Author: Susan C Fassbender

In the Beginning…The Fassbenders, the Cheese, and Wisconsin

Cheesemaking at the end of the 19th Century was very different from what we know today. Wisconsin cheese factories did not operate year round; they closed in December and didn’t open again until April. It wasn’t until farmers were introduced to silage, and began housing their herds in barns during the winter months, that they started to milk year round.Cows

As the number of cheese plants and creameries grew within the state, the need for regulation became apparent. To serve this need, the Wisconsin Dairymen’s Association was formed in 1872 to aid in the improvement of dairy products, and to promote safe lines of the dairy industry.1  By 1876 the Wisconsin Dairymen’s Association listed five dairies in Outagamie County, and by 1891 there were six creameries and 63 cheese factories listed in Outagamie County alone.2  As the number of factories in the state grew, it became apparent that if the owners wanted any control over the manufacture and marketing of a “prime product” they would be required to form an association apart from the Dairymen’s Association, and so they formed the Wisconsin Cheese Maker’s Association, which was formally incorporated in 1899. Although many of the cheesemakers were members of the Wisconsin Dairymen’s Association, they felt that “the special problems cheese makers faced required a separate association.”3  This new organization was formed to educate the farmers in the “improved techniques of milk handling and, more generally, in the ways of business society.”4  They encouraged members of the Wisconsin Dairymen’s Association to meet the following criteria to join: “Any person who is a practical cheese maker, and such other persons as are directly or indirectly interested in the manufacture and sale of unadulterated cheese may become members of the corporation by paying one dollar annually in advance of signing the roll of membership.” ((Apps, Cheese, 96))

The Association ensured a quality cheese product, but much work was now needed to educate the farmer in how to deliver clean milk, as “farmers were reluctant to adopt procedures ‘dictated’ by factory men.” Farmers were paid for their milk by weight, the richer the milk, the more it would weigh. In order to increase weight, some farmers were adding water to their milk, or mixing the milk of the more productive Holstein cows with the richer milk of the Jersey or Guernsey cow to create a heavier load. This created such inconsistencies in the quality of the milk brought to the factories that in some counties “the cheese makers were obliged to set up ‘protective associations’ in order to compel the adoption of the Babcock test as the official basis for milk payments. ((Lampard, The Rise of the Dairy Industry in Wisconsin, 253))

The Babcock Test, developed in 1890 by a professor at the University of Wisconsin named Stephen M. Babcock, allowed cheese makers to easily and inexpensively determine the amount of butterfat in their milk. His invention, which he never patented, ensured that farmers were paid fairly for the milk they were selling, and that dairies were able to manufacture and market the “prime product” they desired.

The need for a protective union was soon seen in Outagamie County, and so on December 27, 1894, a protective association which they called the Cheese Makers’ Protective Union was organized with G. Lightheart, president; J. L. Murphy, secretary, and P. Fassbender, treasurer. The object of the union was to “protect cheese makers against cutting of prices; to prevent the violation of contracts, and to fight filled cheese.” The association was to “remedy the abuses in the way of contract breaking, unfair competition and dishonest cheese-making which have begun to be felt in the trade here.” ((Appleton Weekly Post, Appleton, Wisconsin, “Cheese Makers Organize,” 2 December 1894, front page)) ((Ryan, History of Outagamie County, 458)) Filled cheese was cheese that was made from skim milk, and then had lard or stale butter added to make up for the lack of butterfat. Filled cheese when fresh was hard to distinguish from whole-milk cheese, but aged poorly, losing its flavor with time.

During the years 1894-1895 the Cheese Makers’ and Dairymen’s associations were “absorbed” in the lobbying for the anti-filled cheese bills at both the state and federal level. In 1895 the “Wisconsin legislature outlawed the manufacture and sale of cheese from skimmed milk.” The following year in 1896, a federal statute was adopted taxing and branding all filled cheese. ((Lampard, The Rise of the Dairy Industry in Wisconsin, 253)) One of the men who proposed this bill to fight filled cheese was Samuel Andrew (S.A.) Cook a U.S. Representative from Neenah, Winnebago County, Wisconsin, and the bill that he introduced “became a law by his efforts against great opposition.” ((Richard J. Harney, History of Winnebago County, Wisconsin, and Early History of the Northwest, (Oshkosh, Wisconsin: Allen & Hicks, 1880), 914))

