Utah's Milk Canning Industry
Index For This Page
by Don Strack
This page was last updated on June 6, 2022.
(A large portion of this research was completed in August 1989. Portions of the text were originally published in Utah History Encyclopedia, University of Utah Press, 1994, ISBN 0-87480-425-6, pages 67-70). (A similar article about Utah's railroads was also furnished as part of the same encyclopedia project.)
Any discussion of the canning industry in Utah must include the state's milk canneries and condenseries, and the role that these milk processing plants played in the growth of Utah's dairy industry.
Condensed milk is sweetened evaporated milk, and first came into use in the mid 1850s as a way to preserve milk in cans, without refrigeration. The condensed milk process calls for milk to be evaporated to reduce its liquid content, and then add sugar as a preservative.
Evaporated milk first became available during the 1870s when milk companies were able heat the evaporated milk so that it would not spoil in the cans, thereby making the sugar unnecessary. At first the new product was called unsweetened condensed milk, then it was called evaporated cream, and finally the evaporated milk name was adopted.
The milk canning industry in Utah started in 1904 when the state's first milk condensing plants were opened in Cache Valley, in the vicinity of Logan. One source called the opening of these plants the single greatest stimulus to the dairy industry in northern Utah. Milk was collected daily and delivered to the condenseries by both wagon and railroad cars. In 1933 milk was collected from nearly 3,000 dairy farms and delivered to the three milk condensing plants. Between 1926 and 1930 the annual sales for dairy products made the dairy industry the third largest farm-based industry in the state. Half of the state's dairy production was made up of the annual production of sixty million cans of both condensed and evaporated milk. This made for considerable railroad traffic since it was all shipped either over the Utah Idaho Central interurban line, or over UP's Cache Valley Branch.
The first milk condensing and processing plant in Utah was in 1904, at the factory of the Utah Condensed Milk Company built in Richmond, north of Logan in Cache County. This was said to be only the third, and largest, milk processing factory to be built in the west. The new company sold its products under the name of Sego Milk, named for Utah's state flower, the Sego Lilly. In 1922 the company expanded with a factory to manufacture cans from rolled steel, located adjacent to the Richmond milk condensing plant. Sego expanded again with the completion of another milk processing plant at Hyrum in about 1925, and the construction of a milk condensing and powdered milk plant at Preston, Idaho, in 1928.
May 30, 1928
Sego Milk Products company purchased the butter plant of Tremonton Dairy Products company at Tremonton. The plant was producing 700 pounds of butter per day, and Sego would increase production to 1000 to 1500 pounds of butter per day. (Ogden Standard Examiner, May 30, 1928)
In 1928 the Utah Condensed Milk company sold its operations to the Pet Milk Company, an eastern company looking to expand its own operations in the west. The Pet Milk Company was a 1923 reorganization of the Helvetia Milk Condensing Company, which itself started business in 1885 as one of the new companies that were selling unsweetened condensed milk. The Pet name was first used in 1894 as "Our Pet Evaporated Milk", the label for the company's new "baby" sized six ounce can that was developed to sell for a nickel. The new size can soon became one of the company's most popular labels, and the company took the "Pet" name for its entire product line in 1923. When the Pet Milk Company took over the operations of the Utah Condensed Milk Company, they retained the use of the Sego brand name for their products that were sold in the western United States. The Sego brand name is still available on today's  super market shelves, along with other products of the Pet Milk Company.
There were three Pet Milk plants in Cache Valley: Richmond; Hyrum (1925) and Preston (1928). Here is a photo that likely dates to the period when the brand was Sego (after the state flower) in 1904 to 1922, when they were sold Pet Milk Company.
