The historical role of the milk house on the Bradley-Craig farm (Part 1)

(The milk house on Clifford Bradley’s dairy farm. The farm today is known as the Bradley-Craig farm located on Hazeldean Road in Stittsville. Photos: Marguerite Evans and Barry Gray)

(Editor’s Note: Marguerite Evans, PhD., is a descendant of the Bradley family. She has written this series for Stittsville Central on the history of the beloved local dairy farm known as the Bradley-Craig farm. Marguerite shares the history of the dairy industry and the families involved. The milk house located at the Bradley-Craig farm played an important role in the early days of milk production continuing with the purchase of the farm by Eldon and Norma Craig. Marguerite has captured the history of the beloved Bradley-Craig dairy farm in great detail and we very much appreciate her sharing this series with Stittsville residents.)

Have you ever noticed the small white building attached to the west side of the large red Bradley/Craig barn on Hazeldean Road? Ever wondered for what usage it was built? I posed these questions to several Goulbourn Township Historical Society members and to other local residents. None had noticed the building that is the milk house.

European practices of keeping cattle for milk accompanied French settlement in Canada’s various regions from the 17th century in places such as New France and Acadia to the 19th century in Western Canada. Initially, early pioneers processed milk, butter, and cheese on their farms for domestic purposes. Cows were milked by hand twice daily with the milker, usually a woman of the family, sitting on a small wooden milking stool at the side of the cow and filling a bucket with milk. Because it soured quickly, surplus milk was used to feed animals or made into butter or cheese which could be bartered for goods or sold at local markets. Soured milk was also used for baking cakes. Later, with increased mechanization, scientific innovations, and laws governing sale of milk, processing of dairy products moved from the farm to the factory and the dairy farmer became a producer within a regulated industry. 

By 1867, The Ottawa Times reported that James Craig’s cheese factory in North Gower had started its operations. Gradually, more cheese factories were established and began to replace cheese-making on the farm. In February, 1887, The Ottawa Journal reported that farmers in the vicinity of Hazeldean were “contemplating the advisability of cheese-making. Mr. Kavanagh of Franktown, is about to erect a factory for the manufacture of cheese here.” Following the great fire of 1870, in their 1880 report, Ontario agricultural commissioners noted that Carleton County adapted to grain growing, raising stock, and especially, dairying. The unique and rare bank dairy barn formerly at 590 Hazeldean Road, was built in the early 1870s for Joshua and Lucinda Bradley by skilled carpenter and builder, John (a.k.a. Johnnie) A. Cummings (1831-1887), local farmers, and apprentices. It represents the history of dairying and stands as the last known example of approximately four area barns built by Cummings.

The Bradley-Craig barn, January 2018. Photo illustration by Barry Gray.
(The Bradley-Craig barn, milk house and driveshed – January 2018. Photo illustration by Barry Gray.)

The second Bradley generation to farm on the property was Joshua and Lucinda’s son, Joshua Bradley, and his wife, Annie (nee: Morris). Joshua and Annie had 7 or 8 cows on the farm and this number was considered “a big thing.” John Clifford Bradley, Annie’s son, remembered her churning milk into butter using the dog churn two to three times weekly. 

The white milk house reflects the history of dairying. It has a concrete floor with a rectangular cement holding pit which was a little deeper than the height of a milk can and held 10 to 12 cans. Behind the milk house was a spring and well which enabled the Bradleys to fill the pit with spring water to cool containers filled with milk. There was a cistern in the barn that held water for the animals. Prior to electricity and refrigeration, the family got their ice from the quarry once located on Ernest Bradley’s property across from what is now Amberwood Village. When the ice was thick in the winter, they would take sleighs over to the quarry, chop through the ice with an axe, then saw out chunks of ice. They put the ice into the rectangular concrete pit in the milk house and covered the ice with a thick layer of sawdust which kept the ice frozen throughout the summer. A separate ice house was at the end of the driveshed (since demolished), further away from their house.


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6 thoughts on “The historical role of the milk house on the Bradley-Craig farm (Part 1)”

  1. A reminder of the barn and milk house on the farm my father grew up on in the 1930s, which stayed in the family until the nineties. Thank you!

  2. Thank you for this most interesting information about the dairy farm and the milk house. I remember the milk house on my grandparents’ farm (Wm. J. and Louisa Cox) in Huntley Township well.

  3. It was interesting reading about the early design and use of the milk house. I went to school with Eldon and Norma’s son Brian and worked on the farm in 1968 and 69, as well as playing there with Brian. I only remember the big electrically refrigerated tank with a paddle in it being fed by milk lines from the stalls. I also remember drawing milk directly from the tank for use in the house, it was delicious. I recall that Mr. Craig kept a few Jersey cows to supplement the fat content of the primarily Holstien herd.

    The Craigs also ran a heard of Hereford cattle for beef production, which were housed in the neighbouring barn to the west of their farm, which they rented. That barn was torn down many years ago along with the house. The last family I recall renting that house were named Dingwall.

    There also used to be a smaller barn (since demolished) nearer Hazeldean Rd (then Highway 7) which housed a small horse stable, a workshop and facilities for slaughtering animals. I have a distinct recollection of a large cast iron basin in which water was heated to remove hair from slaughtered pigs. Between the house and the barn there was an old carriage shed with a rabbit hutch and old chicken coop off the end. Unfortunately I only have memories and no photos of the farm as I knew it.

    1. Robert – what a wonderful addition to Part 1 of this series. I, too, went to high school at Earl with Brian and Debbie Craig and the Dingwalls. I recall your last name – I think your sister was in some of my classes at Earl.

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