By Jackie Nelson
Editor’s Note: A very special Thank you to Elnor for brining in several wonderful newspaper clippings and personal notes regarding the old Royal Turkey Plant. This information made for very interesting reading and was perfectly timed with Thanksgiving. We greatly appreciate her interest in local history and encourage readers to bring us story ideas and information. Have a Happy Thanksgiving.
In writing this story The Record and several associates went on a wild turkey chase tracking down the date that the plant closed.
As of deadline, and many, many phone calls on Monday, Carl Boyer got us to the closest approximation of 1967 as the date the plant closed. We would love to hear from Hesston folks who have a history with the plant, or are familiar with the plant and a date Hesston turkeys received official pardons.
In January, 1946, Al Weaver and Roy Troyer had a vision, to open a turkey dressing plant in Hesston. On Nov. 8, 1946, their dream became a reality with the opening of the Roy-Al Turkey Plant at the Hesston Mill.
While the turkey plant celebrated its formal beginning in 1946, Weaver, president of the company, had established the business over a decade prior.
“Weaver actually started the business back in the 30’s when he started doing some custom dressing at his far two miles south of Hesston. Then, shortly after World War II, Weaver and Troyer – who serves a secretary treasurer for the corporation – formally started their present business,” read an article in the Wichita Beacon, written by Joe Gilmartin.
The first year, Troyer and Weaver employed 20 people and dressed 400 to 500 birds per day, according to the Hesston Centennial book, written by Murray Bandy.
Only 4,000 turkeys were processed the first season the plant was open.
Production swiftly increased to meet demand. According to the Wichita Beacon, the Royal Turkey plant, in addition to turning out turkeys, contributed greatly to the local economy.
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