Great West Mill and Elevator Company

By: H. Allen Anderson

Type: General Entry

Published: August 1, 1995

The Great West Mill and Elevator Company was the first large industrial plant to be established in the Texas Panhandle. In 1915 Frank Kell, wealthy flour miller from Wichita Falls, made an inspection tour of the wheat lands around Amarillo and decided that the city was a logical spot for a flour mill to serve the needs of a large portion of the American Southwest. Indeed, Kell envisioned a plant that would rival the Pillsbury and Washburn mills in Minneapolis, Minnesota, yet which would produce and market flour at a cheaper rate. World War I momentarily interrupted Kell's plans, but in May 1919 construction was begun on the huge facility, located on a twenty-six-acre tract on Northeast Third Street in Amarillo. The company was organized with Kell as president, Ed B. Humphrey as vice president, W. E. Sloane as chief accountant, Fred Honey as sales manager, and C. O. Morph as traffic manager. Humphrey, who had been assistant manager of Kell's Oklahoma City Mill and Elevator, was also designated general manager of the Great West facility, which opened for business on March 22, 1920. The plant, which cost $800,000 to build, had a capacity of 800 barrels of flour daily, with a ten-story, half-million bushel elevator in connection. The mill's six stories contained the most scientifically advanced (for that time) machinery for cleaning and scouring wheat and milling it into flour, including "shimmy" machines to shake out husks and other foreign matter from the flour. Between seventy-four and 100 workers were employed by the Great West Company during the 1920s. Soon the company's "Great West" and "Amaryllis" brands of bread and flour came to be in wide demand, and markets were established throughout the United States and in several foreign countries, especially in Latin America. In 1927, when aviation came to be popular, the mill owners erected a 186-foot-high beacon on top of the elevator to help guide pilots at night. The following year the company invested a quarter-million dollars to erect new storage facilities and double the plant's capacity. During the 1930s the mill turned out 330,000 barrels of flour and 70,000 barrels of meal annually, and the company's laboratory branch contributed much to its success. Overall, the Great West Mill and Elevator Company was instrumental in Amarillo's growth as a regional industrial center. After 1951 the facility became an outlet of General Mills, which had earlier become Great West's parent company. That arrangement continued until 1965, when General Mills closed the plant because of changing conditions in the flour industry. In November of that year the Garvey Elevators corporation, headed by James S. Garvey of Fort Worth, bought the plant and have subsequently operated it as a grain merchandising and storage facility.

Amarillo Sunday News-Globe, February 20, 1921, May 13, 1928. Ray Franks and Jay Ketelle, Amarillo, Texas: The First Hundred Years: A Picture Postcard History (Amarillo: Ray Franks, 1986).

  • Agriculture
  • Business

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

H. Allen Anderson, “Great West Mill and Elevator Company,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 09, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

August 1, 1995