Local History: Crowley Cheese Factory

As I get older, I often find myself reminiscing about the old days. One of my early memories is the Crowley Cheese Factory in Healdville. My father first took me there over 60 years ago. To a young boy, the building seemed rather run down.

I remember walking in and seeing cheese being stirred in long rectangular vats. The cheesemaker used what looked like a wooden rake. I watched as he slowly stirred the cheese. I’m not sure today, but I seem to remember the vats being wooden. Today, they are stainless steel.

A farmer delivery his milk to Crowley's
A farmer delivery his milk to Crowley’s. Photo provided

The photo with this article is in my collection. A farmer with horse and wagon delivers milk in 40-quart milk cans. The milk cans were emptied into the large tank you see with ropes to be hoisted up and then poured into the larger tank. If you look in the upstairs windows, you can see stacks of round wooden cheese boxes. The photo would date to the late 1920s to early ’30s.

In the “History of Mount Holly, Vermont” by Carroll R. Tarbell I found the following:

“Alfred Winfield Crowley built a cheese factory near the road on his farm in 1882. It was a two story frame building thirty by forty feet.

“He made cheese from spring to late fall and carried on his farm with some help. He sold the farm to his son George in 1908…

“A.W. Crowley made cheese until his death in 1935, the last years with the help of George.

“George made cheese until his death in 1964. Robert Crowley had worked with his father for several years and carried on until his untimely death at 53 years of age in 1966.

“They formerly made cheeses of thirty to thirty-five pounds. When George Crowley began making (possibly a few years before), some small ten pound cheeses were made. A.W. Crowley sold all the cheese through a wholesaler. When the small cheeses were made, they were sold over the counter at the factory as well as by mail. The wholesaler was cut out and all cheeses were sold direct. Later, three and five pound cheeses were made.

Cheesemaker at Crowley's raking cheese
Cheesemaker at Crowley’s raking cheese. Photo provided

“The capacity of this factory was about 7,500 pounds of milk per day…

“Crowleys got the milk from local farmers. The farmers took their milk each morning to the factory. By 1940 the factory was making cheese the year around, but not before extensive work was done to make it winterproof.

“Early in 1967 the Smith Family (Randolph, Grace and sons Peter and Kent) purchased the factory and made more improvements.”

I recommend you pay a visit to the cheese factory. In my 60-plus-years memory, it has changed very little structurally. It looks today much as it did when I was a boy.

When you enter, you walk in on well-worn and creaky floors. Before you know it life slows just a little. They have different cheeses in coolers for sale. Try a few samples and then buy what you prefer. I like the old-fashioned “rat trap cheese” as my mother called it. I like cheese that makes your toes curl.

I remember Jameson’s Market and Al’s IGA having a large wheel of cheese on top of their meat counter. They would cut the cheese to your request.

It is not my intention to write an ad for this business, but to inform newcomers to Vermont of our unique history that continues today. This is not a tourist trap.

Here is another short story Lee Decatur wrote about his wife Pat. If you knew Pat, you’ll get a chuckle out of it. If you didn’t know Pat, perhaps this story will offer insight.

  Pat’s Light Switch

“Pat Decatur had a unique outlook on life. As one example I’ll use the story of the light switch.

“At the family camp in Northwood, N.H. our family usually was the last to be in for the year in October for a family Thanksmas (Thanksgiving/Christmas) celebration and in April the first in for the season. Patricia figured that the surrounding woods needed help preparing for the long cold winter so she had me install a light switch, not wired to anything, on a Hemlock tree near the camp so she could put the trees to sleep in October and wake them up in April when we returned.”

  This week’s old saying is from Iggy. I think we all know someone who can’t make a decision. “The road of life is paved with flat squirrels that couldn’t make a decision.”

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