EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part two of a three-part series.
In 1950, John M. Olin, leader of Winchester Ammunition and chairman of the board of the Olin Corp., wanted a creative name for his new farm/preserve and hunting facility. He commissioned a companywide naming contest that quickly ended when an employee submitted the title “Nilo,” Olin spelled backward. The boss loved the name, the lucky employee received a bonus, and to further fuel Olin’s fire, someone suggested that Nilo also was “lion spelled sideways.”
Olin was not only an industrialist, philanthropist and conservation leader; he was a highly competitive sportsman. That trait led him to assemble the best staff possible to manage Nilo Farms and promote Winchester Ammunition.
T.W. “Cotton” Pershall was hired to oversee the farm and wear the title head trainer. The remaining Nilo staff was carefully selected and required dedication and loyalty to the task.
A home on the grounds was built for Cotton and an existing farmhouse was renovated for the clubhouse to be used for entertainment. Other structures were designed and built for equipment, workshops and storage.
The state-of-the-art kennels and trophy room added character and class to Olin’s realization of his dream. The duties of head trainer and preserve manager were soon divided as Leo George joined the staff as manager to allow Cotton more time dedicated to dog training.
Nilo’s fame and popularity quickly spread throughout the “outdoors” community as Olin staff writer John Madson wrote documents on small game research, conservation and hunting. Revered outdoor writer Nash Buckingham became a frequent guest not only to hunt, shoot and write but to expose the shooting public to new innovations in Winchester Ammunition. It was Buckingham’s “stamp of approval” that helped convince Olin to begin mass production of the Winchester Super X high-density plastic hull shotgun shell loaded with Lubaloy shot.
These shells became the choice of America’s waterfowlers. Legendary exhibition shooter Herb Parson was employed to entertain guests at Nilo, displaying his skill and uncanny ability to break clay targets shooting a Model 12 Winchester.
Future Hall of Fame baseball players loved coming to Nilo, among them, St. Louis Cardinals Stan “The Man” Musial, Enos Slaughter and Red Schoendienst. Ted Williams, manager Whitey Herzog and broadcaster Mike Shannon joined them to polish their shooting skills.
TV star Arthur Godfrey had the cameras rolling on a visit and writers from major hunting and shooting magazines begged for the Nilo assignment. Hollywood “cowboys” Robert Stack, Rod Taylor and Roy Rogers’ sidekick “Gabby” Hayes were on the guest list. Its rumored Olin’s favorite cowboy, John Wayne, spent time at the farm and Olin mansion.
Larry Reid is host of “Outdoors with Larry Reid” which airs Sundays at noon on WBGZ Radio, 1570 AM.