Farmer/inventor/businessman Elbert Jacob Guyer was born October 24, 1914 to William and Maude (Ruthi) Guyer on the family homestead in Kill Creek Township of Osborne County.
At the 2002 Osborne County Hall of Fame Banquet Elbert’s grandson, John Trenton Guyer, gave the following induction speech on the life of his grandfather:
“I’m John Trenton Guyer, Elbert Guyer’s grandson . . . .
In 1875, Elbert’s Grandfather, John W. Guyer homesteaded in a typical sod house along the banks of Kill Creek Township after having walked through a dozen states as a Civil War Union soldier. He had originally come from Switzerland settling in Wisconsin and then Kill Creek.
Elbert, my grandfather, started out in Osborne County, where he grew up on that same farm his grandfather homesteaded. On clear, cold, early winter mornings, while performing the family chores, he often heard the train whistle of the coal fired steam engine run through Bloomington. He never imagined he would see much of the world and the far-off distances the train was headed. He drove a Model A Ford, 11 miles to High School on the dirt roads through mud, snow and ice. The driving experience in those conditions served him well as he later drove throughout all 50 states and 6 Canadian provinces. He accumulated over several million miles hauling or towing products on two-lane highways and roads, oftentimes sleeping in the pickup truck cab.
He also journeyed throughout all the continents of the world except Antarctica and circled the world eight times while experiencing government coups, hazardous airline flights and cultural obstacles. Throughout the years, he always came back to Osborne County to visit family and friends and the ranchland he still owns here.
Elbert came through the hardship of the dust bowl days. After high school, with no finances to further his education, he ventured into farming to support his family. This led to custom harvesting, which evolved into manufacturing. Being a custom harvester in the grain fields between Texas and North Dakota required healthy self-sufficiency and guidance from God. Elbert reportedly made a public prayer for the crew’s safety before each journey. He and his crew of 10 men spent many nights in their bedrolls under the stars, along with four combines loaded on four grain trucks. Elbert depended on his ingenuity and self-sufficiency along with a portable workshop that also traveled with the crew. It was stocked with a welder, cutting torch, air compressor, parts stock and tools of the day. He could design and build tools not available anywhere else. This eliminated down-time and waiting on parts or making trips for supplies increasing production many times over. This capability was a step towards manufacturing and testing grounds for later products.
One such product was a Milo guard; a combine attachment that prevented Sorghum Heads from being knocked to the ground before the grain could make it into the combine’s storage bin. It was effective and comparatively easy to install and uninstall. It became so popular that piecework was contracted through various points in the county. The Milo guard was followed by other products such as round bottom feed bunks, soft drink cases, partition repair kits, playground equipment and another sign of the time: TV towers. At least one tower still stands in Alton.
Elbert invented the recirculating batch dryer and experimented with the development of it while custom harvesting. The grain dryer became very popular for “on-the-farm” drying and eventually found its place on farms and elevators in 54 countries around the world. But before it could be produced, growing pains required expansion. Families were beginning to introduce television into their homes. Whenever Elbert’s spot welder was engaged, the TV reception up and down the creek would fade and recover from the power surge. Downed phone lines that occurred from the oversized harvesting equipment passing through, plus the party telephone lines busy with business calls meant this expansion required a move. The family said good-bye to Osborne County, and eventually expanded into manufacturing in Moundridge, Kansas.
Today the company called Moridge Manufacturing, Incorporated, produces 33 models of the Grasshopper zero-turn mowers, which was introduced in 1970. Elbert credits the company’s engineering staff for developing the basic mower concept and shaping a product that has been a centerpiece of the commercial mowing industry. The success of the Grasshopper has been due in large part to the pioneering spirit and self-sufficiency instilled by Elbert along with the company’s ability to manufacture and market new products. Other products previously developed and produced by MoridgeManufacturing have been:
• 10″ Baldwin Grain Auger
• Automatic Tube Cattle Feeder
• Goose Neck Stock Trailer
• Springtooth Harrows
• Soybean Roasters and
• Poultry Barn Heaters
Today, the approximately 300,000 square foot plant, continuing the tradition of self-sufficiency, has utilized robotic welders since 1984. In addition, Moridge owns two of only 100 robotic press brakes running nationwide, all computer numerically controlled brakes and shears, laser fabricators, a powder paint system and 250 personnel.
Of course Elbert could not have accomplished this without the support of his wife of 65 years, Marvel Hackerott Guyer. Not only did Marvel take care of the household, but she also did bookkeeping and many times kept the factory running while he was on the road selling products.
Each generation has passed on a legacy to the next and I’m pleased to say ‘Thank you’ for recognizing my grandfather’s hard work and contributions.”
Elbert Guyer passed away in Moundridge on December 22, 2003, and was buried in the Mound Township Cemetery near Moundridge.