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I remember... the stone milk house

August 15, 2013
Westfield Republican / Mayville Sentinel News

Editor's note: "I remember" is a feature that takes a look back at life from a time that many were too young to see and that few remember.

By Jack Dean

I have wondered sometimes why the Good Lord is keeping me on into my nineties when most of my classmates have crossed the River and gone on to the Promised Land. The only answer I ever get is perhaps He likes me to keep writing my "I Remember" stories from decades ago so that some of the newer generations can know what it was like to live in the 1930s, '40s and '50s.

Article Photos

Photo by Jack Dean
A 2011 photo of the field stone milk house located at the Dean family’s Pebblebrook dairy.

We have all heard many times that if a muscle gets used it lasts longer and I think the brain is in that category so I use mine to remember 70 or 80 years ago. One chapter of my life was filled with grandparents. Grandpa Vidal was a rural mail carrier in Sherman and his task called for him to deliver the mail six days a week to all the farmers and rural folk between Sherman and Findley Lake, including the side roads, which were too muddy or snow-covered for automobiles to navigate. He had to do them with his government-issued horse cart or sleigh in winter. Grandpa had a wife, Clarabelle; everyone called her Belle. Grandpa Ben and two other men set up a new corporation called Sherman Opera House Inc. and they showed silent movies in a second-floor theatre downtown from 1896 to 1928 when Edison perfected his "Talkies." The Buss Brothers built a new theatre for that across the street. That was the end of silent movies, some of which I had been allowed to see in the 1920s.

Another grandfather was Whitney dean who came to Sherman from Nebraska in 1919. He had a wife, Mary, of Welsh descent, who had crossed the prairie in a covered wagon. She really kept a great house and cooked and baked a lot. Whitney, or "Whit" as he was called, brought by rail a herd of Brown Swiss cattle from Montana and he brought two of his sons, Albert and Ernest, to help him. Albert left after two years to go to Mississippi to manage a herd there. And Ernest decided to study a brand-new thing called "Radio" and electronics. He married Gertrude, one of Grandpa Vidal's daughters, and they started a family right away. They had three preschoolers pretty soon. Dad acquired an infection called Pernicious Anemia and there was no cure for it. He died at age 23.

Grandpa Whit Dean started Pebblebrook Dairy and delivered milk bottles and cream six days a week to every house in Sherman using a horse cart. Brown Swiss milk was considered very good for you and became popular in Sherman. Grandpa Whit was picking apples one day and fell, breaking several bones. Unable to manage alone, he sent for his daughter Stella and her husband Lonnie Mitchell from Denver to come and help him, along with their six daughters.

The girls helped a lot with the farm and also with delivering the milk to the village. Whitney decided to build a field stone milk house, but that was too hard for him to build alone. One of the girls, Evadna, laid most of the stones under her grandfather's supervision. The separating and washing of the bottles was done near the kitchen in the big house but the new stone milk house was used to cool the fresh milk until it was time to bottle and deliver it. In the winter, they cut big blocks of ice from Sherman pond and packed the blocks in sawdust to use in hot weather to cool the bottled milk.

The girls took jobs in the summer working in Chautauqua in a restaurant. They each eventually went off to college. All but one became registered nurses and one was even elected president of the National Registered Nurses Association. The one who built the stone milk house married a local man, Paul Blackburn, who was my English teacher at Sherman Central School. She later moved to California. Once, while on a trip there, I looked her up and visited her house. I found that she had added a wing and a porch using field stones. She used the knowledge our grandfather had given her to build it herself.

When the girls went off to college, Grandpa Whitney Dean sold the Pebblebrook Dairy to the next door neighbor, Flayd Vrooman, and his son Truman. They ran it for a few years, then sold it to another local family, the Croscutts, who operated it for several years. After that, the farm was purchased by Norvel Reed and Lee Buesink, who ran a weekly cattle sales stable for 15 or 20 years. It continued on until now, and it is owned by Dan Johnson and his wife, who have no need for a stone milk house. I have acquired it from them and had made plans to move it intact into Yorkers Museum as a memento of early agriculture in Sherman; however, the new manager of Yorkers declined my offer. Now I have to find a different location. Fortunately, the directors of the Farmers Mill liked my idea, and they offered a site on Kendrick Street near their mill. Our plans are evolving around that site and idea. I have been working to raise money and have some commitments, but need more. If you like this idea and want to help, call me at 499-6267 or Ron Meeder at Farmers Mill at 761-6741.

 
 

 

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