The historic elevators along the railroad, on the west end of Kirkland, IL
In any small town, almost every school, church and store building, eventually becomes known as a landmark but any old timer would likely tell you, the elevators were the first true landmarks of the rural landscape. As more railroads were built, more railroad towns popped up along them and Kirkland was among these. Eventually two elevators stood here and a large stockyards business along the railroad through Kirkland and so goes the story.
Around 1873-75, the Chicago & Pacific Railroad was built through the property that would become Kirkland. It would soon follow that an elevator would be built. This would allow local farmers an outlet to sell their grain and the elevator operators access to larger markets. In agreements with the railroad, Wm T Kirk gave of his lands to them to build the railroad, stockyards and elevators and then the various people leased them over the years. Some time in the latter 1870s, the Chicago, Milwaukee, St Paul Railroad (aka Milwaukee Road) began operating the C & P and by 1880, they had purchased the rail line outright and continued operating it until around 1985.
George W Woods was Kirklands first grain buyer and stored his grain in a warehouse built by William T Kirk. About 1879, Mr Woods built the first Grain Elevator in Kirkland, later D A Syme took over over
the operation for a while. William T Kirk & Sons were among the largest livestock buyers during this early period and at some point during the ensuing years, they began operating a sheep yards in the
same vicinity as the elevator with son John Kirk as manager.
Wm Kirk suffered a stroke some 3 years before his death in March 1900 and it coincides that John MacQueen arrived on the scene and began operating the sheep yards about 1896. In 1902, the Milwaukee Road built a new 120,000 bushel elevator to be leased for 5 years to John MacQueen of MacQueen & Keene. It would be used for storing sheep feed for the many sheep that were shipped annually, to and from Kirkland.
In May of 1908, two seperate fires occurred. The first destroyed one elevator and buildings belonging to Ed Marshall and the second fire destroyed some of MacQueens sheep yards and threatened to destroy MacQueens elevator. The large elevator and some of the other sheep sheds were saved by those who turned out to fight the fire. At some point another elevator was rebuilt as there were two still standing in the last days.
The sheep yards and elevator business were very successful but in time the sheep business dwindled and in 1936, John MacQueen closed operations. Frank Hunter from Missouri came in, switching to cattle and hog operations and also the buying and selling of grain and hay from 1936 - 37, after which time he sold to the Brennan Bros who operated a similar business from 1937 until 1990 when they closed the Kirkland operation.
As the era of the old elevators and stockyards has ended, many elevators in the area have been removed and the elevators in Kirkland would be no exception. Some of the land where the stockyards were was sold and new businesses have been built but the current railroad has retained the area along their right away where the elevators were. A large bare gravel area at the north-west corner of Main & 6th Streets, serving as a reminder of what once was.
1. Recollection of Forgotten Days, A History of Kirkland, Illinois 1894 - 1967 written by George Gibson.
2. Daniel Norvell of Kirkland IL whose family operated the Brennan Bros Stockyards.
Electronic Sources listed near the bottom of the page.
1. Thanks to Linda Henry Turecek for sharing her fathers photo of the 1962 Kirkland 4th of July Parade with the Kirkland Elevator in the background.
2. Thanks to Celia Ward Abney for sharing her 1984 photo with both elevators and other buildings on the elevator grounds.
3 Photo entitled Sheep Yards Kirkland Ill, Library of Congress Catalog Number 2007663997. Copyright deposit;--Geo. R. Lawrence Co.;--April 14, 1909. Rights Advisory: No known restrictions on publication.