The Dairy Industry in Holden, Massachusetts

At the turn of the century, some 90 percent of the residents of Holden were farmers. Farming, including dairy farming, was accepted casually as a way of life and was not always thought of as a discrete "industry." This may partly explain why some of the well-known histories of Holden such as Estes (1894) and Prouty (1941) do not even have sections dealing with farming! Considering how important "dairying" (milk production, packaging, and distribution) was, surprisingly little about this industry in Holden has been preserved.

Family cows were an integral part of many early twentieth century homesteads and many farms produced milk in commercial quantities. Milk in 40-quart cans left town daily on the railroad. According to town records, the number of cows in Holden peaked at 698 in 1912. After 1912, the number of cows began to decline in what was to become a pattern for the remainder of the century; the number of cows had fallen to 372 by 1950 and to 205 in 1980. The last commercial milking herd was lost in the 1990s when the Sandstrom family (Bond St., Jefferson) exited the business. Today, all commercial production has ceased and only about 5 cows remain in Holden.

Certain Holden dairies were distinguished by the fact that they delivered or "peddled" milk in proprietary glass bottles along established routes. Little is known about many of these dairy farms — particularly the earlier ones (pre-1940) — but proprietary bottles bearing the names of some of these long-forgotten operations have survived. In addition, an unknown number of farmers may have sold milk in plain bottles with either plain or proprietary caps.

Invented in the 1880s, glass milk bottles first came into widespread use shortly after the turn of the century and revolutionized the way milk was marketed. It appears that many farmers rushed into bottling milk in the new "sanitary" glass bottles. The market at the time no doubt eliminated the less efficient operators. Consolidation in the industry and increasingly strict health regulations, largely explain why many of the early operations did not persist. However, into the mid-1960s, the sounds of milk trucks (from many different dairies) making their delivery rounds and the clinking of milk bottles in the pre-dawn hours, heralded a new day. These sounds, once taken for granted, are no longer heard.

In Holden, at least 18 dairy businesses bottled and delivered milk in proprietary bottles. These dairies are listed alphabetically below exactly as their names appeared on the bottles. The scarcity of bottles from some of these operations suggests that many of them probably ran more like basic farms, functioning as dairies for relatively brief periods in their histories. The exact years when milk was actually bottled at many of the earliest dairies is now almost impossible to establish. The Holden Historical Society would appreciate any corrections or additions to our information, so that the history of dairying in Holden can be preserved as accurately as possible.

Fred Anderson, with Emmanuel Peterson, ran a dairy farm on Parker Ave. at least as early as 1905 through 1922. No doubt, milk was peddled to the many Swedish settlers in the Chaffins part of town. After 1922, both Fred Anderson and Peterson apparently left town. From 2 cows in 1905, the herd built to a peak of 18 in 1914, stabilizing thereafter at about 13 cows. During the same years, according to the town assessor's records, Lars and Otto Anderson also maintained herds of up to 20 and 6 cows respectively on nearby Shrewsbury Street. Whether Lars or Otto bottled milk in proprietary bottles is unknown; none has been discovered.

This operation originated on Ararat Street, Worcester in 1914 and relocated to Shrewsbury Street, Holden, the following year. According to the town valuation lists, Aronoff boasted 19 cows in 1918, 25 in 1919 and a peak of 28 in 1920. Aronoff disappears from town records after 1922.

This dairy farm was located at a site near the Rutland line on, of course, Bond Road. The Bond farm was operated from 1912 to 1934. According to the town valuation lists, the Bonds' herd of milk cows peaked at 33 head in 1925.

Peter Hendricks operated this dairy at a site on Holden Street in the years 1928 – 1938. According to the Town Assessor's records, Hendricks did not keep cows in Holden. Most likely, Hendricks purchased milk from area farms, bottled it, and ran a small route. Hendricks relocated to Rutland and established Laurel Hill Farm in 1939 (see Laurel Hill Dairy below).

John Langer maintained cows at 50 Clair Lane off Causeway Street, Jefferson, from about 1928 to 1956. The street name is found misspelled "Clarie" on some of the bottles. Town valuation lists show the operation peaked in the years 1938 – 1946, when there were 10 cows on the premises. The Clarie Lane Dairy was dealt a crippling blow by the 1953 tornado, which destroyed the barn.

W.A. Jordan, who came from Dudley, MA, founded Cleighton Farms at 836 Salisbury St. in 1885. The dairy remained in the family over the years, with son C.B. Jordan and his sons, Sumner and Howard, continuing operations to the present. A second farm (in Rutland) was purchased in 1943 and milk was processed there. Cows were kept on Salisbury Street. At the end of 1963, processing and bottling ceased in Rutland and the keeping of cows in Holden ended at the same time. Cleighton Farms operated a dairy store, "The Dairy Basket," next to the former Holden Hardware in Holden Center. The store closed in the early 1970s. The Rutland farm continues to operate, but milk is picked-up by a wholesaler. An interesting mystery attached to Cleighton Farms is that no one — including family members — has any idea where the name "Cleighton" originated!

This dairy farm is thought to have been located on the north side of the present causeway between Eagle Lake and Stump Pond. Little is known about this early, rather short-lived operation. E.E. Wallace's name first appears on the town valuation list in 1910, when it is noted he had 3 cows. The valuation lists reveal the herd built up to 11 cows in 1917, but dwindled to 6 in 1919. After 1919 the operation seems to have ceased to exist.

