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Among the early mills in the new Nebraska Territory were both saw and grist mills. The first of these in Platte County was located at Columbus.

At the August twenty-fifth meeting of the Columbus Town Company John Rickly was authorized to build a saw mill of not less than thirty-two horse power. As stated in the contract the mill was to be completed within a year. The equipment for the mill was hauled by ox teams from Omaha. This was probably the first consignment of heavy freight to reach Columbus. The mill was opened August 1, 1857 and shortly thereafter frame structures began to make their appearance in the new town. The mill was located near the old Loup Ferry. In return for the building of this early mill John Rickly received eighteen shares of stock in the Columbus Town Company.

The story of grain is a fascinating one. The harvest yield on the first crop of grain was small but by 1857 the crops were better and there was enough grain for flour. Even though the Pioneers considered bread the staff of life, as we do today, it was not until after the middle 1860's that a grist mill was started in Platte County.

From 1857 until 1866 much of the grain for flour from Platte County was hauled in wagons drawn by either oxen or horse teams to the grist mill at Fort Calhoun near Omaha where it was ground into flour. This grist mill was started in 1857 by a Frenchman named Varnier. According to Frank J. Burkely in The Faded Frontier the mill machinery was shipped from St. Louis to Fort Calhoun by boat. The freight on this cargo was fifteen hundred dollars. The only man in the village who had enough money to pay the freight was Elam Clark who eventually became the mill owner.


Farm scene near Platte Center. Photograph submitted by Albert Tessendorf

The History of Platte County Nebraska

This historic old grist mill served the early settlers of Omaha and the Territory for miles around. Thousands of its sacks of flour were annually freighted across the prairies to the West. And many of the children of that day wore articles of clothing made from the flour sacks.

The early mills in Columbus included those of Francis A. Hoffman started in 1868, and the Union Pacific Mill built by John P. Becker in 1869. The Becker and Welch Mill was also built on Shell Creek in 1869. In 1875 John P. Becker built a mill near the Burlington and Missouri Railroad in Columbus. Around 1880 Joseph Bucher built the Shell Creek Valley Roller Mill. In 1891 this mill was sold to Peter Schmitt who built dams on Shell Creek, installed two mill wheels of thirty-two and forty-four horse power, and operated his mill as a power mill until the 1930's. The average output of flour in 1918 was around ninety barrels a day.

Other mills started before the turn of the Century were the Elevator Roller Mills in 1885, and The Columbus Milling Company later the Columbus Roller Mills. In April 1885 the Columbus Milling Company was incorporated by Gustav A. Schroeder, Charles Schroeder, J. E. Wilson, and J. N. Hogan. In 1891 this incorporation was discontinued and the assets sold. At that time Gustav A. Schroeder organized the Columbus Roller Mills which he operated until 1920 when the mill was destroyed by fire. At one time the output of this mill was two hundred-fifty barrels of flour a day.

The Elevator Roller Mill was started by Adolf Jaeggi and David Schupbach. Its first location was on Twenty-sixth Avenue north of Eleventh Street. In July 1885 the mill was placed on rollers and moved to the mill site on Twenty-fifth Avenue north of the Union Pacific Railroad tracks. In the middle 1890's Adolf Jaeggi bought David Schupbach's interest. On October 1, 1897 the mill was incorporated by Fritz Jaeggi, John Horst, Frank Falbaum, I. Sibberson and Adolf Jaeggi. In 1906 Paul Jaeggi became associated with the mill and after his father's death in 1910 became the president of the Company. Ernest L. Jaeggi became a member of the Company in 1907 and remained in the Company until 1925 when the mill was sold.

On the advent of the railroad into other towns in the county grain companies were organized. Grain was bought directly from the farmers, put in storage houses until cars were available, or until the market was right. In 1882 John A. Kehoe started a grain business in Platte Center. He died in 1896 and Mrs. Kehoe carried on the business, during which time she carried on litigation for ten years with the Nebraska Grain Trust. After an investigation in Omaha by the Interstate Commerce Commission she won her case.


