Reader shares details of his elevator and mill in southeastern Idaho


Story by Ronald Ahrens, photos by Kristen Cart

The focus of Our Grandfathers’ Grain Elevators is the reinforced-concrete elevators built by Mayer-Osborn Construction Co., of Denver, and Tillotson Construction Co., of Omaha. Anything we can find on J.H. Tillotson, Contractor, is also part of the quest.

But the more we learn about elevators, the more we like all of them–especially old wooden ones. But steel? That’s new for us.

DSC_0037For said reason we present Kristen’s photos of a venerable operation in Downey, Idaho. This is one-of-a-kind hybrid complex of metal-clad wooden buildings and gleaming steel silos. A conspicuous ovalized Oz-like headhouse is freakish-tall but not inelegant.

Ryan Day runs this installation of Valley Wide Cooperative. Mark the company’s locations from Jackson, Wyo., in the east to Chehalis, Wash., in the west, and from Cedar City, Utah, in the southwestern corner of the plateau of the Colorado River, north to Salmon, Idaho, which happens to be a drive of 7 hours and 45 minutes to the Salmon River.

It just so happens that Ryan Day reads this blog. Commenting on one of our Texas-Oklahoma Road Trip posts, he introduced himself: 

“I happen to be a second generation miller at the Valleywidecoop organic mill in Downey, Idaho. I enjoy reading your posts for the reason that I too have elevators in my blood. The old mill I run now was practically a family affair as I was growing up as the Day family is all that ran it haha.

“Sadly, I’m all that’s left to run a worn out wooden crib mill and a steel tanked 123,000 thousand bushel elevator that time seems to have forgotten. I took over from father so he could finally retire 3 years ago and have loved every minute of it!”


It’s a amazing coincidence that Kristen had gone there. Too bad she and Ryan hadn’t met, but she saw no one during her visit.

Oh, and we have to share Kristen’s photo of the filling station-in-ruins across the street from the mill and elevator. The lighting conditions were hard to match for drama. Besides, in a way, feed and fuel go together.

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