Farm Horizons, November 2010
Farmers co-op elevator part of Lester Prairie’s history
By Ivan Raconteur
The Farmers Cooperative Elevator Company of Lester Prairie was formed when about 150 area farmers gathered at Lester Prairie City Hall Jan. 9, 1912, according to the book, “Lester Prairie Community 1886-1986.”
The first board of directors included Henry G. Kuhlmann, Louis Sterner, Oscar Holcomb, Henry Laxen, Ferdinand Rhode Sr., Fred Fasching, Clemens Otto, Oscar Burtman, and William Machemehl.
The co-op purchased the grain house of the State Elevator Company for $3,000. Emil Erickson was engaged as the buyer of grain.
During the June 1914 board meeting, members learned that in the prior year, the elevator handled 165,000 bushels of grain. A 20 percent dividend was declared in that and subsequent years.
In 1925, the co-op built a modern feed and grist mill on the west side of the existing elevator. In addition to buying grain, selling feed, and grinding, the mill handled a large volume of coal.
In 1937, the mill installed a modern feed mixer and a new scale.
In March 1952, the co-op purchased the coal sheds along the railway. In 1956, the first corn sheller was installed.
In March 1964, the board of directors decided to purchase the Beise Implement building southwest of the main elevator for additional storage space.
In 1967 it purchased a membership in Farmland Industries, which allowed it to supply feed, chemicals, and fertilizer. The co-op also leased an anhydrous ammonia tank to provide nitrogen to its customers.
In 1967, the co-op purchased the property west of the elevator from Weise & Kuhlmann to provide space for a new dry fertilizer building, which was constructed by Lester’s.
In 1969, the board decided to purchase the Mobile gas station west of the fertilizer building from Orwald Parpart.
In 1979, the co-op began the transition from rail to truck shipping when it purchased its first semi-tractor and grain trailer to ship grain directly to Twin Cities terminals.
In 1984, the co-op installed a Cardtrol system at its service station, which provided for 24 hours-per-day self-service gas sales.
The elevator, which had been a landmark in downtown Lester Prairie for decades, was demolished in the mid-1990s.
In 2010, the city conducted a grand opening for the new Central Square Park, which now occupies the site.