An Iowa company built an elevator in Ceresco, Neb., imitating Tillotson’s style

For a small eastern Nebraska town, Ceresco is well-known within its region because of a furniture store, Ernie’s in Ceresco, that advertises widely.

When Kate Oshima visited Ernie’s to look for bargains, she happened to notice a handsome grain elevator with a curved headhouse.

At first we wondered if this was an unrecorded project by Tillotson Construction Co.

But Kate got a photo of a manhole cover that tells otherwise: Grain Storage Construction Co., of Council Bluffs, Iowa, takes credit for the 1959 job.

We find no background information on this company.

But the curved headhouse makes us wonder if Tillotson design talent migrated across the Missouri River to Omaha’s twin city and worked there.

Tillotson’s construction record ends at 1955. From the accompanying photos taken by Kate, this elevator’s style sure looks familiar.

 

Tillotson family’s 1930s Omaha home at 624 N. 41 St is revealed

By Charles J. Tillotson

“My oh my! The old house is still standing after all these years, which is at least 89 years.

“This is my Grandpa and Grandma’s (Charles H. and Rose A. Brennan Tillotson’s) home and where Dad and Mom (Reginald O. and Margaret I. Tillotson) lived intermittently for three years after they got married.

“I was born in 1935 in Creighton [University]’s St. Joseph Hospital and lived here for my first three years when Dad wasn’t on a construction site too far to come home. Dad built a small house-trailer so that he could take Mom and his kids along with him when going away. 

“When Dad finally decided to settle down three years later [after the death of Charles J. and formation of Tillotson Construction Co. with brother Joe], he bought a house with a fruit orchard located on the northern outskirts of Omaha. 

“I have a bunch of photos of the house while I was standing in front of it with my winter togs on, and of course it was painted white at that time.” 

In 1940, Bernard Blubaugh prepared the Clyde Co-op’s Medford, Okla., location for a concrete elevator

The Clyde (Okla.) Co-operative Association filed its 21st-annual report in 1940 and listed Bernard Blubaugh (seen above) as general manager of its Medford operation.

The report named the nine directors:

L.E. Melka, President

B.F. Cline, Vice president

Otto Zeman, Secretary

C.E. Clark, Mike Hein, E.J. Best, J.R. Skalnik, C.S. Shellhammer, and Louis Droselmeyer, directors

Stogie in hand, Bernard Blubaugh walks an elevator site. Photos courtesy of the Blubaugh Archive.

Employees were O.L. Sturtz, local manager, Clyde; Phil Kenny, local manager, Renfrow; Lewis Dahlen, local manager, Deer Creek; E.L. Hampton, local manager, Nardin; Gary Cassingham, local manager, Salt Fork; Evelyn Dillon, bookkeeper, Medford; Elmer Huffman, elevator, Medford; Robert Wharry, gasoline and oil, Medford; Carl Dahlen, gasoline and oil, Clyde; Irvin Dester, gasoline and oil, Deer Creek.

Another co-op record shows that Tillotson Construction Co., of Omaha, was already familiar with the co-op. On March 11, 1936, the company was awarded the contract to build an elevator at Clyde. This would have been a wooden elevator: their first concrete elevator was in 1939 at Goltry.

The bid was $10,950. Two weeks later the company came back to the co-op board with a request.

“Tillotson ask if we would reconsider as he had left out $3,335 labor bill,” the record says. “Board did reconsider.”

And Tillotson went on to do additional, significant work for the Clyde Co-op, building the 212,000-bushel elevator of reinforced concrete at Medford in 1941. Presumably, the bid included labor costs on that one.

 

In 1941, Mrs. A.L. Luty managed an elevator complex in Kiowa, Kan.

An item passed along to Our Grandfathers’ Grain Elevators makes us wonder if we may have found the first woman to manage an elevator.

“With a new 100,000-bushel, fire-resistive elevator now in operation, in addition to an older plant which adjoins it, Mrs. A. L. Luty goes about her managerial duties with renewed effort. Pictured at her desk in the new elevator of the O.K. Cooperative Grain & Mercantile Co., at Kiowa, Kansas, Mrs. Luty maps operations for the heavy run of grain which the plant will handle this summer. At the right is the new elevator. Antirfriction bearings throughout; standard electric power, including surge protection; modern dust control equipment and lighting protections–a splendid example of construction and engineering.”

Note: This is not a claim that Mayer-Osborn or Tillotson built the elevator at Kiowa.

Source: Bernard Blubaugh Notebook

A distressed, robotized Tillotson elevator awaiting rescue by Hercules in Wahoo, Neb.

