Another historical Lincoln county landmark has been lost. The Shady Bend Mill and Elevator, which had stood for more than 70 years, was completely destroyed by fire Friday night [June 7] and by Saturday morning was a mere heap of smoldering ashes.
Clay King, who had owned the property 17 years, learned of the fire at 11:45 p.m. Friday, when a neighbor, Mrs. Bonnie Folder [sic; think it should be Falder], phoned to say she saw a few flames flickering from the top of the grinding plant.
Mr. King went out immediately and saw the fire in the three-story building. He and Mr. Folder began carrying records out of the office.
Fire departments from nearby towns and Schilling Air Force Base were called to assist, and Sylvan Grove, Beverly and Schilling sent fire-fighting equipment.
Before the fire departments could arrive, the entire complex was ablaze. All they could do was prevent grass fires. The firemen threw a few thousand gallons of water on the burning structure, but it did no good. Within two hours the fire was over.
Mr. King estimated his loss at more than $100,000. His complex was valued at $120,000 and everything was destroyed except the home adjacent to the elevator and three 11,000-bushel grain storage silos. One was empty, two were almost full. However, they stood near the two iron-clad elevator structures which had collapsed into a heap of glowing metal and burned wood.
Since purchasing the mill from Ben L. Yohe 17 years ago, Mr. King had converted the former mill into a feed grinding plant, and had added two warehouses and two elevators. He estimated 38,000 bushels of wheat had been in the elevators at the time of the fire.
Everything had been put in shape for the 1963 wheat harvest. Five railroad cars were on the siding waiting for the grain. Now there would be no wheat coming in and the once busy and useful old mill was lost.
Especially saddened was John Crooks of Lincoln, who had been an employee of the Shady Bend mill and elevator for many years. In addition to Mr. Yohe, Mr. Crooks recalled that previous owners had been Mr. Rickelson, Mr. Stewart, Mr. Scidmore and Everett Clark. A.N. Sims was the miller for many years and Shady Bend flour was a favorite in homes all over Central Kansas. The mill also produced graham flour, shorts, bran, cornmeal and other items as well as feed grains.
The original dam and the first mill were built by a man named Hardesty. The mill dam was one of the most scenic in Kansas, built in a horseshoe curve of the Saline River. Mr. Yohe rebuilt the damn but after milling was discontinued, the dam was unplugged. It was washed out by the flood in 1951 and the [can’t read word] of the river has been changed by the swirling waters.