Turkeys in the Ellsworth area

Turkey has been the byword to progress for Ellsworth in a colorful history that began in 1929 with only fifty birds and one flock owner.  This humble beginning may be attributed to town banker, Homer Brinton, who raised the turkeys on his farm.  During the busy Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons, the processing was done in the bank basement.   In 1929, William Thompson, a young farmer and college graduate raised 50 turkeys on his farm, assisted by his brother Raymond.

By 1935 the turkey business on the Thompson farm a mile east of Ellsworth was a mass operation.  Raymond quit his teaching job and went to work with the turkeys full time.  They installed four incubators in 1936.  Other farmers in the area became interested in turkeys.  Through the years, there was a complete turn around on the Ellsworth faming community; changing it from a general farming territory to an area whose very life blood was turkey raising on a large scale.

The Turkeys - 1944

     A Central Cooperative Turkey Producers of Ellsworth was organized in 1944.  Many other area farmers joined in, and by 1952 there were 70 turkey raisers concentrated in a 10 mile radius of Ellsworth.  At a peak, there were about 3 1/2 million pounds of turkey produced annually.  Eventually, the business was sold to others, and later, the processing plant is the home of Uncle B's Bagel factory.  This first started in Ames and was moved into Ellsworth's vacant turkey processing buildings.

In 1966, the Louis Rich turkey processing plant has announced that it would cease operations.  Local farmers investigated how they could manage to keep it open, but this was the last turkey processing plant to serve Hamilton County.

Building of Turkey Processing Plant - 1945

Ellsworth's newest industry, a turkey processing plant, began to take shape last weekend with the breaking of the ground for the new building.

The new industry, the Central Cooperative Turkey Producers, will process turkeys for the market - buying them live from the raisers, and putting them through the plant to be killed, drawn, packed, and shipping to the city markets.  The organizers of this new industry comprise the turkey raisers in this community.  At a meeting held last week, officers and a board of directors were elected.  The organization will incorporate with a capital stock of $50,000.00.  This detail is now in the hands of the attorneys of the group.

The location of the new plant will be immediately west of the Thompson Hatchery building with track facilities on the Chicago & North Western railway.  The building at present, will be 50 feet wide and 100 feet deep, one story, of block construction with curved roof.

According to recent survey, there are approximately 150,000 turkeys in the vicinity this season.  Although at this very moment, all plans are in the early stage, it is judged the plant will employ from twenty to forty persons, depending, of course, upon the number of live turkeys delivered to the plant.

Plans for further expansion are in mind, but these will not be considered until the first unit of the plant is built and in operation.    (This story is from "The Ellsworth News" - 1945)

Turkey Day
The line-up for sandwiches on Turkey Day
Celebrations were held intermittently until Turkey Day was instigated.  The Daily Freeman Journal wrote on Semptember 10, 1952,
"The free luncheon at noon today was furnished by many sponsors of the event which is an annual festival to spotlight Ellsworth's constant growing industry.  Governor Beardsley was the afternoon speaker and arrived in time for the turkey sandwiches plus the trimmings from Webster City in a 17 car caravan headed by Sheriff E. R. Lear.  Attorney General Robert Larson met the caravan in Ellsworth."
Turkey Day, with its free sandwiches, ball games, parades, races, skits, talent shows, and band concerts, flourished for a while.

The front (or north) Dubuque Steet side of the Ellsworth Turkey Plant.


Back to Contents

back Home