Posted 11/03/15 (Tue)
By Kevin Killough
In a cloud of dust and a scattering of pigeons, the Nelsons' old grain elevator in Tioga was torn down Friday.
“It was time,” said owner Raymond Schmidt, a conclusion the owners of another Tioga elevator have also reached.
Tear down of an elevator on the east side of Main Street, belonging to the Sundhagen clan, is planned for this week.
The Nelson elevator was built in 1904 by O.A. Nelson, one of the early homesteaders in the area. At the time of its construction, some of the grain was brought to the Tioga elevators on horse and buggy.
Schmidt said there were families south of the Missouri River, well before Lake Sakakawea was created. They’d harvest their grain and store it in their own bins until winter. Once the river froze over, they would bring their harvest over the ice to the elevator to be shipped by rail.
At the time, Tioga was the largest shipper of hard red spring wheat in the nation, Schmidt said.
Schmidt bought the elevator from the Nelson family in 1991 to use in his own farming operation, but it hasn’t been used for the past 15 years.
He said the structure became a fire hazard, not to mention a haven for feral cats and rodents. All things considered, it is too much of a liability, Schmidt explained.
“In my mind, it was time to get it demolished,” he said.
Special skill required
Contractors skilled in taking down grain elevators are difficult to come by. As it happened, a contractor with this skill set, Forest River Colony & Salvage, was in Ross the week before taking down an elevator there.
So Schmidt took the opportunity to hire them while they were in the area.
Using a John Deere tractor with an attachment on the bucket called a grapple or thumb, the operator brought down the supporting structures around the elevator.
He then scraped away at the south side of the elevator. As the structure hollowed out, grain spilled out from between the splintered boards.
The operator plucked the main elevator belt out from the structure’s innards and dropped it on one of the piles of rubble that grew as the operation continued.
He then tore away at the west side of the elevator. The machine lumbered around the piles to the east side and scooped it out as well. For a moment, the top of the structure hung precariously off the northern wall on the track side of the building.
He took another swipe at it from the east and it didn’t take much digging to bring the top tumbling down into a pile of history.
“It came down nicely,” Schmidt said.
Even as the Nelson elevator crumbled to the ground, trucks hauled grain out of the Sundhagen’s elevator on the other side of Main Street, preparing for its demolition this week.
Tim Sundhagen said, like Schmidt, he decided to take advantage of Forest River being in the area. He said the boot of his elevator is water logged, which is often what happens in the lower parts of the structures.
“The boots are notorious for taking on water,” Sundhagen said.
For years, the family has pumped the water out and tried to maintain the building, but it was no longer worth it to continue doing so.
“I would say the elevator has long outlived its useful life,” he said.
He wasn’t sure when the elevator was built, but he believed it might have been somewhere in the 1920s or 1930s.
Contractors are completing asbestos removal procedures, and that must be finished before the building can be demolished. He expected the demolition might take place towards the end of the week.
Kathy Neset owns the elevator to the west of the Schmidt’s. Neset said her family isn’t actively farming right now, so the facility is not in use. No immediate plans are in the offing.
“It was a wonderful structure to have while Roy and the boys were farming,” Neset said.
Darren Gohrick owns the elevator on the east side of the Schmidt’s elevator. He isn’t sure when it was built and he is currently using it for his own farming operation.