Cargill’s network of grain warehouses
From 1865 to 1910, Cargill establishes grain warehouses and elevators along the American Midwest’s railroads, improving crop transport to major cities.

Grain elevators connect farmer & customer

After the success of his first grain warehouse in 1865, W. W. Cargill keeps going, creating a trade network across the US to help farmers sell their grain.

Company founder W. W. Cargill purchased his first grain flathouse in the booming town of Conover. Yet when the railway abruptly dismantled and moved its train station, the town jokingly became known as “Goneover,” and W. W. had to keep moving. Demand for grain was high in major city centers, but the crop was in far-off rural areas—often hundreds of miles away—dependent on railroads and waterways.

Over the next two decades, W. W. and his brothers followed the expansion of both grain farms and railroads, building and purchasing storage sites to establish points of sale along the new routes. In Iowa, W. W. premiered one of his first grain elevators, a structure with an ingenious conveyor system that lifted grain into upper-level silos where it could sit safely for longer periods of time. By holding wheat until trains arrived, Cargill moved grain to market faster and for less money, which benefitted suppliers and customers alike.

Cargill grain elevator in North DakotaAt a Cargill grain elevator in Eckelson, North Dakota, horse-drawn wagons approach carrying harvested grain that is ready for train transport.

Fast-forward to 1886, and W. W.’s network had extended eastward into Minnesota along the Southern Minnesota Railroad. In the years to come, the brothers would construct dozens more sites which helped grain suppliers in Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Dakotas expand their business—creating an intricate map of routes that consistently moved grain to Duluth, St. Paul and Minneapolis.

This strategic expansion from 1865 to 1910 created a powerful production and transportation network that fueled the company's first major growth spurt. By the turn of the twentieth century, Cargill was a major force in American grain trade—a precursor to the company’s contemporary work improving trade infrastructures across the globe.