Vermont Historical Society executive director Steve Perkins asked, “We’re going to explore — what is a creamery, and why are they important to towns like Milton? I think we should go to the Milton Historical Society Museum just a couple of streets over and chat with Gary Furlong. He’s chair of the museum Re-Imagining Committee that’s been in charge of creating great new exhibits in that space.”
“In the early days, they used a simple bucket like this to separate cream and milk, and the cream would rise to the top,” Furlong said. “There’s a little window, and people could see it would take a few hours to separate.”
“And back 150 years ago, the cream was more valuable than the liquid milk at the bottom because you could make butter; you could make cheese; you could make shelf-stable products with the cream,” Perkins said. “So there were a lot of inventors around that wanted to figure out — how do you efficiently get that cream?”
“How to get that quicker as a process! The next step was — there were a few different kinds, but they developed cream separators,” Furlong replied. “This model is known as the DeLaval cream separator; it was very popular. They pour things into the top, the milk product, and they crank it and there’s a process — it’s physics, really; the heavier milk would go out one side and the cream into the other, so it would be a very efficient process to get it done quicker.”
Perkins asked, “Spinning it, right?”
“Spinning it,” Furlong answered. “You crank it.”
Mike Hoey asked, “Like a centrifuge?”
“Yes, exactly like a centrifuge,” Furlong said.
Perkins noted, “And this was used in Milton?”
“Yes,” Furlong said.
Hoey asked, “This exact one was?”
“Yes,” Furlong observed.
“This is something you’d find on a farm, but at some point, production of milk products grew that it was no longer a farm-based product anymore,” Perkins said. “Towns like Milton, which were a little larger than others, started to create creameries.”
“Milton had two small creameries, the Whiting Creamery in West Milton and then the Milton Co-Op Creamery opened in 1919 on Railroad Street,” Furlong said. “That was a big operation. Because it was near a railroad, they could ship product to Boston and they had receiving stations in a number of communities around, so farmers would just go to the receiving station, turn over their product and it would be brought down to the creamery here.”
And it was in business for quite a few years,” Hoey said. “Almost half a century — or maybe even slightly more than that, if I understand.”
“Yes, in the late 1960s or about 1970, it shut down,” Furlong observed. “There’s a number of dairy farms still active. I think they struggle, figuring out a way to do it, but they try to diversify their products and some of them use maple sugaring to support their bottom line.”
Perkins questioned, “If people want to come and learn more about farming in Milton, how can they do that?”
“They can just come to the museum,” Furlong noted. “We’re open from May to October on Saturdays, 10 to 2. If they want to come at a different time, they just need to contact us because we’re willing to to open for schoolkids or whatever they’d want to see here.”