That came up because construction of the sugar factory was just getting underway that year. By some accounts, which I’ve been unable to confirm, it was supposed to have been built the year before, but the project was hijacked. According to that story several men from Blackfoot had purchased the equipment for a sugar factory, but some scoundrels who wanted it for themselves changed the paperwork on the shipment and had it unloaded near the town of Lincoln where a sugar factory was built.
Putting possible treachery aside, the sugar factory that became a Blackfoot symbol was built in 1904. In August of that year, the local paper was reporting that “The carbonators, evaporators, fourteen diffusion batteries, all juice pumps and the entire boiler plan are now being placed in position.” Most of that equipment, manufactured in France, had been purchased from a bankrupt factory in Binghamton, New York.
Horse drawn Fresno scrapers leveled the sand dune prior to construction and carved out a reservoir for storing 70,000 tons of beet pulp. During construction about 180 men were put to work, 40 of them on the masonry alone. Many of those concentrated on bricking up the 135-foot smokestack that would be a Blackfoot icon for more than a hundred years.
In September the paper reported that there would be ancillary beet dumps placed in Firth, Moreland, and Wapello. Managers at the plant were showing local beet farmers how to construct wagon racks that would work best with the equipment going in. Those wagons along with train cars would be using one of several elevated trestles that facilitated dumping beets into huge piles.
The factory, with mostly French equipment, was an international operation. To get things rolling they had ordered half a carload of muriatic acid, 28,000 pounds of brimstone, 10,000 yards of cotton filtering cloth, 500 beet knives from Germany, and 8,000 sheets of parchment from Belgium.
On September 19, 1904, a strike of workers building the factory threatened to stop progress. Forty-six men said they would walk out if they didn’t get an additional nickel an hour in wages. Management rejected their demands. Thirty-seven of them walked off the job and left town.
The mini strike didn’t impact progress much. The factory was ready for the beets to start rolling in on Wednesday, November 9 at 1 pm, about a week ahead of schedule.
The Blackfoot plant could process 600 tons of beets a day, at first. That increased to an 800-ton daily capacity in 1911. The factory was closed for the season in 1910 because curly top had infected area beets. It closed, again, in 1922, 1926, and 1927 for the same reason. Its peak year of production was 1940, when it processed 104,206 tons of beets and turned out 368,007 bags of sugar.
The factory closed for good in 1948 and the equipment was dismantled in 1952. It served as a sugar storage warehouse for many years, starting in 1954. The iconic smokestack, which stood for 112 years, came down in 2016.