The W. J. Growcock threshing machine, taken in 1904 on the Elmer Builes farm, which now belongs to William Evans. Included in the group are. Cecil Talcot, Ben Fellers, Homer Guiles, John Lommers, Herman Lubben, John Mortenson, Henry Brunken, Dan Conroid, Albert Pertch, Mert Fish, and Mr. Filbert.

Mills and Elevators

Previous to 1912 the T. B. Hord Grain Company built an elevator in Columbus which is still in operation. In 1914 D. C. Gammel became the manager of the company. T. B. Hord also has a fuel and storage Company in Columbus. In 1912 A. L. Rush, T. B. Hord and Edward M. Ragatz were associated in the Hord Company. After the Fuel and Storage Company was organized by Edward M. Ragatz he built the Fuel and Storage buildings. He remained with the company until 1922. Several years ago the T. B. Hord Company acquired the Kehoe Grain Company at Platte Center and others on the Branch Railroad Lines.

In 1925 The Elevator Roller Mills was bought by The Columbus Milling Company, and has operated in Columbus under that name for nearly a quarter of a century. Several local people have been interested in the company.

The Treadway Grain Company, owned by Eugene Treadway has been in operation since the 1930's on the former site of The Columbus Roller Mills on Twenty-third Avenue.

Many changes have been made in farm machinery since the organization of Platte County in 1857.

The first grain raised in the little colony was cut with hand scythes. Following this cradles were commonly used for the harvest. At first the grain was separated from its stalks by flails. Later the horse drawn self binder came into use. This machine both cut, and bound the grain. After the cutting the sheaves of grain were placed in shocks by hand, then usually stacked which also required hand work to load, unload, and set the bundles in place. The first threshing of the grain was done by a grain separator operated by horse power.

In the early 1930's a new kind of machine came into use on Platte County farms known as the combine.

This modern machine cuts and threshes the grain as it travels through a field drawn by a tractor.

While the cost of this machine seems exorbitant, yet it eliminates the many hours of labor formerly used on the separate processes of cutting, shocking, stacking and threshing the grain. The combine destroys to some extent the former use of the grain stalk as straw, but saves the cost of the harvest twine.

The History of Platte County Nebraska

The following are excerpts taken from various books, papers, and files, regarding mills and elevators in Platte County.

G. W. Phillips' History:


At the first meeting of the consolidated Columbus Town Company, in 1856, a resolution was passed authorizing the company to donate a certain number of shares of the company's stock to anyone who would erect a steam sawmill within a reasonable length of time. In pursuance of the resolution, the company entered into an agreement on the twenty-fifth day of August, 1856, with John Rickly, at Omaha, by which he was to build a sawmill and also a shingle mill, in consideration of eighteen shares of Columbus Company stock. The sawmill was to be of not less than thirty-two horse power and ready for operation within a year from the date of the contract.

According to his diary, John Rickly "picked out the lot nearest the ferry for the sawmill, and put a stake there." The next day, after staking out the mill, Rickly, Green, and Mills returned to Omaha, having made a contract with J. P. Becker and J. H. Green for a thousand logs, at five and a half dollars per thousand feet.

Arrangements were then made in Omaha for equipping the mill, and it was constructed and in operation by August , 1857.

Mr. J. H. Galley said that when his family moved to Platte County in 1859, Omaha was their nearest trading point, and they had to go to Fort Calhoun or Milford to have their grist ground. It often required a week to make the trip. On one occasion, after going to the mill, Mr. Galley had to go into the woods and secure fuel to he used in operating the mill.

Andreas History of Nebraska, 1882

The Columbus Elevator was built in 1868 by Francis A. Hoffman, and was run originally as a steam mill. In 1874, it was sold to a company consisting of Turner, Hulst, Baker, and Becker. In 1876, Mr. Baker bought it from the company and continued to run it as an elevator. Its capacity was fifteen thousand bushels, and it was situated on the Burlington and Missouri tracks, between the Union Pacific Elevator and Becker's Elevator.

