The J. H. Tillotson straight-up elevator in Hanover, Kan. just after a rain.
Story and photos by Kristen Cart
One of the loveliest elevators J. H. Tillotson, Contractor ever built is still in use at Hanover, Kansas. Last October, during a visit to this small Washington County town just seven miles south of the Nebraska border, I photographed the elevator under moody skies and marveled at its clean, graceful lines. Then it was time to get to the business of finding out about it.
Ryan Riekenberg takes a moment to show me around the elevator.
Fortunately, Ryan Rieckenberg, a twenty-year employee of the Farmers Cooperative Association, was on hand to show me inside. He had previously worked for the grain department and currently worked as a crop sprayer. He said before the Hanover location joined the Worchester-based Farmers Cooperative, it operated its own association called the Farmers Union of Hanover. He said the elevator was currently used for milo.
He pulled up in his truck, fished out his keys, and took me into the elevator to look at its interior, including the manhole covers that positively identified the elevator as a J. H. Tillotson project.
As he unlocked the door, Ryan supplied some historical details. The elevator had been built beside an old wooden elevator, which was used as a feed mill until it was demolished about eight years ago. We entered the doorway a couple of steps up from the gravel drive where the old wooden edifice used to stand.
The elevator leg
Once inside, we could see the leg in the center of the elevator. A grate covered the pit, and Ryan opened the grate to display the sloped bottom where the grain would funnel toward the base of the leg, to be scooped up and carried to the top of the elevator for distribution to the bins. The leg extended all the way to the bottom of the pit. A ladder went into the pit from another opening, providing access for cleaning and maintenance.
Nearby, a cage-enclosed man-lift gave access to the integral head-house at the top of the elevator. The cage was almost certainly a later modification, since the old man lifts didn’t have them.
The distribution diagram
Prominently displayed on one of the bins was a diagram of the elevator and its annex. Here the storage assignments for each of the bins were noted, including the neighboring steel bin, which was served by the same integral head-house with a chute from the top of the elevator. Presumably, “M” stood for milo, and a note indicated that the steel bin held corn. Perhaps “F’ indicated feed, but that is just a guess.
I’m not sure why someone wrote “I love #1 house,” but if they meant this lovely elevator that my grandfather, William Osborn, built for Joe Tillotson’s company in 1947, I must share the sentiment. It was a dandy, and it appeared to have a long, useful life ahead of it.
A view from the west side where the feed mill used to stand.