The Oran Creamery was started in 1887 by a group of farmers, and was located on "Minkler Corner," approximately where the 4 Roads Inn was located in past years. The small town of Minkler boasted a store, blacksmith's shop, and the creamery.
With the introduction of the railroad into Oran in 1909, the creamery was moved. The owners installed mechanical milk separators so that milk would not have to be skimmed by hand. A few years later, in 1912, the creamery purchased land on which the current creamery building is located. At that time, the business was "directed" by L.N. Lockwood, Gottleib Staal, Charlie Mealey, and A. L. Smeltzer. At this time, Bert Bentley was the butter-maker. During the winter months, 300-pound blocks of ice were cut from nearby rivers and hauled, by horse, to the creamery ice house, where it was used to cool the dairy products during the summer months.
Energy for the creamery in those days was generated by steam, created in a large boiler furnace. The furnace powered a line shaft that ran the full length of the building, which in turn operated the separator, butter churn, and several additional pieces of creamery equipment. Several individuals have held the position of butter-maker, including the following: Bill Dilley (began in 1926), Charley Squires (after Dilley, until 1953), Bill Meier (until 1975), Bill's son John assumed duties, then he hired Jerry Heneman to assume the position.
Through the years, several improvements were made: during the time that Squires was employed at the creamery, a can washer was installed, and during Meier's employment, a larger separator was installed enabling the creamery to accept whole milk and separate the cream on-site, and in recent years, a large butter churn was removed and replaced with a large milk tank, for holding bulk milk. It was at this time also, that a bulk milk truck was purchased so that milk could be transported to Fredericksburg.
In 1991, Ben Stong, originally from the Toledo (Iowa) area, became the manager. A year later, he assumed the duties as secretary, performing all bookkeeping duties. He was also responsible for visiting with milk patrons and assisting them with their quality and production needs and concerns. Ben stated that his past experience as a dairy herdsman and milk hauler, proved to be definite assets as manager of the Oran Creamery.
When Ben began in 1991, milk was acquired from about 12 Grade A and Grade B bulk patrons, and about 30 can patrons. All but two of the can patrons were Amish farmers located on the nearby Amish community near Hazleton, Iowa.
After the Wapsie Valley Creamery in Independence ceased their can milk operation in March of 1998, the Oran Creamery "inherited" all can milk patrons in the Amish district. Can milk was picked up on a daily basis and taken to the creamery where it was weighed, sampled, and cooled. Speed was important, as the Amish do not have coolers, other than placing full milk cans in tanks of cold water." Once emptied into a cooling tank, the milk was trucked to Beatrice Cheese in Fredericksburg and later to Wapsie Valley Creamery for processing.
The producers were then paid from the proceeds. Since we were a cooperative creamery, any excess profits were shared with the producers in the form of a dividend.
In the spring of 2001 the Amish Church approved the use of bulk tanks for the Amish. Since that time, the Amish patrons had been gradually switching over to bulk tanks, and our volume of can milk had dwindled to the point that it wasn't profitable. At the Annual Meeting held in January 2002, the remaining patrons decided almost unanimously that the creamery should cease to operate on May 1st, 2002. The remaining can patrons either switched to bulk milk operations or quit milking.
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Our final board of directors consisted of:
Manager: Ben Stong
- Jere Kerns, president
- Jonas (Junior) Hershberger, vice-president
- Eli Kauffman
- Raymond Nisley