Missouri and Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of the Ozarks region and surrounding area.

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I'm a freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks and surrounding region. I've written fifteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Bushwhacker Belles, Wicked Women of Missouri, and Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Willow Springs Creamery

I wrote last time about the Carnation Milk Products Company at Mount Vernon, and I mentioned that Lawrence County was a center for dairy farming during the first half of the nineteenth century. Actually, though, dairy farming flourished throughout much of the Ozarks during this time.
Another dairy products plant built in the Ozarks a few years after the Mount Vernon plant was the Willow Springs Creamery constructed at the corner of Main Avenue and Phelps Street in Springfield in 1927. This was not the first Willow Springs Creamery in Springfield, but it was considerably larger than the previous one that had operated in the teens and early twenties and maybe earlier. There was also a Willow Springs Creamery at Willow Springs at this time, but I don't think the Willow Springs Creamery company was actually headquartered at Willow Springs, and I'm not sure whether the company borrowed its name from the Missouri town or not. If anyone knows the answer, please enlighten me.
At any rate, the new creamery at Springfield opened in late June of 1927 in a building about 100 feet wide and 200 feet long, and it had two stories. It employed about fifty workers, although this figure fluctuated based on the season, economic factors, etc. The Springfield creamery was devoted to producing butter and buttermilk, and it had a projected output of 10,000,000 pounds of butter per year.
The Willow Springs Creamery was not the only milk products plant in Springfield at the time. For instance, the Merchants Creamery located on Commercial Street produced condensed milk. The new expansion of the Willow Springs Creamery, however, made Springfield the 4th largest butter manufacturing center in the Midwest, behind only Omaha, Sioux City, and Kansas City. Although the Willow Springs plant shipped butter all over the country, the butter that the company sold in the Ozarks was marketed under the brand name "Ideal."
During the late 1920s and 1930s, the Willow Springs Creamery was known in Springfield for its sponsorship of local baseball teams perhaps as much as or more than for its milk products.
Despite the growing milk industry in the Ozarks, one spokesperson for the industry observed at the time the new Willow Springs facility was constructed that he did not think there was any danger of overdoing the dairy business in the Ozarks and that there was still room for growth. He said the main problem was not in farmers milking too many cows but in the production and marketing techniques they used. The main challenge was producing milk with high butterfat content and getting it to market in good shape.

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