1905 was the first year that TWO competing railroads served Westby. The Cargill family felt the existing Milwaukee Railroad did not provide good enough service to communities in Vernon County. The Cargills started a railroad called "La Crosse and Southeastern" that connected La Crosse to several Vernon County communities as of 1905. This train ran on the west side of the Cargill Grain Elevator which had been newly built in 1905.The Milwaukee Road trains ran on the East Side of the Grain Elevator/Mill on what is now Bekkedal Avenue.
Logan Mill History
Ben Logan's old Grain & Feed Mill that has been renovated into Logan Mill Lodge is one of several historic buildings in the little Norwegian village of Westby. It is located at the corner of South Bekkedal Avenue and East Second Street just 1 block East of Main Street. It is near the down town retail shops and restaurants. It is 3 blocks south of the Stabbur Visitor Center and 1 block north of the Westby Coop Creamery. This part of the city was the original industrial park because the railroad tracks ran down what is now Bekkedal Avenue and Polly Rude Way, the 2 streets that run beside the property.
The years 1905 - 1939 this building was home to one of the first co-operatives in the state of Wisconsin, the "Westby Co-operative Seed Exchange". Cancelled checks from the 1920's were found in the attic that show things that farmers sold to the coop.
In 1940 a gentleman named Ben Logan purchased this property, doubled the size of the building, added feed grinding equipment, and renamed the business "Westby Feed and Seed". This was the first feed mill to serve dairy farmers in rural Westby. Other people have owned the building since Ben Logan, but to this day the building is still fondly remembered and spoken of as "Ben Logan's Mill".
Thanks to Westby historian, Eric Leum, who has provided photos that show the history of this property and has written about this property in the "HISTORICALLY YOURS" column for the Westby Times newspaper. . Additionally we are grateful to Donna Bean, one of Ben Logan's grandchildren, for the research she did at the Vernon County Courthouse to verify the sequence of owners of this property. . The significant eras in the history of the building seem to have started in these years...
1905 - 1910 - 1911 - 1940 - 1962 - 1966 - 1990 - 1999
(work in progress so not all years are covered in this narrative)
1905 The CARGILL era - The Construction of the Grain Elevator.
The Cargill family completed construction of the LaCrosse & Southeastern Railroad which ran from LaCrosse to Viroqua, going through 5 Vernon County villages. The Cargill family, then as now, were heavily invested in the the agri-business of grain trading so besides building the railroad they built a grain elevator in each of the 5 villages, including the one in Westby. Unfortunately the elevator was torn down in the 1970's.
1910 - The McEachron era - The Construction of the Grain Mill Warehouse.
The 50 ft x 28 ft grain warehouse that was built on the east side of the Cargill grain elevator was built in 1910and still stand today at the corner of Bekkedal & Second. It has stood the test of time, withstanding 2 tornados which destroyed tobacco warehouses to the north and east.
There is some confusion about what years Mr. H.E. McEachron was involved with the Mill and what role he played, i.e. owner or manager. Some records indicate he was connected with the Cargills in some way from the very beginning in 1905 when it was just the grain elevator. Other records seem to indicate he might have entered the scene later than the Cargills, possible not till 1909 when the Mill Warehouse building east of the grain elevator was started. Maybe he was the owner of the warehouse and the Cargills the grain elevator?
(NOTE: If anyone has more information about this era please contact us so we can more accurately record the Mill history. We are also looking for a photo that would have been taken the year the Mill Warehouse was completed in about 1910. The above photo is approximately how the elevator and warehouse appeared in 1910, but at that time the metal sheets of siding seen in this photo were not on the building. We believe Ben Logan covered the wood siding with the metal sheets in the early 1940's. )