The Cordell, Oklahoma elevator project fused engineering prowess with family ties

Story by Kristen Cart


Edwin Christoffersen was the superintendent on the Mayer-Osborn Construction project in Cordell, Okla. in 1950. His son and namesake kindly provided a notebook that gave a glimpse of the concrete engineering that went into the elevator. By trial and error, the company learned best practices, creating an enduring structure which would still operate more than sixty years later.

Edwin Louis Christofferson was the son of Jens “James” Lauritz Christoffersen, a first generation American who farmed and operated a farm stand in Fremont, Neb. Edwin was one of nine children. Ed’s sister Alice married William Osborn in 1923.

When the Mayer-Osborn enterprise was in full swing, Bill Osborn tapped relatives to manage projects or to provide manual labor. He followed a common practice.

Sons Dick and Jerry Osborn worked at various times building elevators. Bill Osborn entered partnership with Eugene Mayer, the brother of Joseph H. Tillotson’s wife Sylvia. At the Tillotson Construction Company of Omaha, Bill Osborn worked with Iver Salroth, husband of Emma, a Christoffersen cousin.

Naturally, when the opportunity arose, Ed Christoffersen found employment with his brother-in-law’s company an attractive proposition.


Edwin Louis Christoffersen with his only child.

Ed’s son has kept a number of Mayer-Osborn keepsakes, in memory of his dad, who died when he was still quite young. One intriguing item was the logbook that Ed kept for the Cordell, Okla. elevator, recording concrete tests.

Various sand, gravel, and concrete mixtures were tested to a failure point to determine the ideal formula for a given project. The date and time of day was recorded for each test. In this journal, we discovered the year of construction for the Cordell elevator.

The elevator business brought families together to accomplish a common goal, and now, many years later, writing about the elevators brings the builders and their sons and daughters together again. The memories are kept in small personal repositories of clippings, photos and documents, and in tales of the job, and are captured fleetingly before the witnesses leave us.

Looking up at these great landmarks, we also look up to the patriarchs who built them, with respect, and awe.

6 comments on “The Cordell, Oklahoma elevator project fused engineering prowess with family ties

  1. Teri Osborn says:

    So great to read! Wally Osborn also kept meticulous notes (journals) of his business, Midland Shoe service, over the years.

    • kocart says:

      Business journals are treasures. They are so seldom kept–do you know how hard it is to document a business that has been gone for sixty years? It’s a miracle that a few things have survived. Our information always comes in bits and pieces, with the help of some wonderful people.

  2. That is a wonderful photo of father and son. Respect and awe — I love how you’re honoring these men.

    • kocart says:

      Thank you, Darla. These people were construction men, rough around the edges and tough. You tend to forget their trespasses when you see their amazing work. They built these elevators at the apex of their working lives. Ed died in 1958, I believe, but trucks still pull up to his creation to dump their grain every harvest season. It’s a good way to be remembered.

  3. […] The Cordell, Oklahoma elevator project fused engineering prowess with family ties ( […]

  4. […] The Cordell, Oklahoma elevator project fused engineering prowess with family ties ( […]

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