Tillotson Construction completes Big Springs sorghum plant

Photo courtesy of Farmers Elevator Coop Association

BIG SPRINGS–The Tillotson Construction Co., Hastings, Neb., has completed a $40,000 building for the Farmers Cooperative Elevator sorghum plant.

Farmers’ Elevator Guide, August 1951

Note: A conversation today with Larry McCroden, long-time manager of the Big Springs Farmers Coop Elevator, reveals additional information about the facilities. Mr. McCroden consulted tax documents that showed “Elevator A” had a value of $184,432 and “Elevator B” had a value of $25,100. He said the twenty original bins of Elevator A stand about 115 feet tall, and the two-tiered headhouse reaches to 170 feet. The documents give January 15, 1951 as the date of service for the two.

Later additions were made to the original structure, increasing storage capacity by hundreds of thousands of bushels.

Mr. MrCroden said the elevator at Roggen, Colorado, bears many similarities to Big Springs.

Additional note: We don’t know why Hastings, Nebraska is given as the location of Tillotson Construction Co., which had its headquarters in Omaha.

Tillotson gets 50,000-bushel Paullina elevator under way

Paullina elevator complex, Dec. 9, 2009, by Jim Hamann

PAULLINA (IOWA)–A new concrete elevator is under construction to replace the Paullina Grain Co. elevator destroyed by fire. The new one will be 103 feet high, containing 18 bins. All new machinery, including a 50-ton scale, will be installed. Capacity will be 50,000 bushels.

Farmers’ Elevator Guide, June 1949

Government price supports, loan guarantees led to proliferating grain elevators

By Ronald Ahrens

I see why grain elevators proliferated like mad–like mice, actually–starting in 1949.

This happened before Ezra Taft Benson, the crusader against Socialism, became Secretary of Agriculture in 1953, so the trend can’t be attributed to Mormon food-hoarding instincts in the face of Doomsday.

Here’s the story: Section 417 of the Agricultural Act of 1949 made an extra $8 million in cheap loans available to farmers’ cooperatives through the Commodity Credit Corporation.


Ezra Taft Benson, Ag Chief

The United States Department of Agriculture figured the private sector wasn’t keeping pace in grain storage as farmers realized increasingly bountiful crop yields. The USDA stepped in to provide the incentive to build storage capacity. The government price supports had resulted in hundreds of millions of bushels going nowhere.

Washington’s policy of building “warehouse” capacity was of enormous benefit to established outfits like Tillotson Construction Company and J.H. Tillotson, Contractor. For the principals, like my grandfather, Reginald O. Tillotson, it became a matter of  dashing between farflung towns in order to make his sales pitch. And the CCC also breathed life into new organizations like Mayer-Osborn Company.

Given certain conditions, the loans–which were extended through the government’s Banks for Cooperatives–were  intended to cover up to eighty percent of construction costs, with the rest funded by local sources. The eighty percent would cover $100,000 of what looks like an  average cost of $125,000 around then, so we’re talking about eighty new elevators in a year’s time.

And that’s in addition to what supposedly would’ve been ordered in normal periods, although who would turn down a government subsidy and pay retail?

Indeed, I’ve already heard one story of a group forming, with maybe five businessmen kicking in $5000 each, to take up the government’s kind offer, not caring about the disposition of the grain after the three-year guarantee (on new storage) ended.

The CCC pledged it would use seventy-five percentof the additional capacity. And farmers were lining up to sell to the CCC. Indeed, build it and they will come. The more of the subsidized canisters that the government provided, the more that was needed.

United States Department of Agriculture buildi...

United States Department of Agriculture

“The possibility that 1950 will present another storage crisis is evidenced by the latest report of the Department of Agriculture, which shows that as of Nov. 1, farmers had put approximately 353,746,480 bushels of 1949-crop[s] … under CCC price support,” reported the Farmers’ Elevator Guide in December of 1949. “This was nearly 100,000,000 bushels more than with 1948-crop produce.”

Meanwhile, the government had frozen construction of commercial buildings other than hospitals, churches, and schools. So while the traditional construction companies were fighting over those slim pickins, the Tillotsons and Mayer-Osborn, with their specialized knowledge in shaping, reinforcing, and pouring concrete, dashed back and forth like bees, covering the land from Alberta to South Carolina.

They knocked together slip-forms and jacked their way up beyond 100 feet, grinning the whole way.

One of Tillotson’s biggest elevators under way in Dallas Center

Photo by Don McLaughlin on April 11, 2010. Click on the photo to visit his photostream.

DALLAS CENTER–Work has started on a 250,000-bushel concrete elevator for Dallas Center Farmers Cooperative Company. It will be 166 feet tall and is being built by Tillotson Construction Company at a cost of $151,000.

Located west of the firm’s south elevator, it is 56×70 in base dimensions.

Aeration equipment will be included in each of the ten 23,000-bushel bins, Manager Don Brown reports.

Farmers’ Elevator Guide, circa September 1955

Dallas Center

Photo by Pete Zarria, April 1, 2011. Click the image to visit his photostream.

