History of the Leonard Grain Elevator

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The Leonard Grain Elevator and Beanery, known locally as the Leonard Mill, dates back to 1889 when the Village of Leonard was thriving with local farming activity.  The Grain Elevator was constructed immediately adjacent to the PO & N Railway, which made shipping to larger cities possible.  Local farmers used the railroad and Grain Elevator to process and transport produce, lumber, grain, and livestock on outbound trains.  Northbound and southbound passenger trains also departed each morning and each evening.  The passenger trains brought people to work in the village businesses, which were a ready market for goods and services. 

 

The unique shape of the Grain Elevator and Beanery structure made shipping locally grown crops on the railroad much more efficient.  Farmers would arrive at the north side of the Mill with their horse drawn wagons and be weighed on scales. They would then pull around to the west side to unload grain into a pit. From the pit, the grain would travel up the elevator tower to be cleaned, sorted and stored in large bins or silos. Power for the machinery is likely to have come from a steam engine.  When a train arrived, the grain would be bagged and loaded into the train boxcars to be shipped to nearby markets. 

 

The Leonard Beanery was located on the second floor of the elevator.  Farmers brought wagon loads of locally grown dry beans to the elevator where beanery workers would remove all the refuse from the beans by hand using a treadle operated bean sorter.  After removing all the refuse, the cleaned beans travelled through a chute in the floor to the floor below where they were bagged and weighed.  Unfortunately, the Beanery closed indefinitely in 1913.

 

The Grain Elevator  was an irreplaceable asset to the thriving farming community of the late 1800s and early 1900s.  As long as there were a large number of farmers utilizing the Grain Elevator business prospered.  On the other hand, the PO & N Railway struggled for about a century after it was built.  The Railway changed ownership various times after being built and even changed services several times from having trains specially for passengers or freight, to having a "mixed" train with passengers and freight in 1932, and then finally to freight only trains in 1955.  After never becoming profitable, the Railway became neglected and the last train to service the full length of the line was is in February 1984.  The decline of the PO & N Railway coupled with the decline in farming in the latter half of the 1900's caused the Grain Elevator to expand business and operate as a Grain Elevator and General Store from 1976 until finally ceasing operations in 2004.   

 

Currently, the Leonard Grain Elevator and Beanery remains vacant and the portion of the PO & N Railway from Orion to Kings Mill has been converted into a Rails-to-Trails project known as the Polly Ann Trail after being acquired in 1993.

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The Leonard Mill is a  historic preservation and economic development project that is a collaboration between Oakland County and the Village of Leonard.