Scant details of this very short-lived operation have been preserved and almost nothing is known. The 1901 valuation list shows a Charles C. Paine residing on Highland St. with a barn and a cow. C.C. Paine continued to maintain a small herd &$151; never more than 6 head — at this site through 1916, after which he apparently gave up his farm and moved to Sunnyside Ave. where he lived until 1943. The name H.L. Paine, also on Highland St., turns up suddenly on the 1914 town valuation list, which states that he owned 10 cows, 6 swine, 3 horses, 2 sheep and 30 fowls on about 20 acres with a new barn! However, things may not have gone very well, for the 1915 list shows the herd had dwindled to 6 cows and after 1915 the operation apparently failed or disappeared altogether. H.L. Paine's name reappears on the 1920 valuation list, which shows him (and a cow) on Main St. In 1924 he moved to Reservoir St., but his name does not appear thereafter.

Glenwood Farm operated near Glenwood Street and Parker Ave. from 1908 to 1943. Over the years, Condon's herd, according to the town valuation lists, fluctuated dramatically in size and peaked at 24 head in 1942.

Willie B. Hall had a large dairy farm on Brooks St. in Greendale. In 1903 the buildings burned and he moved to "Willow Farm" on River Street, Holden. The town valuation list for 1904 shows he had 28 cows. In 1905 – 1925, the herd varied in size between 15 and 26 head. He operated a milk route in Worcester until 1925. Although the milk route was discontinued, the Hall family kept cows at the River Street farm for years thereafter, finally ending in the mid-1950s. Some of the surviving embossed bottles bear an interlocking "HE" and the name "Hall Estate."

Laurel Hill Farm was established by Peter Hendricks at a location on Glenwood Road, Rutland, about 1939. In 1949, Hendricks sold out to Charles E. "Charlie" and Harold Keith who continued the operation as Laurel Hill Dairy at the junction of Route 122A and Pleasantdale Road, Rutland. Harold Keith left the business early and moved to Arizona. In 1955, Charlie moved the operation to 18 Frederickson Ave., Holden and arranged for milk to be processed and bottled at his brother Willard's Pinecroft Dairy in West Boylston. After the Pinecroft Dairy plant closed about 1965, milk was processed and bottled at Sunrise Dairy in Holden until 1973, when that dairy also ceased operations. From that point until the end of operations, Laurel Hill Dairy milk was bottled at the Lundgren and Jonaitis plant in Shrewsbury. Charlie Keith continued to pedal milk to customers in Holden until at least 1980, making it the last Holden-based dairy to deliver milk in proprietary bottles. Bottles are found marked either Holden or Rutland.

Founded by William Mackay in 1898 at the cor. of Salisbury and Flagg Streets, Worcester, this dairy moved to 876 Salisbury St., Holden on Oct. 10, 1927. No cows were kept after 1927, but processing and delivery continued. Lilac Hedge Dairy remained in the MacKay family, with R.H. MacKay and finally Donald MacKay as owners. Operations continued under the name Lilac Hedge Dairy until 1965, when the dairy was merged into the Sunrise Dairy of Paxton (see below).

MAPLEDALE FARM (Albert A. Graham)
Mapledale Farm originated in 1908 on Malden St. (Skip Marshall's old farm). The town valuation list for that year shows he had 13 cows. About 1934, the bottling operation moved to the site on Shrewsbury St. near Chaffin's Pond presently (2005) occupied by Ken Parker's Photo Studio. A.A. Graham maintained his own herd of cows — peaking at 36 head in 1932 — until the very end in 1941 when he sold out to H.P. Hood.

This dairy farm, founded in 1935 by Edward Pianowski, straddled the Holden-West Boylston line on Shrewsbury Street. Most of its 63 acres was in West Boylston, but the actual bottling operation was in Holden in the building currently occupied by "NURTURY," a child care center. Mountain Dairy bottles bear distinctive old English-style lettering. Most Mountain Dairy bottles do not carry a location, but some are labeled "Holden, Mass." Mountain Dairy was the only Holden dairy to have cottage cheese jars and the bulb-top quart bottles known as "cream-tops." Examples of both round and square Mountain Dairy "cream-top" quarts are known to exist. There were a few cows in the early years of the Pianowski operation, but thereafter milk was bought from the Griff Bros. and other area farmers, processed and delivered to customers in Holden and Worcester. Mountain Dairy was bought out by the Pinecroft Dairy about 1953.

Prior to Pianowski, from 1919 – 1934, this dairy farm was owned and operated by Albion G. Smalley, who, in addition to bottling milk also maintained his own herd, up to 33 head in 1933. Smalley bottles bear an embossed cow and are marked "West Boylston." Some versions are lettered "Breezy Farm," others "Ridgewood Farm."

Although no surviving milk bottles are known to exist, excavated pieces of old embossed milk bottles bearing the lettering "O. Packard" were once found (but unfortunately not saved) by the late Jim Drawbridge (pers. comm.). These were physical reminders that Orville W. Packard was once in the milk business. The Packard Farm stood at 336 Reservoir Street; the house and barn were demolished in 2005. According to the town valuation lists, Orville W. Packard maintained cows on his property from 1885 through 1931 with a peak — when bottling likely occurred — of 4 to 6 cows from 1907 through 1913.

Little is known about this operation off Causeway St., Jefferson. It was owned by the Kronoff Bros. and was in operation in the 1920s and 190's. The whole operation- — farmhouse and all — ended in fire about 1938. Older bottles bear the lettering "Kronoff Bros." Later bottles carry the dairy name and have a large "K" in the slugplate.

Sunrise Dairy was the successor to Lilac Hedge Dairy. It was operated by the MacKays and Elmer Hair on Salisbury St. from 1965 until the end of operations in 1973. This was the last dairy actually processing and bottling milk in Holden.

Operated in 1933–39 at 651 South Rd. The "high water mark" for this short-lived operation was probably about 1935, when 11 cows were on the property.

Bradford G. Blodget
December 30, 2005