See another recent images from Dallas Center: 

January 7, 2012

This map shows the incorporated and unincorpor...

In Hutchinson, foundries create cast of thousands of manhole covers

Castings Plants Held Not Needed

Hutchinson’s industrial development is apparently not wanting in respect to foundries and the manufacture of metal castings.

Interviews with managers of two local firms bear this out. Frank Hulet of M.W. Hartmann Manufacturing Co., 120 North Adams, and Joe O’Sullivan, Sr., of Hutchinson Foundry and Steel Co., Washington and D, both report the Hutchinson market does not near utilize their capacities for production.

“We have more capacity available than is being utilized by local firms,” said Hulet. His company produces gray iron, alloy iron, brass, bronze and aluminum castings. In 1957 they produced 600 tons of gray iron and alloy castings. They did business in Oklahoma, Colorado, Texas, Nebraska and Missouri.

Hulet pointed out that at the present time they are capable of producing over twice that amount. The company has a second plant at 400 West 2nd in Hutchinson.

M.W. Hartmann Manufacturing Co. makes castings for such industries as hydraulic, agricultural, farm equipment, oil field and municipal. “We furnish our own castings, too,” Hulet said.

O’Sullivan said the work of the Hutchinson Foundry and Steel Co. deals principally with municipal and farm implement castings. They also make iron water well screen.

“The local demand is not over 20 per cent of our production for this area,” said O’Sullivan. He felt that production in their field was more than adequate for Hutchinson needs.

Hutchinson Foundry and Steel Co. is equipped for the heavier type casting work. They meet municipal, highway and agricultural needs and do more outlying area business than local business.

Hutchinson has three main foundry firms, the third being Kraus, Inc., 305 South Monroe.

Hulet summed up the job Hutchinson foundries are doing in meeting local needs when he said, “In comparing Hutchinson’s three foundries with other larger cities having less, I feel there is no need for industrial development here along these lines.”

Hutchinson News, January 22, 1958

Note: Manhole covers used in elevators built by Mayer-Osborn Company and J.H. Tillotson, Contractor were made by Hutchinson Foundry. In 2011, a new foundry was announced as a complement to Hutchinson’s growing wind energy industry.

Boxholm manager foresees timely completion of Tillotson’s new elevator

Photo uploaded to KCCI in 2009 by the station's u local contributor hmuench

Boxholm, Iowa–Manager Bud Lane reported that the new 200,000-bushel Farmers Cooperative Elevator Company’s concrete elevator will be completed on July 15. Tillotson Construction Co. of Omaha is the builder.

The structure will rise 150 feet with storage tanks standing 120 feet high.

The firm will have 256,000 bushels of space with the new unit.

Farmers’ Elevator Guide, 1954-1955 library volume 

♦ ♦ ♦

Note: The Boxholm Farmer’s elevator was founded in 1900, according to a 2004 article in the Dayton Review. On October 25, 2004, the elevator–now expanded–took in 145,422 bushels of grain, the new single-day record at this location. For the entire 2004 harvest season, more than 2 million bushes were taken in.

On November 16, 2009, two workers were injured when a grain dryer exploded at the Boxholm elevator. See the report from Des Moines station KCCI.

This map shows the incorporated and unincorpor...

Boxholm is in northwestern Boone County, Iowa.

Kristen’s visit to her grandfather’s elevator in Blencoe, Iowa

Story and photos by Kristen Osborn Cart

When I was out to Nebraska with the kids to see my Mom and Dad in 2011, we took the long way home to Illinois and stopped at Blencoe, Iowa, to see the grain elevator.

Dad helped to build it with Grandpa and Mayer-Osborn Company in the summer of 1954, just as he was starting his last year of college.

Blencoe is a tiny Monona County town of  about 200 people. It’s just off Interstate 29, halfway between Council Bluffs and Sioux City.

In March of 1954 Mayer-Osborn won the contract from Blencoe Co-operative Company, worth $153,000, to build the 259,000-bushel facility. It featured a stepped, rounded headhouse.

Dad and his brother Dick laid the rebar during the concrete pour as the elevator went up. Dad had to go back to school before construction was finished because football practice was getting under way.

On my visit, I stopped at the office, where they had a notebook with the fifty-year history of the cooperative. They were proud of their elevators at Blencoe, and the folks there showed me around.  

This elevator is very similar to the elevator Grandpa built in McCook, Nebraska.

Tillotson Construction hurries to meet deadline in Aurora, Nebraska

Photo by David Wilson

Contracts for new elevators at Aurora and Murphy were let by the Aurora Cooperative Elevator Co. The Aurora 250,000-bushel concrete elevator will be built by Tillotson Construction Co. of Omaha. The 33,000-bushel plant at Murphy will be erected by Black, Sivalls & Bryson, Kansas City, Mo., bolted steel tank construction company. The cooperative has a government contract to store grains for three years and the elevators must be completed by September 15 to meet terms of the contracts. The Murphy elevator will be in use by mid-July.

Farmers’ Elevator Guide, July 1950 

By January of 1955, it was reported that the co-op was operating a new, 271,000-bushel addition built by Tillotson, bringing overall capacity to 551,000 bushels.

