Tillotson Construction wins Rock Valley contract, loses $870 judgment for employee’s injuries

Photo by Rock Valley city administrator Tom Van Maanen

East Elevator To Be Sold At Public Auction Saturday

Directors of the Farmers Elevator company decided last week to sell the red (east) elevator structure to make way for the new concrete storage elevator. Included also will be a feed shed and the driveway office structure.

Various and sundry pieces of equipment are being offered for sale, either before or during the public auction, scheduled to be held this Saturday, starting at 2:00 p.m.

The elevator building to be sold has a 15,000 bushel capacity and Manager Owen Manning has pointed out that the driveway and office would make a good machine shed. The feed shed measures 30 by 48 feet. See the advertisement on another page for the list of machinery and equipment up for sale.

Manager Manning said that the contract for the new concrete storage building had been awarded to the Tillotson Construction company of Omaha and that work on the structure will begin on or about June 1. The building is due to be completed about September 15 and work may be far enough advanced to permit acceptance of grain for storage about September 1.

Rock Valley Bee, Thursday, April 27, 1950 

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Sioux County Courthouse News 

In the case of Winfield Kenneth Bagley vs Tillotson Construction Company & American Mu. Liability, the court approved the compromise settlement between the parties in which the defendants are to pays $870.00 to plaintiff for injuries he received to his foot, while employed at Rock Valley, Iowa by the Tillotson Construction Co.

Sioux Center News, Thursday, August 16, 1951 


Tillotson Construction’s Ralston, Iowa, project ‘progressing nicely’ in 1939

Ralston, Iowa–The work on the new annex at the Farmers Elevator is progressing nicely. The Tillotson Construction Company of Omaha will soon have it ready to store grain.

Carroll (Iowa) Daily Herald, Wednesday, September 13, 1939

Note: The New York Times visited Ralston in 2006 for a story about inadequate storage capacity in the face of madly expanding corn production.

Tillotson Construction builds new elevator in Glidden, Iowa

Glidden—The Tillotson construction company, Omaha, started work Saturday on a new reinforced concrete elevator for the Farmers Co-Operative elevator at Glidden.

Carroll (Iowa) Daily Times Herald, Monday, April 11, 1949

Glidden—As part of an expansion program at the Glidden Farmers Co-operative company, work begun April 13 on a reinforced concrete elevator with a 100,000 bushel capacity is progressing rapidly toward completion.

About 20 feet higher than the present buildings, the new elevator will be situated east of them. With the additional storage space the company, for several years the largest co-operative elevator owned and operated in Iowa, will be able to take care of a large amount of corn and beans grown extensively in the Glidden area.

The 100-ft.-high main storage part of the new elevator is up, and bin bottoms are being covered with concrete and hopper fill.

Approximately 35 men are working 10 hours a day on construction of the new elevator, which is under the direction of the Tillotson Construction company of Omaha.

It is expected to be completed by July or August.

Carroll (Iowa) Daily Times Herald, Wednesday, June 22, 1949 



Mysteries surround the origin of Mayer-Osborn Company and its first elevator

By Gary Rich

Let me explain about Wauneta, Neb. I got into a lot of trouble there last week. It was my wife that gave me the trouble. I went into the office trying to gain some information. The lady working inside went into the back room. She had all kinds of blueprints. I wasn’t about to pass up a chance looking at them. It took me over them minutes to look at everything. Needless to say, somebody was over the boiling point when I got back out to the car.

Let me give some other information that we thought about J.H. Tillotson, Contractor. Kristen and I thought Mayer-Osborn took over when Joe passed away. Now, I have proof that this wasn’t the case at all.

I found blue prints that pointed to Denver, but more towards Mayer-Osborn. One set of prints was not for an elevator. It was like footing foundations for a building. One set had the date in the body of blueprint, then there was a box in the lower right hand corner that had the company and another date. The first one had Orrie J. Holmen, Designer, Denver, Colo., but no company name was written there. The body of the blueprint had 1948, but the lower right corner showed 1949.

I found another set that had in the lower right-hand corner the following information; Holmen & Mayer, Designers & Engineers, Denver, Colo. So once Joe Tillotson passed away, I believe Orrie J. Holmen took over the company. We know that Gene Mayer worked for Tillotson–both Tillotson Construction, of Omaha, and J.H. Tillotson, of Denver–as well as Bill Osborn. But I could not find any dates for these blueprints.

Yet another set of blueprints had Holmen & Mayer, 1717 East Colfax, Denver, Colo. This is the exact address that is on the Mayer-Osborn brochure. I found even another set of blueprints, which are not blue. They are on clear paper or yellow paper. It shows the old elevator, which is the one without the headhouse. In the lower right-hand corner, it has the following information; Mayer-Osborn, 5100 York Street, Denver, Colo. But there is no date in the lower right corner box.

Kristen found a small article in the Farmers’ Elevator Guide which was a monthly magazine. It told about Mayer-Osborn moving to the address at 5100 York St. It stated that it gave them more room at this location.

