First in wagons pulled by horses and now in large semi-trucks, farmers have hauled grain to an elevator in Leesburg for roughly 114 years. A visible piece of local history will be gone when the original portion of the grain elevator in Leesburg is demolished.
The original portion sits parallel to the Norfolk-Southern Railroad line immediately to the west side of the tracks and is on the north end of the grain elevator property.
Max Deatsman, owner of Deatsman Grain Farms and the present owner of the elevator also now known as Deatsman Grain Farms, said the original section has not been used for about three years and is simply outdated. The scales, line shafts and other equipment are no longer needed. “We no longer have electricity running into it,” Deatsman added, and said when it is demolished will depend on the weather. It could be as late as the spring of 2013.
Located at 209 S. Smith St., the grain elevator dates to 1898 when Henry and Ida Bittikoffer deeded land Nov. 16 to Leesburg Grain and Milling Company, the original name of the elevator. The articles of incorporation for the company state a grain elevator was to be built and also a flouring mill to manufacture and sell flour from wheat and other cereals.
The original board of directors for Leesburg Grain and Milling Company included David Lessig, Henry Kinsey, Perry Thompson and David Brown.
Railroad cars were brought off the main tracks and loaded at the original elevator, but no longer are.
The original elevator was modified through the years. Inside the building the original wooden support beams from the 1890s are still in place.
In the mid-1950s the Smith family purchased the grain elevator, said Doug Smith, a former owner living in Leesburg and who provided the deed abstract with much of the elevator’s history. Smith’s grandfather, Howard Smith, purchased the elevator and also at the time a feed mill a block away to the north (still standing), as well as a lumber yard and other property.
On Dec. 3, 1956, the elevator was incorporated as the Leesburg Grain Elevator Inc. At that time, in addition to buying and selling grain, it also dealt with livestock, poultry and farm produce.
Eventually everything except the grain elevator was sold. Floyd Smith, Doug’s father, was an owner for a while, too, and a few other family members as well. Doug and his brother-in-law, Jerry Kammerer, ran the elevator for more than 25 years after Floyd passed away.
Doug noted the elevator bought, sold and stored corn, soybeans, wheat and oats in the early years, but later only corn and soybeans. Farmers from roughly a 10 to 15 mile radius, sometimes a few miles further, use the elevator.
“Farmers use it because of logistics and its proximity, but also because there weren’t many other elevators around,” Smith said.
Lee Beer, a farmer west of Milford, transports his grain to Leesburg and said the elevator has been competitive for several years. “They are honest people who offer good service,” he said. “Local people have used it because it is convenient.”
Beer noted the range of service expanded when farmers began using larger grain trucks instead of a tractor pulling a wagon. “You really had no markets to the south and east and Clunette is to the west,” he said. “Milford had a mill, but it closed.” Maple Leaf Farms has a feed mill east of Milford, but it was built after the Smiths bought the Leesburg grain elevator.
Smith said he realizes the historical significance of the elevator, but understands farming has changed. “The original portion is obsolete now,” he said. “The (grain) bins are smaller and it has a grain cleaner, but the new combines clean the grain now.”
The Smith family owned the grain elevator for more than 50 years until 2009 when it was sold to Deatsman.