This Place in History: Milton Cooperative Creamery
Vermont Historical Society executive director Steve Perkins asked, “We’re going to explore – what are creameries and why are they important to towns like Milton? I think we should go to the Milton Historical Society Museum a few blocks away and chat with Gary Furlong. He is the chairman of the museum’s reinvention committee which has been tasked with creating great new exhibits in this space.
“At first they used a simple bucket like this to separate the cream and the milk, and the cream would rise to the top,” Furlong said. “There is a small window, and people could see that it would take a few hours to separate.”
“And 150 years ago, cream was more valuable than liquid milk at the bottom because you could make butter; you could make cheese; you could make shelf-stable products with the cream,” Perkins said. “So there were a lot of inventors around who wanted to figure out – how do you get this cream effectively?”
“How to get this faster as a process!” The next step was – there were a few different types, but they developed creamers,” Furlong replied. “This model is known as the DeLaval cream separator; it was very popular. They pour things into the top, the dairy product, and they toss it and there’s a process — it’s physics, really; the heavier milk would come out on one side and the cream on the other, so it would be a very efficient process to do it faster.
Perkins asked, “Rotate it, right?”
“Rotate it,” Furlong replied. “You throw it.”
Mike Hoey asked, “Like a juicer?
“Yes, exactly like a centrifuge,” Furlong said.
Perkins noted, “And that was used at Milton?”
“Yes,” Furlong said.
Hoey asked, “That one was exactly?”
“Yes,” Furlong observed.
“It’s something you would find on a farm, but at some point dairy production increased and it wasn’t a farm product anymore,” Perkins said. “Towns like Milton, which were a bit larger than others, started to create creameries.”
“Milton had two small creameries, the Whiting Creamery in West Milton and then the Milton Co-Op Creamery opened in 1919 on Railroad Street,” Furlong said. “It was a big operation. Because it was near a railroad they could ship product to Boston and they had receiving stations in a number of communities around so farmers would just walk up to the receiving station, return their product and he would be taken to the creamery here. ”
And he had been in business for several years,” Hoey said. “Almost half a century – or maybe even a little more than that, if I understood correctly.”
“Yeah, in the late 1960s or around 1970 it closed,” Furlong observed. “There are a number of dairy farms still active. I think they are struggling to find a way to do this, but they are trying to diversify their products and some of them are using maple syrup to support their bottom line.
Perkins asked, “If people want to come and learn more about farming in Milton, how can they do that?”
“They can just come the museum“Furlong noted. “We are open from May to October on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. If they want to come at another time, they just have to Contact us because we are ready to open for school children or whatever they would like to see here.