Distinctly Montana Magazine

Distinctly Montana Fall 2020

Distinctly Montana Magazine

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D I S T I N C T L Y M O N T A N A M A G A Z I N E • F A L L 2 0 2 0 44 "Cleiv?" "Nope." "Collins or Lodgegrass?" "Nope. Those are gone, too. But there's one in Wyola that still has the logo on the north side of the elevator," Bruce Selyem said. Bruce is an authority on grain elevators and president of the Country Grain Eleva- tor Historical Society. Making rounds to visit the state's old elevators with his wife, Barbara Krupp-Selyem, he says that fewer are standing every year. As I spoke to him about those still standing, he said the ones in Saco and Hinsdale have been down for a while, but Rapelje still had the four the that graced the cover of their book, Old Time Grain Elevators II. Across the Great Plains in both the U.S. and Canada, up to 30,000 prairie sky- scrapers dotted the landscape during their heyday in the 1920s and 1930s. Today only about a third of the old wooden grain eleva- tors are left. Anything over ten stories tall qualified as a skyscraper in 1842 when Joseph Dart and Robert Dunbar first invented them. Once grain crops shifted from purely local use to distribution to a broader market, a facility to sort and store grain became a necessity. Elevators spread from east to west, springing up next to railroad tracks that found their way into every coulee in Mon- tana. As the main rail lines marched into the state, the Northern Pacific following the Yellowstone River and the Great Northern on the Hi-Line, they dropped off supplies to build the massive wooden structures. Just the lower portions, called cribs, required 300,000 board-feet of lumber and were built like a log cabin with overlapping corners. Atop the crib, the headhouse was frame construction. The belt and bucket grain conveyor system extended from the by TERESA OTTO photos by BRUCE AND BARBARA SELYEM Montana's Prairie Skyscrapers HOBSON WYOLA

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