Story by Kristen Cart
My blogging partner Ronald Ahrens said he hoped we would find the motherlode of history about the elevators his grandfather Reginald Tillotson had built. With luck and the help of his family, we finally did it.
Reginald Tillotson’s sons, Charles, Tim, and Mike have all recently shared their memories from the job sites. Tim Tillotson also found and restored a treasure trove of company documents and photos. Best of all was a set of blueprint specifications for over 100 Tillotson Construction Company slip-formed concrete elevators and annexes. Eureka!
David City, Neb., is a town due west of Fremont in the eastern half of the state. One of the two elevators in town was listed in the Tillotson blueprints. Armed with our new information, I looked for pictures of the newly found elevator.
I discovered some history, instead.
The grain piled next to the elevator in the 1964 press photo is milo, a feed grain, and the pile-up was attributed to a shortage of rail cars. Scenes like this were observed all over Nebraska that year.
The elevator in the photo didn’t quite have the Tillotson look, so a quick peek at David City on a Google map showed a washed-out image with just the suggestion of a curved headhouse on a second elevator in town. Further search brought me to “The Bouncing Czech” Flickr page and beautiful photos of the Farmers Cooperative elevator I was looking for. With Tom McLaughlin’s kind permission, they are posted here.
Tom McLaughlin likes to stop and check out elevators.
In an exchange of e-mails, he wrote, “A friend of our family owned the Magowan Elevator, in Gordon, Neb., so I’ve been in that one several times. I still remember my first manlift ride–that was the scariest ride I’ve ever taken.
“Back in the 1950s, my dad used to ‘walk the pipeline’–he literally walked the natural gas pipeline in Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska, looking for signs of leaks, before they went to aerial photography and control valves.
“So he always liked to wander around the back roads and small towns, and I think that’s where I got the bug. When we would go on a trip, we never knew what route he’d take. I don’t think he did either!”
Tom’s enthusiasm is contagious.
The small towns are peaceful, yet inviting, and the elevators are fascinating. It won’t be too much longer before this blogger takes another grain elevator trip.
Tillotson Construction Company records show the David City elevator was built in 1951 according to the “David City Plan.” This includes five tanks, each one 18 feet in diameter and 120 feet high.
Total capacity: 180,000 bushels
Driveway: 13×17 feet with eight bins over the drive
Bins: 15 in all and overflow, with a dust bin at the exterior
Reinforced concrete: 1716 cubic yards
Plain concrete (hoppers): 20 cubic yards
Reinforcing steel (including jack rods): 81.16 tons
Steel and concrete:
Below main slab: 6632 pounds and 45 cubic yards
In main slab: 22,233 pounds and 180 cubic yards
Drawform walls: 106,320 pounds and 1253 cubic yards
Driveway and work floor: 2543 pounds and 15 cubic yards
Deep bin bottoms: 8081 pounds and 38 cubic yards
O.H. bin bottoms: 2917 pounds and 22 cubic yards
Bin root: 6122 pounds and 44 cubic yards
Scale floor: 285 pounds and 10 cubic yards
Cupola (headhouse) walls: 2830 pounds and 70 cubic yards
Distributor floor: 1494 pounds and 8 cubic yards
Cupola roof: 1586 pounds and 14 cubic yards
Miscellaneous (Boot, leg, headhouse, Tr., sink, steps, etc.): 1273 pounds and 15 cubic yards
- Mike Tillotson remembers Flagler (1953), Albert City (1954), and Lincoln (1955) (ourgrandfathersgrainelevators.com)
- Successful concrete tests yielded an enduring elevator at Cordell, Oklahoma (ourgrandfathersgrainelevators.com)