No. 137, April, 2010
Forgotten Cheese Factories - 1940 Style
By Russell and Delores Miller
Range Line Cheese Factory was located on the corner of 'OO' and Swamp Road in the Townships of Helvetia and Union, Waupaca County in Central Wisconsin. Across the road from the Shady Grove School. No date when it was built, but Louie Grimm and a Mr Bahr were cheesemakers. Dorothy Ovsienko remembers riding to school with her father Louie Miller and brother Carl with the little sulky runner horse, that trotted, pulling a buggy loaded with cream cans. The cheese factory closed in 1932 and the land reverted back to the Much family. Then Louie shipped his milk to the Badger Plant in Iola which made process cheese. Ken Bonikowski was the trucker, with an open box to haul our 5 cans of milk. Came every day down our long road. Range Line Cheese Factory is now the home of Norman and Caroline who have surrounded the former cheese factory. with beautiful flowers in summer.
Spring Brook Cheese Factory was located on a 'T' corner of County Trunk 'C' and Wepner Road in section 25 of the Township of Dupont, across from the Elmer Piehl farm. Named after a spring located north of the factory, which formed a brook, that drained into the swamp. Started as a farmer owned factory, with the cheesemakers owning the equipment. Began about 1920 and burned in 1936 after the wood boiler backfired and exploded. The boiler heated water, which was used for sanitation and for heating the milk in the vats, which was double lined and coils of hot water boiled the milk and rennet before it curdled and was made into cheese. The building was perhaps 30x40 feet in size with a curing room.
Nice living quarters above the factory. An ice house and a small garage completed the buildings. Ice harvesting bees were held in winter, with blocks of ice hauled by farmers from the Marion Pond. Packed in saw dust.
Among the cheesemakers were Emory Quimby, Fred Schling, Henry LaButzke, Edward Schoneck and Leonard Brandenburg. This was a small factory, one vat, wood frame with a metal interior. Cheese curds were pressed into blocks. Butter was made from excess cream, and sold back to the farmers. Price per hundred pounds of milk in 1927 was $2.38 for a 4.07 test. State inspectors came around.
Fifteen or so patrons including family names: Piehl, Schuelke, Niemuth, Ebert, Wepner, Jannusch, Reeck, Gruenke, Malueg, Detert, Schoneck, and Robbins and others. Farmers hauled their own milk to the factory in one hundred pound cans, and lugged whey back home to feed the hogs. Children could also ride along to Pioneer School, so they didn't have to walk up hill both ways.
Cheddar cheese was processed, and conveyed to the Strobel Cheese Storage unit in Marion on the south side of the railroad tracks. This was the same brick building Carl Herman Zillmer (grandfather of Bud Miller) had used for his grain business. Ice was cut on the pond and used to cool this building. Trains hauled the cheese to Green Bay. After the factory burned, patrons shipped their milk to the Quarterline Cheese Factory and others.
The land reverted back to the Piehl family, now Jean Piehl Heidke has a beautiful new home on this property. For years this factory stone foundation stood along with sumac brush as a reminder of long ago era, until Waupaca County rebuilt the road, taking out this sharp corner and burying the stones. Now only a memory of a few of us old timer's minds.
In 1941 there were 40 cheese factories in Waupaca County. Most were farmer patron owned when they hired a cheesemaker. Some were privately owned like August Kautz of Melba Valley in Larrabee, F. J. Krueger of Maple Valley, Elwood Mitchell of Marble Cheese Factory in Union, W. F. Reetz in Big Falls, W. A. Zietlow of the Marion Cheese and Butter, later owned by Eldred and Deloris Beil, Albert Velte of Little Creek in Little Wolf Township. How many in 2010 are left? Only one, which makes very good colby cheese and each week on Thursday sells fresh cheese curds.
copyright 2010, Russell and Delores Miller