As has been mentioned before some dairy projects were thriving in the Valley before theMormon settlers came. It is not clear whether dairying as such after Tom Plane's dairy,continued through the Nichols-Parson stewardship or not. If not, it is probable that there wasenough stock to supply the needs of the families and hands on the ranches. When the settlerscame each family brought at least one cow and often had extra butter or milk or cream to sell. They usually sent a few pounds of butter or occasionally cheese with the freight outfits that werecarrying other produce to market. William and Delle R. Ivins were the first to increase their herdand make dairying their principal means of livelihood. Others followed suit and as their herdsincreased, dairy products became more important to supplement other sources of income.
At first the milk was milked by hand, set in large round pans and when the cream rose to thetop it was skimmed off and allowed to sour slightly before it was churned in the hand turnedwooden churns described in another part of this history. The buttermilk that was left after thebutter was precipitated was used to drink, cook with or feed to the animals (chickens or pigs.)Later a few people got separators that had to be cranked by hand but were much more efficient in separating the cream from the milk. They also had many little discs and small parts that had to be taken apart, washed and scalded and put back together for the next separating. The family farm had work for everyone and this was usually a chore for the younger members of the family. Much of the milk left from this process was also fed to the animals.
By this time most of the families had from four to twenty cows and the idea of having a central operation to separate and market the milk was the next step. Henry Gubler and Will Hutchings, at different times performed this service. They gathered the milk from the evening milking and separated it, then gathered the milk in the morning and hauled the cream and milk to Ely each day.
Roderick D. McKenzie was a pioneer in a number of industries in White Pine County andone of the principal ones was dairying. He had married Sarah Vance, daughter of William andHannah Vance and they had lived in Ely for a number of years. There, along with a number ofother projects including mining at Lane City, he had started a dairy in Ely which he later movedto a site near where the County Fairgrounds stands today. About 1915 he sold this dairy to WillVance and moved to Lund. He got the equipment and erected a creamery on his property acrossthe street from the present modern Lactorium of his grandson, Rod McKenzie. After severalyears of processing the milk, making butter and marketing them, he sold his equipment to a Cooperative formed by a group of Preston men with a number of Lund stockholders. They located their creamery on the stream in Preston to take advantage of the water power and R. D.McKenzie was hired to run the operation. Christian Jensen supervised the project and did muchof the work, gathering the milk and helping with the mechanics and processing.
Meanwhile the dairymen began seriously considering improving their herds and their firstmove was to buy a herd of good dairy stock from Jim Gianopolis who was selling his dairy business in the Ely area. Each one interested took a few of the cows to add to his herd. Someyears later Mart Petersen and Moses Harrison were delegated to go to Wisconsin and purchase cows for the White River dairymen. They bought a herd of Holsteins at auction, had themshipped to Nevada by rail and these were also added to the existing herds. Eventually most ofthe herds consisted entirely of Holsteins.
Another Lund man, William Hendrix, with a man named White, also started a dairyprocessing plant in Ely which they later sold and it became the Ely Ice Cream and DairyCompany run by Clyde Marshall. When, after a few years, the Preston Creamery wasdiscontinued, milk was hauled to this dairy on a daily basis. Eventually it was hauled inconnection with the mail delivery and R. D. McKenzie was also responsible for this. He hadbeen granted the mail contract and he was the first to equip a truck so he could handle both projects. Later his son, Vance, and still later Clinton Scow drove this combination mail and milk truck for quite a number of years. In the meantime some dairymen had quit and others had increased their herds, built modern milking barns and invested in milking machines.
When Clyde Marshall retired, the James Canyon Dairy located in Carson Valley near Genoa,contracted to take the milk. An interesting side note on this period concerned Washington D.C.socialite, Perle Mesta, who had earned the appelation, "Hostess with the Mostess" for the lavishparties she gave in the capital city and who inspired Irving Berlin's musical, Call Me Madam. President Truman gave her the post of United States Minister to Luxembourg from 1949 to 1953in return for the help she had given him in his presidential campaign. This lady was backing the James Canyon Dairy project, presumably, to give her playboy nephew, Bill Tyson, some direction and purpose in his life. If this were true, her scheme in this case was a failure and thearrangement with the White River dairymen lasted not more than a year or two.
Then the Meadow Gold Company of Salt Lake City, who up to this time had been a rival inmarketing diary products in the area, decided there was enough milk being produced to warrant arefrigerated milk truck three times a week to take the milk into Salt Lake City to be processed. Astate Dairy Commission was appointed to regulate and act as mediator for the dairymen. GrantOxborrow, former resident of Lund, was on this board for a number of years. Also a stateAssociation of Dairymen was formed and Vance McKenzie represented the county on this board.
But by this time, government regulations had become so strict with inspectors and a grading system, equipment and upkeep so expensive and returns so small, that, like farmers with smallfamily farms in general, these dairymen became discouraged. Rod McKenzie, grandson ofRoderick D. McKenzie, decided that the only way they could compete with the big dairycompanies was to build a central plant large enough to accommodate all the dairy herds withenough help to care for them adequately. So he carefully made an overall plan designed tohandle the operation as efficiently as possible, acquired the necessary materials and equipment and built such a plant which he gave the impressive name of Lactorium.
After a short time a group of dairymen formed a Cooperative of their own and built another milking barn with similar features. A number of dairymen at this time wanted to retire or get outof the business for various reasons. Some sold their herds to Rod McKenzie and others to theCooperative owned now by Milton Gardner, Dean Whipple and Ronald Ivins. The production has remained much the same as when the projects started even though fewer people are participating and dairying remains a significant factor in the economy of the Valley.
This account outlines the evolution and development of dairying in White River Valley. Itdoes not give a complete picture of its difficulties. Diarying is hard and demanding, requiring aconstant, repetitive routine seven days a week, which does not mean that unexpected crises donot arise that demand extra effort.
In the early days they milked the cows by hand in all kinds of weather in open corrals or partly open sheds and stables. Often the cows were gentle enough that the milker could walk upto them, sit down and start milking but sometimes they had to tie the legs of a new cow thatobjected to the indignity. And sometimes a cow was selective and would allow one person tomilk her but not just anyone. Even the gentle ones would sometimes kick the milk bucket overafter one had worked diligently to fill it.
Then there were the calves that sometimes needed help to get born and care afterward. Usually the calf was allowed its share of the milk from one side of the cow while the milker took the milk from the other. I suppose whoever was the faster got the most.
The difficulty the weather caused in marketing the milk after the business had grown somewhat deserves mention here even though it is given in some detail in another chapter. After they started trucking it heavy snow would often cause delays in getting the milk to Ely. The notable example some of us still remember was about three weeks in late January and early February of 1932 when R. D. McKenzie was delivering mail and milk. Snow piled on top of snow and for the whole time no cars could get through. Vance McKenzie carried some mail on horseback part of the time going into Ely one day and back the next. The milk could not be delivered so the women made cheese and butter with it. Some of it was separated and the cream taken to Ely by sleigh two or three times during the period.
Other winters were hard--1933, 1936 and the year of the "haylift", 1948-49. None were easyfor the dairymen. They deserve much credit, both the early pioneers in the industry whoovercame obstacles of their day and modern dairymen whose problems are different but who stillhave problems and much hard work in the performance of this necessary service.