The historical role of the milk house on the Bradley-Craig farm (Part 2)

(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 dairly 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.)

In spring 1900, The Ottawa Journal reported that in Hazeldean the new cream separator in Cavanaugh’s old factory was “doing a good business under the charge of Mr. A. Driscoll.” Franz Klingender, a former curator of the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum, argued that the cream separator marked a significant phase of technological innovation in dairy farming and the movement from farm to factory.

(An early Cream Separator from circa 1910.)

In 1921, Joshua Bradley and his wife, Annie Barbara, divided their property between their two sons, Joshua Ernest Bradley and John Clifford Bradley.

John Clifford Bradley and his wife, Margaret Dawson, the third Bradley generation to farm on the land, had Ayrshire cattle and later Holstein-Friesians. Ayrshires and Durhams were the first breeds to be imported into Canada while Holsteins were imported about 1870. Ayrshires from Ayr, Scotland, were good grazers, vigorous, and efficient at milk production. Their milk was ideally suited for butter and cheese production. Unfortunately, many of Clifford’s Ayrshires died of cow fever on board ship en route to Canada. Holstein-Friesians originated in Holland and were noted for their high milk production. Clifford milked about 20 cows. There was a pump inside the farm’s main gate. As a youngster growing up in the 1930s, Norma Craig, Clifford’s daughter, remembers each morning before school hand-pumping water into the concrete trough before she drove the cattle east along the 12th concession to graze on the property where the Kevin Haime Driving Range is now located.  After school she brought the cattle home and pumped more water into the trough.

In the 19th century some farmers began distributing milk to city customers by horse drawn wagon or sleigh in winter.  This marked the beginning of the dairy farmer becoming a milk producer and distributor. Accordingly, by 1900 dairies were being established in Ottawa, Montreal, and Toronto. With improved rail and road conditions, independent shippers could purchase milk directly from the farmers and deliver it to urban centres. Sanitation was a constant challenge in dairying. Initially, farmers delivered milk in pails, cans, or other containers. In 1884, the glass milk bottle was patented in the U.S. and became necessary packaging for home milk delivery. Once scientists discovered the relationship between bacteria, milk quality, human consumption, and health, stricter laws required pasteurization, sterilization, cooling, refrigeration, and inspection for farm and factory.

(A Springwell Dairy milk bottle. Courtesy: Ingenium – Canada’s Museum of Science and Innovation)

Dairying was also subject to the vagaries of politics, media coverage, crop quality, and world situations such as war.  Although John Bingham, managing director of The Ottawa Dairy Company, claimed that Ottawa had the cheapest milk prices anywhere in America, in 1914 at the outset of WWI, the summer price of milk was 8 cents a quart bottle while the winter price was increased to 9 cents to allow for the cost of decreased winter milk production and paying the producer on the farm 22 cents per gallon “which is equivalent to 24 cents per gallon at our plant.” 

Nevertheless, on Saturday, August 19, 1916, The Ottawa Journal gave front-page coverage to and fueled the debate about the demands made by Ottawa Valley milk producers to increase the price of milk during the winter by one cent to nine cents a bottle to cover the cost of a large, but poor quality hay crop which meant it would be better for dairy farmers to sell hay at market prices than to use it for dairy cattle fodder. Moreover, due to the war, the cost of labour had increased and the number of labourers had decreased. In contrast, patriotic sentiment had inspired The Ottawa Dairy Company to reduce the winter price of milk and this fact added fuel to the fire because Ottawa newspapers, including the Ottawa Citizen, praised this dairy’s milk pricing policy and sought, along with city Alderman J. M. Muir, a public inquiry into the producers’ demand for a price increase.

(The Ottawa Dairy Company Building on Somerset near Bank, circa 1903. Photo: Lost Ottawa)

In an effort to eliminate the “middle men handling it and taking profits” from delivery of milk, butter, cheese, and other dairy products, and have profits go directly to the producers, dairy farmers had started to come together in the early 1900s to form cooperative dairies. In October, 1917, The Ottawa Evening Journal reported that The Producers’ Dairy Limited, which had been quietly organizing for some time would begin operations in the spring of 1918 at the company’s plant (formerly Labatt Brewing Company), 275 Kent Street. At this point in time individual producers were delivering half the milk consumed in Ottawa. The expense of pasteurization would be borne by the company rather than individual producers.

In true entrepreneurial spirit, in 1934, John Clifford Bradley established Springwell Dairy, initially with an office at 1171 Wellington Street between Parkdale Avenue and McCormick Street. Jas. E. Pritchard was listed as manager. According to Norma Craig, the name “Springwell” came from the existence of springs and wells on his farm.

(The milk bottle cap used for the milk bottles filled with milk from Springwell Farms Dairy.)

However, there were challenges. In 1933, Ottawa set up a Public Welfare Board comprised of lay persons and councillors to deal with the city’s marked degree of unemployment and relief caused by the industrial collapse of the Depression. Many people were living in slum conditions. Because Clifford had not yet started the dairy on Armstrong Street, the milk inspector had refused to allow Clifford “to supply milk for relief” because he argued the dairy was not in the city. Nevertheless, Royden Hughes demonstrated that Clifford had opened an office on Wellington Street in October, 1933 and had rented another city building in connection with the dairy. Newly elected Mayor Patrick Nolan “suggested that Mr. Bradley might supply milk for eight cents a quart.”

Shortly thereafter, the dairy was set up at 233 Armstrong Street in Ottawa, just west of the Parkdale Market. The 1937 City Directory identified Robt A. Stokes as manager. Similarly, in July 1937, the Dun & Bradstreet business credit rating company noted a John Clifford Bradley involved in the dairy business. By 1940 the City Directory no longer has a listing for Springwell Dairy.


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