Association, Inc (an Oregon nonprofit organization) was formed to manage, develop, and fund Antique Powerland under long-term agreements with Western Antique Power, Inc. The number of partner museums and organizations continue to grow and they all work collaboratively to present the Great Oregon Steam-Up!