A Galveston seaside respite for the Osborns and Salroths in 1945

Kristen muses: Now Mr. and Mrs. Salroth were on this trip, and Mr. Salroth must have worked with my grandfather on the Tillotson Construction Company’s elevator job, the Fairmont Building, in Giddings, Texas.

The first image shows, from left to right, my grandmother Alice Christofferson Osborn, my dad Gerald Osborn, and Emma Salroth.

The second image shows, also from left to right, an unknown man, my dad Gerald Osborn, my grandfather William Osborn, and Iver Salroth.

Finally, there’s the portrait of Gerald by himself.

♦ ♦ ♦

In an email to Kristen, Gerald Osborn recalls:

Emma Salroth was your grandma’s first cousin. Emma and Iver had been pretty close to my parents. They occasionally spent an evening playing pinochle together.

Iver was a carpenter and was in Texas with dad working on the project. Along with your grandma, Emma and I took the train to Giddings for a visit.

When we arrived they had locked Iver in the elevator’s headhouse as a prank so he wouldn’t be there to meet us.

Iver was a scrawny little guy with a heavy Swedish accent and a good sense of humor. He was fourteen years older than my dad. I don’t know of any other job they worked on together.

In 1945, William Osborn worked on Tillotson Construction’s elevator in Giddings, Texas

Map of Texas highlighting Lee CountyThis elevator at Giddings, Texas, called the Fairmont Building, is the only one I have pictures for that my grandfather built when he worked for Tillotson Construction Company of Omaha. It would have been built in 1944 and 1945, when my dad turned eleven years old. Dad went to visit my grandpa William Osborn at Galveston in the spring of 1945 during this project. — Kristen

Note: Nutrena bought Fairmont Foods’ plant in Giddings in 1955.

J.H. Tillotson’s Fairbury elevator, slowed by rain during construction, will miss 1947 harvest


These clippings were among William Osborn’s papers. They come from the Fairbury (Nebr.) Daily News, a long-defunct paper, and appear to have run in the summer of 1947. The article “Rain Hampers Work At New Elevator Site” gives a good summary of the construction methods used on the Farmers Union elevator. The name J.T. Tillotson Contractors, as it appears in the article, should be J.H. Tillotson, according to other records.



Open house to welcome Tillotson Construction’s large elevator at Rock Valley

Photo by Rock Valley city administrator Tom Van Maanen

Rock Valley, Iowa–In June 1950, Farmers’ Elevator Guide reported a 270,000-bushel, $125,000 concrete grain storage elevator was being put up by Farmers Elevator Company.

In November the same publication reported an October 7 open house at the facility. Final cost and capacity were $150,000 and 310,000 bushels. This was “said to be the second largest in the northwest section of Iowa.”

Other key dimensions:

  • A footprint of 65 by 85 feet
  • Height: 160 feet
  • 34 bins ranging from 300 bushels to 28,000 in capacity

Features included a “cleaner room” and a grain dryer adjacent to the elevator.

Tillotson Construction Company, of Omaha, contracted the work.

Men wanted in Paullina, Iowa, by Tillotson Construction in 1949

Back Alley, Paullina, Iowa, by Jim Hamann

MEN WANTED for construction work on Concrete Grain Elevator, 90¢ per hour, 10 hours a day, 6 and 7 days a week. Time and ½ over 40 hours.

Tillotson Const Co. at Paullina, Ia.

The Alton, Iowa Democrat, Thursday, May 5, 1949

Editor’s note: In 2008, an explosion and fire injured a customer at the new elevator in Alton.

This map shows the incorporated and unincorpor...

Image via Wikipedia

Page City structure exemplifies functional and aesthetic aspects of elevator design

Page City elevator as seen January 26, 2012

Story and photos by Gary Rich

The elevators without a headhouse were called straight-up elevators. J. H. Tillotson, Contractor and Mayer-Osborn Company produced these in the latter 1940s and early 1950s. Their elevators had a smaller diameter pipe that came out about three-quarters up the rail side. Loading a boxcar was time-consuming.

About 1958, there were improvements added for quicker loading of boxcars. These images show the Page City, Kan., elevator. Notice the rail loading chutes are much larger and there are two chutes, so the grain could be loaded equally. These chutes were on all concrete elevators raised during the late 1950s and 1960s. Most boxcars could be loaded within fifteen minutes, whereas on the old wooden elevators it could take up forty-five minutes.

The Page City elevator was built by Johnson-Sampson Construction Company, of Salina, Kan.  It was built about 1958 or 1959. Did Gene Mayer draw up the blueprints for this elevator? We don’t know where he went after the Mayer-Osborn era, which ended after 1955.

Another improvement is the area around the driveway. You can see the three reinforcing columns above the driveway and door. I would think this would add greater strength. The Kanorado, Kan., elevator has a smaller version built out. It is established that Gene Mayer produced the plans for that elevator.

Government loans, subsidies led to elevator construction boom in 1940s and 1950s

The following observations come after Kristen’s recent foray in the University of Wisconsin library:

English: Chicago Board of Trade at night, phot...

The trip to check out the Farmers’ Elevator Guide was interesting. There is no index, so I have just scratched the surface. But this is an interesting twist on things: through the Forties and Fifties, the farmers’ cooperatives were a way of doing business along the lines of a union. There are articles about Washington’s involvement (that went so far as to prohibit all commercial building in the nation at one point, excepting elevators!) that makes today’s meddling seem mild by comparison.

Some of these articles, when I get back to Madison, are a must for the politics of the times that made this boom happen. Both the bumper crops that were bolstered by price supports, and various government loan programs and grain storage subsidies, made the business quite a going thing until it didn’t quite work any more. The Chicago Board of Trade complained we were on the road to Socialism. (And we were.) Much of the debate and business news made its way into the Farmers Elevator Guide.