Creameries were once in every larger town in Wright County. Eagle Grove, Goldfield,
Galt, Rowan, Woolstock, Dows, Cornelia and Clarion all boasted of having a creamery.
Most of these got their start in late 1800’s. Clarion’s started in 1882, and apparently was
one of the last towns to have a creamery!
In the archives of the Wright County Monitor, we found information on the history of the
Dows Creamery. An initial meeting was held at the Dows Hotel in January, 1897. A
former creamery, operated sporadically by B.B. Bliss, was purchased by the newly
formed Farmer’s Cooperative. (Many creameries were cooperatives at this time.) By
1906 the Dows Creamery was processing 235,677 pounds of butter fat and had 50
shareholders, with 250 patrons! Dows built a brand new creamery in 1905 at a cost of
$6,000, and the building is still standing.
The creameries gathered cream or milk from area farmers. In some cases the farmers
drove the cream or milk to the creameries, in later years some creameries had a pick up
route. If whole milk arrived at the creamery, it was separated – the cream going one
direction, milk the other. Shown below is a milk separator that a farmer would use for his
own household. In 1919, Clarion Creamery was paying 65 cents per pound of butter fat.
The cream would be used to churn butter, the milk bottled for consumption. Or the milk
could be used for cheese. Once butter was made, there was buttermilk leftover – ideal
for baking, or feeding the hogs. The earliest patent on a milking machine was 1907.
Otherwise, farmers were milking by hand. By the 1950’s refrigeration and bulk tanks
made storing milk easier. Town creameries started closing in the 1950’s, as
transportation made larger facilities more profitable. Also, as milking standards progressed, the move from “Grade B” operations (milk was dumped into cans) to “Grade
A” operations (where the milk traveled in a clean line to a bulk tank) meant the farmer
had to upgrade.
Galt lost their creamery to fire in July of 1903. Woolstock had the Fountain Creamery for
about 13 years, before it burned to the ground in late 1903. The Clarion Dairy was
purchased by Anderson-Erickson in 1966. Creameries can still be found. Perhaps the
closest one to Wright County is Picket Fence Creamery in Woodward, Iowa.