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A little Cheesey History

The Cheese Factories of Marmora and Lake Township,  as all the cheese factories of Hastings County,  represented a large part of the economy in the late 1800s and early 1900's,  but they are a dwindling business now.  In fact none exist in Marmora and Lake Township,  whereseven used to be,  almost all of which  operated by co-operative or joint stock companies.  According to an 1893 Herald report,  only 3 existed in Marmora out of 67 in the whole of Hastings County.

With the improvements in transportation,  fluid milk could be easily shipped greater distances. The market, however,  demanded a standardized, pure product.  This could only be met through the factory system.  Milk sold on the farm generally varied in quality and cleanliness.  This led to a shift in priority fro the production of cheese and butter to that of a fluid milk centre.

A 1911 Government Dairy reports provides the following list:

Marmora -  Wm. Simm, Sec,   Marmora,   (Centre Line Rd & Beaver Creek Rd,)

(The Marmora Herald reported on April 12, 1906, that Mr. William Linn "is moving to Marmora Cheese Factory this week and will begin work about the 20th instant."  He was later Reeve of the Village,  in 1938)

Bernard Finnegan. 1930, son of John Finnegan, owner fo the Marmora Cheese factory

Mildred (later campion) and Marguerite Finnegan (later sister mary bernard), , daughters of John Finnegan. standing outside the cheese factory

On Jan 17, 1924,  the Marmora Herald reported:  There are two Marmora men who are the proud possessors of engraved invitation cards from the Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario to be present at a luncheon on Tuesday the 29th day of January.  They are Mr. John Finnegan and Mr. John Bell, jr.  cheesemaker and President of the Marmora Cheese Factory respectively.  Mr. Finnegan was recently awarded first prize for Colonial Cheese shown at the Royal Dairy Show in Glasgow, Scotland.  This is the second time he has won laurels in the old land and the luncheon is given in honour of those who have won distinction in various agricultural activities.

John Finnegan family 1930s

Silver Leaf - Ralph Laycock,  Sec.  Deloro (Lajoie Road)

(The Marmora Herald reported on April 15, 1909 "Mr. Daniel Gillen has secured the contract for the erection of the new Deloro Cheese Factory.")  

For this factory,  profit wasn't everything.  The Marmora Herald on Oct. 21, 1915 reported  on Oct. 21, 1915, "The Silver Leaf Cheese Factory located on Lajoie Road at Deloro has given one day's make of cheese to the British Red Cross Fund. The men who haul the milk from their routes to the factory will do so free of charge and the cheesemaker also gives his service free to make the cheese. Four cheese blocks averaging about 75 pounds each were made from the milk gathered today."

On April 29, 1920,  the Herald reported that Mr. Sam S. McComb was running the factory at Deloro.

In 1927, John Finnigan Jr. attended the Kingston Dairy School and was appointed Cheesemaker at Silver Leaf.

Silver Leaf Cheese Factory - Lajoie Rd., deloro

Cooks -  Hugh Maloney, Sec,   Marmora (Ira J. Cook & Wm Hilton are  listed as cheesemakers in 1888 directory) The cheese factory was located at concession 2, lot 21 and Mr.  Ira John Cook,  owner,  lived on concession 1, lot 2 , Marmora Twp

Cook Cheese Factory manager's house

Cook cheese factory demolition c.1945 located at #144 Clemenger Rd

Cook cheese factory demolition c.1945 located at #144 Clemenger Rd

Cook cheese factory demolition c.1945

Cook cheese factory demolition c.1945

Kennedy homestead #241 Clemenger Road This is just east of the Cook factory on the north side of the road.

Kennedy homestead #241 Clemenger Road This is just east of the Cook factory on the north side of the road.


Vansickle  - Wm. Carmen, Sec,   Vansickle

Riverside Cheese Factory on the west side of the Crowe River,  a few steps north of Highway 7.  Jno. Booth is listed as Secretary.  A small wooden plaque  stands in a lush patch of poison ivy and reads:

RIVERSIDE CHEESE FACTORY was built on this site during the 1890's. Although only a two man operation, production was in excess of 800 pounds per day. Only cheddar cheese was made. The cheese factory was torn down when it became economically unfeasible to continue operations.

The poster on the left would suggest the Riverside Cheese factory had its first closure in 1893 due to the death of the owner.  It is also interesting the John Cook,  owner of the Cook Cheese Factory was the executor for the deceased's estate.  The last line of the poster also indicates that the land on the riverbank was not owned by the factory but leased,  probably from the Pearce family.


A note in the Marmora Herald on April 29, 1909, reported:  "The Riverside Cheese Factory will commence operation for the season of 1909 on Monday, May 3rd,  under the management of Jessie Williams."    suggesting the factory was seasonal.


Although we have no dates,  there also existed in Marmora Township the North Star Cheese and the Champion Cheese and Butter Company,  both in Malone.  Down in Bonarlaw two cheese factories were running in 1898 - the Maple Leaf,  and the Big Springs Cheese Factories.

Terry Bell writes:  Those were the days - daily visits with local farmers bringing their milk to the Factory. My first job at 15 was working for cheesemaker Blake Johnson for $3 a day,7 days a week. Still remember the whole process as if it was yesterday.