|Stratton Family: Stories and Anecdotes|
Pages of Family History
Milk Bottlesby Howard Stratton
Note: About 1985, Howard Stratton gave each of his children a half-pint milk/cream bottle and bottlecap, which were accompanied by this account. While cleaning out Stratton Mill following the death of the last miller, several of these milk/cream bottles were found still in the box of the original manufacturer. Several of these bottles are used in Stratton House Inn, and a small number are available for purchase from the Stratton Mill Foundation.
My parents, George and Melva Stratton, were married May 2, 1900. They started housekeeping in the new home of William and Dorothy Ashton (George's mother), who were called to be Superintendent and Matron at the Friends Boarding School (Olney) from 1895 to 1903. (George's mother remarried following the death of George's father, John Stratton, who built Stratton Mill. John died of typhoid fever in 1878 with only the roof of the mill needed to complete its construction.)
William Ashton built the farmstead from lumber cut and sawed on the farm. Remnants of his foresight and planning still exist, the windbreak, attractive tree plantings, and attractive setting and approach [up Stratton Lane]. He had a keen interest in fruit, and planted orchards and small fruits which in the Stratton growing years and later were important activities of our lives. One or more cows were always a part of farm life, yielding milk, butter and cheese. George did the chores there for many years, then went to the mill, where he was in partnership with Edwin Hall until 1906. He and mother purchased the French home from David French estate (George's Uncle Charles' father-in-law) in 1903 and moved there with children Arthur, William, and Stanley. The railroad tunnel is under this property, and George and Melva soon would sell the right for a second tunnel to be built under a portion of the property.
The growing boys soon needed a pony. A pony shed was built to house the pony, a cow, harness, cart, hay and fodder.
The milk was taken to the house, strained and put in crocks on the basement floor. Sometimes in the summer we had ice in a refrigerator to cool the milk. We often had extra milk, and some people came for what they needed. We boys also would carry milk to a few customers. At first we used buckets, pints, quarts, gallons and 2 gallons, tin plated and porcelain.
It is interesting to remember how change happened and we grew. With the purchase of the first car in 1916, the pony shed became a garage. The mill team soon gave way to a truck and the cows moved to more space in the mill stable. Shortly after grandfather Ashton died in 1928, Stanley and Marjorie were married and set up housekeeping with grandmother Ashton on the farm. The cows were taken there and the numbers increased, as did the retail trade. The milk was bottled and delivered daily to 30 or 40 customers. We were in competition with several other farmers, the Fishers, Shaws, Hollingsworths, and Johnsons, and sometimes had trouble agreeing on price.
The health department began pressing for tuberculosis free herds, and with testing and culling the county was accredited free of tuberculosis. They also were pressing hard for the eradication of brucellosis (Bangs disease), the cause of undulant fever.
Stanley had serious losses of cows in the 1930s from Bangs. He rebuilt his herd while Howard continued to manage a retail milk route. Howard also cared for the orchards for fruit sales, and sold some eggs and chickens on the milk route.
In 1944, Mabel and I purchased an adjoining farm which had several acres of orchard and buildings for a dairy. Stanley moved his dairy herd to Columbiana and Howard and Mabel bottled milk for the retail route at the Kirk farm. That lasted until 1951 when the pressures of pasteurization of all retail milk won out and the retail milk route was sold.
The dairy herd was steadily enlarged, first to provide an adequate income after the retail route was sold. (We also had more time. The milk route and bottle washing kept us busy 4 to 5 hours a day.)
The small milk bottle with this story [see note below] is reminiscent of the days when our milk was sold raw (un-pasteurized) and not homogenized, so the cream would rise and show clearly how much butterfat was in the milk. In the summer when the cows had green grass, the cream would be a richer color than in the winter. Our Jersey cows, and later also Guernseys too, had butterfat of over 4.5%, usually over 5%. After the losses of the 1930s to Bangs, we maintained Tuberculin- and Bangs-free herds.
The cap on the bottle was hardly changed for nearly 40 years. It was pressed in place by hand until we found a used capper in the 1940s. The bottles were filled with a steady hand, pouring until full, then refilling after the froth had settled. Various pickups and station wagons served as delivery vehicles.
Major (The Pony)by Howard Stratton
After George and Melva Stratton moved to Stratton House (the former French house) near the mill, two more boys were born, Howard and Charles. This made five bundles of energy to cope with.
Before long a pony with cart, saddle, etc. became part of the family. A pony shed was built to house the cart and equipment, a cow, hay and fodder. The shed was close enough to the house to transfer power for chopping fodder from an engine in the basement.
In the basement of the house was a gas engine which powered a water pump to lift water from a cistern to a tank in the attic so we could have running water. The engine also powered a washing machine in the wash room until electricity arrived in 1918.
On Saturdays in the fall and winter, we boys would put together the rope drive from the engine in the basement to the fodder cutter in the pony shed and cut fodder. We got along with this very well until one day Sylvester Shannon got his hand in the machine and cut his fingers badly. Father took him to young Dr. Lose, who very skillfully stitched his fingers back together. We all took turns caring for Major, the pony and a cow. Stanley seemed to have more interest than the rest of us.
William Ashton had planted several cherry trees, both sweet and sour, which yielded many bushels of fruit. When the sour cherries were ready one year, all five boys loaded into the pony cart with buckets, pots, and pans. One said to the other "Make Major go faster." The whip pulled from the socket was the signal for Major to go faster. As he went faster and faster, buckets and pans rattled and fell out of the buggy. It turned over on its side and we boys fell out. Arthur followed until Major stopped at the railroad fence by the orchard. Arthur brought Major and the buggy back but one hand hurt and hung strangely. Grandfather Ashton thought it to be broken, so promptly hitched up the buggy and took Arthur to Dr. Hobson, who set the bone and put his arm in a sling.
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