The Pet milk cannery at Richmond was sold to the Western Dariymen's Cooperative in 1968. "The Western Dairymen's Co-op plant in Richmond was the Pet Condensed Milk plant until 1968. That same year the co-op took over the building, making mostly 40 pound blocks of cheddar." (Utah State University, Student Life, Logan, February 4, 1977)
"I shipped milk in cans to Pet Milk until 1969. With their closing there was no sale for milk, except the grade A diaries. Folks either had to sell out or upgrade to A. I only had a couple of cows, milked by hand. So I sold them and hung up my strainer. Still have the cans… E-16 was my can numbers, the strainer too." (Rodney Sorensen, Facebook, November 19, 2018)
"It originally was a Sego-Pet milk plant, but that closed in the late 1960's. The Western Dairyman's Cooperative purchased it and made cheese there with class C milk from the 1970's to sometime in the 1990's when the dairy buyout dried up the milk supply for the plant. For many years WDCI sprayed the effluent from the plant (we called it the "cheese water") on nearby fields as a really high-powered fertilizer. They got into trouble with the EPA on numerous occasions for doing that." (Vic Saunders, Facebook, November 19, 2018)
The buildings of the former Pet Milk company's milk cannery at Preston were sold at public auction in May 1975. (Logan Herald Journal, May 13, 1975)
[See also: 75 Years of Pet Milk Company (1885 - 1960), The Company That Founded an Industry, by Theodore R. Gamble. Public Addresses and Speeches of The Newcomen Society of North America, 1960 (Volume 21, No. 30)]
Cache Valley Condensed Milk and Creamery Company (1905?-1907)
Cache Valley Condensed Milk Company (1907-1912) (name change, Logan Republican, July 3, 1907)
The Borden name came to Utah's milk processing industry as the Borden Western Company (a subsidiary of the Borden Condensed Milk Company) which took over the milk condensing plants of the Cache Valley Condensed Milk Co. in Logan in 1912, and doubled the Logan plant's size in 1916.
The Borden Company had its roots with Gail Borden when he organized the New York Condensed Milk Company in May 1857 and the company soon became the largest company in the industry. In 1892, in response to market pressure, Borden's company began producing and selling evaporated milk, reorganizing itself in 1899 as the Borden Condensed Milk Company. In 1919 the "Condensed Milk" was dropped from the name and the company became the Borden Company.
February 12, 1917
"Improvement of the Borden Condensed milk factory at Logan at a cost of $20,000." (Ogden Standard, February 12, 1917)
June 16, 1917
"The Borden plant at Logan is being considerably expanded already." (Salt Lake Tribune, June 16, 1917)
October 30, 1917
The following comes from an ad for Borden Condensed Milk Co., in the October 30, 1917 issue of the Logan Republican newspaper:
We, the Borden's Condensed Milk Company of Utah, are pleased to announce that we have now completed the remodeling and rebuilding of our plant at Logan, and now have an entirely up to date factory with working capacity of 100,000 pounds of milk daily, and we earnestly ask that all dairymen who are situated so that they can deliver their milk to our factory, on our milk train, or on our milk wagons, do so, in order that we may operate our factory as nearly as possible up to its full cap&city. The public will readily understand that it will cost but a very little more to handle 100,000 pounds of milk than to handle 50,000 pounds, so if we could operate the factory to its maximum capacity, it would enable us to a much higher price for milk.
In the past we have been greatly handicapped in not having sufficient milk to enable us to pay our dairymen a price that would justify them to enlarge or improve their herds, but the amount of milk that we receive is a matter over which we have no control, although there is an abundance of milk available and that rightfully belongs to us, in the south end of the valley. We have, however, had a very marked increase in our milk supply in the past two or three months, which has given us courage, to get out and solicit for more milk, with the results that we have enough now dairies pledged to sell milk to us on November 1st, and with the hope, that all the dairies that are tributary to our factory will sell their milk to us, with these conditions and these hopes, we have decided to materially advance the price of milk, and if all the people who have milk to sell will give us their undivided support and furnish us milk so that we can successfully operate our plant, all we ask is a reasonable profit, and will be more than willing to keep the price of milk up to a maximum that will enable all our dairymen to enlarge their herds, and take better care of them.
We, therefore, are pleased to announce the price we will pay for November milk as follows: 72 cents per pound butterfat for milk delivered at our factory or on board our milk car, and 70 cents per pound butterfat for milk hauled by our teamsters.
