The Farmers Co-operative Association was incorporated to commence business as a grain elevator on October 1, 1904. The first books available were from the February 1913 Annual Stockholders meeting.
The Cooperative bought and sold grain, twine, posts and cement. Only farmers or landowners could hold shares in the association. At one time coal freight was 50 cents per ton and up, depending on Union Pacific freight. In 1915 labor costs for hand unloading a 33 ton load of coal was about $5.00. A 400 sack carload of cement could also be unloaded for about $5.00. Common labor was about $2.00 per day.
In 1915 the grasshoppers ate the twine on the shocked grain. The Plymouth Twine Company agreed to deliver insect proof twine for the 1916 season and took back the unsold untreated twine.
A gasoline motor was used to run the elevator equipment until 1920. The elevator’s electric light bill was only about 75 cents except for a few winter months until the electric motor was installed.
The Union Pacific Railroad raised their right-of-way lease cost from $5.00 per year to $74.00 in 1919. In 1920 the association bought an adding machine. At the request of Union Pacific the elevator was painted yellow as the other buildings on the right-of-way.
In 1921 they paid a $50 donation toward a preliminary survey for irrigation ditches on the north and south sides of the river. They also made a donation to promote the building of a Dawson County Sugar factory.
In 1922 radio service from the Omaha markets was discussed.
In 1930 the Farmers Co-operative Association joined the Farmers West Central Grain Association and the Gothenburg Co-op Oil Company started about this time.
Hard time came in 1931 and day labor was cut to 30 cents per hour. Many bad debts were charged off. In 1932 they decided to give some coal to the needy instead of money to the Harvest Festival In 1933, in view of the depression and the fact that the elevator was not making any money, it was moved that monthly employees must be cut. In 1935 business was better and salaries were increased and in 1937 a new 9x34 ft. platform scale was installed In 1945 the elevator brought in over 51,000 bushes of grain in three months time, staying open nearly 24 hours a day.
A terrible fire caused by an electric motor or a spark from a passing train caused over $100,000 damage to the elevator in 1953. The damage was repaired and at the suggestion by the fire department a water pipe and nozzles were installed in the head house in 1961. A new 63,000 bushel grain storage facility was also built adjacent to the elevator.
In 1963 the Farmers Cooperative Association purchased the Block Grain Company on the north edge of Gothenburg where the Victory Assembly Church is now located. Here they added a new feed mill which would stand until 1988.
Today it is called Country Partners Cooperative and following a year-end audit for the period ending September 30, 2019 total sales were recorded at $282 million. Local earnings were approximately $2.6 million and combined with regional cooperative patronage resulted in the $6 million of total net income. Country Partners Cooperative is a full-service, diversified Nebraska agricultural cooperative with locations in Albion, Amherst, Anselmo, Arnold, Bartlett, Callaway, Cedar Rapids, Cozad, Eustis, Farnam, Gothenburg, Greeley, Lexington, Loomis, Merna, North Loup, Ord, Primrose, Spalding, Stapleton, Sumner and Westerville.
The pioneer farmers who settled in the Gothenburg area were fortunate as the 1880’s were, for the most part, good years with abundant rainfall and few insect problems; and add this to the fact, federal and railroad land was available at reasonable prices.
Farming was not a uniform practice in the Gothenburg area and the most dramatic example of this was the farmers on the south side. Here there was a great deal of specialization due to the presence of many large and small cattle herds resulting in the need for hay and large quantities were produced. There was also a great deal of dairy production on the south side.
Agriculture on the north side was somewhat different. Here was to be found the more typical farmer with his fields of corn, wheat, oats, barley and a potato patch. The north was more diversified. Lacking were the cattle herds. The north side also had crops not common on the south side, namely sorghum and dry beans. There were even some crops that seemed to follow ethnic lines. Broom corn among the Swedes and buckwheat among the Germans.
During the 1890’s agriculture was increasingly involved with the boom period Gothenburg was having. E. G. West and Jonas Adling put up the first elevator. Swedish stockholders built the Gothenburg Milling Company to process wheat into flour. Following a fire which destroyed the mill, it was rebuilt and another mill was built by the Star Mills . By 1890 Gothenburg had two mills and one elevator.
The boom was cut short due to the money panic and drought in 1893 and for the remainder of the decade what was produced found almost no market. It was common for corn to sell a .10 cents a bushel. Because of this corn was stored in every available shed and building. Even some of the empty houses were used as corn cribs.
The best thing to come out of this decade was that irrigation was developed. In 1894 and ‘95, the Gothenburg Canal was extended seventeen miles eastward of Lake Helen and would irrigate 20,000 acres. Also in 1894, the South Side Irrigation Canal was formed and a fifteen mile canal was constructed to irrigate 25,000 acres of south side farms.
Agriculture had a golden period between 1902 and 1920. Rainfall was good, crop prices were good, a new crop was introduced and Gothenburg continue to strengthen itself as an agricultural center.
In July 1874, the sky was black with millions of grasshoppers. Growing crops disappeared in a single day. Trees were stripped of their leaves. Clothing and harness was damaged if left exposed to the hoppers. The years 1875 and 1876 were about the same and in 1877, there was a scourge of chinch bugs. For those of you who don’t know what a “chinch” bug is, they may be small in size, but they can do massive damage to grass. These miniscule bugs—adults are only about 1/6 of an inch long—feed on the stems of grass. Not only do they suck the blades dry, but then they inject it with toxins. Chinch bugs thrive on dryness.
On the heels of the money panic of 1894 came more dry years and grasshoppers. They came overnight and ate every blade of vegetation. An early settler is said to have left his coat and pitchfork in the field and the ravenous hoppers ate the coat and left scars on the fork handle. Trains on the railroad were stopped in localities where the hoppers had been mashed in such numbers on the rails, they were too slick to form traction for the engine and coach wheels.
Another bad year for grasshoppers was 1931. The scourge of grasshoppers seemed to appear in dry years and this was the beginning of the “Dirty Thirties” as they were referred to. Farmers contended with them in different ways. Some resorted to concocting their own poison “recipe”, a mixture of six pounds of white arsenic, two gallons of molasses and 190 pounds of bran. That mixture was moistened and scattered over infested fields to ward off the destructive pests
The August 12, 1936 edition of the “Times” records that one of the most successful hopper catchers put to use in this section of the country had been working at the 96 Ranch. H.L. Williams took a car and attached a catcher on the front bumper. The grasshopper dozer, as it was called, was driven across the field stirring up the pests. When they tried to leap over it, they hit the backboard and dropped into a tray of oil. Mr. Williams reported a total catch of over 300 bushes of hoppers.
Today the infestation of grasshoppers is controlled by insecticides and perhaps we will never see another scourge of those hoppers.