Posted by: Cornwall Community Museum | November 4, 2015

Artifact of the Week. Cameron’s Dairy Cornwall.


scan0001A tin lid for a container of Cottage Cheese made by Cameron’s Dairy Cornwall in 1963.

John Cameron, the son of the late George Cameron of Cornwall donated the following items from Cameron’s Dairy along with this history prepared by the family.

In 1932 during the Great Depression, Gordon and Hazel Cameron were local dairy farmers selling their bulk milk to a local factory.  The family farm was situated between South Branch Road and Headline Toad, known as North McConnell Ave or the Cameron Road.

Realizing the factory was not paying enough for their milk, they discussed the situation with Gordon’s brother-in-law, Rueben Cain, who suggested that they buy some bottles and caps and try selling their milk door to door for five cents a quart.  Gordon and Hazel thought they would try that venture and see where it would lead.

scan0002A plastic covered paper milk cap for 2% Jersey Milk, ca. 1968.

Delegating their 9 sons: George, Ivan, Carl, James, John, Gary, Dwayne, Bryan and Cain as well as their daughter, Muriel, between the dairy, barn, the homestead and the fields, they began what was to become a well-known and respected business in the Cornwall area.  They even utilized the family horses, Dan, Molly and Maggie pulling their infamous milk wagons.  As time marched on, and business picked up, Gordon converted the family car, a 1925 Dodge into a milk truck.

In 1935, Gordon’s brother Sam, suggested Gordon purchase a “hydro-vac” machine.  At this time, Sam was employed by a creamery in Detroit, and the farmers in the Detroit area were already using these machines.  The “hydro-vac” machine removed the animal gases from the fresh warm milk by agitating the milk while cold water rant down the side of an 8 gallon can.  Gordon, thinking it was a good idea, bought the machine from the U.S.  From 1934 through 1964 the followed farmers shipped milk to Cameron’s Dairy on a full or part-time basis in 8 gallon cans:  Mike Fitzpatrick, John Joseph MacDonald, Irwin Cain, Norman MacLeod, Stewart Clark, Robert Shaver, Ken Annible, Alex and Ken Gordon, Alexander Cameron, Miles Chisholm, Art Taillon, Dan Cameron, Allen Valade and Oliver McGee.

During the late spring, early summer of 1936, there were many small farm dairies, as well as larger city dairies (Campbell, Milton Anderson, Mr. Empey, Canadian Dairy, Cornwall Dairy, Cornwall East Side Dairy, Maple Leaf, Phillips Dairy) to name a few, and horses were still used to pull the milk wagons or carts.

During the 30s, dairy farmers knew and enjoyed each others company throughout the working day.scan0004A plastic container for Cameron’s Cottage Cheese, ca. 1970.

Following is a true story, which happened in Cornwall, on Park Ave. (now part of St. Lawrence College), around 7 a.m.   As Mr. Cameron, Mr. Anderson and Mr. Empey were having their usual morning conversation, the Courtauld’s whistle blew.  The noise startled Mr. Empey’s horse, which was attached to the milk cart.  Calamity struck!!  Mr. Empey was holding onto the reins of the horse when, the horse started to kick the cart apart and the glass milk jugs fell and broke apart.  Milk ran down the street and glass was everywhere.  Needless to say it was an unproductive day financially for Mr. Empey.

Mr. George Bissonette, a Cornwall blacksmith, from Marlborough North was employed by many of the dairy farmers to shoe their horses.  Their horses were very important to their business.  The horses knew the route as well as the drivers.  The driver would take his 6 or 8 quart steel carrier and walk door to door down the street, delivering the milk while the horse followed behind.

In 1937 the Ontario Provincial Government mandated that all milk sold to the public had to be pasteurized, so Gordon in order to stay viable, bought a pasteurizer and accessories to pasteurize his milk and to remain in business.

Many of the existing dairy farmers that relied on selling milk went out of business at this time.

During the 1940s very few changes took place in the dairy business largely due to the war.  The one thing that did change though was many of the farmers retired their horses.  In 1940, Gordon bought a 1933 Fargo truck and thus began his fleet.

