Memories of Clark Co., Wisconsin Cheese Factories

Compiled by Judy Hansen



My memory is that there were two Mattes brothers. They had the Mattes livestock market on County M or N (the east/west road), Thorp address. They also had one or more nice farms. I am wondering if perhaps their father could have owned the cheese factory. I don't know what the father's name was. The Longwood area wouldn't be too far distant using that road. The factories often hired their cheese makers and still do. Many of them had a bar and grocery (forerunner of convenience stores) as well. Jean R.

So, the Silver Dollar is on the old Mattes farm! We eat there every time we are in the area. They have a mighty good prime rib special on Thursday nights which is easy on the pocketbook and delicious. Janet S.


I understand about the cheese factories having a store with them. My Aunt Barbara Emmerson and her husband, Walter LeRoy Emmerson (son of Oliver G. and Olga Minnie B. (Wolters) Emmerson), had a cheese factory and store in Clark County. I visited when I was small so don't remember much about it. That was in the early 50's. Darlene P.


Your comments about Walter and Barbara Emmerson and their cheese factory located on Highway 29 between Thorp and Withee (For some reason the name, Wildwood Cheese Factory comes to mind.) brings up some old memories. After graduating from Greenwood High, I enrolled in the Vocational School in Eau Claire. Several times when I came home, it would be by Greyhound bus. The driver would let me off at your (Stan’s) Uncle’s cheese factory and my folks would meet me there. I could never board the bus at the cheese factory, but getting off was no problem. Duane H.


Walter and Barbara were wonderful folks. They, along with Harry & Clara Baehr, George & Tillie Poppe, Ted & Emma Braun, and my folks (Hubert & Ann Horn) would take turns having everyone in on a Sunday afternoon or some other evening for a lively game of cards. Other folks, including Sally & Ewald Schwarze, were sometimes there as well. Ted and Emma Braun owned and operated the Braun Settlement Cheese factory located about six miles west of Longwood. Duane H.


Found a note that says that Barbara and Walter Emmerson owned the Loneoak Store and Cheese Factory. 4 miles outside of Withee, WI. Darlene P.


I think the Wildwood Cheese Factory was located in the Town of Reseburg across the road from the Jim & Clara Metcalf farm. Also on one of the road corners was the Wildwood school where my cousin, Violet Horn, taught school and where she met her future husband who, with his family, was operating the cheese factory at that time. Duane H.


I got this message from Sandi, the daughter of Barbara and Walter Emmerson: “I see you already found the name of my parent’s cheese factory. They sold almost everything in the store-food, gas, some clothing (gloves etc), cheese from the cheese factory, pure maple syrup from the farmers, etc.” Darlene P.


It’s interesting that the Cheese Factories served as small grocery stores. What items would one have expected to find there.......milk & cheese, I would naturally assume. Did they also sell gas? Were they the equivalent (in some cases) of Quick Trips? Stan says he remembers them selling candy bars, pop and cigarettes, but not normally any canned goods. I suppose that varied. Do any of you recall the Longwood Cheese Factory in particular? Was it a gathering place for locals? Did they sell coffee there? Janet S.


I just finished a telephone conversation with my Aunt, Leora Dyre in Greenwood, WI. I remembered that she once told me that as a young bride she would go to work in the cheese factories whenever she wanted something special for the house, so I asked her about it. She told me that she worked for the Redville Cheese Factory, owned by Art Stewart and the Greenwood Co-Op (Now Land O' Lakes) in Greenwood. She said that neither of these two was a canning factory. (This would indicate that some of the products were shipped out.) This would most likely have been in the mid 30s and into the 40s. She did remember the factory in Longwood as having belonged to the Suda's. Mary is saying this was in Willard. I don't know who is right. However, Suda's wife eventually married a Langfeldt who is a distant relative of my Aunt's, I think through Ken Dyre, her Husband. Aunt Leora remembers when she was "just a kid, 9 or 10 years old" going with her parents to, again she said Longwood, to the store. She questioned why her parents went there, but then remembered a bar. She couldn't remember if they were connected, but we both agreed that her Dad/my Grandpa loved his beer! Judy H.


