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Creameries and Dairies of

Newaygo Co.

by

Terry E. Wantz

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At first, the farms and dairy farms of the area supplied the local lumber camps and mills with vegetables, fruit, grain, hay, poultry, meat, milk, and butter. They had a market for their cows hides at the tannery, to be made into leather. The cut-over timber land was cheap and good soil and the farmers were able to sell anything that they raised and didn’t need for their own families. But as the large pines in the area became depleted and the lumber companies moved to other areas, the farmers needed another market. They found that there was a market for their products in the larger cities and with the railroads which were built to ship the lumber to the mills in the cities, could also be used to ship their vegetables, fruit, grain, poultry and meats to the cities. Milk and butter was a little harder to ship, the farmers didn’t have the time to milk their cows, separate the milk and cream, make the butter, take it to the depot and wait for the train. There became a need for the creameries, so that farmers could just drop their milk off at the creameries when they were done milking and the creameries would separated the milk and cream, make the butter and cheese and ship it to the cities.

 

Some of the creameries in the area were the Alpha Creamery in Hesperia, Bishop Creamery at Bishop, White Cloud Butter Factory and the Blue Line Creamery in White Cloud, Crystal Spring (Hagadorn) Creamery, Fremont Creamery and Fremont Co-op Creamery in Fremont, Holton, Newaygo, Reeman and Wooster also had creameries. Some of the creameries also sold milking machines, separators and dairy and farm equipment.

 

The Alpha Creamery started at Hesperia in 1919 and began with an output of 700 pounds of butter during the first week, in the last three months of 1919 they produced 28,156 pounds of butter. When operations first began, the office, boiler and cooler occupied three corners of a small building, and one pasteurizer and one churn consumed the remaining space. As business increased three pasteurizers were added to care for incoming cream and the one churn was taxed to capacity.

 

In 1928 it did over $1,000,000 worth of business and the demands of increasing production resulted in the building of a two-story structure of brick and tile, with a 70 foot frontage and 90 foot depth and office accommodations of the most modern kind.. In 1929, they churned and placed on the market 1,128,965 pounds of butter. Later three more pasteurizers and another churn was added. The employment of the Alpha Creamery was listed as 51 persons. By 1930 they had grew to be the largest creamery in Western Michigan. Something of the capacity of the plant is seen in the fact that from seven to eight churns were made daily. From Easter through June it was imperative to the creamery to run on Sundays although employees worked only part time on these occasions.

 

In 1931 the output was one million and a half, pounds of butter. The creamery had a patronage of 2000 farmers in the Oceana-Newaygo district, and the cream came directly to the plant daily as well as twice a week from 22 stations within the area. A distributing agency was maintained in Grand Rapids for the marketing of three brands of butter. A considerable quantity of the production also went to Muskegon, according to Edward LeFevre, manager and principal owner.

 

Later, as the small settlements and towns in the area begin to grow, there was a need for local dairies. Some of the dairies which served this area were Henry Beth, J. P. Hackett and Newaygo dairies of Newaygo, Chittenden, Grant, Joppe’s, Sylsma’s and Klever dairies of Grant, Mast, Mast and Marten’s, Bird Bros., Grabill’s, H. Johnson, R. C. Sanders, Twin Maple, Bigler & Son and Fry’s dairies of White Cloud. The Farr View, Sunny Service, Fremont, Greenwood Farms, E. E. Price - Rosy Dawn, Stroven, Stroven & Fitzpatrick, Sanitary, M. Deur - City View, John J. William and E. B. Griswold dairies of Fremont. The Somer’s, J. E. Philo, Hesperia, and Tompsett’s dairies of Hesperia and Old Estate, H. H. Nordwall, Holton and Cedar Creek dairies of Holton. Also the DeWitte Cheese Co. of White Cloud and Fremont, the Mary Jane Cottage Cheese Co. of White Cloud and the Valley Lee Brand Butter Co. of Fremont.

 

Some of the local farmers would also use the train to ship their milk to the Creameries, such as  Chas. Spitstone of Wooster which he used to ship his milk to the Blue Valley Creamery Co. in Muskegon.

 

In May 1936, Erwin B. Griswold, local milk dealer, who started selling his milk in the Dayton Center Store, began construction on a new dairy station to handle the dairy business of the Fremont area. It’s was called The Fremont Dairy, the new building was located on Sheridan Street, on the former Vallier property just east of Division Ave. on the north side of Sheridan St. The building was a single-story building 40 by 44 feet in size. It was brown tile construction on the outside with the same color inside finished in a smooth glazed tile. The floor were cement throughout.

 

The building accommodated all the cooling and bottling equipment the dairy plant used, and there was room for three truck in the rear of the building with a special loading platform. At the front of the building there was a room for retail milk sales. Construction of the building was in charge of Claud Playter, a local contractor.

 

The Sunny Service Dairy was owned and run by E. Folkema and Sons and was located on the east end of Fremont on the north side of Main St. The dairy was later owned first by Sanitary Dairy and then Farr View Dairy.

 

The City View Dairy was owned and run by Martin Deur . This dairy was located where the new Pathfinder School is now located.

 

Mr. Harry Stroven purchased his first pure bred Guernsey bull from Wisconsin in 1906 and a short time later obtained a pure bred Guernsey cow from Pennsylvania for his dairy farm. He believed his cattle were the first purebred Guernsey in Newaygo County.

 

The Stroven Dairy was started in 1940 by Harry Stroven and his sons Stanley and Keith and was located two miles east of Fremont on the north side of 48th. St. It is believed to be the first dairy to sell Grade A Milk in Newaygo County. Grade "A" is designated by the State of Michigan as milk that is produced and bottled on the same farm.. The bottles milk was kept in a newly constructed refrigerator in the dairy house. The building was of concrete block construction with metal ceiling and partitions. All the metal in the building including the machinery handling the milk was of stainless steel. The milk was delivered to Fremont in their new white International pick-up truck.

 

Later Loren Fitpatrick became a partner of Stroven in the dairy and the name was change to Stroven & Fitpatrick Dairy. The name was again changed later to the Greenwood Farms Dairy.

 

In 1946 Gordon and Mary Powell opened the doors of the Old Estate Dairy for business, located seven miles west of Fremont or four miles north of Holton. The dairy building was a cement block building 20 by 20 feet square. He started by delivering milk from the back of his car to his 19 customers. The first delivery truck was a 1936 half-ton panel. By 1954 the dairy building had been enlarged to 20 by 60 feet plus a 9,000 quart capacity cooler, and a 40 by 40 garage building along with five up-to-date milk delivery truck. New equipment totaling $12,000 was added this year making the milk processing plant one of the most modern in the area. The customers had increased from 19 to over 1,500 and lived as far away as Muskegon, Newaygo, Fremont, Shelby and Hart. About this time he started a new service to retail stores and added paper-carton Valley Lea milk products to his routes.

 

Now all that remain of these small creameries and dairies are the old cream cans and old milk bottles that they used and maybe the calendars that they passed out to their customers at Christmas time.

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