Category Archives: Corn Shelling

The Corn Crib on the Grounds of LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association

The Corn Crib on the Grounds of the LeSueur Pioneer Power Association 

by

Brian Wayne Wells

           This article remains under construction.  Periodically, new blocks of text will appear in the article and/or   current blocks of text will be corrected.

Starting in          the annual show of the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association began to demonstrate the farming chore of shelling ear corn.  This chore was an annual wintertime event on the diversified farms located in the row-crop farming areas of the Midwestern United States in the era prior to the emergence of corn combines on diversified farms.

The corn shelling demonstration at the Pioneer Power Show was initiated by Bill Radil, a member of the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Association, who was residing at the time in West Concord, Minnesota, when Bill purchased a Minneapolis-Moline Model D corn sheller.  However, the demonstration of corn shelling could best be presented to the public as a shelling out of a traditional corn crib rather than as a shelling of ear corn dumped from a wagon into the drag line of the corn sheller.  Consequently, Bill Radil found a small “single corn crib” on the farm of a neighbor in the same  West Concord neighborhood in which Bill lived.  The name of the neighbor was Erickson.

A “single corn crib” like the small Erickson corn crib that was first brought to the Pioneer Power Showgrounds by Bill Radil.

Like typical single corn cribs the Erickson single corn crib was no wider than eight (8) feet wide to allow the dry winter air to easily pass through the ear corn stored in the crib.  However, a couple of years after the Erickson corn crib had been brought to the Pioneer Power grounds, the storms of the winter and spring of       destroyed the small single Erickson corn crib when it was blown off its rock foundation.

Bill Radil working to shell the corn out of the actual Erickson single corn crib which was the original and first corn crib brought to the grounds of the LeSueur Pioneer Power Association for the corn shelling field demonstration. This picture was taken during one of the early years of the corn shelling field demonstrations held at the annual Pioneer Power Show before the Erickson single corn crib was destroyed by a strong wind blowing the crib off of its rock foundation.

After a couple of years without a corn crib at all at the annual Show, the Pioneer Power Association obtained another corn crib.  This time a “double corn crib” from a neighboring farm in Tyrone Township in LeSueur County was obtained.   A double corn crib is two eight (8) foot single corn cribs placed about eleven (11) feet apart and both the cribs and the space in between the cribs were covered by the same gambrel roof.

 After building a new cement block pillar foundation to house the new double corn crib, brought to the Pioneer Power Showgrounds, was secured to the foundation by anchor bolds.  The Association was taking no chances that this new double corn crib would not be blown off its foundation.  Then, a cement floor was laid in the alleyway of the corn crib.

A double corn crib with a large alleyway between the cribs is moved to a new location and just like the new double corn crib on the LeSueur Pioneer Power Showgrounds is being fitted on a new cement block foundation.

This is the corn crib that continues to be used on the Pioneer Power Showgrounds through the present day.  In the late autumn of the year, Dave Preuhs, founder of the LeSueur Pioneer Power Association fills the corn crib with ear corn that he grows on his own farm.  The corn continues to dry out in the double crib on the Pioneer Powers Showgrounds for the remainder of the winter and all the next summer until the annual Pioneer Power Show held on the last full weekend in August,

Like the  alleyways in double corn cribs on diversified farms all across the Midwest , this alleyway (especially when provided with a cement floor invites storage of vehicles and farm machinery.  Thus, the alleyway has become the winter storage place of the Bill Radil’s Allis-Chalmers styled-model WC and the Wells family’s David Bradley flare box mounted on the David Bradley wagon gear.  This tractor and the David Bradley wagon are often used as a part of the corn shelling field demonstration at the annual Pioneer Power Show.  (The above-mentioned David Bradley wagon is the subject in the article contained at this website called “

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Traditionally, the corn crop was picked while the on the ear and stored in a corn crib for drying.  At picking time, the corn may have a moisture content as high as 35%.  Accordingly, when the freshly picked corn is first stored in the corn crib will be very fragrant.  This fragrance was actually the moisture in the ears of corn leaving the corn and escaping into the cool air of the autumn.

A row of single corn cribs built to allow the dry winter winds to blow through the ear corn to dry the corn down to about 15% moisture content.  This 1935 photograph taken on the Frank Hubert farm near Saybrook, Illinois (near Bloomington-Normal ) shows a corn crib built using pole barn framing and wire mesh. (McLean County Museum of History)

So strong is the fragrance in the corn crib that the family car or the family truck can not be parked in the alley way of typical corn crib for fear that the fragrance of corn would infiltrate the padding of the seats of the car or truck and stay in the car or truck for a years.

Luckily, as the winter weather sets in,  the ear corn would become less and less fragrant until the moisture content of the corn is only 15%.  At this stage there is only a “dry smell” in the corn crib.  At this point the fragrance was largely gone and the family car and/or truck may once again be safely stored in the alleyway of the corn crib.

A typical double corn crib with an alley way in the middle.

The typical corn crib should be no wider than eight (8) feet wide to allow the dry winter air to easily pass through the ear corn stored in the crib.  However most times, two single cribs were built close to each other and connected with a common gambrel roof.  Thus, the crib became known as a “double corn crib.”

After having shelled out most of the corn each year, diversified farmers would save back enough ear corn to grind and feed to cows, pigs and chickens on the farm. However, by late summer and fall of the year, the amount of ear corn left in the corn crib can decrease significantly. In October of the year the ear corn harvest usually begins again.

The typical corn crib should be no wider than eight (8) feet wide to allow the dry winter air to easily pass through the ear corn stored in the crib.  However most times, two single cribs were built close to each other and connected with a common gambrel roof.  Thus, the crib became known as a “double corn crib.”

Above the alleyway could be finished out into grain bins which would store oats until they fed to animals on the diversified farm or for storing soybeans until they were marketed at a nearby grain elevator.

Shelling out the ear corn in the new double corn crib on the grounds of the LeSueur Pioneer Power Association which replaced the original Erickson single corn crib which was destroyed by the wind.  In this picture Bill Radil is pictured in the upper right corner of the picture standing in the truck bed full of shelled corn.  As seen in this picture the new double corn crib has a cement foundation and a roof covering the entire structure resulting in an alleyway in the middle of the double crib.  Note from the picture that the alleyway has a cement floor and is thus a good place to store farm equipment out of the rain and snow in the wintertime.   In the background of the upper middle of the picture is the green David Bradley wagon flare box mounted on a red David Bradley wagon gear with lime green wheels.  As noted in this article,  this David Bradley wagon is often stored in the alleyway of the double corn crib on the Pioneer Power Showgrounds in the off-season.