By the late Matt Daviduk
Approximately 10 miles north and one mile west of Margo, on the correction line road, stands a weatherbeaten old farm elevator known as the Johnson Brothers Elevator. A sentinel of the past, it sets off the prairie scene of blue sky and fields of grain. It is both a monument and a tribute to the Johnson brothers, Charlie, John and Oscar, and their families, who pioneered their way under adverse circumstances when they settled in the Margo, Sask., area in 1908.
Besides owning their own individual homesteads, the three brothers agreed on a joint venture when they acquired the East 1/2 of Section 4-35-W2 around 1928. The half-section of land was heavy poplar bush and had to be cleared and broken to produce grain.
The main crop grown at the time was oats, which matured earlier to beat the early fall frosts. Oats required a lot of storage as they yielded up to 90 bushels per acre on newly cultivated land.
In 1929 the Johnson brothers decided to build a farm elevator for their grain storage requirements. The elevator is approximately 24 feet by 24 feet on a stone foundation. The exterior walls and the four upright-partition bin walls are of 2-inch by 4-inch solid crib lumber construction and there is a cedar shingle roof. To date, the building has survived both time and the elements. The lumber was purchased at Lintlaw at $14 per thousand board feet, delivered to the elevator site.
A leg was built on the exterior wall on the gable side of the elevator and the grain was elevated to the top with an endless-cup belt and distributed to the four bins below. The cup-belt was powered by a stationary engine burning kerosene or distillate fuel. An elevated ramp was built alongside the leg and the grain was shovelled off the truck or wagonbox by hand into a sloped pit to feed the cup-belt. The elevator was filled to its full capacity during harvest, with high quality weed-free oats suitable for seed and milling for oatmeal, which probably showed up on your breakfast table as porridge.
The oats were usually stored until mid-winter when the demand for top quality oats was high and the price per bushel was the highest on the open market, plus a premium of up to five cents per bushel if they qualified for the top grade. The oats were hauled by a team of horses and sleigh-box to the neighbouring towns of Margo, Kelvington and Nut Mountain, wherever the price was the highest.
Three decades later, in 1962, the partnership was dissolved, with Oscar purchasing the shares from brothers Charlie and John.
The land still remains with the Johnson family as the present owners, Doug and Oscar Johnson Jr., acquired the land from their parents Oscar and Beulah when they retired from farming in 1975.
The elevator is not used any longer but remains a specific landmark of the pioneer era.