By Ronald Ahrens

We wanted terrific in Wahoo. The fifth and final stop on our Jan. 2 road trip in eastern Nebraska called for it, in keeping with the unusual name of the seat of Saunders County and the town’s colorful history. We are told “wahoo” is taken from a shrub, the eastern wahoo (Euonymous atropurpureus), and the name was also given to a navy sub, the USS Wahoo

An icon for Nebraska 2020 road tripWahoo happens to have produced more than its share of notability. Wahoo Sam Crawford twirled his way into baseball’s Hall of Fame. Howard Hanson composed his way to a Pulitzer Prize. Darryl F. Zanuck swept up three Academy Awards. Geneticist George Beadle shared a Nobel and took over Chicago U. 

There must be something in the water: Wahoo had fewer than 3,000 people until after World War Two. A greater concentration of talent, where?

Electrodes on the brain.

Tillotson Construction Co. built a 150,000-bushel, single-leg concrete elevator there in 1950.

I had passed through Wahoo many times without understanding the elevator’s provenance and would not have thought to see Tillotson embossed on the manhole covers.

Notes in the construction record say our Wahoo house followed the busy year’s Imo, Okla., plan. It means five grand tanks of 16 feet in diameter and 120 feet in height. There’s a 13 x 17-foot center driveway, and the note says, “Split 4 bins over Dr.” 

Construction consumed 1,492 tons of reinforced concrete, 40 tons of plain concrete for the hoppers, and 72.34 tons of steel. 

The slab, 21 inches of reinforced thickness, covered 54 x 51 feet.

  • Pit depth: 15 feet 9 inches.
  • Structure rating: 8,216 tons. 
  • Curve of cupola: 22 1/4 feet wide, 42 1/2 feet long, 26 1/2 feet high. 

Our excitement soon diminished on seeing the subject and its neglect. What a shame to Wahoo. The use as an antenna tower is a terrible disappointment.

Things could be fixed up in a cute robotic way. Lay out a note of history, then rachet up each paying guest in the manlift, serving Wahoo wine on the dining deck. Block the wind and electromagnetic radiation, and it’s a regional phenomenon. People will come all the way from Loup City.

We visited late Saturday. The taverns had filled. Naught else moved. We extracted no information and must imagine circumstances of the elevator’s degradation. 

Wahoo produces all-stars, but the big star amidst, is disheveled and in duress. Like Prometheus, bound to a rock, an eagle preying his liver, Tillotson’s Wahoo house awaits Hercules.

Before Prometheus could be freed, he received a visit from straying Io, garbed as “a most lovely white heifer.” She recognized him, saying: 

You–he who succored the whole race of men? 

You, that Prometheus, the daring, the enduring? 

Tillotson Construction had a wet time of it when building at David City in 1951

By Ronald Ahrens

“Wet pit,” notes the Tillotson Construction Co. record in its details of the David City job of 1951.

An icon for Nebraska 2020 road tripA Tillotson crew put up a single-leg, 180,000-bushel, reinforced-concrete elevator in the seat of Butler County during one of the wettest periods ever recorded in the prairie region.

“Most of Kansas and Missouri as well as large portions of Nebraska and Oklahoma had monthly precipitation totaling 200 percent of normal in May, 300 percent in June, and 400 percent in July of 1951,” says a report by the National Weather Service.

But the work went on. The new David City elevator was built on an original plan with five tanks, or silos, of 18 feet in diameter and rising 120 feet. There was a 13 by 17-foot center driveway, eight bins over the drive, and a total of 15 bins and overflow. “Dust Bin @ Ext.” observes a further note.

The elevator required 1,716 cubic yards of reinforced concrete, 20 yards of plain concrete for hoppers, and 81.16 tons of rebar.

The 21-inch-thick main slab extended over 60 by 55 feet, covering an area (“Act. Outside on Ground”) of 3,057 square feet. It sat over a 17-foot-deep pit. The design incorporated a full basement.

The slab supported 3,513 tons of reinforced concrete and 40 tons of plain concrete. With grain weighing 60 pounds per bushel, there was capacity for 5,400 tons of grain. Along with structural steel and machinery as well as hoppers, the the elevator was rated at 9,458 tons total loaded weight.

An elegant rounded cupola, or headhouse, sat atop the tanks. Its dimension were 19 feet wide, 38 feet long, and 27 1/3 feet high. With the moderately tall cupola and moderately deep pit, the centers of the leg’s head and boot pulleys were 154.83 feet apart.

The pulleys were 72 x 14 x 2 3/16 inches (boot) and 72 x 14 x 3 5/16 (head) and turned the at 42 revolutions per minute.

