The dairy industry has always played an important role in Genesee County’s development.
But in previous generations, the connection between the cow and the consumer was much more personal. Before we bought our milk and other dairy products from the supermarket, many people either had their milk delivered or visited local shops operated by farms or other milk producers in the area.
Up until the 1960s, Batavia had two major milk suppliers: Fargo-Ware and Branton Dairy.
Fargo-Ware was the combination of dairy farmers founded by Henry Fargo and William Ware. Both enjoyed a long individual history before joining in 1958.
Fargo first started when he began shipping milk from his farm on Bank Street Road in 1873. His son Warren took over the business in 1907, renamed it Evergreen Farm Dairy and moved to the village of Batavia at 102 Bank St.
In the same year he also bought a lot at 208 East Main St. and built a new dairy there five years later. The plant pasteurized milk and made ice cream.
In 1916, Fargo sold its ice cream manufacturing portion to DeWitt Hopkins and focused primarily on milk and cream. His sons Cyrus and Wallace soon joined the company and assumed most of the responsibilities within the company.
After the house at 208 East Main St. that housed several shops leased by Fargo burned down, the brothers built a small dairy store in its place in front of the dairy.
William Ware’s dairy business began after Fargo was founded, but no later than the early 1920s. His farm, called Fairfield Dairy, was on Ellicott Street Road, off Cedar Street. In 1928 he was joined by John Witruk, who had previously bought another local Milky Way, and they set about building a new modern factory on Cedar Street.
The factory had all modern mechanization and even had a fleet of milk trucks – no horse-drawn carts were used, which was common for Batavia at the time.
The partnership lasted until 1940 when Witruk sold his shares in Ware. Ware ran the dairy until 1958, when he merged with Fargo, and the Fargo Brothers were really in charge of the new company, with Ware taking a backseat. Then in 1969, Genesee Farms bought Fargo merchandise.
August Branton started his dairy business around the same time as Henry Fargo. His route began in 1889 after he bought Robert Earl’s route and delivered it to his customers.
In 1891, Branton moved from his farm on South Main Street to West Main Street Road. The family business would span three generations as his son John and grandson Robert would continue the business.
John would marry Isabel Kellogg and live on River Street. Isabel helped out in the business, and after John died in 1954 she became president of the company.
By 1954, dairies were under much stricter oversight and regulation, forcing Branton’s to update their processes. They began pasteurizing their milk in 1922, but also clarified and homogenized it in 1959.
Five years later, the last milk horse was retired and the milk delivery fleet was completely mechanized and a new plant was built. They also opened a milk shop just east of the farm on West Main Street Road. Genesee Farms also bought Branton’s in 1974 and eventually the dairy in 1978.
Ryan Duffy is Managing Director of the Holland Land Office Museum in Batavia. His “History with the HLOM” column appears twice a month in The Daily News. To read previous columns, go to thedailynewsonline.com.