This is my guess and my guess only that this is the way company names happened:

  1. J.H. Tillotson, Contractor
  2. Orrie J. Holmen or Holmen Construction
  3. Holmen & Mayer Construction
  4. Mayer-Osborn Co.

Kristen originally told me that Mayer-Osborn started in 1946. I still think the company name was Tillotson. She mentions that Mayer-Osborn built the McCook, Nebr., elevator, which was their first; however, the plaque inside the elevator shows 1949.

I am planning another trip to Wauneta in a few weeks. I will try to get permission to get into the elevator, so I can see whose name is on the manhole covers. This will tell us for sure, if it Tillotson or Mayer-Osborn who built the original elevator. I am thinking the original elevator was built either 1947 or 1948.

I want to get to the elevators in McCook, too. The one that Mayer-Osborn built there was another elevator standing a ways from the newer elevator. It is one that has no head house, too. I am hoping that they will let me inside this elevator, so I can find out who built this elevator. Some elevator managers are willing to let me inside the elevators, while others say that I can not go inside due to insurance. I am trying to get inside as many elevators as I can before it comes down that no one will be allowed inside.

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Kristen Cart explains:

Some of the mystery can be explained by the sequence of events leading to the establishment of the Mayer-Osborn Company.  J. H. Tillotson, Contractor was owned by Joe Tillotson. My father told me that Mr. Morris, Joe Tillotson’s construction superintendent, died in a roadside accident while changing a tire early in 1947. Within a month, Joe Tillotson died in a car accident, which we know was in March 1947. The only one left in the company who had contractor experience and construction expertise was William Osborn. It seems apparent to Dad that Gene Mayer had an independent architecture and engineering firm, which worked on projects with J. H. Tillotson, Contractor. For a period of time Gene Mayer was partnered with Orrie Holmen. My Dad says his father started an independent company called Osborn Construction, but it became very immediately apparent that he needed a partner.

This differs from Gary’s interpretation, but since Gary was at the site, talking to the people there, his thinking about it carries some weight. So we need to find more documentation.

In a newspaper story about the building of the McCook elevator in 1949, Bill Osborn was interviewed. He said Mayer-Osborn was incorporated  in September 1948. We do not have any documentation of William Osborn’s interim business other than two elevators that he said he built in 1947, according to the same newspaper account, in Fairbury and Daykin, Nebraska. They probably fulfilled contracts already won by J. H. Tillotson, Contractor.

In the same newspaper article, the author said the Wauneta elevator was built in 1945, which makes us wonder about the purpose of the later dated blueprints that were found there. The yellow blueprint that Gary found at Wauneta could only have been produced after May, 1953, which is when the Farmers’ Elevator Guide announced Mayer-Osborn’s move, from 1717 East Colfax Avenue in Denver, to 5100 York Street in Denver.

The sequence of events Gary describes above accurately tracks Gene Mayer’s business of engineering and architecture that built these elevators.  The business relationship that existed with my grandfather is something we will continue to explore.

How does a grain elevator work?

By Gary Rich

First of all, let me explain how an elevator actually works. The grain is dumped from a truck through the grates. The area below the grate is called the pit. The leg runs from the pit to the head house. On the leg is a thick rubber belt with buckets or cups. When the leg is started, the belt will move through the pit. The cups will fill up the grain and take it to the head house. As the leg reaches the top, it will arch, the cups will be up side down. When the cups turn to go back down towards the pit, they empty the grain on a conveyor belt. The cups will be facing downward, until the cups reach the pit and the will right themselves, filling up with more grain.

The run is the conveyor belt between the elevator and a storage annex. The run will have walls on the side of conveyor. They could be completely covered, too. Workers will set up the run, to a certain bin. There are openings at each bin. There is generally a door that they can open, so the grain will fall into the bin. They will put another piece of metal on the run, which acts like a chute. Thus, when the grain gets to the proper bin, and the grain hits the chute, the grain will move toward the opening of the run, and the grain will empty into the bin.

Sometimes, there will be a short conveyor belt that can be put under the main conveyor belt from the elevator. It is the same method. The grain will hit the chute, then through the opening, onto the second conveyor belt, which has a rise to it, and it will dump the grain into the bin.

Kristen mentioned that the bins are sloped. Most bins are built this way. You can think of it as self cleaning, as all the grain will come out the bottom of the bin. Now, if they built the bin flat, most of the grain can be removed. However there will still be about three feet of grain that is away from the bottom opening. Then some one has to climb through the manhole into the bin and they must shove the grain through the opening at the bottom. This is the only way that you can empty a flat bin.

The storage annex always has a basement. There is a conveyor belt that runs from a bin, back to the elevator, then up into a hopper. Most elevators have two separate hoppers. One will load a rail car and the other one can load a truck. If you did not have this conveyor belt, you could not unload a bin.

The area where the run is located is enclosed. If you look at a photo of a grain elevator with a storage annex, you will see an enclosed area above the storage annex. Outside this area, the bins are covered with concrete. Inside the run, either part of each bin will be open, or they could have metal slabs that cover the bins.