Calumet supplied the 330-inch, six-ply belt that was 14 inches wide. Cups of 12 x 6 inches were spaced at nine-inch intervals.

A 30-horsepower Howell motor delivered a theoretical leg capacity of 7,140 bushels per hours. Operating at 80 percent, it needed 27.6 hp to deliver actual capacity of 5,700 bushels per hour.

A 1.5-hp motor ran the manlift. The truck lift operated with a 7.5-hp Ehrsam motor.

A further note indicates, “300 Bu. Dryer Split Bin #7 for Dryer.”

Twin David City elevators but only one curved headhouse to mark a Tillotson design

View of David City grain elevators

By Ronald Ahrens

David City, a gorgeous town of about 2,900 people and the seat of Butler County, is unapologetically named for David Butler, the state of Nebraska’s first governor (1867 to 1871) and the only one to date ever to be impeached. It was alleged that he had used school funds to engage in property speculation when he moved the capital from Omaha to Lincoln. The state legislature reviewed the impeachment in 1877 and expunged it from the record.

An icon for Nebraska 2020 road trip

Founded right in the middle of all this controversy, in 1873, David City has a large courthouse square with streets wide enough for islands of parked cars in the middle of the pavement. There is also an impressive municipal park at the south edge of this splendid burg.

Even before our visit on a clear but chilly January afternoon, I had been to David City many times to visit the Horaceks–my aunt, uncle, and cousins on my father’s side of the family. In the summer of 1966, when I was 11 years old, I spent a week with them. Having just acquired a transistor radio as a premium for my work selling magazine subscriptions in the National Youth Sales Club, I spent quite a bit of time walking up and down the sidewalk groovin’ to “Bus Stop,” by the Hollies and “Summer in the City,” by the Lovin’ Spoonful. Omaha was 65 miles away, but station KOIL (“Mighty 1290”) came through just fine even in the daytime.

At the end of my visit I rode the bus back to the big city. We stopped in the village of Brainard with time to look around, so I went into a pharmacy and bought an affordable gift for my mother, a small jar of Vaseline, which seemed practical and useful. She was, as one might suppose, nonplused. 

In all my visits to David City, it never occurred to me that my Grandfather Reginald Tillotson, on my mother’s side, had built there. But records of Tillotson Construction Co. show a 180,000-bushel elevator in 1951, and the purpose of our present visit was to study it.

There are two concrete elevators on the Frontier Cooperative site along the tracks at the southwestern edge of town. Each one has a related flat-storage building. Our problem lay in determining which was the 1951 job and whether the second structure was also by Tillotson. Even with zoom photos of the manhole covers over openings in the tanks, or silos, there’s nothing conclusive to share. The rusty cast-iron plates bear the imprint the Hutchinson Foundry & Steel Co., a regular Tillotson supplier, but because the manholes are so high off the ground, and the plates are rusty, I’ve been unable to read the remaining lettering at bottom. 

Nevertheless, the north elevator is elegantly crowned with a curved cupola, the Tillotson signature headhouse that was perfected by about 1950. Dimensions are 19 feet wide, 38 feet long, and 27 1/3 feet high. Built on an original plan with five tanks rising 120 feet, this elevator has a 13 by 17-foot driveway. Other external features such as doorways with lintels and external lamps are very much in the Tillotson style. 

The question then is about the south elevator. It has a stepped, rectangular headhouse. Who built this elevator and when?

Both headhouses are labeled “Farmers Co-Op Grain Co.” An explanation is given on Frontier’s website: “Over the years, the predecessors of both Frontier and Midwest (Cooperative) completed many mergers and acquisitions, growing their territories across southern and central Nebraska. The Frontier name came into being in 1990, following the merger of Farmers Cooperative Co. of Brainard with Farmers Union Cooperative of Mead.”

A 2015 news report says Farmers Cooperative purchased the David City elevators in 1985.

Deeper insight into the history comes from the State Elevator News roundup in the June 1919 edition of The Co-Operative Manager and Farmer: “Wells Howe has resigned his position as manager of the Nye-Schneider-Fowler Elevator in David City, his resignation to take effect as soon as his successor has been secured. Mr. Howe has been connected with the company fourteen years, and with the David City Elevator eleven years.” 

A note on the Nebraska Memories page of the state’s official site says Nye Schneider Fowler Co., of Fremont, “was organized in 1902 as successor to the former grain and lumber business, Nye Schneider Company. Frank Fowler joined Ray Nye and Rudolf B. Schneider as a named partner.” 

The elevators show scars from hard use, with spalling on the exterior walls and no recent whitewashing, but evidently they remain in good operating order.

