The Cordell, Oklahoma elevator project fused engineering prowess with family ties

Story by Kristen Cart


Edwin Christoffersen was the superintendent on the Mayer-Osborn Construction project in Cordell, Okla. in 1950. His son and namesake kindly provided a notebook that gave a glimpse of the concrete engineering that went into the elevator. By trial and error, the company learned best practices, creating an enduring structure which would still operate more than sixty years later.

Edwin Louis Christofferson was the son of Jens “James” Lauritz Christoffersen, a first generation American who farmed and operated a farm stand in Fremont, Neb. Edwin was one of nine children. Ed’s sister Alice married William Osborn in 1923.

When the Mayer-Osborn enterprise was in full swing, Bill Osborn tapped relatives to manage projects or to provide manual labor. He followed a common practice.

Sons Dick and Jerry Osborn worked at various times building elevators. Bill Osborn entered partnership with Eugene Mayer, the brother of Joseph H. Tillotson’s wife Sylvia. At the Tillotson Construction Company of Omaha, Bill Osborn worked with Iver Salroth, husband of Emma, a Christoffersen cousin.

Naturally, when the opportunity arose, Ed Christoffersen found employment with his brother-in-law’s company an attractive proposition.


Edwin Louis Christoffersen with his only child.

Ed’s son has kept a number of Mayer-Osborn keepsakes, in memory of his dad, who died when he was still quite young. One intriguing item was the logbook that Ed kept for the Cordell, Okla. elevator, recording concrete tests.

Various sand, gravel, and concrete mixtures were tested to a failure point to determine the ideal formula for a given project. The date and time of day was recorded for each test. In this journal, we discovered the year of construction for the Cordell elevator.

The elevator business brought families together to accomplish a common goal, and now, many years later, writing about the elevators brings the builders and their sons and daughters together again. The memories are kept in small personal repositories of clippings, photos and documents, and in tales of the job, and are captured fleetingly before the witnesses leave us.

Looking up at these great landmarks, we also look up to the patriarchs who built them, with respect, and awe.

A Galveston seaside respite for the Osborns and Salroths in 1945

Kristen muses: Now Mr. and Mrs. Salroth were on this trip, and Mr. Salroth must have worked with my grandfather on the Tillotson Construction Company’s elevator job, the Fairmont Building, in Giddings, Texas.

The first image shows, from left to right, my grandmother Alice Christofferson Osborn, my dad Gerald Osborn, and Emma Salroth.

The second image shows, also from left to right, an unknown man, my dad Gerald Osborn, my grandfather William Osborn, and Iver Salroth.

Finally, there’s the portrait of Gerald by himself.

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In an email to Kristen, Gerald Osborn recalls:

Emma Salroth was your grandma’s first cousin. Emma and Iver had been pretty close to my parents. They occasionally spent an evening playing pinochle together.

Iver was a carpenter and was in Texas with dad working on the project. Along with your grandma, Emma and I took the train to Giddings for a visit.

When we arrived they had locked Iver in the elevator’s headhouse as a prank so he wouldn’t be there to meet us.

Iver was a scrawny little guy with a heavy Swedish accent and a good sense of humor. He was fourteen years older than my dad. I don’t know of any other job they worked on together.