William Osborn’s photo of the Kanorado, Kansas, elevator

By Kristen Osborn Cart

This is an image that was in my grandfather’s papers when he died. It was his photo, since he was the only photographer in the family. This was the only elevator image he identified on the back. The caption was “Kanorado, KA, 125,000 bu.” I know Grandpa worked on it because he photographed it. We know it was built before March of 1947, which was the month Joe Tillotson died.

Grandpa was working for Tillotson Construction of Omaha as late as the fall of 1944 through the spring of 1945, when Giddings, Texas, was built. Dad visited Grandpa on the Giddings job, so he was able to date it–they visited in early 1945, the spring, when Dad turned eleven years old. That means the Kanorado elevator was built circa 1945 to 1947.

It may be hard to find information on Joe Tillotson’s business because he was independent for such a short time–even though there were quite a few elevators to his name.

¶ Ronald’s note: While posting this, I gave Kan-o-RAY-do a call and was told that original records pertaining to the elevator’s construction burned in an office fire.

Details of the Kanorado, Kansas, elevator by J.H. Tillotson, Contractor

Story and Photos by Gary Rich

Kanorado, Kansas–J.H. Tillotson, Contractor, of Denver, built this elevator. Here’s a view of the south side. Note the windows near the top. J.H. Tillotson and Mayer-Osborn built the no-headhouse elevators with different window arrangements.






This view shows the elevator, the office building and feed mill. I do not have a date for when it was built.






The office and feed mill were built at the same time.








This is a manhole cover inside the elevator.





In Tempe, a Mayer-Osborn elevator complements the historic Hayden Mill

Story and Photos by Ronald Ahrens

Tempe, Ariz.–Ensconced amid sleek office buildings on South Mill Avenue here, the Hayden Flour Mill represents the very origin of this city now best known as the home of Arizona State University.

Charles Trumbull Hayden’s mill was built of adobe in 1874, burned in 1917, and rebuilt in concrete in the following year. In 1951, Mayer-Osborn constructed the elevator beside it, looking up to Hayden Butte, which is famous as the freeloader’s vantage point for watching football games in Sun Devil Stadium to the east.

The mill and elevator fell into disuse in the 1980s.

plan announced in 2011 (with implementation already overdue) calls for the mill building to get a coat of paint and a lawn as the first step in a redevelopment effort.

The elevator could use some new glass while they’re at it. And wouldn’t it be interesting if the lettering on the west side of the seven silos were restored?

I was in Scottsdale last weekend for the Barrett-Jackson auction and made a run down to Tempe on Saturday morning. It was impossible to make out the second name in faded paint on that west side. Is it Hayden Elbup Mills?

At any rate, this is a handsome elevator.

With a little thought–designers, awaken!–it could be an interesting complement to the surroundings.

Leland Ulrich explains some facts about Mayer-Osborn’s elevator in Burley, Idaho

Story and photos by Kristen Cart

Burley, Idaho, January 18—I spoke to Leland Ulrich, manager here for the past seventeen years, and learned some particulars about this town’s Mayer-Osborn elevator. Mr. Ulrich replaced the old manager, Ivan, long since passed, who apparently had the building’s plans and pictures and history. That investigation is for another visit, since their whereabouts is unknown.

Mr. Ulrich took me for a short tour. I had to put on a hardhat to go inside. The vertical, rectilinear part of the building houses the headhouse way on top, with a “run” protected by a tin roof that went out from it to all of the round bins. The tin roof was a bit of an oddity, he said, but it was original. Most are concrete. The elevator was designed for seed, both barley and wheat, for farm planting.

Formerly a wood and metal elevator was beside it, but it burned in the late-1950s. Some of the big metal parts in the new building might have been that old, salvaged, but there was no way to be sure.

But the elevator built by Mayer-Osborn was all original. The number one bin, closest to the part that houses the head house and the man lift, was empty and I could look inside, but it was too dark to see anything. The bins have sloped floors at a pretty good angle so the last of the seed could be emptied down below, in the “pit.” Whether it was carried out of there by conveyor or some other means is something I missed. The “leg,” he said, in the bin adjacent to the number one bin, went all the way to within eight inches of the top, to facilitate proper distribution between the bins.

(Maybe Gary Rich can add a comment explaining what on earth that means.)

I did ask Mr. Ulrich what the ports are used for, and it is for access—so someone could get into the bins. So “manhole covers” it is. The port cover that was removed on the number one bin, which I’d peeked into, was only identified as Hutchinson foundry steel.

But there were Mayer-Osborn ports inside and out, painted and unpainted.  It’s a big elevator—much bigger than anything I’ve seen of theirs before, perhaps even as big or bigger than Tempe, Arizona.

Mr. Ulrich remembered another visitor who took pictures about ten years ago and sent him some prints. He thought Gary’s name sounded familiar, especially when I mentioned he worked for the railroad.

There is an old citizen in town named Lou Dilley, whose father, known as Pop, built the older flour-mill elevator. Mr. Dilley is said to be in his eighties and loves to tell about the history of the town. He apparently worked on his dad’s construction jobs. So if I can get back, he would be the one to see.