Just west of US-56/77 and 250th Rd., a stoic concrete silo stands straight and true more than 100 years after it was constructed.
Unlike many cement silos with “staves” or bands of metal for support, this silo required no exterior supports. Reinforcement is built into the concrete, and the lower eight feet are lined inside with red brick.
According to lettering visible on the structure, the silo was built by Wehry Bros. Contractors for G.H. “Henry” Wight, owner of Island Field Ranch. The Wehrys were from Peabody.
Wight owned a wide swatch of grassland near Antelope in the late 1800s. The silo provided silage for an adjoining feedlot.
The June 10, 1915 issue of the Peabody Herald published an ad by Wehry Bros. Contractors and Builders that read: “It will pay you to see us before closing any other silo deals.”
The exact age of the silo is not known. The Wight farmhouse, which still exists and is on the National Register of Historic Places, sits across the road north of the silo and is occupied by Wight’s great-great-granddaughter Judy (Loveless) Houdyshell, and her husband, Roy. She said the house was built between 1897 and 1900.
Helen Wehry of Newton, wife of the late Harvey Wehry, Jr., has ascertained from a family genealogy that the two brothers who constructed silos were William Andrew Wehry, born in 1893, and Harold Floyd Wehry, born in 1889.
William Wehry was killed in 1918 as an army private in World War I. According to Houdyshell’s father, Mike Loveless of Marion, the silo business ended after Wehry died.
Gene Chizek of Marion bought the silo and surrounding property in 1998 from his uncle, Gaylord Chizek, who had purchased it from the Loveless family. Gene Chizek said he was told the silo was built for $149.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there were 91 silos in the U.S. in 1882 and more than 50,000 by 1895.
Upright silos were an economical way of preserving chopped corn and other vegetation for winter feeding. The weight of the vegetation forced air out, preserving it as silage.
The first silos were made of wood. Early silos were square, but air couldn’t be eliminated from corners, causing spoilage.
Cement stave silos were introduced in 1905. Precast concrete blocks were locked together and reinforced on the outside with steel hoops.
These were followed by monolithic silos that had a clean outward appearance and needed no exterior supports, such as those built by the Wehry Brothers.
The most recently developed silos are Harvestores that stand out because of their blue color. They are made of glass-coated steel.
A silo originally was filled using a blower that would force chopped feed through a tube to the top. An attached chute around an exterior ladder covered several doors that workers could enter to pitch silage down to a wagon below. Mechanized unloading equipment later was developed.
Nowadays, most cattlemen use trench silos to store chopped forage. They feed silage by loading it into feed wagons using a tractor bucket.
Silos can be seen throughout the countryside and look as if they will stand forever whether or not they are used.