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In November of 1915 the Rye Cooperative Creamery opened. An article in the Pueblo Chieftain, dated November 16, 1915 describes, “The machinery, which has been installed, is of the latest pattern. The cost of the plant exclusive of the ground was close to $4,000. The ground was donated by H. Merriweather. The establishment is completed with the exception of the last coat of paint on the outside and cream was received yesterday for the first time.
There are 33 farmers in this cooperative company and at present there have been 400 cows ‘signed up’. The number of cows will be increased by the farmers of the community until the capacity of the creamery is reached. If all goes well with the present concern and it is seen that a creamery plant of larger capacity is needed, the farmers will enlarge the plant. The daily capacity of the plant is 1,000 pounds.
The butter which will be sold principally in Pueblo will be given the name of ‘Mountain and Meadow’, and it is expected that approximately 400 pounds of butter will be made daily.
The buttermilk will be sold to the mines in the Walsenburg district and the creamery company has been offered a price of 7 ½ cents a gallon for the buttermilk which is said to be a record price.”
The Creamery was dedicated on Wednesday, November 24, 1915 with fifty Puebloans attending including “prominent men speaking on various timely subjects.” An article in the Pueblo Chieftain described the event: “The affair was a success from start to finish. The weather permitted the program to be given out of doors which added much to the enjoyment of the day.
After reaching the little town, the Rye people piloted the visitors thru some of the farming districts for the purpose of showing them where the cattle which are to furnish the milk for the creamery are kept. The visitors saw broad meadows and clear mountain brooks.
Returning to the Wilson House, dinner was obtained and preparations made to inspect the creamery. The board of directors of the Pueblo Commerce Club held their weekly meeting at the Wilson house and passed resolutions praising the progressiveness of the citizens of the Rye community who had cooperated in erecting the creamery and providing a means of disposing of their products in an up-to-date manner.
After dinner an inspection of the creamery was in order. The machinery was running and the public shown how the butter is made. The equipment is of the latest improved pattern and sanitary in every respect. With its cement floors and clean painted walls, new machinery and bright and shining utensils, it offered a pleasing sight to the visitors.
As soon as the butter was produced the buttermilk was drawn off and the crowd given a treat of pure, fresh wholesome buttermilk together with sandwiches spread with fresh butter and coffee.” Several speakers followed and the Pueblo guests departed about 4 pm.
The cooperative creamery was located on the bank of Greenhorn Creek at the base of what is now called Petersen Road. It was organized locally by dairy farmers, who were producing milk individually. Each farmer contributed $100 toward start up capital. W.G. Wixson wrote in 1964: “About 1910, George O. Gray headed a committee which organized the Rye Cooperative Creamery Association.”
George Sealy was hired to be the butter maker assisted by Pat Gray. Ruth Smith was the butter wrapper, Mayme Medill the bookkeeper, while Art Medill was the salesman, marketing the butter in Pueblo.
By 1924, when Clyde Lewis was butter maker, the Rye Mountain Valley Creamery Butter won second place in a statewide contest held at Colorado Agricultural College in Ft. Collins. The cooperative also won several prizes at the State Fair for various products. Rye came to be known as ‘Colorado’s Dairyland’.
The Rye Cooperative Creamery eventually owned the two-story brick Pueblo Bottling Plant behind the gas station on Grand Avenue in Pueblo.
The cooperative plant and business was sold to Harold ‘Pete’ and his brother, Fred Petersen in October of 1946.
Mrs. Snyder’s Cottage Cheese
“In the early 1920’s, the Snyder family moved to Rye from Boone, bringing a good heard of Guernsey cows. When their daughter became ill and required a diet of buttermilk, Mrs. Snyder began making cottage cheese from the skimmed milk. At first she heated the milk in a fifty pound lard pail on the back of her wood cook stove. She sold it to grocery stores in Pueblo in five or ten pound lard pails, delivering it from the back of an open bed Chevy truck.
About 1926 or 1927, she built a cheese factory near the Greenhorn Creek on what is now Petersen Road. Marketed as Mrs. Snyder’s Cottage Cheese, she supplied the State Hospital kitchens, Piggly Wiggly and other chain stores, as well as many small groceries in Pueblo, Walsenburg, Trinidad and Raton. Pete Petersen was her last cheese maker. She sold the business in 1942.
The Greenhorn Valley Creamery
Harold C. ‘Pete’ with his wife, Mavis Hardin, and brother, Fred, Petersen, expanded the cooperative business under the name ‘Greenhorn Valley Creamery’. “At one time there were approximately 50 dairymen producing Grade A milk. In 1958, Rye dairies produced about 300,000 gallons of milk.
Greenhorn Valley Creamery pasteurized and bottled milk and cream, made cottage cheese, ice cream, butter and buttermilk. The small mountain creamery was well known for its products that were delivered daily to stores and restaurants in Pueblo, and three times a week as far south as Raton, New Mexico.”
Home delivery teams worked six days a week in Pueblo; one day delivering both routes so the other team could have a day off.
The fresh milk was delivered from the dairies every morning around the back of the building, often by a son or daughter on their way to school. The milk cans were unloaded, the cream spun off, and the cans washed with pressurized hot water to be picked up later in the day. Many of the farms had no electricity, so the milk cans would be filled with hot water for the families’ use. Other times, the cans were filled with whey to feed to the pigs. A by-product of cheese, whey has a unique odor so no one wanted it spilled on them or their shoes as “it was impossible to get the smell out”.
In a few years, the Petersens built a locker plant and feed store. “In 1962, the roof of the creamery burned and federal regulations forced the Petersens to close their business.” The same year they started a grocery store across the road from the creamery. (The building currently houses apartments.) It wasn’t until 1968 that they made their home out of the old creamery building at 2070 Petersen Street.
Only certain types of cows are used for milking. “Holsteins produce more quantity, but with less butter fat, while Guernsey and Jerseys were higher in butter fat and less volume. At first milk was bottled and sold just as it came from the cow. Early glass bottles had an area or enlargement near the top of the neck where the cream or butter fat would rise as a convenient way of pouring the cream off for special uses.”
Later pasteurization, homogenizing and standardization of butter fat content were required by the Government. “Pasteurization does not affect the separation of the butter fat from the rest of the milk, it merely ‘cooks’ the milk to kill of certain bacteria or germs which could cause health problems if taken in. Homogenization churns and mixes the pasteurized milk under high pressure so that it breaks the butter fat down and permanently blends it with the rest of the milk so that it does not later separate or rise to the top.”
Sources: Pueblo Star Journal and Sunday Chieftain Articles found by John Korber: Tuesday, November 16, 1915 and Wednesday, November 24, 1915; Greenhorn Valley News article May 29, 1976; the 1993 Historical Dairy Display at Greenhorn Valley Playhouse; and “A Stroll Down Memory Lane with Mavis Petersen, Greenhorn Valley News July 11, 1996 By Amy Daniels.