White building? What’s a milk house? The Bradley-Craig farm’s historical role in the dairy industry (Part 4 and last of the series)

(Editor’s Note: We want to immeasurably thank Marguerite Evans, PhD., a descendant of the Bradley family, for bringing this series on the historical significance of the Bradley-Craig milk house to Stittsville Central. Marguerite has enlightened us with the history and captured the important role our community’s beloved local dairy farm, known as the Bradley-Craig farm, played in the history of milk and its production and the families involved. The milk house located at the Bradley-Craig farm played an integral role in the early days of milk production that continued with the purchase of the farm by Eldon and Norma Craig. We very much appreciate Marguerite sharing this series with Stittsville residents.)

The two milk wagons and sleighs that Clifford used for his dairy were built by Silas Manuel Bradley whose family farm was located just west of that of J. Clifford Bradley.

(About two dozen cans of milk and cream could be hauled at a time on the milk wagon. Each can was tagged with name of dairy farmer or the farm number to insure the empty cans were returned to its rightful owner.)

Increased competition gradually brought about closure of smaller dairies. For example, for the year ended 1928, the annual report of Montreal’s Eastern Dairies Limited, noted that Producers Dairy was continuing to extend its business and services of its subsidiaries by acquiring Hull Dairy Limited, Hull, and Shawville Creamery, Shawville, Quebec; inaugurating advertising and installing a modern ice cream plant in Toronto thus increasing the number of consumers; and constructing a butter manufacturing plant in Almonte. It should come as no surprise that by 1940 Producers’ Dairy had acquired Springwell Farm Dairy.

Interestingly, the dairy was back in the Ottawa news in 2018 when the building housed Crazy Carl’s Antiques having once been a storefront for construction equipment, a bottling plant, and shoe manufacturing factory.

(The Springwell Dairy was housed where Crazy Carl’s Antiques was located on Armstrong Street in the Hintonburg neighbourhood. Photo: Kitchissippi Times 2018)

The arrival of the milking machine was transformative for the dairy industry in that it enabled dairy farmers to meet the increased demand for milk products by increasing herd size and improving milk quality. Thus, in 1960 a holding tank was installed in the milk house and the family switched to use of a Surge bucket milker which involved placing a strap called a Surcingle  around the middle of the cow and hanging the Surge Pail, to which were attached teat cups, underneath the cow like a swinging pendulum. Farmers then poured the milk through a strainer into the holding tank from which milk was emptied via a trough into larger milk shipping cans. Clifford’s milk cans had either J. C. Bradley or 166 (the farm number) inscribed on the shoulder of the cans so that the dairy could return them to the rightful owner.  Nevertheless, the more milk was handled and transferred by pail into cans for delivery, the greater the risk of milk contamination.

(A Surge bucket milker.)

When Eldon and Norma Craig owned the Bradley-Craig farmstead, everyone who passed the farm on Hazeldean Road were familiar with the Nor-L Swiss sign that hung proudly at the entrance gate.

The fourth generation of Bradleys to take over the farm was Clifford and Margaret’s daughter, Norma, who with her husband, Roland Eldon Craig, farmed together for 58 years. They bred and raised Brown Swiss cows, milking about 42 cows, selling Brown Swiss calves to places as far away as New Brunswick. At the Richmond Fair in September 1973, Eldon Craig took the prize for “female in Brown Swiss judging.” Eldon Craig’s Nor L. – Bonnie Talisman – was identified as an impressive multiple Royal Winter Fair winner having been named Res Grand Champion in 1976 and Grand Champion in 1983. Interviewed in January, 1984, Eldon explained to Bob Bradley, Ottawa Citizen reporter, that in their 10 years of raising Brown Swiss, he had wanted a challenge, enjoyed working with this outstanding breed because they were quiet, competed with the best in terms of milk production, were tolerant to cold and heat, and “easy to work with.”

By 1976, bulk shipping of milk was the norm. Hence, Eldon discarded the old holding tank, and installed a pipeline system which transported milk from the cow into a refrigerated holding tank in the milk house. Thus, today were one to enter the milk house via its front door, one could immediately turn left and enter the barn. On the right side of the milk house is the refrigerated bulk holding tank from which milk was pumped into bulk shipping tankers every two days via the small, metal covered, ground level drain at the front of the milk house under the right-hand window.

(Brian Craig, son of Norma and Eldon, provided this sketch of the milkhouse and how it was arranged when the pipeline system was installed.)

On the left side, three wood partitions divided the left side of the milk house into three distinct sections.  The rectangular pit was in the first section, a compressor was in the second, while the left rear section housed the washing area in which milking equipment was washed in tubs and hung to dry after the last cow was milked in the morning and at night.  A hot water tank was in the left rear corner of this area.  Previously, milk pails and milking machines were washed in the farmhouse kitchen. Roy Inspectors regularly monitored farm milk houses for cleanliness, the temperature of the holding tank, and milk quality.

(Author’s note: I wish to thank Norma (m: the late Roland Eldon Craig) Craig, their son Brian Craig, and my cousin, R. Glen Bradley, for helping me to transfer into this article and hopefully future articles, their lived experience of farming, knowledge of dairying, and recognition of the superb pioneer craftmanship in the Bradley-Craig barn. I also wish to thank Al Wright, son of Harry (Henry) Wright.)

We can’t leave you without sharing some additional photos that hold memories of the Bradley-Craig homestead and so much more for the Stittsville community.


4 thoughts on “White building? What’s a milk house? The Bradley-Craig farm’s historical role in the dairy industry (Part 4 and last of the series)”

    1. Thank you, Edna, for your kind words. I, too, learned a great deal when I was researching for the article and listening to the lived experience of the family.

      The small white milkhouse is gone now. Only a shadow on the wall remains. Nevertheless, it along with the magnificent dairy barn represents a great deal of the history of agricultural progress not only in Goulbourn Township, but in Canada.


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