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History of the Minden Butter Manufacturing Co.

Linda Hiller

In the early part of this century, the Minden Butter Manufacturing Co. on Water Street was a bustling place on a workday morning.

There, in the early hours of the morning, farmers and ranchers arrived in an assortment of vehicles, carts, buggies and wagons and lined up to sell their cream or eggs.

The cream was deposited into one of two 600-gallon vats, where it was cooled, churned and poured into 24-ounce molds, making high quality butter.

Customers came to the creamery, too, looking for fresh butter, buttermilk, cottage cheese or eggs. Only the finest, high-grade butter was made. In the early days, it was sold under the label “New Holland Process.”

Glenn Logan, who has lived in the Valley all his life and is currently the president of the Carson Valley Historical Society, has fond childhood memories of the creamery.

“I remember, when it was a hot summer day we would ride our bikes there and get an ice cold cup of buttermilk,” he said. “They would give it away to anyone who wanted it, and some people would feed it to their chickens. Then, we would get a paper cone filled with fresh cottage cheese and boy, it tasted good.”

Glenn’s wife, E-Ann, who came to the Valley from the Bishop, Calif. area more than 40 years ago, said the Minden Butter Manufacturing Co. was an important place to stop for anyone coming through the Valley.

“Whenever anyone came here from the Owens Valley, they would ask to have cottage cheese and butter brought back from the Minden butter factory,” she said. “They also wanted meat from Dangberg meats.”

In 1915, the monthly production at the creamery was 30,000 pounds of the “golden brick,” which was believed to be greater than any other similar Nevada creamery, according to Minden historian, Wynne Maule in his book, “Minden, Nevada. The Story of a Unique Town.”

Product was being sold all around the Valley, at the Lake and in San Francisco, where the new label, Windmill, had a fine reputation. Establishment of the Virginia-Truckee Railhead in Minden made this long-distance marketing possible. Reaching an international market, 124 cases of Minden butter were sold to China that year.

Another Carson Valley native, Howard Godecke, said one of his first memorable jobs as a young man was delivering dairy products from the creamery to customers at the Lake.

“I would start at 4 a.m. and load up my truck and then head up the Clear Creek grade,” he said. “My first stop was Glenbrook, then I’d go to Zephyr Cove and stop at all the little food places and markets along the way, stopping at the Y, where there was a big store – Lambson’s Market – and I’d go on to Camp Richardson, which was the end of the trail.”

Some days Godecke worked until 10 p.m., he recalled, but soon he’d converted every business at the Lake to buying Windmill products from the Minden creamery.

“This was significant because the Crystal Creamery in Sacramento was there, in addition to a few others, but our product was excellent and I gave my customers good service.”

That job, Godecke said, shaped his future and remains an important part of his past.

“The creamery and the mill were the very heart of the Valley,” he said. “For farmers and ranchers, the ‘cream checks,’ as we called them, were our cash flow.”

The original wooden creamery building was established in March of 1908, but as business grew, a new structure was necessary.

In 1916, a new brick building was constructed under the direction of prominent rancher and creamery board member, H.F. Dangberg, who contracted architect, Frederick J. DeLongchamps to design the building.

Ron James, Nevada historical preservation officer, said Dangberg often used DeLongchamps in his building projects.

“The Dangbergs forged a relationship with DeLongchamps at the time when he was becoming the most prominent architect in Nevada,” Jones said.

“Frederick DeLongchamps was an architect who understood Nevada in a national sense. He gave a community a sense of status when they had one of his buildings – the psychology of a community was said to improve when he built there. And, he was affordable, which is a rare combination to find in such a valued architect.”

DeLongchamps designed a number of buildings in the Minden-Gardnerville area, as well as all around northern Nevada. Aside from the butter company building, his most noteworthy structures are the old Douglas High School (now the Carson Valley Museum), the Minden courthouse, the Minden Inn, the old wool warehouse and the First Bank of Carson Valley.

In May 1927, the egg plant and cold storage building was completed, having been funded by $20,000 from the Carson Valley Poultry Association which represented 90 percent of the poultry raisers in the Valley.

Godecke remembers taking in cases of eggs from his family’s Milky Way Farm to the creamery before he attended classes at DHS down the street.

“It was one of my chores,” he said. “I’d take in two to three cases of eggs (15 dozen eggs per case) most every day, and then on my way home I’d pick up the empty cases.”

Lois Storke, who came to the Valley in 1944, also remembers taking the eggs in to the creamery building.

“We had about 400 chickens and I was a young bride and mother,” she said. “I had to wash all the eggs – it was a miserable chore – but it did give us working cash.”

She recalled “Zip,” the old truck driver who would come to the farm and pick up the cream, which was in 10-gallon cans.

“He would lift those cans into the truck – this was before we were Grade A – and take it away,” she said.

Genoa native Shirley Giovacchini, formerly Shirley Trimmer, recalls the truck coming to her farm to pick up cream.

“We kept the milk for our calves, but sold the cream to the butter company,” she said.

The Minden Butter Manufacturing Co. continued its upward, successful trend for many years, eventually opening a branch in Reno to meet the demands in that area.

By January 1950, new equipment was installed at the Minden plant, including a milk packaging machine that filled square, flat-topped paper containers.

The first six months of 1951, 221,000 gallons of milk was processed and 35,000 gallons of cream was made into butter.

In 1958, a new creamery opened north of Genoa, the James Canyon Creamery – a division of the Beatrice Food Co. – and by November 1961, the Minden Butter Manufacturing Co. closed, ending the 53-year reign of the little company that literally started from Carson Valley grass roots.

According to state historic records, the building was converted to offices in 1970 and now serves as a light-manufacturing plant for Bently Nevada Corp.

It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on Aug. 6, 1986.

Records say the building still retains its overall architectural integrity. The report reads:

“The contemporary building (C. 1970) is clearly distinguishable from the DeLongchamps building and does not detract from the building’s overall architectural integrity.

“The Minden Butter Manufacturing Co. is an architecturally and historically significant building important for its association with the early development of the town of Minden. The structure is also representative of the early commercial/industrial work of prominent Nevada architect, Frederick J. DeLongchamps.”