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Millinocket Dairies, Part 1

Odds and Ends From The MUSEUM!

By Trudy Wyman, Curator, Millinocket Historical Society Museum

Albert “Bert” Rush, from Benedicta, came to Millinocket early and bought 359 acres. Interviewed for a news article in the 1930’s, Bert Rush stated, “I do general farming, raise from 10 to 20 acres of potatoes each year, keep 40 head of cattle and about 400 hens. I raise hay to feed my cows, and sell about 450 quarts a day on my milk route in Millinocket.”

Jones Dairy was owned by George M. Jones early on and later run by Horace P. Jones (briefly), then Esther M. Jones and George E. Jones and finally Charles E. Jones. George M. starting building a home on Central Street with an attached milk room where the milk was bottled. His cows were pastured where the golf course is now and there was a barn in area where Gracie’s/Antiques now located. The last owner was Charles Jones and the milk came by train in large cans and was then bottled for delivery. He sold to Sno-Land Dairy 1957-58 and the bottling equipment etc. and bottles were sold. (information from C. Jones).

A 1905 Millinocket Journal has advertisements for H. S. Brown and Fred Clifford. Brown’s ad states: “Pure jersey cream and milk delivered every day. The quality of these goods speaks for itself. If you let me know your needs, I will call and endeavor to please. H. S. Brown, Millinocket.” Fred Clifford’s ad says: “MILK – the best. My list of customers is constantly increasing. Are you one of them? Drop me a card and I’ll call. Fred Clifford, Millinocket.” Clifford peddled milk from a small farm on the road to Stone Dam.

Ervin Keeley and his wife had a dairy in Millinocket and delivered milk and cream to customers for 32 years starting in 1925. Interviewed in 1957 after retirement, Keeley’s stated that they started their work day at 4:30 in the morning, seven days a week, and made it a habit to work until 7:30 PM. Mrs. Keeley often was up until midnight as persons kept coming for milk. Early in the business, milk sold at 10 cents a quart or 4 quarts (1 gallon) at 8 cents per quart.

Delivery back then was by horse and wagon. Keeley’s first horse was borrowed from the local Chinese laundryman. When the time came to purchase his own horse, Keeley stated (when interviewed after retiring) that he did not have the cash. Mrs. Keeley triumphantly took from hiding all the pennies her husband had tossed on the table at the end of each day! They bought a horse! In winter, a double-runner bob-sled was hauled by the horse. In later years, Keeley was delivering 600 bottles of milk a day to private customers and Millinocket schools and he had purchased a truck for $378.

The January 1934 snowstorm was the worst in Keeley’s memory. Drifts were so high that he hired four men with snowshoes to make deliveries. They successfully traveled every street in town and only missed one customer! In their 25 years in business, Keeley was never ill and never had a day off. Mrs. Keeley had 10 days off…all spent at the hospital! When the article appeared in 1957, the Keeley’s were headed south to visit a daughter and see the cherry blossoms in Washington, DC.

A quart bottle from Keeley’s Dairy, was donated to the museum years ago. The donor remembered Keeley’s delivering milk to her family. She said the dairy was on the first floor of a building that had a barber shop upstairs and was located where K and M Motors later located.

to be continued…Part 2 Millinocket Dairies next week!

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