A couple of years ago, before we started this blog, I tried to find pictures of the projects we knew my grandfather William Osborn built. Sometimes I would find photos of look-alike structures at locations that my dad couldn’t remember. Most of these mysteries were eventually resolved with the help of Gary Rich, a retired Union Pacific man with an indefatigable curiosity. He visited the locations, identified a number of the builders, took beautiful photographs, and contributed his findings to this blog.
The Bradshaw, Neb., elevator remains an unsolved mystery. I visited the elevator early last year and photographed it from all sides. The style was a dead ringer for the elevators at Fairbury and Daykin, Neb., and Linn, Kan., all J. H. Tillotson, Contractor jobs. But since I had no access to the inside of the elevator, my tentative identification remained unverified.
Mr. Gordan, who lived across the street from the elevator, commented about the structure and its history, but his details were sparse. He said the elevator had a twin that no longer stood.
“It had problems with the headhouse,” he said.
And in another town he did not name, a similar elevator had been struck by lightning and burned.
Since the look-alike elevator in McAllaster, Kan. was demolished before we could resolve its provenance, and others also seem to have perished, it is clear that an unknown number of this type of elevator once existed. We hope to find the business records of Mayer-Osborn Construction and its predecessor, J. H. Tillotson, Contractor, to learn more about them.
The Bradshaw elevator bears an old FCA logo, but United Farmers Cooperative is apparently the current owner.
Mr. Gordan’s mother came out to greet me, but the meeting is a little vague in my memory, because I only made notes about it later. Both mother and son said the Bradshaw elevator was retired, but that the nearby gas station still operated, and the newer elevators a little down the rail line handled the grain.
I hope to visit again when the co-op is open, to learn more.
The town of Bradshaw is neat and clean, and displays a good amount of civic pride. Most notable is the broad main street–the expansive use of space has the look of a western town, rather than the neatly packed economy you see in the East. It inhabits a flat Nebraska landscape, nearly midway between Grand Island and Lincoln, with distant horizons and plenty of elbow room.
Bradshaw is well worth a return visit, preferably during harvest. Perhaps a local farmer can sit down for a cup of coffee and color in the details of this lovely Nebraska town.
- A look at grain operations at the J. H. Tillotson elevator in Lodgepole, Nebraska (ourgrandfathersgrainelevators.com)
- Blue skies at Lodgepole, Nebraska, and a perfect photo opportunity (ourgrandfathersgrainelevators.com)