Archive for Thursday, January 5, 2006

Fire destroys De Soto feed mill

Planned sale of business put on hold

January 5, 2006

An integral part of De Soto Feed and Grain burned early Friday morning just hours before a planned sale of the business.

As the remains to the business' three-story feed grain still smoldered behind him late Friday morning, De Soto Feed and Grain manager Dean Heise said the plan was to rebuild. The feed mill, built in the 1910s on Hadley Street near the Kansas River, housed the business' custom feed mixing operation, he said.

"Our custom, local mixing is shut down indefinitely," he said. "It's not all of our business, but it's a big part of it. We have customers with one Guinea pig to a guy with 250 breed cows."

The fire also put a pending sale of the business on hold. Heise said owner Jim Carpenter was to close on the sale of the business Friday afternoon. That sale to an undisclosed buyer was put on hold as the principals worked the insurance implications of the fire.

Heise said he got a 4 a.m. call at his rural Lawrence house informing him of the fire.

"When I drove over the bridge, I saw the roof was already starting to collapse," he said. "It was fully engulfed when I got here. It was past the point of being salvaged. It was just a matter of containing it."

De Soto Fire Department Chief Kevin Ritter said the same assessment was made when the first units from his department arrived four minutes after a patrolling Johnson County Sheriff's officer reported seeing flames jumping through the structure's roof at 3:50 a.m.

"We went into defensive attack to protect nearby exposures," he said.

Units from Johnson County Rural Fire District No. 3 and the Olathe and Lenexa fire departments assisted in the fire, including ladder trucks from Olathe and Lenexa. The fire was brought under control after 20 minutes and units stayed on the scene until 8:30 a.m., Ritter said.

The cause of the fire had yet to be determined, Ritter said.

Heise said the loss was substantial.

"There were thousands of bushels of grain and many tons of pre-mixed feed lost," he said. "It had to be (worth) several $100,000; and 100-year-old buildings are hard to replace."

Customers have been supportive and understanding, Heise said. The business still has bags of feed for sale marketed by the large animal feed companies.

The building was a link to the time when flour from De Soto was milled and marketed to the Kansas City metropolitan area and beyond. According to Dot Longstreth's centennial history of De Soto, the Hadley Mill produced the hard wheat Hadley's Triumph and four grades of soft wheat flour before burning down in 1911.

The mill served Kansas River farmers, who were reported to have taken advantage of cold winter weather to bring wagon loads of wheat over the frozen river just north of the elevator.

The brick mill that burned down last week was probably built soon after near the site of the earlier mill.

A 1913 business listing of De Soto included a Hadley Grain Elevator, which was likely housed in the structure that burned last week.

During the late 1920s and 1930s when potatoes became the dominate crop in the Kaw Valley, the elevator's owner C.W. Morse advertised it would no longer accept grain.

That era ended in the 1930s when disease devastated the valley's potato crop.

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