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Grain Elevators

As corn yields increased, grain elevators began to be built along the railroad. These receiving centers revolutionized the handling of bulk grain crops by providing a market hub that was close to the farm—farmers could deliver directly to their local elevator, which stored the grain until it was sent by rail to distant markets.

From the farmer’s wagon, truck, or cart, the grain was dumped into the grain pit. From there it was “elevated” (thus the name elevator) into grain bins where it was stored. Once sold it was loaded into rail cars or trucks then delivered to remote markets.

C.A. Phelps and Co. built what may have been McLean County’s first elevator at the Western Depot in Bloomington in 1865. Two years later W.H. Boies built the Gridley elevator.

As station agent for the Toledo, Peoria, & Western Railroad, which ran through Gridley, Boies saw a great opportunity.

Boies began dealing in grain and agricultural implements. Business was brisk, so in 1867 he built Gridley’s first elevator with a capacity of 25,000 bushels of grain. In 1869 Richard Breese joined him, and they added the shipment of livestock to their business.

The tendency of modern railroad management is to build receiving centers for freight rather than allow business to be directed to points out of their reach, and we predict that before ten years pass away each city in Central Illinois which has good railroad connections will handle all the corn in its immediate vicinity.
— Bloomington Pantagraph,
October 22, 1879

In 1897 Mr. Castle, the Gridley elevator's owner at the time, built this new elevator.

In 1916 when the Yuton Grain Company opened, it had the capacity to store about 30,000 bushels of grain. In 2016, Evergreen FS owned the Yuton elevator and could store 2.8 million bushels of grain.

Yuton Grain Co., Dry Grove Township, circa 1930.

By 1880, at least 20 grain elevators had been constructed next to the railroad tracts in various McLean County communities.

In 1900, McLean County had the most dense railroad system in the world, and every town or township along that system had, or would soon have, its own elevator.

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