[See also: Gail Borden and His Heritage Since 1857, by Harold W. Comfort. Public Addresses and Speeches of The Newcomen Society of North America, 1953 (Volume 13, No. 5)]
Morning Milk (Carnation)
1928 -- Opened as Morning Milk
1946 -- Sold to Carnation Milk
1963 -- Closed as milk plant; opened as Clearfield cheese plant
1985 -- Sold Mid-America Dairymen, Inc.; sold to Schreiber Foods
1987 -- Closed
(Served by a spur of Union Pacific's Cache Valley Branch)
The Morning Milk Company opened its milk condensing plant in Wellsville, Utah, in 1928. The Carnation name came to Utah in 1946 when the Carnation Company bought the plants of the Morning Milk Company in Wellsville, Utah, and Sunnyside, Washington, to increase its production of evaporated milk. Although the building still stands, the Wellsville plant was closed in about 1963. It was sold in 1963 to Clearfield Cheese company of Pennsylvania which continued to operate it until 1985, when Schreibers took it over, then closed it in 1987.
George B. Lockhart and his son Sid Lockhart founded the Morning Milk Company in 1928, setting up their first plant at Wellsville. The growth and development of their evaporated milk products resulted in the construction of the plant at Stockton, California, in 1935, with a third and most modern plant being erected at Sunnyside, Washington, in 1942. A fourth location at Pasco, Washington, was primarily a receiving and distribution plant. Sid Lockhart was the company president at the time of the company's sale to Carnation in 1946. (Salt Lake Tribune, March 16, 1946)
November 1, 1928
"Under the direction of the Wellsville chamber of commerce, citizens of that community will observe a half holiday Saturday afternoon, November 3, in celebration of the opening of the Western Milk company's new $250,000 factory. General manager Sidney Lockhart states that the plant will probably be in full swing by November 1." (Salt Lake Telegram, October 26, 1928)
November 3, 1928
"The new factory receives milk from dairymen within a four and a half mile radius of the plant and at the outset is employing about twenty-five men. It is the only milk condensery in South Cache." (Salt Lake Telegram, November 3, 1928)
June 15, 1929
First online newspaper reference to a "Morning Milk Company" and its new factory at Wellsville. (Salt Lake Telegram, June 15, 1929)
(All subsequent references to the Wellsville factory show it as owned and operated by Morning Milk Company, with Sid Lockhart as the vice president and general manager.)
(The last online newspaper reference to a "Western Milk Company" was on November 9, 1928, in a news item of the November 3rd celebration. The same identical news item ran in several Utah newspapers from October 26th through November 9th.)
(The construction of the Morning Milk plant in Stockton, California, started in November 1934, and was completed during 1935.)
January 16, 1942
The Morning Milk Company opened its plant at Sunnyside, Washington. On January 16, 1943, the company celebrated the one-year anniversary of the plant's opening. (Ogden Standard Examiner, January 15, 1943)
April 19, 1942
George B. Lockhart, founder of Morning Milk Company at Wellsville, died at age 68. Lockhart "pioneered the evaporated milk industry in the western United States and was general manager of Sego Milk products before he organized his own concern in 1928." At the time of his death, Morning Milk had plants in Wellsville, Utah, Stockton, California, and Sunnyside, Washington. (Salt Lake Tribune, April 20, 1942)
March 15, 1946
Morning Milk Company sold its milk processing plants to Carnation Milk Company, including its plants at Wellsville, Utah, and Sunnyside and Pasco, Washington. Carnation would continue using the Morning Milk brand name. (Salt Lake Telegram, March 16, 1946; Salt Lake Tribune, March 16, 1946)
(Numerous news items made note that the Carnation company was based in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, near Milwaukee.)
May 27, 1946
The stockholders of the Morning Milk Company met in a special meeting to vote on the motion to dissolve the company and surrender its corporate charter.
(No indication of the results of the vote, but it likely passed because Carnation would have purchased all available outstanding shares in March 1946.)
