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September 17, 2012

Story of Topeka's oldest business to be told

TOPEKA — The story of Topeka’s oldest family business, Hochstetler & Sons (Topeka Seed & Stove), will be the subject of the Topeka Area Historical Society meeting Tuesday at the Topeka Branch Library.

Members of the Hochstetler family will be on hand to tell the story of how Omer Hochstetler went from spreading marl in 1937 to operating a grain elevator. Today the family business Topeka Seed & Stove is one of the oldest and largest Central Boiler dealers. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. and is open to the public.     

The original business was started by Omer Hochstetler in 1937. Hochstetler and his brother shoveled marl by hand out of Emma Lake’s edge which is four miles north of Topeka. They would then spread marl on the fields using trucks pulling a barrel spreader behind them. This was a 55-gallon barrel over a spinner fan run by an old axle with the shaft turned up.

By the early ’40s he had purchased a truck and started hauling in shelled corn from Illinois (because local farmers were not producing enough corn) and coal from Ohio. While the business continued to expand over the years, the end of rail service in Topeka forced the Hochstetlers to look in a new direction. The new direction led them to begin selling corn and wood stoves.

“While I remember Omer,” said Topeka Historical Society president Harold Gingerich, “I never realized that he delivered the first semi load of grain to the Anderson Grain Elevator in Maumee, Ohio, when it opened in 1948.”

Gingerich added that people would be surprised to learn that at one time Hochstetlers had 1 million bushels of government grain stored at its facility.

The Topeka Area Historical Society’s Depot Museum is open on Saturday mornings during the summer months. There is no admission charge. The group holds bi-monthly public meetings and publishes a quarterly newsletter. Newsletters are available online at www.topekahistoricalsociety.com.

For more information, call (260) 499-0126.  

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