In Search of Minnesota Silos

For those people who grew up on farms in Minnesota, you no doubt had silos on your farm.  Even people in cities can recognize and understand what silos were used for.  There were many types and styles of silos.  They were even made of different materials, like cement, clay, or wood.  As a brick lover, I focus on the clay silos.

When I drive across Minnesota, almost every farmstead I see still has a silo.  Some of them have multiple silos.  These days, one of the big brands is Harvestore.  Harvestore silos are usually a distinctive dark blue color.  The modern day Harvestore silos are also labeled with the company’s name in bright while letters at the top.  However, if you have a silo on your property that was made in the early 1900s, who actually made it?

To date, I can only accurately identify one brand of silos, which are the ACO silos.  ACO stands for Adolph Casimir Ochs, who was a brick maker in Springfield, Minnesota.  ACO silos are probably the most common clay block silos still found in Minnesota today.  Most of the ACO silos are just as identifiable as the Harvestore silos, because they were labeled “ACO” in big white letters at the top.  If you have an ACO silo on your property, it was made from clay block in Springfield.

However, if you do not have an ACO silo, it becomes much harder to identify.  In my years of research, I know that a brickyard in Austin made silos and so did a brickyard in Zumbrota.  Just today, I found out that there was a silo manufacturer in St. Paul, which was called the “Independent Silo Company.”  I actually found one of their silo blocks in a dump.  That actually gives a second way to identify your early 1900s silo.  If you look closely at the sides of the silo block, it may be stamped by the manufacturer.  However, sometimes these stamps were covered up by mortar and may not be visible unless they are torn down.

I have seen many different colors of clay block silos in my treks across Minnesota.  ACO silos are usually a burnt orange-red.  I have seen silos that are almost a purple color and I have seen some that look more orange.  Some of them have painted white plus (+) symbols at the top and some have painted diamonds.  There are also silos that have no white  painting on the top at all.  All said, if anyone knows more information on identifying old Minnesota clay block silos, let me know.  In the meantime, I continue to look for the answers…

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6 Responses to In Search of Minnesota Silos

  1. Rin Porter says:

    I came across your website today while looking for information on St Cloud yellow brick. I was in the Pope County and Douglas County Hist. Societies today looking for information on John Aiton, a brick maker in Glenwood, MN, along with his sons, from 1870 to 1910. I was not able to find a location for his brick yard, but you might know it already. If so, please let me know. Thanks for your blog!

  2. Peter Rodvik says:

    I have been remodling an old barn with a A.C.O. silo and it looks great. I primed and painted the top white and put up an American flag. It sure gets alot of nice comments from passer by’s. It is located by Madison Lake,Mn. Pete

  3. Karen Vaske says:

    I have been looking for someone else interesting in preserving “silo history” for all over the Midwest. My mom said that during the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, crews came around in the summer to build silos (we were raised in Michigan, but obviously the same thing occurred throughout the country) and that the different styles and markings were indicative of the different companies who build the silos. I hope that pictures are being taken to let us know which of the companies made which silos.
    As my husband and I travel throughout the USA, I look for silos and daydream of the families that used them. Memories of dairy cattle being milked are some of my best small child memories. Even as an 8-year-old, I could get out of dishes in the house by going to the barn and milking “Tiny” who was small, gentle and easy to milk. Silos are the only visible sign that so many farms milked.
    Is there a way to find out which companies built which silos?

  4. dan yezek says:

    hello, came across your web sight looking up somthing I found today metal detecting. It is a patent plate for independent silo co. st. paul Mn. three dates on it. Apr 28, 1908, Jun 30 1914, and Aug 4, 1914. I know nothing of it, just thought it went along with your discussion of Identifying a silo.

  5. I have photos of 2 ACO silos on my Flickr page, Waseca County, MN

  6. Dorothy Nelson says:

    I am wondering if there is any significance to the silos with painted red and white tops and blue and white. Anybody have an answer for me.

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