The Carnation plant in Wellsville was listed in the 1963 Carnation annual report, but not in the 1964 annual report. (Carnation annual reports on file in BYU library, research completed August 19, 1989)
April 23, 1963
The Carnation (Morning) milk plant in Wellsville closed on Tuesday April 23, 1963. The plant employed 25 people and received its last milk shipment on Thursday April 19, 1963. The plant had opened in 1928, and was bought by Carnation in 1946. (Provo Daily Herald, April 19, 1963; Ogden Standard Examiner, April 20, 1963)
The Carnation plant in Wellsville was sold to the Clearfield Cheese Co. of Curwensville, Pennsylvania, making it the third plant of the Clearfield Cheese company, along with plants in Pennsylvania and Missouri, which are unable to keep up with demand. Clearfield Cheese company was the second largest supplier of cheese and cheese products in the nation, producing 80 million pounds during 1963. The Wellsville location would package and ship 100,000 pounds of cheese products per week (about 5 million pounds per year) and would employ 150 to 175 people. The site was selected because it was served by Union Pacific, and would be within 800 miles of all West Coast markets. (Salt Lake Tribune, January 11, 1964)
September 12, 1963
Cheese Firm Opens Plant In Wellsville -- Wellsville (UPI) — "A slicing and packaging center for cheese and cheese products will be established here by the nation's second largest cheese processor. W. D. Tate, president of Clearfield Cheese Co., Curwensville, Pa., said his firm has purchased the old Carnation Milk Plant in Wellsville to meet demands of West Coast markets. He said the plant will employ 150 to 175 people with an annual payroll of nearly $300,000. More than 100,000 pounds of cheese will be sliced and packaged each week in the distribution plant. Tate said the plant will package individually cellophane wrapped cheese." (Ogden Standard Examiner, September 12, 1963)
September 17, 1963
Clearfield Cheese Co. of Curwensville, Pennsylvania, announced plans to purchase the former Carnation plant at Wellsville, Utah. The Clearfield firm, with headquarters in Curwensville, Clearfield County, Pennsylvania, was the second largest producer of cheese and cheese products in the nation, producing 80 million pounds of cheese, cheese food and cheese spread in the previous year. In 1957, it was the Clearfield company, using company employees and company machinery, that developed the process to package cheese in individual cellophane wrappers. The company had started business in 1941, and its growth was extremely rapid due to the needs of World War II. (The Clinton [Missouri] Eye, September 17, 1963)
The site in Wellsville was one of 18 that were examined by the Clearfield company, including the closed Hunt plant in Tremonton. (The Leader and Garland Times, August 29, 1963)
Clearfield Cheese company was producing about 150,000 pounds of cheese and cheese products each week at Wellsville, with the company's other two plants producing 750,000 pounds (Pennsylvania) and 600,000 pounds (Missouri) per week. Production from the Wellsville plant was expected to equal the the output of the other two plants very soon. (Pittsburgh Post Gazette, October 22, 1964)
Half interest in Clearfield Cheese company was sold by H.P. Hood of Boston, to Mid-America Dairymen, Inc. in 1982 for $15 million. In March 1985, Mid-America purchased H. P. Hood's remaining half-interest. In April 1985, Mid-America sold all of its interest in Clearfield Cheese company, including the Wellsville plant, to Schreiber Foods, Inc., of Green Bay, Wisconsin, which also had a cheese and processed cheese plant in Logan. (Springfield [Missouri] Leader and Press, April 2, 1985)
(Schreiber Foods, Inc., was until 1980, known as the L. D. Schreiber Cheese Company of Green Bay, Wisconsin, and had purchased the Logan cheese plant of Dairy Distributors, Inc., [Gossner's] in August 1970.)
The Wellsville plant of Schreiber Foods was closed in 1987. (Sixteen Ounces to the Pound: The History of Schreiber Foods, published by Schreiber Foods Inc., 2003)
[See also: Carnation, The First 75 Years, 1899─1974, by John D. Weaver. Los Angeles, California: The Carnation Company, 1974]
[See also: Elbridge A. Stuart, Founder of Carnation Company, by James Marshall. Los Angeles, California: The Carnation Company, 1949]
[See also: The Carnation Company, Annual reports]
State of Utah, Department of Public Instruction. Utah - Resources and Activities, Supplement to the Utah State Courses of Study for Elementary and Secondary Schools, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1933
Terry, William W. Collection. Weber State University, Special Collections, MS 116, Special Collections. Ogden, Utah: Weber State University
Terry, William W. Canning. (undated manuscript; many parts later duplicated as part of Mr. Terry's "The Canning Industry in Weber County") [cited as "Terry-1"]
Terry, William W. Canning Factories in Weber County. (brochure, no publication information) [cited as "Terry-2"]
Terry, William W. The Canning Industry in Weber County. William W. Terry, 1983 [cited as "Terry-3"]
Terry, William W. Weber County Is Worth Knowing. (no publishing information)