Sunday, February 11, 2018

Cheese Factory

Just before Oriskany Creek going south on Route 315 was the Deansboro Cheese Factory, owned by F.H.  VanVechton. The factory was built in 1883 and was operated from 1886 until 1891, when a fire broke out. The fire was discovered to have been set by two disgruntled farmers whose milk, which was sent to the factory, was found unsatisfactory. Around 12,000 to 13,000 pounds of cheese were destroyed, and while the loss on the building was considerable, it was partially insured. Therefore, it was rebuilt that same year.

The cheese factory produced only two sizes, large round wheels weighing 30 pounds and 60 pounds, under the management first of James D. Kelly and then of J.H. Gazlay. Gazlay was also in charge of the cheese factory on Peck's Corner (corner of Peck Road and Shanley Road). During the months of May through November, when the cheese factory was open, around 700,000 pounds of milk were received, and over 66,000 pounds of cheese were manufactured.

In 1901, the stock holders of the company met to discuss the future of the factory. At that meeting, G.B. Northrup, J.D. Kelly, Ralph Lumbard and John Toole were elected directors.  Apparently, the future of the Deansboro Cheese Factory was not very bright, as the next mention is of the building being purchased by Robert Hadcox in 1903. He intended to install an engine and other machinery for the manufacture of self-opening farm gates, using a patent held by George S. Patrick.

The National Gate Company, Hadcox and Patrick's enterprise, went out of business in 1916, and in 1919 there was a concerted effort by members of the Dairyman's League to reopen a cheese factory in that location which did not come to fruition. The building burned in the early 1920s, sat unused for several years, and finally disintegrated.

Fast forward to 2008: The DOT proposed a bridge replacement project over Oriskany Creek, but before that could be started, archaeologists from the New York State Museum's Cultural Resource Survey Program were dispatched in October of that year to conduct shovel test excavations, searching for evidence of prehistoric or historic sites. Since the cheese factory, and later the National Gate Company were in that location, the search was extensive.

The archeologists found numerous artifacts that are typical of historic and roadside litter, but most noteworthy was the discovery of the remains of the Deansboro Cheese Factory. The shovel tests partially uncovered a stone masonry slab that may have been the factory's entrance, and revealed the outlines of the building's foundation. Other artifacts recovered from the shovel tests were architectural (nails, bricks, lumber fragments and window glass); and general items such as brackets, hooks, bolts, pulleys, rods, bars and a large padlock.

David Staley, New York State archeologist and project manager for the Cultural Resource Survey Program  presented the findings of the dig at the Marshall Historical Society in October, 2009.

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