Excerpt from "Merry
Vale School Reunion (July 18, 1976)" and "The Centennial History of the
York Center Methodist Church (1880 – 1980) and the Town of York (1857 – 1980)”
Transcribed (with footnotes) by
The first factory was built around the turn of the century by J. B. Daughtee. It was constructed of all wood. He operated this factory until 1909. It was then operated by Kickle and Mertens until 1919, when it was condemned because of rotting wooden floors, foul odors and a haven for rats. It remained closed for two years.
The farmers then organized and appointed a board of directors, who sold shares of stock and borrowed money to finance the building of a new factory. Between them and an old retired cheese maker name Hadler, from Marshfield, they designed and built a new cheese factory across the road in Section 26. This was in 1921. It opened the same year with Ross Root1 as cheese maker. He resided with a brother who lived one mile west of the factory. Between 1922 and 1932, the following cheese makers were hired: Carl Schmidt, H. Mau, William Breseman, Ferd Gotter, Tom McNamee and Frank Lulloff.2 These were hired by the Board of Directors and were paid so much a pound to make, weigh and box the cheese. They received a share of the whey cream and were furnished living quarters in the old factory.
The farmers took turns hauling the cheese to Granton, where it was loaded into box cars and shipped to a cheese firm in Marshfield – this being donation work by the farmers. The coal for fuel was hauled by farmers by wagon or sleigh and they were paid by the ton. The milk was delivered to the factory by farmers – by horses and milk wagons.
In 1932, the factory was sold to Frank Preston – he being owner and operator. Trucks were operating by this time and milk could be brought in from greater distances. About 1940, competition forced him out of business and the factory was closed.
In 1941, the factory was sold to William Breseman. He re-modeled and built living quarters in the west end and at this time, the old factory was sold and torn down. At this time, he had Northern States Power Company bring their line to the factory and vicinity – and the factory was wired for electricity. Until this time their source of energy had been steam for power and kerosene for lights. Two trucks were put on the road gathering milk. In 1943, he moved a house to the property3 and hired two men to assist – one was married and lived in the house. This operation was carried on until his death in 1945.
At this time, William’s son, Algarnon was dismissed from the Army and took charge. In 1948, the factory burned to the ground.4 While he was re-building, the milk was trucked to the York Center cheese factory.5 Algarnon operated the new factory until 1953 when he sold it to Jack Mullins. In that period they began operating bulk trucks. The area they hauled from increased to a 15 mile radius – with 40,000 pounds of milk per day.6
In September 1965, Mullins sold out to Ken Bletsoe. At that time, there were five milk can trucks and one bulk truck in operation. By 1970, the volume had increased to 140,000 pounds of milk per day. At this time, he bought the Hediger Cheese Factory at Christie and combined the two cheese making operations. The reason for moving the cheese making operation was shortage of water and trouble with the sewage disposal. He continued using the old factory for a weigh-in station for canned milk. It was weighed and loaded into a bulk truck and hauled to Christie.
In 1975, Bletsoe closed the factory completely and it is now a ghost factory – a haven for the spirits of departed cheese makers and farmers. If you drive north of Granton on County Trunk K some warm summer night you might see the spirits of those departed as you near the factory. As you continue on toward Merry Vale School which is also a ghost haven for departed teachers – drive slowly. They may be gathered in groups talking about those “good old days” when the school and factory were in operation.
Compiled and written by Elmer Elmhorst and his wife, Gertrude, who are about ready to join the rest of the spirits.
1. Ross Root was a son of George and Emma (nee Gibson) Root. They were pioneers of York Township and established a farm on Pelsdorf Avenue just south of Timber Lane Road.
2. Frank Lulloff was the husband of the former Neva Benedict. She was the granddaughter and great-granddaughter of Sanford Benedict and Adonijah Benedict, respectively. They were both early pioneers of York Township.
3. Per Norbert Lavey (a descendant of the Johnsons and McMahons that were early settlers of eastern York Township), the house was relocated from land owned by Elmer Anderson near the intersection of Tree Road and Romadka Avenue.
4. Norbert Lavey worked for Algarnon Breseman and provided assistance in the construction of the new cheese factory. Except for the time he served in the U.S. Army (1950-1952), he worked for both Algarnon Breseman and Jack Mullins at the York Dairy cheese factory from approximately 1949 to 1961.
5. Although similar in name, York Dairy and York Center Dairy were two separate cheese factories. York Dairy (the subject of this transcription) was located on County Road K at the intersection of Timber Lane Road and Pelsdorf Avenue. York Center Dairy was located several miles further northwest on County Road K approximately 1/2 mile south of the County Road H and County Road K intersection.
6. Per Norbert Lavey, during the 1950s most of the milk for the York Dairy was still being hauled to the factory with trucks carrying canned milk (the 85 pound/10 gallon cans) and that typically there were two trucks; one being operating by himself for the routes around the west side of York Township and the other being operated by Judson Phipps (a second cousin) for the routes around the east side of York Township.
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