When Jay Stratton was puzzling about the demise of the currant farms in Westfield, he suggested that perhaps the closing of the last factory to process currants may have sounded the death knell. Research has provided the names of some of the factories that did process currants and has also stimulated a search for the history of fruit processing companies in Westfield.
In 1965, H. Harold Meyer, who had worked for the Welch Grape Juice Company in Westfield as a young man, later managing the Keystone Co-operative Grape Association in North East, Pa., and becoming a very successful businessman in the meat packing business, wrote "History of the Grape Juice Industry and Growers of the Chautauqua and Erie Grape Belt - 1917-1926." Four years later, in 1969, Meyer wrote a "2nd Edition" that actually completes the history, including background from before the birth of Christ, discussion of the application of the newly discovered pasteurization process to grape juice by Dr. T.B. Welch, and resuming the history from 1926 thru 1969. Included with Meyer's history is a chronological list of individuals and companies that were in business processing and selling grape juice in Chautauqua County, N.Y., and Erie County, Pa., between 1893 and 1964.
Using Meyer's list to extract the names he listed for Westfield, N.Y., and searching the archives of the Westfield Republican and Patterson Library, has provided the skeleton of a historical timeline of many of the processing factories. In addition, Sanborn maps from 1923-1951, and brief histories written about fruit/food processing plants during the 1952 Sesquicentennial of Chautauqua County, has helped to pinpoint where many of these companies were located and, in some instances, the names of fruits processed. The following list is by no means complete.
One of the fruit processors once located in Westfield was the Chautauqua Fruit and Grape Juice Company, pictured here in 1898, which became Fenner Grape Juice Company in 1908 before being purchased by Armour and Company and becoming the Armour Grape Juice Factory. It was located on the west side of Franklin Street next to Nickel Plate tracks. It burned in 1918 and was rebuilt in time to press grapes in 1919.
1896 - Dr. John D. Davis made wine. 1903 - Davis ran Lake Erie Wine Cellar on North Gale.
1897 - Welch Plant No. 1 on east side North Portage. 1906 - Welch Plant No. 2 on west side North Portage.
1898 - Fenner started Chautauqua Fruit and Grape Juice Company.
Marybelle Beigh is the current Public Historian for the Town and Village of Westfield. Her office is located at 3 East Main Street in Westfield, N.Y, 14787 - inside Parkview Ice Cream Parlor. Her scheduled office hours are Monday through Friday 9 to 11 a.m.; other hours by appointment.
Beigh can be reached at email@example.com or by calling 326-2457 (office), 326-6171 (home) or 397-9254 (cell).
1908 - Fenner sold CF&GJ company to Hunt and Ames, with name change to Fenner Grape Juice Company, located on west side Franklin Street, between Nickel Plate Tracks and English Street.
1910 - Armour and Company purchased Fenner Grape Juice. Destroyed by fire 1918. Rebuilt 1919
1923 - Sanborn Map: Westfield Fruit Products Co. Inc. Franklin St east side, north of Nickel Plate
1929 - Growers Cooperative Grape Juice Co., 112 North Portage
1933 - Bedford Food Products Company
1934 - Rood and McLean Fruit Products purchased Westfield Fruit Products property, leased Armour building while remodeling the WFP buildings. (Grapes, Tomatoes) (1934-1952)
1935 - Westfield Planters Cooperative Fruit Products Inc., purchased Armour factory. Planters burned their mortgage in Aug. 1942. The Westfield Republican article lists the following fruits processed in the preceding year: grapes; tomatoes; red sour cherries; sweet cherries; juice cherries; Morello cherries; currants; peaches; and strawberries. In 1952, Planters purchased Rood and McLean. (grapes, tomatoes) In 1952 Planters was listed as Packers of Westfield Maid Brand
1945 - Grape Belt Preserving Co. Inc., Seiter, Bourne Street
1947 - Brown and Book, Inc. north side Clark Street, behind 23, 25, 27, 29 Clark near Nickel Plate
1952 - Westfield Food Products, Inc., bought Brown and Book. Fruits processed: grapes; berries; tomatoes; sweet and sour cherries, currants. (also pork and beans) Listed on Bourne, 1961 fire.
1952 - National Grape Cooperative Association Inc
1952 - Westfield-Sommers Foods, Inc.
1954 - Peck Foods Inc.
1957 - Westfield Maid Cooperative, Inc. (Planters had been packers of Westfield Maid 1952)
1958 - Kay-Peck, Inc., fire 1961, listed as across street from Seneca
1958 - Seneca Grape Juice Corporation. (possibly formerly Planters?)
At the conclusion of H. Harold Meyer's "2nd Edition" he wrote, "I believe that I will have to write a third edition of partial history before I can make the complete history in one volume." Unfortunately, Meyer apparently did not write "3rd Edition" as none has been located in his papers or archives.