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Colfax Sesquicentennial 2014: The Colfax Cooperative Creamery

COLFAX —  In honor of the Colfax Sesquicentennial celebration July 17-20, 2014, the history installment for this edition of the Colfax Messenger is about the Colfax Creamery Company, which was established as a cooperative in 1905.

Part 10: The Colfax Cooperative Creamery

The early editions of the Colfax Messenger contain a variety of articles about the importance of farming in the Colfax area.

The front page of the October 6, 1905, edition, for example, contains a listing of the train car loads of farm products shipped out of Colfax for the year — 705 train cars total.

A freight boxcar is about 50 feet long, so in other words, in 1905, if you placed the train cars of farm products raised around Colfax in a straight line, they would cover almost seven miles.

In 1905, 351 cars of potatoes were shipped out of Colfax  — or about 3.3 miles of potatoes.

Another 118 grain cars were shipped out — or about 1.12 miles of grain.

Livestock accounted for 64 freight cars — or a little over a half mile of livestock.

Hay took up another 53 train cars, and tobacco accounted for 36 train cars.

Stone taken out of the quarry on the west side of town filled up 58 train cars.

Starch produced from potatoes at the starch factory filled 11 train cars.

Posts — presumably fence posts or some other type of building post — filled seven train cars.

“Miscellaneous” accounted for four train cars.

Beets and feed filled one train car each.

Considering the importance of farming, it should come as no surprise that earlier in 1905, a group of farmers got together to form a cooperative and to buy the existing creamery in town.

June 9, 1905

The first notice about a meeting of “the subscribers of stock” to the Colfax Creamery Company was published in the June 9, 1905, edition of the Colfax Messenger.

The meeting was scheduled for June 24, 1905, at the M.W.A. Hall in Colfax for the purpose of electing the directors.

The notice was submitted by S.S. Sivertson; W.J. Mathews; A.A. Anderson; B. Bjornson; and D.C. Baldwin.

The notice also was published in the June 16 and the June 23, 1905, editions of the Messenger.

Colfax Creamery

In the June 30, 1905, edition of the Messenger, it was reported that the farmers had held their meeting on June 25 and were scheduled to take possession of the creamery on July 1.

“The farmers of this vicinity, who bought the Creamery in the village, are to take possession on July 1, and extensive improvements are to be made this fall, so the creamery will be on as good a footing as any in these parts.

“New patrons are being added which results will necessitate the enlarging of facilities, and we hope the new management will not regret the change.

“The incorporation of the Colfax Creamery Company by a number of the progressive farmers of this locality was recently consummated with a capital stock of $3,000.”


The October 20, 1905, edition of the Colfax Messenger published a business statement for the Colfax Creamery Company’s operations from July 1 through October 1 of that year.

In July, the creamery had 141 patrons; 148 in August; and 158 in September.

The amount of cream received was 79,347 pounds in July; 65,924 pounds in August; and 68,225 pounds in September.

The Colfax Creamery manufactured 22,633 pounds of butter in July, and in August, manufactured 18,970 pounds of butter, and in September, 19,500 pounds of butter.

All together, that’s 61,103 pounds of butter. If a family were to consume one pound of butter per week, that’s enough butter to last that family for 1,175 years.

The amount paid to patrons for butterfat was $3,936.41 in July; $3,309.44 in August; and $3,433.60 in September.

The January 19, 1906, edition of the Colfax Messenger included a brief account of the Colfax Creamery Company’s first annual meeting.

“The local creamery business was never on so good a footing, and we predict a brilliant future for the business here.”

65 years

For the next 65 years, the Colfax Creamery operated continuously as a cooperative, until September 1, 1970.

At the annual meeting in March of 1970, it was reported that the Colfax creamery had a net loss of $42,000 for 1969, which was offset to a large percentage by the depreciation of fixed assets.

The cooperative’s board of directors also had discussed changing the Colfax creamery from making butter and whey powder to making cheese.

“The emphasis the past six months in the dairy products line has been on cheese. This has been a problem for powder and butter producing plants, and the question of converting the Colfax plant to cheese has come up before the board as well as on the floor, but with a current cheese price drop no definite consideration was given to any conversion at the present time. There is a wide variation between prices received for cheese and that of butter and powder.”

Falls Dairy

The September 3, 1970, edition of the Messenger reported that on a vote of 56 to 3, stockholders of the Colfax Cooperative Creamery Company accepted the recommendation of the board of directors to sell the creamery to Falls Dairy Company of Jim Falls, a division of Dairy Equipment Corporation of Madison.

Falls Dairy took over operation of the creamery September 1.

“Frank Newmann, Manager of the Colfax Cooperative, explained that the local plant had been operating at 25 percent of their capacity of 400,000 pounds; while Falls representative, Ervin Purdeu, General Manager, explained to those at the meeting (in the Colfax Municipal Building auditorium) that Falls Dairy has been receiving about 200,000 pounds of milk over their capacity.”

The Messenger reported that the cooperative’s board of directors would remain in place to conduct necessary business, such as the retirement of 70 percent of the preferred stock, including the stock credited to patrons for the milk checks withheld in October of 1947.

Colfax was eventually expected to receive cash for its investments in other cooperatives and that the cash, amounting to over $130,000, would be distributed to preferred stockholders over several years.

The Messenger also reported that a $172,000 cash deposit with the Department of Agriculture would be acquired by Falls Dairy, and Falls would pay in full all amounts owed by the Colfax Creamery to patrons for milk delivered to Colfax.

The cash also would be used to pay the creamery’s creditors and there undoubtedly would be no money for distribution to common stockholders.

“In answer to questions asked of Jerry Sandon, Executive Vice President of Falls Dairy Company regarding their plans for the future of the Colfax plant, he replied. “No comment.”

“So terminates 65 years of continuous operations of the Colfax Cooperative Creamery Company as a cooperative producing butter, casein, powdered milk, whey, whey blends, plus egg drying and more recently a preservative for the baking industry among others,” the Messenger article concluded.