Robert Rand Russell
The Millard Sorghum Silo of Nacogdoches
For those who have ever wondered about the "mysterious"
and seemingly forgotten structures along the highway - here is a most
complete and detailed account of one particular silo. Capacity, cost,
date, and the bricklayer's name are all included. The practical (albeit
unusual) compacting method is here as well as the lengthy secondary
career of the structure - all complements of Robert Rand Russell and
friends. - Editor
The Millard Sorghum Silo of Nacogdoches
Photo courtesy Robert Rand Russell, July 2004
Wilson was president. Babe Ruth hit his first major league home run.
The year was 1915 and Nacogdoches, Texas farmer Jesse Millard, Sr.,
started building a silo. That red brick silo is the one standing on
the property now owned by J. M. Clipper Corporation's sealing products
factory north of Nacogdoches on Hwy 259.
The silo, a cylindrical structure 48 feet tall and 18 feet in diameter
is built of special glazed brick that look more like tiles. With a
5-foot deep cellar, the entire inside surface is plastered with acid
resistant cement. Those unusual 12 inch X 10 inch, 8 inch-thick bricks
were laid by a master bricklayer from war-torn Europe named John "Dutch"
"Dutch" Heaberlin came to America from the Austro-Hungarian Empire
shortly after the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. Heaberlin later
laid brick for the Nacogdoches Post Office erected on the city square
in 1918. He worked the rest of his career for Kingham Construction
Co. of Nacogdoches. The original purpose of the silo was to store
chopped sorghum grain stalks to be used for high grade cattle fodder.
After the stalks cure and naturally biodegrade they become highly
palatable and nutritious for fattening cattle. This type of feed is
called ensilage. Thus the container for ensilage is called a "silo".
At the time, the Millard Cotton Gin shared the site of the newly built
silo. The engine that powered the cotton gin also ran the chopper
and blower used to process and transport the ensilage up into the
silo through a large metal duct. The cotton gin was later sold and
Since the ensilage was a loose air driven mass, it had to be packed
as it was being stored. Mr. Millard used 30 of his goats to trample
the ensilage into the confines of the silo. These goats were living
compactors. As the goats grazed the silage they constantly milled
about packing the contents under hoof. It took about a month of chopping,
blowing, and packing to fill the silo to its open top. When goats
began to peer over the top edge, people passing by thought that pranksters
had been at work! The well-fed and somewhat acrophobic goats were
lowered with a rope and sling by Mr. Millard's nephew. The cattle
feeding was ready to begin.
Two hundred steers were fattened with fresh ensilage and then herded
to Mahl, a community in northern Nacogdoches County. From here they
were transported by rail to the Ft.Worth stockyards, hopefully to
be sold at a good profit. But, after only one complete season of use,
it was determined that this type of operation was not as cost effective
as originally planned. Sorghum grown here did not cure well in a vertical
silo and the entire operation was too labor intensive even for 1916.
A manpower shortage became apparent as America prepared for entry
into that European/World War. Unlike other defunct silos which were
quickly torn down, the Millard one soon found a useful and lucrative
Because the silo was located next to a well traveled road (now business
59), downtown Stripling-Haselwood Drugstore owners rented advertising
space on the silo for $50 per year in store credit to the Millard
family. This arrangement continued until the late 1970s. Being a long
time remedy for perceived failure, outdoor advertising recovered much
more than the $1200 construction cost.
As the years passed, fewer members of a more innocent era remained
to tell the history of the silo. It became an enigma of sorts whenever
inquires were made as to it origin. "It's been here as long as I can
remember..." became the usual reply without date nor detail.
Since that old red brick silo is as sound and plumb as it was in 1915
due to the Old World craftsmanship of John "Dutch" Heaberlin and the
enterprising Jesse Millard, Sr., it should prevail as a witness of
East Texas history and prosperity for the years to come. Another landmark
casting a shadow. Now this one also shines with a story.
With every silo story there remains the barbershop joke/question of:
"whatever happened to the poor soul who tried to find a corner in
a round silo to use as a toilet"?
Special thanks to Mr. Rudy Millard, J.E. Kingham, and others who
helped with the telling of the story of the Millard Silo.
© Robert Rand Russell
August 3, 2003