I think the Longwood Cheese Factory was owned or run by Langfelds...maybe? The Suda Cheese Factory I think may have been the Wildwood one, because there was a little school just across the road and west of it. There were two Suda brothers (whose names escape was Vandy). They were married to a Mary and a Jennie...One or both of the women may have been Langfelds. These Sudas were probably second cousin or further to the Suda who lived in Willard. Tony & Avis (Lunka) Suda in Willard took over Avis' parent’s store. I don't think there was a cheese factory connected to that at all. Just a general store. The Suda (Wildwood ?) factory was on the corner of the present Sterling & Cloverdale Roads (?). Jim and Clara Metcalf lived on the corner across from the cheese factory and the cheese factory and Suda homes sat in a triangular piece of ground so you could curve west of the factory or go to the crossroad to pick up Cloverdale. An interesting road setup in it's day. To get the general time frame of these cheese factories...I graduated high school in 1951 and by that time many of the cheese factories had closed or were just used for living quarters and/or neighborhood bars. The people who owned and ran these cheese factories were born in 1900-1915. Still not sure of the Longwood ownership. Jean R.


I can't say that I was ever in the Longwood Cheese Factory, but if I remember correctly, our old neighbor, Leonard Jensen, became a cheese maker there. He and Mabel (his wife) were chumming friends with my parents. They lived & worked prior to that on the Schlinsog farm (her parents). I don't know where they went from Longwood or if he stayed to close up the factory. Jean R.


What can I tell you about cheese factories.... I remember the Franz one where we hauled milk. My delight was to be there in time to get a handful of curds before they were colored and were still in big chunks. That was only if I went with my dad in the morning. Jean R.

I rode bike a couple of times to get some groceries for my mother. I would say they had bread and maybe sugar and flour. The kind of things one would borrow from a neighbor these days. We all grew our own chickens so we had eggs, had our own milk, and canned vegetables and fruits. Yes, they had candy and pop. They had a bar and at night the neighborhood people sometimes got together there. My mother always brought home candy bars when people treated for drinks because she only drank one drink. Today I find that funny, but everyone was supposed to have something if they were being just couldn't say, no thank you. My mother would save the candy in the cupboard and on rare occasions take one out for a treat. I remember the heartbreak of watching her open a chocolate bar and find it full of worms because it had been kept too long! Jean R.


I remember a slot machine in the old bar. I must have been very young then, but it fascinated me with all the bright colors and noises. That had to be waaaay back. It also was at night & I do remember the people drinking and having a good time. Then Meinholdts took over and I think they either built new or added on at one point and the store entry was through the cheese factory and down some steps. I think they still had the bar though. We always got the butter and cheese when we hauled milk, so I think the only things I was sent after were things my mother ran out of or didn't remember on the weekly trip to town. Franz then Meinholdt were a mile south of us. There was Suda's a half mile west and a mile north, and of course Ted Braun had the one a mile and a quarter east. I think they closed up and went to farming while some of the others were still going. I only remember the barrel of Horehound candy (which I loved) and sometimes if I stopped on the way home from school, June’s dad would give me one. I believe Suda's may have closed by the time I left home or soon after. I don't remember when the Meiholdts closed but it seems to me they ran the store and bar after the cheese factory closed. We had a milk hauler by about the time I graduated, maybe a bit before. Cheese Factory stores were a far cry from a Kwik Trip, but good in their day. When you lived ten miles from town what little they handled was helpful. Yes, they did have a gas pump at a number of them. Jean R.


I have a memory of the Franz Cheese factory, also. Lee, the son of Mr. Franz who ran the factory, was a year older than me. When we were six years old, my best friend Clayton and myself walked two miles to their factory to visit Lee. He had a shack out in the woods where he stashed cigarettes he had “borrowed” from the store at the factory. Of course we had to try smoking some of them. When we got home, my friend's father suspected we had been smoking. He made Clayton smoke a cigar and stood and watched. He got very sick! Neither of us ever really tried smoking again. Stan S.