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Memories of William Osborn’s automotive fleet from A to Olds

By Kristen Osborn Cart

Long before my grandpa William A. Osborn started working in the elevator business, his father Arthur K. Osborn lost his Nebraska farm when the loan he co-signed for a son-in-law went bad. This occurred around the start of the Great Depression. Being the eldest son, Grandpa had to find another way besides farming to make a living. He was in the National Guard for a time when he was very young, and afterward he worked as an auto mechanic and in construction.

His first car was a Model A Ford. Around 1939, he bought a used 1936 Chevy. By 1945, after he had worked for Tillotson Construction Company, of Omaha, and had moved from a farm where they rented into town, he bought a 1941 Chevy. That was the last used car he owned.

Alice and Bill Osborn, in back, with their brood, from left: Dick, Audrey, Jerry--and the '36 Chevy.

In 1948 Grandpa bought a 1948 Chevrolet sedan. Two years later, he bought a 1950 Buick Special, brand new, and also purchased two new 1950 Chevy sedans. My Dad’s brother Dick likely paid for one of them, which he drove. Grandpa and Grandma went to Oklahoma to pick up the other one for Grandma and drive it back.

These purchases came after Mayer-Osborn Company was established and their first project, the elevator in McCook, Nebraska, was finished.

In 1951 Grandpa bought a new 1951 Buick Roadmaster. Two years later he bought a 1953 Packard, but soon the engine block cracked, so the next year he bought a new 1954 Cadillac and another new Chevrolet for my grandmother. After Grandpa moved to Denver, Dad lived alone with Grandma for a number of years, and he had the use of her car when he worked his first teaching job at Luther College in Wahoo, Nebraska, in the fall of 1955. After 1956, Dad purchased her ’54 Chevy for $1000 and had it when he moved with Mom to Denver. He paid it off by 1961.

Kristen's dad, Jerry, with the 1950 Buick Special.

Grandpa retired from Mayer-Osborn in 1955. He drove his Cadillac until the early ’60s when he bought a new Oldsmobile that he drove for a number of years, finally trading for his last car, a 1968 Olds, which is presently in Dad’s barn. I remember that car and sitting on its burning hot seat in the middle of summer, the inside smelling like softened plastic. I remember when it was new, with seats as wide as a park bench and a big round steering wheel.

Dick Osborn with 1950 Chevy Deluxe

Grandpa did pretty well in his business. There was still a good nest egg after he died in 1977. He had to have a good reliable vehicle because he certainly put on the miles.

Farmers’ Elevator Guide reports Tillotson Construction’s record Montevideo project

The following story and photos are reproduced from library copies of the January 1950 edition of Farmers’ Elevator Guide:

Complete Service: Minnesota Equity Elevator Builds to Fill Area Needs

Tillotson Construction's Bill Russell, far right, instructs (from left) Stanley Kittleson, Adrian Dahl, and Merlynn Nelson on operation of the elevator's distributor controls.

Moving quickly to establish itself as the principal district elevator for grain handling, the Farmers Equity Elevator Co. of Montivideo, Minn., has a new 100,000-bushel capacity concrete elevator in full operation after a whirlwind effort to get it built to meet needs of the fall harvest.

When it became apparent that existing facilities in the area left room for a vast expansion to handle grain crops, the Farmers Equity Elevator Company decided to expand its plant which had only 25,000 bushels of capacity.

The project, begun late in August, was rushed to completion by Tillotson Construction Co. of Omaha, Neb, in record time. Concrete pouring by round-the-clock crews was completed in nine days and four hours. This bettered by 18 hours any previous accomplishment for an elevator of this size.

The structure is 102 feet high and has a cupola 29 feet high. It has 17 bins.

Installed during erection was a $15,000 corn drying plant and, on the midway level, a $10,000 grain cleaning installation. This included a large Crippin sieve machine, a large Superior cleaner, a Slurry grain treater and other equipment.

The new building houses a weighing and sampling room but the offices of the company are in the old quarters.

Sliding tubular forms were used to permit the rapid construction.

The plant cost $120,000 including $10,000 for piling costs, but other equipment raised the total to $134,000. Features include a 50-ton, 50-foot long scale with lighted dial and printomatic type registering beam. It has two concrete elevating legs each with 30 h.p. head drive and elevating capacity of 5,000 bushels per hour dumping into a Gerber distributing system. Its dump pit has two sections each built under the driveway and extending 12 feet below ground. All bins are hoppered to discharge into pit.

Two large cleaners installed are a Superior cylinder subterminal size machine for coarse grains and a Crippin screen cleaner for flax. All grains will be commercially cleaned before loading out to add profit to operations. The mills can be adjusted for farm seed cleaning in spring months. Gravity is used to feed mills from above and to distribute grain into bins below before loading to cars.

A 400-bushels-per-hour new type Campbell corn dryer was installed at a cost of $15,000. Some 50,000 bushels of the government loan 1949 corn crop were taken in and dried.

The new elevator was dedicated Dec. 29 with President J.W. Evans, also president of the American Soybean Association, presiding.