Musings about an Absent Father

By Kristen Osborn Cart

My dad has been writing a memoir about his life growing up in Nebraska, as the son of Bill Osborn, builder of the Mayer Osborn elevators.  It struck me that after about 1939, Dad scarcely mentions him, other than to note his absence.  Grandpa was gone all of the time. Over the years the Osborn cousins have assembled photos from those times, and it is very striking that the photos of the Osborn home became scarce from about then. The few pictures we have from later on were from visits, and from the various projects he worked on. Bill Osborn was the photographer in the family.

William Osborn, 1952.

By the time I knew him, he had long since retired from that occupation, and he was home, taking care of his tropical fish business. He would find time to take his little granddaughters fishing (my cousin Diane and me), after night crawler hunting by flashlight, of course.  He was an affectionate grandfather, and he loved my mom.  He read the morning paper over breakfast, and ate his eggs sunny-side-up, mopping up the last of them with his toast. And he didn’t talk much. The elevator phase of his life, in my mind, consisted of a framed photo of an elevator (McCook Equity Exchange), and Dad’s assurance that it was grandpa’s first elevator he built on his own.

My cousin, Diane, brought out a cache of photographs of grain elevators one day, not too long ago.  Most were not marked, though the one from Kanorado, Kansas, had it’s location and capacity written on the back.  We have identified almost all of them, but a few are still mysterious, so now that it has been thirty-five years since Grandpa died, we have something to ask him.

This summer we are planning to go find some of the grain elevators he built some sixty to seventy years ago, many of which are still in use.  The buildings can’t tell us about his jovial smile, his mischief, or his aggravation at workers who left after their first paycheck.  But I can imagine him there, just as I suppose my father had to.  At least Dad could visit sometimes.

William Arthur Osborn, 1965

Nebraska Firms get Government Contracts

Give projects to Nebraska firms

Washington (AP).  The War Department has awarded the following government contracts (Army engineers office in charge in parentheses):

Less than $50,000.

C.C. Larsen and Sons, Council Bluffs, IA., temporary buildings, Thayer County, Neb. (Omaha).

Olsen, Assenmacher, and Rokahr, Lincoln, Neb., temporary frame building, Lancaster County, Neb. (Omaha).

Tillotson Construction, Co., Omaha, temporary building, Fillmore County, Neb. (Omaha).

Owen Mann, Rapid City, S.D., storage facilities, Box Butte County, Neb. (Omaha).

A. Borchman Sons, Omaha, temporary building, Dodge County, Neb. (Omaha).

Lincoln Nebraska State Journal, Lincoln, Nebraska, Friday, June 11, 1943.

Tillotson Construction adds six feet a day on Elkhart elevator

Elkhart–Construction is starting on the new 225,000 bushel elevator for the Equity Grain Co. here.
The Tillotson Construction Co. of Omaha has the contract.Hutchinson (Kan.) News-Herald, December 24, 1945

From the city of Elkhart’s website. Note elevator silos in upper left.

Work Day and Night on Elkhart Elevator 

Elkhart–Work is proceeding day and night on the construction of the new Equity elevator here.
Floodlights are rigged up to illuminate the scene for the night workers.The concrete storage tanks are going up at the rate of six feet a day. They will stand 140 feet high when completed. The elevator will have a storage of 250,000 bushels of grain.The Tillotson Construction Co. of Omaha, have the contract. It is expected the bins will be finished in three weeks.

Hutchinson (Kan.) News-Herald, March 21, 1946

Elkhart farmers ‘raise sights,’ hire Tillotson Construction on new elevator

Photo taken March 19, 2011, by Kate Flint.

Stockholders of the Cooperative Equity Exchange here have raised their sights. Instead of the 100,000 bushel elevator first planned, the stockholders have voted in favor of erecting a modern elevator of 225,000 bushels capacity.

The contract has been let to the Tillotson Construction Co. of Omaha. It will be built on a “cost plus” basis, but Gale Cochran, manager of the Equity said it was estimated it would cost around $85,000.

There will be eight overhead bins, six interstice bins and eight grain tanks. The elevator head will stand 120 feet high. The plant will be built at the site of the old Elkhart mill, purchased from J.E. Heintz. The present elevator buildings will be sold.

Construction will be started in about two weeks, and the new plant is to be completed before harvest next summer.

Hutchinson (Kan.) News-Herald, November 20, 1945

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Note: Here’s the link to the BNSF railroad’s grain elevator index page on Elkhart.

Additional note: University of Southern California professor Kate Flint chased grain elevators in March 2011 and even stayed in one overnight.

Marvin Richards falls 105 feet from Hinton elevator

Iowan Killed in Fall from Grain Elevator

Sioux City (AP) — Marvin Richards, 28, of Hinton died in a hospital here Friday shortly after he had fallen 105 feet from the top of a grain elevator at Hinton.

Richards was employed by the Tillotson Construction Company of Omaha. He was working on a scaffold atop the nearly completed elevator of the Farmers Elevator Company.

He apparently lost his balance and fell 105 feet to the concrete top of a hopper.

Cedar Rapids Gazette, October 1, 1954

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Special note: The obituary of Mr. Richards’s sister Deloris E. Holtz.

News of recent developments in Hinton are found on Younglove’s site, including a picture of the original elevator.