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.
GEORGE C. BOND
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.
CHERRY HILL FARM DAIRY (P. Hendricks)
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).
CLAIRE (CLARIE) LANE DAIRY (J. Langer's Milk)
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!
EAGLE LAKE FARM (E.E. Wallace)
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.
EDGEWOOD FARM (H.L. Paine)
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 (A.O. Condon)
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 DAIRY
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.
LILAC HEDGE DAIRY
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.
PINE HILL FARM
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.
VARIETY FARM (L.E. Garney)
Operated in 193339 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