The Big Springs, Nebraska, elevator proved to be a Mayer-Osborn Construction job

The Cheppell, Nebraska elevator built by Chalmers & Borton

The Chappell, Nebraska elevator built by Chalmers & Borton. 

Story and photos by Kristen Cart

My grandfather William Osborn built an elevator in the western Nebraska town of Chappell, according to my dad Jerry Osborn. Dad’s recollections have guided our search thus far, for Mayer-Osborn elevators. Surely over the kitchen table he heard the names of towns where his absent father had construction jobs. Or perhaps he saw the postmarks of letters sent home.

Chappell was probably stamped on one of those postmarked letters, or it was the nearest town with a motel, because when I went to visit in 2011, there was nary a Mayer-Osborn elevator in evidence. Impressive elevators there were, but I found out later that they all had the ubiquitous Chalmers & Borton nameplate, the trademark of Grandpa’s biggest competitor.

The Mayer-Osborn elevator lacked the annex when it was first built. It is the same plan as used in McCook, Neb. and Blencoe, Iowa.

The Mayer-Osborn elevator at Big Springs, Neb. lacked the annex when it was first built. It is the same style as used in McCook, Neb., and Blencoe, Iowa.

One stop east on the rail line, however, was a large, handsome elevator that looked like one of Mayer-Osborn’s jobs. It was the spitting image of the first elevator Grandpa built on his own at McCook, Neb. The first time I saw it, I was curious enough to snap a photo, but identification was going to wait for another year. My dad knew nothing about Big Springs.

When Gary Rich, a contributor to this blog, looked into the builders of the elevators he photographed, he solved the mystery. He identified the Big Springs elevator by its manhole covers inside the driveway, each embossed with “Mayer-Osborn Construction, Denver, Colo.” above the Hutchinson Foundry stamp.

The Big Springs, Neb. elevator in October, 2012

The Big Springs, Neb., elevator in October, 2012. 

I paid another visit to Big Springs last fall after our Wyoming elk hunt. We didn’t get any elk, but I did get some nice photographs of the elevator. It was a sleepy Sunday with no one around. Next time, perhaps I can see inside.

It is an honor to pay respects to my grandfather’s enduring work. It is living history of a kind that is rarely noticed or mentioned. Once gone, it is scarcely remembered except in dusty repositories of pictures, and in mostly forgotten stories.

At Big Springs, Neb., that day of fading away is still far off in the future.

It’s official: Mayer-Osborn built Big Springs’ original concrete elevator

Story and Photos by Gary Rich

Who built the Big Springs elevator? The winner is Mayer-Osborn Company. The manhole covers have Mayer-Osborn on them. It was built in 1951.This structure is today called Elevator 1. A six-bin annex was added afterwards. I do not know who built it. There were no manhole covers.

Another annex was built by Mid States. They call this Elevator 2. It has its own leg. This annex has about sixteen bins.

Mid States also built the third annex, which has its own leg, too. There are two huge bins. 

I asked manager Larry McCroden about the primary crops raised around the area. The two biggest crops are corn and wheat. Secondary crops were sunflower seeds, for making sunflower oil, and millet. Some oats were grown, but there hasn’t been any oats tendered to the Co-Op for the past four years. Most years, corn was the number-one crop with wheat coming in second. I would say that there was about twenty percent more corn than wheat. One year was an exception. I believe it was 2008. Farmers delivered more wheat than corn that year.

The Big Springs Co-Op is independent–no other elevators in any towns. It says a lot that an independent Co-op can survive during without merging or being taken over.

Big Springs adds 320,000-bushel storage elevator

Photo by Kristen Osborn Cart

BIG SPRINGS–Work on the 320,000-bushel storage elevator is about completed here, giving the Farmers Cooperative Elevator Association of Denver, Colo., a plant with 20 bins, 130-feet high. The elevator with headhouse is 165 feet high. The building is concrete.

Farmers’ Elevator Guide, September 1951

Note:  It isn’t known at the time of this posting which construction company did the project.

Tillotson Construction completes Big Springs sorghum plant

Photo courtesy of Farmers Elevator Coop Association

BIG SPRINGS–The Tillotson Construction Co., Hastings, Neb., has completed a $40,000 building for the Farmers Cooperative Elevator sorghum plant.

Farmers’ Elevator Guide, August 1951

Note: A conversation today with Larry McCroden, long-time manager of the Big Springs Farmers Coop Elevator, reveals additional information about the facilities. Mr. McCroden consulted tax documents that showed “Elevator A” had a value of $184,432 and “Elevator B” had a value of $25,100. He said the twenty original bins of Elevator A stand about 115 feet tall, and the two-tiered headhouse reaches to 170 feet. The documents give January 15, 1951 as the date of service for the two.

Later additions were made to the original structure, increasing storage capacity by hundreds of thousands of bushels.

Mr. MrCroden said the elevator at Roggen, Colorado, bears many similarities to Big Springs.

Additional note: We don’t know why Hastings, Nebraska is given as the location of Tillotson Construction Co., which had its headquarters in Omaha.