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 Allen Welton (1809-1878) operated a successful dairy business and established the Cuyahoga Valley's first cheese factory in Peninsula. By the 1870s, Welton's operation was in full production. Correspondence shows that Welton cheese was sold through produce commission merchants in Cleveland, New York City, Boston, and Philadelphia. Cheese was exported to England and to Glasgow, Scotland. Welton kept up with the latest technology, such as using Annatto to color his cheese.
Allen Welton operated a second cheese factory at Hammond's Corners in Bath Township. It was located at the corner of Ira and Cleveland Massillon roads. After his tragic death in 1878, his son Frank took over both plants.
Click to learn more about the history of the Welton Farm.
Welton Farm and Factory
Daniel Greenfield, of Greenfield Berry Farm, talks about the Welton’s cheese factory that was once just east of his property.
2011 Oral History Project
“The initial family . . . Now, you have to understand this is a historic farmstead that was built in the 1850s. It's very old. The first farm family was the Weltons, Allen Welton was the first farmer there. He was a dairy farmer as well, and had a cheese factory that I believe was also on Major Road, and I think that was the first cheese factory in the county.”
Around 1871, Jonas Coonrad (1836-1919) began a profitable cheese business on his 300 acre property on Riverview Road in Brecksville. A dairy farmer for most of his life, Coonrad built the cheese factory to take advantage of the products from his own farm, as well as from the numerous other dairy cattle farms in the Cuyahoga Valley. Coonrad's factory had the capacity for 500 milk cows, which allowed for a significant profit. The money Coonrad earned from his cheese-making business helped the family construct the large brick farmhouse, which serves as a National Park Service ranger station today. Coonrad closed his factory in 1879, after the completion of the Valley Railroad increased competition in the cheese business by providing the Brecksville community with easy access to Cleveland's markets.
Andrew Cassidy's Factories
Andrew Cassidy became the largest operator in the Peninsula area, owning a chain of factories. His first was built in 1880, probably near where Salt Run goes under Akron Peninsula Road. During his active period, Cassidy had as many as 13 separate depots, including in Miller's Corners (now at Boston Mills and Olde Eight roads), Bedford, and Gates Mills. His largest and last factory was built in around 1887 in Peninsula, behind Cassidy's Hotel and beside the railroad.
Tilden Cheese Factory
The Tilden Cheese Factory, also known as the Boston Cheese Factory or East Hill Cheese Factory, was located on the David Kennedy Farm at Kennedy's Corners on Richfield Road (now the corner of Major Road and SR 303). It was just down the road from the Oak Hill Factory. The founding date is unknown but it was disbanded in 1896.
The End of Cheesedom
Cheese factories and creameries began to disappear after the first few decades of the 20th century when new forms of transportation forced valley factories to compete with larger markets in Cleveland and Akron. Sumner Creamery is an exception. The business that began in Bath Township in 1902 still operates out of Akron today.