Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick


One of the first creameries in Iowa began in Manchester, Delaware County, in 1872. Iowa butter was awarded the gold medal at the World’s Fair in Philadelphia in 1876. The butter was made by W. S. Carrington at Strawberry Point in Clayton County. By 1880, one third of all butter made in the United States was produced in Iowa.

Milk had to set 24 hours so that the cream would rise to the top and could be skimmed off the remaining liquid. A problem was, that on most farms the entire volume could sour before the milk and cream divided. Many farmers rushed their milk to the creamery to "set" until the cream had risen. Then the milk was returned to the farmer. Those that risked the milk turning sour allowed the milk to set 24 hours at home, and only delivered the cream to the creamery. Obviously, there was a need for a cream separator to be invented.

A separating machine was first manufactured in Sweden and Denmark. A Danish immigrant near Cedar Falls imported one of the machines, the first to be used within the United States. Soon they were manufactured in numerous locations within the US.

Iowa creameries increased in number from 449 in 1879 to 725 in 1896, and dropped back to 390 in 1949. The heyday of the creamery was during the 1920s. Many were cooperative, owned jointly by a group of farmers.

Such was the case in Keosauqua. One of the state’s largest cooperative creameries began in Keosauqua in 1924 and lasted into the 1960s, employing up to 100 people. South Iowa Brand Butter was sold from coast to coast. In 1946, my grandmother was surprised when she found it for sale in a San Francisco market for less money than it cost at Barker's Store in Douds.

Milton had a creamery that was destroyed by fire in 1907. Closely related, Birmingham had a cheese factory in operation in 1871.

(The Hawkeye State: A History for Home and School. Dr. T. P. Christensen. Ames: Iowa University Press, 1977. The Keosauqua Experience. Sesquicentennial Project of the Van Buren County Historical Society. Keosauqua, 1989)

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Contributed to the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project by Andy Reddick