During the mid-19th century, the number of dairy farmers increased in the Cuyahoga Valley and local cheese factories began purchasing their unprocessed milk. Previously, cheese was made at home, usually by farm women. The introduction of cheese factories allowed farmers to avoid the long process of cheese-making, while continuing to reap profits from their dairy cattle. As a result of rising demand, the value of milk tripled between 1870 and 1910. According to Historian Henry Howe, the Western Reserve region of Ohio earned the nickname "Cheesedom."
As early as the 1860s, the Oak Hill Factory (see details below) in Peninsula was successfully producing over 70,000 pounds of cheese per year. Factory reports indicate that during a good year, it took about 9.5 pounds of milk to make one pound of cheese. In 1868 alone, the Oak Hill Factory received over 670,000 pounds of milk. Other records listed Summit County's 1887 production as 1,011,957 pounds of cheese and 657,527 pounds of butter. The numbers for other nearby counties were even higher.
Cheese factory productivity directly related to weather patterns. During hot weather and droughts, cows produced less milk. Mild temperatures and adequate water helped cows produce better quality milk, which made more cheese per pound. To overcome the summer heat, factories developed ways to refrigerate the milk and cheese. The Oak Hill Factory passed water through boxes of ice that passed under and around the milk. Read below to learn more about some of the many cheese factories that once operated in the Cuyahoga Valley.
Oak Hill Factory
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Welton Farm and Factory (29 seconds)
Daniel Greenfield, of Greenfield Berry Farm, talks about the Welton's cheese factory that was once just east of his property. Daniel and his wife live in the Welton House.
Courtesy/Bath Township Historical Society
Andrew Cassidy's Factories
Tilden Cheese Factory