Book review: ‘True Legacy: The History of the Tillman Produce Company’ by Philip and Cheryl Tillman

By LARRY BALLWAHN | Wilton

The remainder of the title is “and growing up in Wilton, Wisconsin.” Philip and Cheryl Tillman have compiled a book of interest to anyone who knows the Tillman family or who had a friend or relative who worked for Tillman Produce Company. Family life is chronicled from the time Bid came to Wilton until the present day. The company’s story is detailed during that time period as well.

“Tillman’s was the economic engine that drove Wilton and the area …. Like my Dad, a number of people found their full-time employment there. Farm wives were able to add to the family income with part-time work and many local businesses depended on the income generated by the plant.” — Larry Ballwahn

While the book is the work of Philip and Cheryl Tillman, several of the brief articles are the contribution of former workers and members of the Tillman family.

There were seven children in the family. Childhood, as remembered, was a positive experience filled with exciting experiences, religious values and caring parents. Each Tillman child had a multitude of local friends, and days were filled with activities appropriate to the times. Favorites were hiking and horseback riding, though board games and sporting activities filled much family time. Managing the business was constantly stressful, but the work was not brought home. Bid always had time to be a father. At the same time, the Tillman children are unanimous in their appreciation of their mother’s role.

Many pictures highlight Tillman Produce’s history. There is information regarding the acquisition of the feed mill, the poultry operation, the need for the hatchery, and the development of the egg business in Wilton and Perham, Minn. The hard times are discussed as well as the good. Also enumerated are employees and some of their stories. There are illustrations of the plant and its development as products required. Also explored are those products.

I have long wondered how Bid found his way from Illinois to Wilton, Wis. Also, what actually happened to bring the company down? “True Legacy” answers those questions and even sets forth the “Legacy.”

“True Legacy” is available at the Wilton Public Library or by ordering one from the Tillmans. The cost is $40 plus $8 for shipping. Make checks to Philip Tillman, P.O. Box 126, Alburnett, IA 52202. You may also want to visit the Facebook page “Tillman Produce Co.”

Special note: Author Allen Eskens will be at the Westby Area Performing Arts Center, 206 S. West Ave., tonight, Aug. 22, at 7 pm. Free tickets are at the door. Eskens is the author of “The Life We Bury,” “The Shadows We Hide” and several others.

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