With the regulations provided by the protective associations insuring a quality product, and farmers now milking year round, the cheese industry in Wisconsin was growing. Production reached 60 million pounds in 1900 and by 1915 the state was producing nearly 235 pounds annually. How did this compare to the rest of the country? in 1899, Wisconsin produced 26.6% of the nation’s cheese, in 1909 it was 46.6%, and by 1919 the state was producing 63.1%. Wisconsin cheese production was so high that it overtook New York as the leading cheese producing state in 1910. ((Apps, Cheese, 31))

Over the next 60 years technology would dramatically change the way that cheese was produced. In 1913 pasteurization of milk began on a commercial basis, by 1916 all Wisconsin cheesemakers were required to have a cheesemaker’s license, and in 1921 Wisconsin became the first state to institute mandatory grading for all major cheese varieties. Rural America was rapidly changing as trucks and cars replaced horses, tractors began pulling plows, and most importantly, electricity became available to provide light, power equipment, and to run refrigeration. All of this new technology made life easier, yet it was to change the way cheese was manufactured to such a degree that it was to affect the life and the business practices of both the cheesemaker and the farmer.

SOURCES:

  1. Wisconsin Dairymen’s Association, Wisconsin Historical Society, (www.wisconsinhistory.org: accessed 26 Mar 2014).
  2. Gordon A. Bubolz, Managing Editor, Land of the Fox: Saga of Outagamie County, (Appleton, Wisconsin: Outagamie County State Centennial Committee, Inc., 1949), 132-134.
  3. Jerry Apps, Cheese: The Making of a Wisconsin Tradition, (Amherst, Wisconsin: Amherst Press, 1998), 31.
  4.  Eric E. Lampard, The Rise of the Diary Industry in Wisconsin: A Study in Agricultural Change, 1820-1920, (Madison, Wisconsin, The State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1963), 253.

The Fassbenders, the Cheese, and Wisconsin

1926ca - Milk CansI first started researching this topic in 1998 at the request of my father-in-law who wished to know more about his grandparents. It still saddens me that he did not live to enjoy my findings, but even more so, that I was unable to discuss the stories, and to ask what he remembered about the events that I was uncovering. The prompt to blog this history is the fact that these stories are disappearing. That the successful cheese factories that were built by the Fassbender men and later sold to large corporations, have had the story of their origin either altered or deleted from the company’s history. I can’t let that happen.

Peter Joseph Hubert Fassbender had been residing in Ellington Township, Outagamie Co., Wisconsin for approximately 23 years when he decided to enter the cheese and butter manufacturing business. He chose a site across the road from the family home to build his first factory. The factory began operation in 1887 and had a capacity of 11,000 pounds of milk per day, which Peter obtained by purchasing milk from his farming neighbors, and from 24 of his own cows. Peter’s eldest son, John, returned home to work along side his father. As a 20 year old, he was an experienced cheesemaker, having worked in various cheese factories since the age of 16.1  Peter also enlisted the help of 19 year old Joseph, and two years later in 1889, 14 year old Hubert joined the family business.2  Showing remarkable skill and interest in the making of cheese, Hubert would be in “full charge of the factory” by the time he turned 16 in 1891.3  It was at this time that John left his father’s factory and “embarked on the business himself, conducting a factory for five years.”4  The youngest son, Henry, just seven years old when his father began making cheese and butter, literally grew up in the factory and would follow in his elder brothers footsteps, and in time become a cheesemaker in his own right.

SOURCES:

  1. Thomas H. Ryan, History of Outagamie County Wisconsin (Chicago: Goodspeed Historical Association, 1911), 764.
  2. Ryan, History of Outagamie County, 958.
  3. The Appleton Post-Crescent, “Rotary Club Hears Talk On Creamery Business.” 18 April 1929.
  4. Ryan, History of Outagamie County, 765.

Mrs. Lizzie Campbell and the St. Joseph’s Union

St. Joseph's UnionMy mother-in-law, Marie, kept a treasure box. Buried deep in the attic of her home I found an old Whitman’s candy box, and inside the box was a treasure trove of Holy Cards. Holy Cards that she had received as gifts, as rewards for good behavior, and some she just saved because they were pretty. In amongst these treasures from the 1930s, I found a different sort of card. This card lacked the pretty coloration of the rest of the collection. Turning it over I was amazed and delighted to discover that it was a card that had belonged to Marie’s grandmother, Elizabeth Bradley Campbell who had passed away in September 1900 at the age of 43, leaving a husband and eight children behind. A son Stephen had died of pneumonia just three years before in 1897.