Can you remember what kind of things they sold in the cheese factory stores? All I can remember from Ted Braun's is the Horehound drops....probably because I liked them so well, but I do remember riding bike to Franz's and Meinholdt's for items for my mother in later maybe bread or sugar. Didn't they have odds and ends grocery items and such? Jean R.


I don't remember exactly what Uncle Ted Braun sold in the grocery department of his cheese factory. I am almost sure he sold staples such as sugar, flour, coffee and some canned goods like pork & beans. Of course he also sold butter & cheese. He was a smoker, so I suppose there also were cigarettes. I do remember a small paraffin or wax candy bottle that when you bit off the end out would come a very refreshing liquid. Then a person could chew the wax holder. On occasion, when we stopped on our way home from grade school, Uncle Ted would give us a cheese curd or two. Oh boy, what a treat that was! After Ted & Emma quit the cheese making business, they moved to Ted's home farm and went into the farming business. The cheese factory burned to the ground in February, 1958. Duane H.


You mentioned the wax candy with the liquid. I sure remember them. They were great! Darlene P.


I never knew what those wax bottles were called. And I'm real surprised that they are still available. M. Horn


As I recall Braun's lived above the store, but I never knew the cheese factory because I had no reason to go there. I remember stopping with June on the way home from school and they had very nice living quarters upstairs, but I always liked when we could go to the store downstairs. Later when I rode bike, this was my stop to get air in my tires when I had a flat. I'm guessing that the cheese factory stores charged more for their groceries just like convenience stores do now. The thing was when you were out of something and it was a mile away, rather than ten miles, I guess the few cents more was worth it. Jean R.


If we ran out of any sort of groceries on Sunday I remember there were two cheese factories that also had a grocery store. Except in Willard, stores were not open on Sunday. The one I remember always going to on Sunday was Rasmussen Cheese Factory. I grew up on the corner of G & O, 3 miles west of Greenwood, and then you went north a few miles. You could see that cheese factory down the dirt road heading west. I specifically remember because it gave my mom an opportunity to gossip when we went for a bag of sugar, canning supplies, jelly making supplies or something like that. They were comparable to today’s convenience stores. I can't remember where the other one was. There were also a couple of taverns that had grocery stores attached. And then Willard had Lunka's, Mary's Store and Suda's. These were open on Sunday's and were the favorite stop for the kids after church. For farmers in the rural areas these small stores were their major source for groceries. Mary U.


I think the Rassmussen factory is the one that is still going (as Elmdale ?) with Amish owners. Whatever the name is. At least to my knowledge that is the one. My dad never modernized, with no boys to pass the farm to, so he ended up shipping to the same place as the Amish. Considered grade B (I think), anyway, it was only used for cheese and/or butter. Good money in that because he got paid based upon the butterfat not the volume. They had somewhere to ship the cheese from the small factories on the remote corners in the earlier days. One only bought cheese in a chunk or wedge cut from the big wax wrapped cheese. They didn't make the string cheeses and the small packaged cheeses we can buy now. It was put in cheese boxes...(anyone remember cheese boxes?) I made a dressing table with apple boxes and a stool from a cheese box for 4-H. That would have been about 1946 or 47. I will probably find the thing as I get deep enough into cleaning up the old farmhouse. Jean R.

I don't think these places intentionally had a little higher prices. It was more like they couldn't purchase enough to keep prices down. When Marshfield started growing, that really put a lot of these small town stores out of business. I remember because it really affected my dad's store (Artac’s). Mary U.


Do any of you happen to know where these little cheese factory/kwik Trips, purchased the stock they sold? Did they merely buy it in town and simply have it available more or less as a convenience and a way to make a little side money? And, did someone go to each factory and pick up the various cheeses from each and then ship it out by rail to other parts of the country? I can't imagine all of it could possibly have been used locally when there was a factory every 5 or 6 miles all over the county. And, how did this all work before refrigeration was readily available? Janet S.

