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Barry Schrader


I currently write a column each Tuesday for the DeKalb Daily Chronicle. The column will also appear on this website each week and be added to the archives.

The Articles started December 2007.


If you've missed any please follow the links on the dates to catch up.

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Steam power show grounds a farmer's legacy

By Barry Schrader Senior Columnist...................August 7, 2012

Taylor Marshall passed away in 1988, but his legacy can still be seen annually at the Northern Illinois Steam Power Club’s annual Steam Show & Threshing Bee.

Marshall, who owned a farm on Lukens Road off Plank Road a few miles north of Sycamore, was a longtime steam engine enthusiast, even though he never owned one.

The steam power club had held annual shows in scattered locations around northern Illinois since 1957, but had no permanent location until Marshall suggested they use his grove of trees and some adjoining acreage for their 1967 show. Now 45 years later, the show is still running and will be
held this week from Thursday through Sunday.

After his death, two nieces Bonnie Justis and Marilyn Challand, who inherited the farm, have continued to lease the land to the club, and the show has grown into one of the most popular of its kind in the Midwest.

Club vice president Milan Duchaj explained to me that having a permanent site and being able to construct buildings and toilet facilities has greatly contributed to its continued success.

They also plant wheat each year to demonstrate the antique equipment, as well as corn (saved from the previous year’s crop) for shelling and wood for the sawmill.

The late Taylor Marshall and his wife, Hazel, shown here on their John Deere, used to participate in the annual parade of farm equipment at the Sycamore Steam Show & Threshing Bee held for the past 45 years on their land.

Taylor Marshall some 40 years ago.
(Photos provided)

Duchaj said they used to shock the wheat in earlier times, but now harvest it in July and store the bundles in the metal building to keep it dry. They have the usual 13 loads all ready to use this week. Visitors will see two large threshing machines (separators) operating during the show, owned by Bill Karl, Jr., and the late Maynard Petersen. They also bring in lots of steam engines, old tractors of all kinds, small gas engines, and a working steam power shovel, much bigger than the one I built as a kid with my erector set.

Talking with Marshall’s niece, Bonnie Justis and her husband, Jim, last week I heard how much he loved the show. Marshall and his wife Hazel used to drive one of their tractors in the daily parade pulling a hayrack with the Sycamore Kitchen Band on it.
Marshall was born in the farmhouse just across the road and spent his entire 79-year life on that land. Hazel (Listy) lived just up the road as a girl and both went to the Charter Grove School nearby, the same one my wife Kay attended in her grade-school years.

People come from all over northern Illinois and beyond to get a taste of early 20th Century farming, including the sights, sounds and smells of the rural life that is fast slipping away from our memories.

My favorites are the “Noon Toot” when all the steam engine whistles blow at once, the 1:30 p.m. daily parade of farm vehicles, and the pork chops at Fay’s Pork Chop Bar-B-Que tent where I get a chance to talk with my old Waterman schoolmate Marcia (Fay) and her husband Bob Dempsey.

Of course, the big flea market is another draw, but my wife has me under a little better control now, so I don’t hang out there as much … .

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Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115