As it was Saturday afternoon when we visited, no one was around the facility. There was only a grain dryer’s roar, even stronger than that of the wind: it must be a curse for people in the nearby houses. 

New 320,000-bushel Tillotson elevator ready for Texas Panhandle harvest of 1950

Canyon (Tex.) News, March 2, 1950 

The Consumers Fuel Association in Canyon has let the contract for the construction of a 320,000 bushel grain elevator in Canyon. The above is a picture of the new construction, which will be completed in time for the 1950 wheat harvest. The building will be west of the old elevator. 

 

 

A 1990 collapse at Tillotson’s York, Neb., elevator causes minor injury

Beatrice (Neb.) Daily Sun, Saturday, Feb. 24, 1990

YORK, Neb. (AP)–Another part of a grain elevator collapsed Friday, one day after two elevator silos split open spilling grain that crushed a building and injured one worker.

There were no reports of injuries or anyone being trapped after the collapse about 4:30 p.m. Friday at Farmers Co-op Elevator, said Clay Stodieck, a York firefighter.

“All I know is we had another collapse,” he said. “They were attempting to unload the grain today. I don’t know how far they got.”

Meanwhile, LeRoy Vanicek, elebator manager, confirmed the co-op began removing grain from the elevator earlier this month.

Radio station KAWL in York quoted an unidentified source close to the co-op as saying the grain was being removed prior to the collapse on Thursday.

The source told the station concrete chips and dust had recently appeared in grain stored at the facility and co-op officials were concerned there could be a problem with the structure. Vanicek would not confirm whether co-op officials were concerned about any problems.

A secretary who was pinned beneath a desk when thousands of pounds of grain spilled out of the elevator silos Thursday escaped the accident with bumps, bruises and scrapes, officials said.

Ruth Jones, 36, said she heard a loud roar when the 61,000 bushels of grain flattened the one-story building.

The lower halves of the 130-foot concrete silos filled with milo broke open about 3:50 p.m. CST, York Fire Chief Mark Grosshans said.

The silos are two of 18 units at the Farmers Co-op Elevator in northwest York. The silos are divided into three rows of six. The elebator is just west of U.S. Highway 81.

State Fire Marshal Wally Barnett said the bins “split from about halfway up to the base.”

Branch manager George Makovicka said he was on top of the elevator doing some routine maintenance when the grain began spilling out.

“I heard a whooshing sound, like sucking air,” he said. “I looked over the edge and saw all the grain on top of the building. It looked like a tidal wave.”

Engineers from Omaha and Lincoln inspected the building Friday morning and determined that the integrity of the structure is in question, Grosshans said Friday.

Bountiful grain crops forced Aurora, Neb., elevator expansion in 1950

Lincoln Sunday Journal and Star, Sunday, Oct. 8, 1950

AURORA, Neb–Bountiful grain crops here have forced the Aurora Co-Operative Elevator company to expand by adding a new 250,000 bushel elevator.

F.E. Henson, manager of the elevator, points to hybrid corn and the development of deep-well irrigation in Hamilton county as two of the reasons for the demanded extra storage space.

* * *

“We have 225 irrigation wells in this county,” he said. “We handled from 750,000 to 1,000,000 bushels a year.

“This Co-Op has grown steadily over the years,” he added. “It started in 1980 with less than 100 stockholders. Now it has 950.”

The new elevator, near the Burlington station, is an imposing building. It has eight round bins, 18 feet in diameter and 115 feet high. There are 14 other bins.

D.L. Grimes, superintendent for Tillotson Construction company of Omaha, said the elevator is supposed to be ready to receive grain by Oct. 15. But delivery will be accepted the first week of October.

He said he expects to have everything installed within a month. The elevator will cost about $150,000.

Hansen said the company started out in 1908 with a 20,000 bushel elevator called the west Aurora elevator.

In 1913 it built at Murphy, five miles west of Aurora. About a year ago–Sept. 27–the east Murphy elevator of 20,000-bushel capacity burned down. However, Co-Op sill had a 40,000-bushel west Murphy elevator. In the last year it has added 35,000 bushel capacity there.

* * *

In 1913, it constructed the flour mill in Aurora just east of the new concrete elevator. Its daily capacity was 75 barrels, but the big flour mills and chain store buying was too much competition, Hensen says.

So in 1938, the flour mill became a feed mill, with a 10,000-bushel capacity.

“With the growth of the company and competition, we just had to go modern and get an elevator with a drier and cleaner and those things,” Hensen said.

With its new elevator, the Aurora Co-Operative will have a 355,000-bushel capacity for its grain handling business.