My woulda, coulda, shoulda grain elevator opportunity in Tonkawa, Oklahoma

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Story and photo by Ronald Ahrens

I am the type of person who goes around the country saying funny (as in odd) things to people.

It was June of 2011, six months before Kristen Cart and I found each other and first contemplated launching a blog about our grandfathers’ grain elevators. I was riding my motorcycle from Michigan to California. Instead of following I-44, I cut across the northern Oklahoma prairie on US-60. On this route the small city of Bartlesville features a Frank Lloyd Wright tower, which I visited.

My next stop was for dinner in Tonkawa, a small town of about 3250 people. It’s a mile off the highway just east of I-35.

Adapted from Wikipedia's OK county maps by Set...

Parking my bike outside a Mexican restaurant, I noticed the huge elevator towering over the downtown buildings.

Once I got seated in the restaurant and ordered from the menu, I told the waitress I was going out for a minute to take a picture.

“My grandfather used to build elevators like that,” I said.

She looked at me as if to say, “What elevator?”

It might be possible to live in Tonkawa and never notice the commanding headhouse and dozen or more bins. I walk around inside my house without seeing the art that hangs on the walls or the cobwebs that hang in the corners.

At the time, I had no thought of snooping around after dinner, while there was still some daylight, and searching for embossed manhole covers or some other means of identifying the builder. I didn’t yet know about embossed manhole covers.

Not that this appears to be one of Tillotson Construction’s jobs. My cursory search for information has turned up nothing, and the number I found for the co-op responded with a fax tone.

Maybe our readers can pitch in on this one.

But odd remarks will not be tolerated!

2 comments on “My woulda, coulda, shoulda grain elevator opportunity in Tonkawa, Oklahoma

  1. Ginger says:

    Farmer’s Co-op had it built in about 1957. One of those old farmers would know who the contractor was. Don Caughlin, J.C. Fath, maybe a McAninch.

  2. mike says:

    I’m thinking if you could get inside, prob. the load out area you will find a plaque.

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