Gordon, Nebraska’s elevator was built in a classic Mayer-Osborn style

The Mayer-Osborn elevator, identified by manhole covers inside the driveway, stands in front of Chalmers and Borton additions

The Mayer-Osborn elevator, identified by manhole covers inside the driveway, stands in front of Chalmers and Borton additions.

Story and photos by Gary Rich

Farmers Co-op operates these elevators. The co-op is based in Gordon, Hay Springs, and Hemingford, Neb.

The elevator in the foreground was built by Mayer-Osborn Construction Company, based in Denver. The completion date is not known.

The elevator in the background was built by Chalmers and Borton Construction, based in Hutchinson, Kan., in 1958. The company built a second elevator, west of these elevators, as well as a couple of annexes.

A side view of the Mayer Osborn elevator

A side view of the Mayer Osborn elevator.

By Kristen Cart

This stepped up headhouse design was first rolled out with the elevator in McCook, Neb., built in 1949 by Mayer-Osborn Construction Company. The style was featured in the Mayer-Osborn ad that ran in the early 1950s in the Farmers Elevator Guide.

The Gordon elevator showcased the rounded headhouse construction method adopted by Tillotson Construction for their later projects, but it is not known which company pioneered the cost saving technique.

From his home in Colorado, Gary Rich investigated this elevator on a trip east to photograph a number of Midwestern elevators. Gary has been instrumental in identifying a large number of Mayer-Osborn, Tillotson Construction, and J. H. Tillotson projects, pursuing the history of the elevators with as much passion as he puts into his excellent photography.

We are indebted to him for his relentless pursuit of good information, now contained in this blog.

Greenwood elevator welcomes 250 at open house

Photo by Kristen Osborn Cart

GREENWOOD (Nebr.)–The Farmers Union Cooperative Association held open house at the new concrete elevator which has capacity for 128,000 bushels of grain. Manager Floyd H. Gove and assistant M.L. Griffith conducted 250 through the plant. Doughnuts, cookies and coffee were served in the basement.Farmers’ Elevator Guide, November 1951

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 gets 50,000-bushel Paullina elevator under way

Paullina elevator complex, Dec. 9, 2009, by Jim Hamann

PAULLINA (IOWA)–A new concrete elevator is under construction to replace the Paullina Grain Co. elevator destroyed by fire. The new one will be 103 feet high, containing 18 bins. All new machinery, including a 50-ton scale, will be installed. Capacity will be 50,000 bushels.

Farmers’ Elevator Guide, June 1949

Tillotson Construction hurries to meet deadline in Aurora, Nebraska

Photo by David Wilson

Contracts for new elevators at Aurora and Murphy were let by the Aurora Cooperative Elevator Co. The Aurora 250,000-bushel concrete elevator will be built by Tillotson Construction Co. of Omaha. The 33,000-bushel plant at Murphy will be erected by Black, Sivalls & Bryson, Kansas City, Mo., bolted steel tank construction company. The cooperative has a government contract to store grains for three years and the elevators must be completed by September 15 to meet terms of the contracts. The Murphy elevator will be in use by mid-July.

Farmers’ Elevator Guide, July 1950 

By January of 1955, it was reported that the co-op was operating a new, 271,000-bushel addition built by Tillotson, bringing overall capacity to 551,000 bushels.

Related articles

Farmers’ Elevator Guide reports Tillotson Construction’s record Montevideo project

The following story and photos are reproduced from library copies of the January 1950 edition of Farmers’ Elevator Guide:

Complete Service: Minnesota Equity Elevator Builds to Fill Area Needs

Tillotson Construction's Bill Russell, far right, instructs (from left) Stanley Kittleson, Adrian Dahl, and Merlynn Nelson on operation of the elevator's distributor controls.

Moving quickly to establish itself as the principal district elevator for grain handling, the Farmers Equity Elevator Co. of Montivideo, Minn., has a new 100,000-bushel capacity concrete elevator in full operation after a whirlwind effort to get it built to meet needs of the fall harvest.

When it became apparent that existing facilities in the area left room for a vast expansion to handle grain crops, the Farmers Equity Elevator Company decided to expand its plant which had only 25,000 bushels of capacity.

The project, begun late in August, was rushed to completion by Tillotson Construction Co. of Omaha, Neb, in record time. Concrete pouring by round-the-clock crews was completed in nine days and four hours. This bettered by 18 hours any previous accomplishment for an elevator of this size.

The structure is 102 feet high and has a cupola 29 feet high. It has 17 bins.

Installed during erection was a $15,000 corn drying plant and, on the midway level, a $10,000 grain cleaning installation. This included a large Crippin sieve machine, a large Superior cleaner, a Slurry grain treater and other equipment.

The new building houses a weighing and sampling room but the offices of the company are in the old quarters.

Sliding tubular forms were used to permit the rapid construction.

The plant cost $120,000 including $10,000 for piling costs, but other equipment raised the total to $134,000. Features include a 50-ton, 50-foot long scale with lighted dial and printomatic type registering beam. It has two concrete elevating legs each with 30 h.p. head drive and elevating capacity of 5,000 bushels per hour dumping into a Gerber distributing system. Its dump pit has two sections each built under the driveway and extending 12 feet below ground. All bins are hoppered to discharge into pit.

Two large cleaners installed are a Superior cylinder subterminal size machine for coarse grains and a Crippin screen cleaner for flax. All grains will be commercially cleaned before loading out to add profit to operations. The mills can be adjusted for farm seed cleaning in spring months. Gravity is used to feed mills from above and to distribute grain into bins below before loading to cars.

A 400-bushels-per-hour new type Campbell corn dryer was installed at a cost of $15,000. Some 50,000 bushels of the government loan 1949 corn crop were taken in and dried.

The new elevator was dedicated Dec. 29 with President J.W. Evans, also president of the American Soybean Association, presiding.

Open house to welcome Tillotson Construction’s large elevator at Rock Valley

Photo by Rock Valley city administrator Tom Van Maanen

Rock Valley, Iowa–In June 1950, Farmers’ Elevator Guide reported a 270,000-bushel, $125,000 concrete grain storage elevator was being put up by Farmers Elevator Company.

In November the same publication reported an October 7 open house at the facility. Final cost and capacity were $150,000 and 310,000 bushels. This was “said to be the second largest in the northwest section of Iowa.”

Other key dimensions:

  • A footprint of 65 by 85 feet
  • Height: 160 feet
  • 34 bins ranging from 300 bushels to 28,000 in capacity

Features included a “cleaner room” and a grain dryer adjacent to the elevator.

Tillotson Construction Company, of Omaha, contracted the work.

Government loans, subsidies led to elevator construction boom in 1940s and 1950s

The following observations come after Kristen’s recent foray in the University of Wisconsin library:

English: Chicago Board of Trade at night, phot...

The trip to check out the Farmers’ Elevator Guide was interesting. There is no index, so I have just scratched the surface. But this is an interesting twist on things: through the Forties and Fifties, the farmers’ cooperatives were a way of doing business along the lines of a union. There are articles about Washington’s involvement (that went so far as to prohibit all commercial building in the nation at one point, excepting elevators!) that makes today’s meddling seem mild by comparison.

Some of these articles, when I get back to Madison, are a must for the politics of the times that made this boom happen. Both the bumper crops that were bolstered by price supports, and various government loan programs and grain storage subsidies, made the business quite a going thing until it didn’t quite work any more. The Chicago Board of Trade complained we were on the road to Socialism. (And we were.) Much of the debate and business news made its way into the Farmers Elevator Guide.