Gordon also had a logo designed by his daughter-in-law, Norman Bryerton Cameron to be displayed on all packaging of the products, and on the wagons and truck delivering throughout the area.  The logo was a plaid Scottish cap sitting atop the letter C on the name CAMERON.

In the early 1950s Gordon and Hazel wished to retire, and as their second eldest son, J. Ivan Cameron was already managing the plant, family discussions ensued and the dairy now had two owners.  Ivan remained as Plant Manager and their eldest son, George I, became Administration Manager.  Gordon stayed on in an advisory capacity to give his sons a different perspective when decisions had to be made.  Ivan and George employed 4 other brothers as well as many of their combined 16 children.  They also hired many other from the area.

Many changes happened to the dairy business in the 60s due to the ever changing work force, government regulations and production and service costs.  It was no longer to run a small dairy business.  Expansion had to take place in order to survive.Camerons Dairy_3q Homog MilkThe three quart plastic bag spelled the end of milk cartons and bottles.       This bag is circa 1969.

In 1964, at the closing of Daisy Dairy, Cameron’s hired 2 route drivers and added them to their growing number of employees.  One of the route drivers, Clem Sabourin, became a route supervisor.

In 1965, Cameron’s Dairy bought a bulk milk truck to transport farmer’s milk to their plant.  They also added a large refrigerated room, and a number of offices on the second floor of their home farm plant.  This change in operation meant Cameron’s non longer accepted milk in 8 gallon cans.  As a result of the change farmers had to improve their farm operations by adding refrigerated tanks to handle and hold bulk milk.

The following is a list of farmers that supplied milk to Cameron’s in tanks:  Thomas Atkin, Claude MacDonald, Dan Campbell, Archibald MacDonald, Frank Cameron, Clifford Johnston, Marland and Campbell Murray, Bob Young, Garfield and Donald MacLennan, Clinton Murray and R. MacIntyre.

The following year, 1966, Cameron’s Dairy purchased Canadian Dairy and added “high temperature-short time process equipment.  They purchased the equipment from a St. Catharine’s Dairy which had closed.

In 1968 the face of the dairy industry changed forever with the introduction of 2% Jersey milk in quart glass jugs, and Cameron’s also added a paper machine, and purchased another dairy.  This time it was Maple Crest Dairy, located in Cornwall. Maple Crest was located in the West Front district. Please follow this LINK to view our article on West Front. This LINK will bring you to our article on Maple Crest Dairy.

In 1969, “Bag Milk” was introduced, and Cameron;s bought a bag machine and installed it in their plant.  Knowing their home farm plant could no longer keep up with milk production, due to the purchases of other dairies, George and Ivan decided to build a new modern dairy.

In 1970, the purchased Rivermead Dairy.  In addition, they bought land on Cornall Centre Road, and a new plant was built and equipped with the latest in dairy industry technology.  This equipment had a processing capacity of up to 80,000 pounds per day.  The new plant enabled a more efficient operation and needed fewer employees.  The new plant also house a cheese room and dairy bar.  Cheese and curds were made on the premises and sold in the dairy bar.

The dairy now had a fleet of 21 vehicles which were maintained by Floyd Waldroff, a highly skilled and much prized mechanic.

In 1971, Cameron’s purchased their final dairy, Maple Leaf Dairy.

In 1974, Cameron’s very efficient plant had gas boilers and natural gas prices were rising sharply.  During the same period, a study out of Toronto, on the Dairy Industry of Ontario indicated that fewer dairies were needed in Ontario, as home delivery of milk was being phased out as the consumer could buy milk cheaper at chain store prices.

By 1975, larger corporations were beginning to buy out the smaller family businesses.  Cameron’s Dairy was approached by Becker’s Milk Co. and George I and J. Ivan decided that the time was right to sell, thus ending a 43 year family business.

In 2004, there were less than 10 dairies in Ontario.

The larger company that purchased Cameron’s is now Mac’s Milk.

Prepared by Ivan Cameron and daughter Marion Burns, George Cameron and his daughters Karen Quinn and Shannon Cameron.



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