I know the Warner Co-op made Limburger. Do any of you know what Ted Braun made or what was made at Rassmussen's or Lone Oak? Janet S.

The cheese factory stores were not the main purchase place for the farmers....they were the last minute need something stores. Jean R.

My husband worked at North Hendren after high school hauling milk. When they had the cooler full of cheese ready to go to market he hauled it all boxed up to Mid-State Cheese in Marshfield who NH sold it to. It was hauled in the same can truck that was used to pick up the farmers' milk. How much was hauled and how often, depended upon what kind of cheese was made, aging and time of year for quantity of milk available. Dolly Q.

Most factories in the area made cheddar in Daisies which were about half the size of the 40 pound block cheddars which were made, too. They made a lot of Colby longhorns, too. Dolly Q.

There was the Cloverleaf Cheese factory that was just east off of County. O about 1/8 mile and near the corner where the Celar grandparents lived on that corner on the west side of O. Barr's Minkery was a mile further to the west. I know they made Swiss Cheese as we used to drive there to get it. I don't know if they made it every day or not. Dolly Q.

I would guess the food delivery trucks would go to these stores as they did to the little stores in Willard and when there was the store in part of what is the North Mound Tavern/Restaurant where Dale Petkovsek is now. Luzovec's had the store/Tavern/Restaurant at that time. Dolly Q.


Land O'Lakes, Grassland Butter, Kraft, and other large cheese companies purchased a lot of this cheese and put their names on it in particular in the 1960's and later. Mary U.


I looked into the latest copy of the Marshfield phone book. They list a "dairy" called Dairy Farmers of America at W7014 County Hwy. MM and at the same address under "Dairy Products Wholesale", the name of Greenwood Valley Cheese Co. This has to be the old Rasmussen's factory. At one time I know someone there was making some very specialized cheeses. Dolly Q.


The Suda family was a big family. Mary is talking about Stanley Suda and his wife, Avis Lunka, at the general store and feed mill in Willard. There was a Longwood Cheese Factory in Longwood. No one has mentioned the Laabs' Dairy in Willard that only sold cheeses and butter that had a multitude of cheese makers. Dolly Q.


Avis was Avis Lunka and married Stanley Suda. The Sudas I spoke of and the Langfelds were my parents ages....early 1900s. They lived Northwest of Greenwood. Avis and her family lived in Willard. I don't know what Stanley's family did for a living. Avis' parents had the general store in Willard. They didn't have a cheese factory. Avis and Stanley took over the general store. Two different generations, two different locales. I saw Avis in 2002 when my mother passed away and she said she lives on G, just south of Willard. The store has been closed for a number of years. The era of the small family cheese factories was mostly over by early 1950s. Jean R.


I can tell you what I remember as a child who loved cheese: The horses and wagon (pick up truck later) would pull into an area with a large door that opened into vats. You emptied your cans of milk right into these vats. I don't know if they weighed them at that time or took the can for it's standard 85 pounds. Seems to me the milk ran through some tub thing on the way and that probably weighed the milk. I'm thinking they must have weighed the stuff. There were several vats. I don't know the process, but the one I loved was the two vats next to the store entrance. By that time the guys were stirring and the rennet had been added, they would toss some salt on the chunks and keep stirring and then it became curds. Those curds got colored, pressed into whatever shape the cheese was being made into, then it would get wrapped in cheesecloth, waxed and labeled with a date and stamps of wherever it was made (I think), and then boxed to be aged. The vats were in a basement like area, so it was cool, but when they were doing cheese it was warm. I think they needed that kind of temperature to make it curd. It always seemed steamy to me. I can almost smell the whey. The whey was also available to take home to feed to the pigs. I don't know if they charged for it or if it was just given away. We usually had a couple of milk cans of whey. I loved the place because they always let me take curds and my dad had no problem encouraging me to do that. They had a lot of thermometers and gadgets connected to the vats and big drains to let the whey out. Floors were always wet....air was wet to breathe. Jean R.