The back of the card stated that Mrs. Lizzie Campbell was a member of the St. Joseph’s Union. This was her certificate of membership, “…having paid 25 cents, [approximately $6.80 in today’s money] the Annual Subscription for the ‘Homeless Child,’ is a Member of St. Joseph’s Union until March 1, 1898.”

The card goes on to state: “The object of this Union is the protection of homeless and destitute children, Membership Cardand the spiritual and temporal welfare of all subscribers to the ‘Homeless Child.’ His Holiness, Pope Leo XIII on the 27th day of February, 1883, graciously granted exclusively and for ever to the Members of St. Joseph’s Union (established by Father Drumgoole in the year 1876) and Indulgence of 400 days to Members who recite twice a day, the following prayer…”

Who was Father Drumgoole, and what WAS St. Joseph’s Union? Setting out on a websearch, I was surprised at how much information could be found about Fr. Drumgoole. While not all sites mentioned St. Joseph’s Union, it was clear that he was the patron for homeless news boys in New York City. This site is I feel is particularly good for background information: HistoryBuff.com, and to read the full life story of Fr. Drumgoole, this book published in 1954 looks to be an easy read: Children’s Shepherd, The Story of John Christopher Drumgoole.

1900-St-Marys HilbertThe goal of the St. Joseph’s Union was to raise awareness and money throughout the United States and the world. This small card is evidence that this goal was achieved. The Campbells lived on a farm just outside of the small town of Hilbert, Calumet Co., Wisconsin, and attended church in Hilbert, where the Rev. Father Rhode was pastor. I would love to understand how he promoted the society to his predominately German congregation.

Till the End of Time

2013-10-22 08.25.16As we continue to work on preparing my in-laws home for sale, rooms are cleaned out and items tossed or prepared for the estate sale. Last night I attacked a box of sheet music that had resided in the attic for decades. Not being able to resist, I started sorting through the pages. I hadn’t gone too deeply into the box when I hit gold! My mother-in-laws piano report card from when she was 16 years old and taking lessons back to back with her brother Arthur. Marie on piano, Arthur on violin.

The next item to make my heart sing was the 1945 piano music for “Till the End of Time.” I had chosen this song to end the video I made about two years ago to honor my in-laws. How many people are lucky enough to possess moving images from a wedding that took place in 1946? I chose the song hoping that it had been a favorite, but figuring that I would never know. But last night I learned that they did enjoy this song. I still think it is a perfect way to end the video.

It’s a Google World

It is hard to remember the internet without the term “Well just Google it!” What a difference it has made in our lives, and in our genealogy.

I recently began working on a revised edition of my book about the Fassbenders, and one sleepless morning I attacked the pages of the book that chronicle their lives in Oedekoven, Germany. It had been a few years since I had Googled Oedekoven, and wanting to beef up the early history section of the book, I started an intense Google search. Knowing the Fassbenders had been Roman Catholic for “as far back as can be traced,” ((1. Commemorative Biographical Record of the Fox River Valley Counties of Brown, Outagamie and Winnebago, (Chicago, Illinois: J. H. Beers. 1895), 571.)) I was looking closely at the history of the Catholic church in the region. My morning Google search showed me that the small chapel built in Oedekoven in 1756 was only large enough for private prayer, so regular church attendance in 1856 still occurred at St. Lawrence in Lessenich. This confirmed why all of the baptism, marriage and death records were recorded in this nearby village. Wikipedia, translated from its German page, gave me an insight into the chapel, now called St. Mary’s Marriage.

1904 St. Mary's MarriageLater that morning as I was heading down to our lower level, I stopped on the landing to look at a chalk drawing that I received from Peter Fassbender’s grandson, Arthur. The drawing was done in 1904 by an unnamed cousin of Peter’s. Looking at the drawing I let out a gasp! For up in the hills sat the exact chapel that I had been learning about during my Google morning.

If you haven’t Googled an ancestor’s homeland in a while, do so, I bet you will be amazed at what has been uploaded since you last searched.

SOURCES:

 

It’s a New Day

I have started my journey with a new website platform. Moving the site to WordPress allows me the freedom to update and blog whenever, and wherever I may be. I am no longer chained to just one computer located in a static location. I am looking forward to the freedom this allows me!