PHOTO OF THE DAY: MUSEUM’S LOOK BACK
This photo was posted on Facebook as part of Heritage Hall Museum & Archives’ weekly “Monday on Main” feature with the accompanying text:
With June observed as National Dairy Month, this week is a great time to take a look back at one of Freeman’s longest continuously operating Main Streets businesses – today we know it as AMPI (Associated Milk Producers Inc.).
Our Main on Monday feature offers two historical photos. The earlier photo (circa 1958) appears in “History of Freeman from 1879 to 1958,” written by longtime Freeman Courier publisher J.J. Mendel and published in 1958.
The more recent photo (circa 1979) comes from “Freeman Facts, Freeman Fiction,” the book published in conjunction with the 1979 centennial of the establishment of Freeman as a railroad stop.
Both books provide details about the manufacturing operation that, according to “Freeman Facts, Freeman Fiction,” traces the roots back to 1915. That’s when Jake T. Gross “set up his own produce store buying milk and cream and poultry in the Hofer and Tschetter Store.” That building was located in the area of Freeman Lumber Company’s warehouse in the 200 block. The book explains that Gross began making and selling “Gross Butter,” investing first in a 50 lb. churn and later a 500-pound churn.
But as Gross expanded into the hatchery business, the book says, he convinced a newly formed cooperative to take over the business and the “Freeman Creamery” was established.
In his 1958 book, Mendel writes that “the Farmers Coop Creamery Association was incorporated on May 7, 1930. This organization began its operations in what is (at the time) the Northwestern Public Service Company office.” Today that’s home to Libby’s Nail and Hair Salon.
“On April 1, 1957 the Farmers Coop Creamery Association of Freeman and the Marion Co-op Creamery consolidated and formed the present Farmer’s Dairy and Produce Cooperative,” Mendel wrote. “To make this production and processing a reality, the most modern equipment available is utilized in the large modern plant which has increased in size several times since the original building was erected in 1935.”
Mendel noted that the organization expanded over the years, collecting cream and milk from across the region which was turned into butter. He also noted that the cooperative collected, graded and processed eggs.
“Freeman Facts, Freeman Fiction,” added updated information, including that in 1960 the business expanded operations by producing powdered milk in addition to churning butter. A 75’ x100’ addition was built to house the drying operation. The unique construction of that building reflects how the operation used the railroad to ship its products; the second photo shows the plant with railroad cars along the diagonal north portion of the manufacturing plant.
The dairy cooperative joined Associated Milk Producers Inc. (AMPI) in 1969.
The 1979 book also notes that AMPI eventually moved its business offices to the former Jake T. Gross Hatchery location, where they remain today, an enduring link to its founding roots.
History is recorded in a variety of ways, providing a mosaic that helps us piece together the stories of how this community has grown over the years. Our museum and archives are a repository available to anyone who wants to learn more. We’re open from 9 to 4 Mondays through Fridays and from 1 to 4 Saturdays and Sundays from May through September.
10Don Schmeichel, Marnette Hofer and 8 others