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  • Writer's pictureLawrence Lore

Sumner Elevator

We asked George Zwilling to write a history of the Sumner Elevatorand today we are proud to publish it with some photographs. Thanks to George for taking the time to do this. If you have a business and wish to send us its history, we would appreciate it.

Olney Seed Company was a grain and seed elevator in Olney Illinois. It was owned by H. Linton Vice. In 1952 he decided to expand and build an elevator in Sumner Illinois. The Olney facility was run by Mr. Vice and his son-in-law, Alden Baird. Mr. Vice was looking for a manager for the Sumner location and he knew Elmer Zwilling was an honest hard-working man who owned trucks and hauled into the Olney elevator. Elmer and his brother Bernard were in the business of trucking farm products. They would at times have to shovel ear corn on and back off of the trucks, so Mr. Vice knew they were hard workers. Mr. Vice also knew Elmer had been in WWII serving the country from before the war started, all through Europe and the end of the war. Mr. Vice asked Elmer to manage the new facility and Elmer accepted. He was getting married soon so he and Elfreida Geiger bought a home in Sumner and started a family.

Elfrieda was a nurse from the Bend area, south of Oblong. She had started working at the new Lawrence County Memorial Hospital and took room and board at Dick and Elizabeth Dunseth’s home across from the hospital. The Zwillings were married September 9, 1952 and resided in the brick home on the north end of Sumner next to the I. H. Dealership (selling International Harvester farm implements). The I. H. Business was run by Alvin Stout and sold farm implements and home appliances. Some of the other employees at the I. H. dealership were Cleon Schoffstall, Delbert and Verby Littlejohn, and Kyle Wood.

The Olney Seed Company, Sumner Facility was finished and opened in early September, 1952. It had three silos, a cob burner and a warehouse. They bought mostly soybeans and some ear corn and sold Nutrena Feeds, and Federal Fertilizer. also Princeton Farms Seed corn and Louisville Seed beans. They had a B&O railroad train spur and could load five rail cars at a time. They would also truck out product. Employees were:

Elmer Zwilling- Manager

Jack E. Piper—Office Secretary

Howard Houser –Laborer

Huber Hasler—Laborer

“Shorty” – Laborer

The first customers were Howard and Nola Mae Mushrush and their son Roger, from the Chauncey area. Thru the 1950’s and early 60’s farming changed and grew both in farm size and yields. So, in 1965, two silos were added and two more in 1967.

In 1972 the owner, Mr. Vice, sold the Olney Seed Company and kept the Sumner Facility, renaming it Sumner Grain Company. The on June 1st of 1974, he sold it to Elmer Zwilling. Elmer and Elfreida owned and operated it as Sumner Grain Company until 1979 when they incorporated it and became Sumner Grain Inc.

In 1932 Elmer’s 4th son George, joined the company after graduating from the U. of I. in Ag Econ. In 1988 the company tore down the cob burner because no one picked ear corn anymore. They built two bins to dry shell corn.

Then in 1999 they bought the ground where the I. H. implement business was. After the I. H. business closed in the 60’s it was a fertilizer plant owned by Ralph McDowell. Then it was owned in the mid-nineties by Bob and Bobby Volmer, who processed and shipped buckwheat to Japan. So, in 1999 Sumner Grain built three new bins to have more room to dump trucks and hold grains at harvest. In 2006 they added another bin at the north facility. Elmer Zwilling, George Zwilling and Don Dobbs worked thru the 80’s and 90’s with Elmer working full time till he was 88 and part time till he was 91, retiring in 2010 when his grandson Jacob started working for the company.

The company is now owned by George and Sherrie and Jacob Zwilling. In 2016, they built a new corn facility by the old elevator on ground recently purchased where the old fire house and laundromat and Buttkus Upholstery was. The corn facility has a tower dryer and wet bin and dry bin and pit. As of this time in 2023 the company is run by George and Jacob with Jeff Scott as truck driver. The company looks forward to continuing to serve the community, buying and selling grain and selling feed.


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