Archaeological Investigations 2001
Bowen's Prairie Historic Archaeological District
Jones County, Iowa
- - 13JN168 Palmer Cheese Factory/Oneida Factory
Site - -
13JN168 | 13JN169 |
| 13JN196 |
| Artifacts |
Program | OSA
Stephen A. Palmer is identified as the proprietor of the Oneida Cheese
Factory (archaeological site 13JN168) by 1878. Dairying was a widespread
industry in Jones County, and Bowen's Prairie became famous as a cheese-producing
area by the 1860s. Jonathan B. Ross started the first cheese factory in
Jones County in 1867. This factory, which operated until about 1893 as
the Diamond Creamery, has been identified as archaeological site 13JN211
and exists just to the southwest of the Bowen's Prairie townsite. An article
in the June 23, 1866 edition of the Monticello Express provides
a description of the early dairy industry in Jones County:
||J. B. Ross, of Bowens Prairie, has completed
negotiations with F. M. Hick for the land upon which to erect a
cheese factory and will proceed to put up a five thousand dollar
establishment between this and spring. Although this is a private
enterprise, the factory will be for the use of the neighborhood.
It is to be modeled after the New York Cheese factories which have
been in successful operation for years.
|The following year, the Monticello
Express of August 8, 1867 describes this enterprise:
||The factory is pleasantly located, about 75 yards
from the main road, near the residence of F. M. Hicks, and presents,
both in side and out, an appearance as neat and tidy as an old maid's
band-box. The establishment is furnished with the best and most
approved machinery, and the operators are practical men who understand
their business thoroughly. They are now using the milk from 150
cows and turn out nearly 400 pounds of cheese per day.
|The Palmer or Oneida Factory,
13JN168, and adjacent site 13JN169, occur on land that was likely
part of Barrett Whittemore's original claim on Bowen's Prairie in
1838, as well as part of his official land grant of 1848. He established
a school on the property in 1840 north of the area where 13JN168
has been identified. By 1867 it appears that Jonathan B. Ross owned
this property, and by 1877 it was in the hands of Stephen A. Palmer.
It may be that Stephen A. Palmer took over a cheese factory from
Ross or established it himself by 1878.
Structural evidence and artifacts found in archaeological excavation
at 13JN168 confirm the function of the site. Limestone footing supports
for the main building were uncovered as well as a large wooden trough
slanting away to the northwest and drained by a partially preserved
wooden drainage line. Two additional features found at the site
include an unlined privy and small refuse pit. Bottle fragments
filled the refuse pit, and the privy contained coins dating between
1842 and 1890. A clay-capped, steel-cased well and root or cooling
cellar were also uncovered. The discovery of two early cheese factory
sites in Jones County promises to provide important information
about the dairy industry on the Iowa frontier, a topic little known
from historic documents alone.
Small refuse pit
Collapsed metal bucket lying above wooden trough
13JN168 | 13JN169 |
Program | OSA
Text by Lynn M. Alex; photos by General Contracts Program.
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