My husband worked at the Gorman Cheese Factory in the mid 50's while still in high school. He said they had big coolers to store the cheese and some kind of tank coolers to keep the "starter" for the cheese cooled. Also, they had cold water to cool down the pipes after the milk was pasteurized. It appears refrigeration and cold running water were available very early to those operations. As a really little kid I recall going into the factory at Laabs Dairy in Willard. They had a large cooler which someone went into to get the butter and cheese you wanted buy. What I thought was so neat was the red tile floor with all the little squares that was always soooo clean. Dolly Q.


In the Willard history book, it doesn't really give any information about the process of making cheese, but it does have a small section of keeping perishable foods cold....mostly by cutting ice out of streams, rivers, and lakes around the area, and hauling it to various ice houses for storage--usually by train, or wagon/truck, depending on what mode of transportation was available at the time. According to the article, it was "trucked" into Willard until the later 1930's, when power lines were constructed, etc. Gina B.


I am not sure if it was Rasmussen or Ashbeck that started making that specialty cheese. It was either a French or Swiss Cheese. A few short years ago North Hendren quit making colby and cheddar and is only making a specialty cheese. Mary U.


As you tell of the cheese and Whey, I was reminded of an incident that happened during the drought of the 30's. My dad went to North Dakota to work in the wheat fields. One evening he was discussing how we sent cans of milk to the factory and we would receive whey back to feed the calves. Later that day the son of the fellow he was working for, turned to his dad and said, "What is wheyback?" Elaine G.


I have a picture somewhere of the factory before the porches were added. Ted & his family lived on the second floor above the factory. They had a very nice living quarters. Once they discontinued the factory and moved back to the farm, they had different renters living on the 2nd floor. Theo Humke, his wife and two of their sons, Everett & Harold lived there for a period of time. Harold was teaching in the Braun Settlement School at the time. Uncle Ervin Horn was living there when the building burned. Apparently there were two Wildwood Factories in Clark Co. at one time. Marilyn H.


As for the Rasmussen Cheese factory, I believe it is now owned by a French Company. Until a few years ago, they had the best cheese curds. Marilyn H.


Where was Theo Braun's Factory located? I was surprised to see that Everett Humke lived there at one time. He has lived here in Rochester for many years and we see him and his wife occasionally. Stan S.


My Grandma Gosar's step brother had a farm in South Dakota before the depression. In the 1910-1920's my Grandpa Gosar, Uncle Ivan Ruzic, and others used to drive or hop the train out there in the fall to harvest the wheat. During the winter they would travel to the mines in Minnesota or Wire Mill in Waukegan to work. They were in need of an outside income as in those years a farm did not earn them an income. Mary U.


I worked for Clarence Liebziet, Clark County Central Factory. I picked up a deck and a half of milk cans, the first load, lower deck. The second load had to be done by 8:30 AM, so I could help Tony Muzic, fill the Cheddar Hoop's and clean up, then I would go to the farm patrons that needed help, shocking oats, or threshing. It was my 17th, summer, and a very busy one. We worked so hard, and yet it was fun because we worked together. And oh, how those farm wives could cook! I am very sure it was as HOT in those kitchens as it was in the fields and around the threshing machine. Allan W.


The Pleasant Ridge owned by Ed Franz is the one my dad used.  Location is nine miles northwest of Greenwood.  On the corner of what is now Reesewood and Starks road. Jean R.