Andreas History of Nebraska, 1882

The Union Pacific Elevator was built in 1869 by John P. Becker. In 1875, it passed into the hands of Hunneman and Tolman. In 1881, they sold it to the Columbus Lumber and Grain Company. In 1882, it was the largest elevator in Columbus and had a capacity of twenty thousand bushels. The members of the company were: George W. Hulst, David Schupbach, Adolph Jaeggi, and V. T. Price.

Andreas History of Nebraska, 1882

Becker and Welch were proprietors of the Shell Creek Mills, located in what is today Shell Creek Township, in Colfax County. The mill was built in 1869 by John P. Becker and Jonas Welch, and was operated by them for many years. It was run by water power and had a capacity of three hundred bushels of wheat a day. Jonas Welch was born in Dorsetshire, England, in 1840. When he was seven years old, his parents immigrated to the United States, locating in Macoupin, Illinois. They lived there until 1857, when they moved to Nebraska. In Nebraska, they located at Genoa, on the Pawnee Reservation, and lived there until 1870. For twelve years, Mr. Welch was in the employ of the government, having charge of the Agency Mill. An advertisement taken from the Columbus Era, February 8, 1879.

Becker and Welch
Shell Creek Mills

Manufacturers and Wholesale Dealers in Flour and Meal

Orders received at mill or in Columbus
with J. P. Becker will receive
prompt attention.

Andreas History of Nebraska

Becker's Elevator was built in 1875, by John P. Becker. The capacity of the elevator was five thousand bushels. It was situated on the Burlington and Missouri Track, east of Columbus. Mr. Becker's chief interest was in corn, which at that time was the most important grain product shipped from Columbus.


From the files of incorporation of the Platte County Court House.

The Columbus Milling Company was incorporated on April 8, 1885, with a capital stock. of thirty thousand dollars. The purpose and object of the corporation was to erect, furnish, and equip a flouring mill for manufacturing flour, feed, and meal, and the transaction of all business pertaining to that mill.

Incorporators were:
Charles Schroeder
G. A. Schroeder
J. E. Wilson
J. N. Hogan

Filed for record on April ii, 1885, at Platte County Court House.

The Historical and Descriptive Review of
, John Lethem, 1892, Omaha

The Columbus Milling Company, with G. A. Schroeder as manager, is one of the most gratifying examples of successfully conducted home industries. It was started in 1885. They are manufacturers of flour, feed, bran, shorts, and meal and dealers in all kinds of grain. They put out flour brands: "Way Up" patent, "Gold Dust" patent, "Big Four," and "Spread Eagle." The capacity is one hundred bushels a day, and five to seven hands are constantly employed. They ship to all parts of Nebraska and neighboring states. G. A. Schroeder is a native of Germany and has seven years

Mills and Elevators

experience in the milling business, He is conversant with the details of the business he is engaged in and is well deserving of patronage.


January 6, 1886.

The Elevator Roller Mills of Jaeggi and Schupbach was one of the largest businesses in Columbus. It was located on the east side of North Street, between Twelfth and Thirteenth Streets, having shipping tracks with both the Union Pacific and the A. and N. Railroads.

The elevator was moved in July, 1885, from its foundations south of the Union Pacific track, on Eleventh and Olive Streets. The mill was considered one of the finest in the country. The operating miller, Mr. Reenhart, was one of the best of his profession. The mill was built by the Nordyke and Marmon Company, of Indianapolis, Indiana. This property, all considered, was worth fifty thousand dollars.


From the files of incorporation of the Platte County Court House.

