by Jonathan Scott | Photography by Diana Matthews
It’s not uncommon for visitors to Ken and Patti Eder’s Ederville in Carthage to come away flabbergasted. After attending an annual train and tractor show, a member of the online machine-lovers forum, madmodder.net, posted, “I could try to describe the event, but words just aren’t adequate for painting this picture with anything but a pale shadow of the reality.”
Ederville began about 13 years ago when Ken won an auction for an antique Rumley steam-powered tractor. That simple event turned Eder into a collector whose passion led him to bring to Carthage the largest assemblage of the oldest and rarest tractors in the country, possibly in the entire world. The collection includes juggernaught-like steam prairie tractors in near-perfect condition as well as a chain-operated Lansing tractor—the only remaining one in existence.
When using steam to power things other than trains and boats was still in its infancy in the early 20th century, engineers had to be innovators. The variety of ways they achieved locomotion is astounding, and the scores of different machines in Ederville are a testimony to American ingenuity—as well as being objects of nostalgia for some whose memories are long.
“It’s a good feeling,” Patti says, “to see two men standing next to an old prairie tractor talking enthusiastically, and when I come back a couple of hours later they’re still talking about it.”
Beyond the large buildings squeezed full of tractors are more buildings housing steam machinery of all kinds. Among them are a saw mill, a two-story tall construction that was used to crush rock for gold mining, and a steam engine that pulls a train along a short track.
Ederville also contains tens of thousands of other items, ranging from a Wurlitzer organ that used to grace the Asbury Park, New Jersey boardwalk to the actual Mayberry’s sheriff’s car that Andy Griffith drove on TV. It’s a veritable museum of Americana.
On the weekend of Nov. 4-6, the Eders open Ederville for a public event called “100+ Years of Progress.” This year, Ederville’s many demonstrations highlight logging equipment.
For folks who aren’t fascinated by steam power, Ederville has a general store selling penny candy, two rooms of antique and collectible dolls, an old-time doctor’s office, a blacksmith shop, a dress shop, a hair salon and even a saloon. It’s bound to delight kids as well as anyone who enjoys a trip to the past.