Willard area (town of Hendren) Cheese Factories: Gorman Co-operative Dairy Company: Built 1917-18  Land donated by Frank Lesar Sr.  Mr. Frank Hribar Sr. and Mr. Frank Lesar Sr. held office at that time.  A Mr. Knopps was hired to make cheese (who also ran his own factory in Tioga).  In 1920 Joe Jordan took over making the cheese until 1922.  1923-25 George Meyers (from Loyal) was cheese maker.  1926-28, Walter Yaeger.  1929-36 cheese maker was Otto Meinholdt (Greenwood).  1936-40, Vincent Ruzic took over.  Cheese maker from 1940-48 was George Rouen (Athens), and hired Frank Volovsek when he needed extra help.  Bud Schlinsong was hired in 1949 and stayed until 1950.  In 1951, Bud Schultz (Arpin) took over until he died in a car accident.  Frank Volovsek took over with the help of Louis Landini Jr. until another cheese maker could be hired.  1954-57, Mike Denzine ran the factory.  Factory closed in 1957. Shari H.


Farmer's Cloverleaf Co-op Cheese and Butter Co:  Built in the early 1920's, located one-half mile south and three miles east of Willard.  According to the book, it was on the northeast corner of County O and Cloverleaf Rd. in the Town of Eaton.  However, on my current county map, I believe this is now Chickadee Rd.  First Officers included Joe Ozanich, Frank Parkel, and Mike Podobnik.  Otto(Toad) Meinholdt was one of the first cheese makers.  Others included Louis Bremner, RC Peiper, Frank Francel, George Vivoda, and Roy McConnell. Mid-1940's the co-op was sold to Harry Schlinsong.  Later operated by Grant (that's the only info I have, is one name--whether it was a first or last name?? assuming a last name), who made Swiss Cheese. Shari H.


Schwamb' Cooperative Cheese Factory: Built nearly a mile east of the Tioga depot and store in 1917 (the building is what is more currently known as Tioga Inn Tavern, which I'll get to in a minute).  It was operated by the neighboring farmers and patrons until 1928.  First cheese maker was Rob Casper, followed by his brother Frank, then Burgee, Peterson, Jess Pickett and Ed Schmerler.  Sold in 1928 to Walter Ott (Marshfield) he renamed it Woodland View Cheese Factory.  Mr. Ott operated it for a little over 3 yrs before selling it to Francis Knops of Stratford. In 1944 Mr. Knops quit making cheese and auctioned off the property.  It was made into a tavern in 1945. Shari H.

North Hendren Co-operative Dairy Company:  Organized in 1923.  First board of directors included  John Gregorich, Joe Pekol, Joe Ule, Frank Perovsek, and Mike Kotcon.  It is located on Spencer Rd. between Fisher and Tower Ave. (SE corner of the SW quarter of the SE quarter of Section 3).  Frank Caspar was cheese maker, and a wood fired boiler was the source of power.  In 1952, the co-op was reorganized, in order to extend the membership to all current and future patrons.  As of 1982, Robert Schmidt was the manager.  I know there's been several cheese makers in there, including George Gregorich, and I believe Gary Humboldt is currently head cheese maker now.  I believe they're strictly Bleu Cheese now. Shari H.


Many of these cheese factories were co-op owned, so they hired the cheese makers which came and went as cheese makers move on. Each co-op had a board of directors.  When Gale worked at Gorman in 1955 and 1956 the cheese maker was Mike Denzeen (sp?). I just talked to Mrs. Jacob (Marjorie) Tjepkema whose husband was the cheese maker at the Laabs Dairy in Willard from1947-1955.  His successor was someone Jake had trained to be the cheese maker and was a local Willard person whose name she did not remember.  Previous to Jake was Leonard Rauen.  I do not know how long he was there.  There were 5 Laabs brothers who owned a couple other factories.  One was at Curtiss, Mrs. T. said. The Willard factory was right on County Road G in Willard on the east end of town. The Gorman cheese factory still stands.  I don't have a section number.  Directions:  Take G south of Willard to 26th. road.  It will be the second mile intersection.  Go west on 26th. 2 miles until the "t" with Gorman Road.  Go south on Gorman Road about 1/8th mile. It is right at the "t" with Blue Jay Road (maybe a couple hundred feet to the north) on Gorman Road.  It is on the east side of Gorman Road. Dolly Q.