Principal place of business, Columbus. The nature of the business to be transacted by this corporation was the buying, storing, grinding, manufacturing, shipping, and selling all kinds of grain and the manufactured product thereof. Purchasing or leasing grounds suitable for such purpose; purchasing, erecting or leasing elevators, mills, bins, cribs, storehouses, warehouses, and such other buildings suitable and necessary to properly carry on the business incident thereto. To purchase and equip such mills, elevators and property with power, machinery, and appliances to properly conduct such business. Capital stock of one hundred thousand dollars, shares at one hundred dollars each. Corporation to begin on October i, 1897, and continue for a period of twenty years unless sooner terminated by a two-third vote of its Capital Stock.

Incorporators were:

F. Jaeggi I. Sibbernson
John Horst Frank Falbaum
A. Jaeggi

Filed for record October i, 1897, Platte County Court House.


At a special meeting of the stockholders held at the office of this firm, August g, 1909, the following resolution was passed by unanimous vote of the stock issued:

Resolved: that Article 4 of our Incorporation be and hereby is amended to read: Article 4. The authorized stock of this corporation shall be fifty thousand dollars, divided into shares of one hundred dollars each and numbered from one to five hundred consecutively to be subscribed and paid as required by a majority of the Board of Directors, and to be represented by certificate, signed by the president and counter-signed

by the secretary.

Paul A. Jaeggi, Secretary.

Filed for record August 9, 1909.

Former articles amended to read as follows:

Principal place of business --- Columbus. The nature of the business --- the buying, storing, grinding, manufacturing, shipping and selling all kinds of grain and the manufactured products thereof. Purchasing or leasing grounds suitable for such purpose; purchasing, erecting or leasing elevators, mills, warehouses and such other buildings suitable and necessary to properly carry on the business incident thereto. To purchase and equip such mills, elevators, and property with power, machinery, and appliances to properly conduct such business. Capital stock: Fifty thousand dollars, divided into shares of one hundred dollars each. Corporation to begin October I, 1917, and have perpetual existence.

Incorporators: Paul Jaeggi, Constance Jaeggi, Ernest L. Jaeggi, and Walter Jaeggi.

Filed for record October 25, 1917.

At a meeting of the stockholders held April 7, 1920,

the Articles of Incorporation were amended. Principal difference: Capital stock was increased to seventy-five thousand dollars, divided into shares of one hundred dollars each.

Filed for record April 24, 1920.


The Columbus Milling Company of 1925 originally was the Elevator Roller Mills, which was established in the early 1880's by the firm of Jaeggi and Schupbach.

In 1925, it became the Columbus Milling Company,

Incorporated, when the Commercial National Bank took it over. Sometime during the forty years that it was the Elevator Roller Mills, Mr. Schupbach sold his share to Adolf Jaeggi. The Jaeggis were the owners until 1925.

Mr. Cossairt operated the business from May, 1928, until June, 1930. After a few years in California, he leased it from G. W. Viergutz, the owner, and again began operating the mill.


Principal place of business: Columbus. The business of said corporation shall be the acquiring of a grain elevator and mill and the operation of a general grain and milling business, and the buying, selling, trading and mortgaging of real estate or other property necessary or convenient to the purpose of the corporation.

Capital stock: Fifty thousand dollars, divided into shares of one hundred dollars each.

Corporation to commence July I, 1925, or as soon thereafter as two hundred shares of capital stock shall be subscribed and paid up, and the Articles of Incorporation filed. To continue for a period of fifty years.

Incorporators were: G. W. Viergutz, D. A. Becher, and O. J. Williamson.

Filed for record June 26, 1925, at Platte County Court House.

On June 19, 1925, it was announced that the new company was formed to reopen the Elevator Roller

The History of Platte County Nebraska

Mills. That company was to be known as the Columbus Milling Company. O. J. Williamson, owner of a mill at Gothenburg, was named secretary-treasurer and active manager. Although he was only thirty-three years old at that time, he had already had many years experience in the milling business.

Associated with Mr. Williamson as incorporators were the directors of the Commercial National Bank: D. A. Becher, G. W. Viergutz, Henry Buss, Arthur Viergutz, John and George Galley, and Herman Brodfuehrer.

The Columbus Milling Company bought the roller mills property from the Commercial National Bank.

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