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History of dairies in Marshall

Part I

At one time there were 11 working dairies in or around Marshall. Marvin Kiel and Art Reese spent a great deal of time researching information about these dairies then donated it to the Lyon County Museum. We are very grateful for their interest in documenting this part of our area’s history. Without people like Kiel and Reese taking the time to gather this kind of information, it would get lost.

A collection of bottle caps from the 1920s was found by Marvin and his brother Clarence (Bill) Kiel. From that collection their interest in these dairies grew, and Marvin contacted Art Reese who once owned and operated the Marshall Dairy with his brothers. They in turn contacted and received information from Kenneth Sorenson, Tyrus Couture, Lawrence Westphal, Lambert Boerboom, Howard Johnson, Louis Otto, Gloria (Qunell) Vien, Don Neisen and Loretta Neisen.

“First in a series:

It is important to keep in mind, when reading this history, that laws concerning the pasteurization of milk products were not passed in Minnesota until 1936 and not acted upon until 1937. Dairymen, until this time, delivered raw milk, whereas pasteurization required a clean plant with stainless steel vats and refrigeration by ammonia circulation. Samples of milk (direct from farmers) were taken for fat content, quality and water dilution. The raw milk was pumped to a vat and heated for 30 minutes. It was then pumped to a refrigerated vat and cooled. After this process, the milk was taken to a bottler and capped by a machine. The bottles, too, were sterilized inside and out. Of the 11 known dairies in the Marshall area, only two proceeded to build plants and manufacture pasteurized milk, cream and byproducts. They were Jeff’s Dairy and Marshall Dairy (Reese Brothers). This was done in 1936 and 1937. All of the other farmers who were bottling milk and selling it in town became bulk suppliers of raw milk and/or were no longer in the dairy business.

The following is a list of the known dairies in the Marshall area from 1900 through 1949:

Jeff’s Dairy, Marshall Dairy (Reese Brothers), Young’s Guernsey Dairy, Castle’s Brown Swiss Dairy, Nylen Brothers Dairy, Qunell’s Guernsey Dairy, White Acres Farm Dairy, North Star Dairy, Elmer Swanson Dairy, Mac’s Dairy (McKigney’s) and E.A. Johnson Produce Co.

Jeff’s Dairy was located at the present site of the KMHL radio station on Highway 19 (East College Drive). The milk plant was located at the 100 block of South Fourth Street (Marshall Ice Cream Co. plant). The owner, Earl Jefferson, was in business from 1925 to 1947. He then sold the milk business to Paul Schwan in 1947. There were about 15 people employed at this dairy, which was the largest in Marshall at the time. Two well-known milkmen who drove the delivery trucks were Everett “Soup” Palmer and Larry Korman who worked for Jeff for many years. Marvin and Clarence (Bill) rode the running boards of the truck and hand-delivered milk for Jeff’s Dairy from 1938 to 1945.

Earl Jefferson ran the milk business and Matt Neisen had the ice cream business all in the same plant. Jeff’s milk and cream was used by Paul Schwan, the ice cream maker, for the formula of Perfection Ice Cream sold out of the Marshall Ice Cream Co. Local resident Don Neisen and his sister, Loretta, were in charge of the office and keeping books for both businesses. Their brother, Fran (Pete), and Joe Nyhus sold and delivered the dairy ice cream to a radius of 75 miles. Later the Neisen family sold their ice cream business to Langenfeld of Watertown, S.D.

Paul and Marvin Schwan had the dairy along with Matt Neisen from 1947 to 1952, which was named Neisen and Schwan’s Dairy. Father and son then went on their own and started the successful Schwan’s Dairy and Schwan’s Sales Enterprises, Inc.

(Continued next week)

Sources: History of Dairies in Marshall, Marvin Kiel and Art Reese; “The Beginning — Schwan’s — The Early Years,” Schwan’s NEWS, Summer 1993.

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