|A History of STRUM
and the TOWN OF UNITY by Roy Matson
|The Age of the Grain Elevator
There have been several statements in this story about the early pioneers, their need of
cash and that wheat provided this need. Plus it could be ground into flour for baking
The matter of breaking the new ground for planting, the first harvests requiring
considerable hand labor, the equally slow threshing and finally a trip to a far off market
place was a risky venture. Trempealeau, pronounced “Tromelo” by the early norwegians,
was the earliest market place. Karelis Wenberg, the first permanent settler in Chimney
Rock township, has written that a trip to deliver wheat required three days with oxen.
Neighbors timed their homeward trips simultaneously to avoid robberies which were
frequent. When the WRR reached Augusta in 1869, that place became a shipping point for
upper Beef River settlers. Eau Claire became a terminal the next year.
During the 1880’s wheat prices dropped drastically, but by that time acreage of tillable
land had increased, the meager farm equipment had become more efficient and oats had
replaced wheat somewhat as a cash crop. All big city drayage was horse drawn at that
time and the number of these animals required large amounts of hay, straw and grain
continually. Advent of Foster’s spur down this valley in 1890 provided access to ready
markets for about all the farmers could produce. A 1903 norwegian newspaper quotes
wheat at 69 cents per bushel, oats at 36 cents.
It was expected that an elevator to facilitate grain loading would grace the local spur at an
early date. Northern Grain & Seed was the first, with John Clemenson as manager. The
large Cargill Company built shortly afterward and installed big Ole Thomasgaard as buyer.
Neither company can furnish the date of their first operation here and as property on
railroad land was not assessable, one can only guess that the first carloads were loaded out
during the very early 1890’s.
Business was good. Hay, straw and grain moved to Chicago markets that first year from
two dealers in each of Eleva, Strum and Osseo. Young T. M. Olson had been dabbling in
farm implements for a short time and soon was
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