The Tiskilwa Cheese Factory

Taken From the Henry News Republican
August 31, 1871

On Tuesday of last week, in company with our townsmen Messrs. A. C. Wies, John Koch, and Isaac P. Bush and his handsome bays, we rode out to Tiskilwa and its famous cheese works. This was our first visit to this town under its present name. We had been to Indiantown a number of times many years ago, but since it has been favored with a railroad and re-christened with the more stylish Indian cognomen of Tiskilwa, business or other interests had not enticed us in that direction.

The Cheese Factory

The cheese factory lays about three miles south of Tiskilwa, and within six of Providence.  It is built on Col. May’s farm, commenced in February and finished in April or May. It stands in a pleasant grove, near a never failing plentiful spring of excelling water, is two stories high, with basement room, and is the culmination of a pet project with all the old farmers in that locality for many years - a dairy on a large scale. Farmers for miles furnish the milk, bringing the nights and mornings milk in separate cans every morning to the factory. Each farmer’s milk is weighed separately and account taken thereof and placed to his credit, he realizing his pay in the dividends of the institution. Some 500 gallons are thus furnished daily during this season of the year, which is the shrinkage season, and of course a good deal less supply than in May, June and July.

The factory is conveniently arranged, and everything goes regularly and like clock work.  It has a six-horse engine, that furnishes the little power needed for churning, pumping, water, etc., and the supply of steam for heating purposes communicated by pipes to such places as needed in the building. A large tank into which water is pumped in supplied with hose, and cold water is thus furnished to the several floors. All the labor of cheese and butter making is done in the basement. The milk is received in a passage way above, wherein the teams drive, emptying their cans into a tin receiver setting upon scales, from whence a hose conducts it to the tub for cheese making. Two of these, capable of holding 500 gallons each, occupy the floor below. They are long and narrow, made of zinc, and supported by a wooden frame, under neath of which is room sufficient to admit cold water or steam, to cool off or heat the milk, curd, etc., in the process of cheese making.

After the curd is formed it is cut both ways by a wire formed knife; the whey is drawn off, the curd placed in a trough or table in a cloth and salted, etc., and placed in the press in cylinder formed vessels, capable of making about 40 pounds of cheese. The presses are the common iron screws, which are turned regularly by the workmen during the day. This work is done in the forenoon, and is out of the way before dinner. At this season about 500 pounds of cheese is made daily at this factory. By means of a jet, steam is used to clean and renovate the vessels in use, and a cold water jet rinses them. A windlass, by a half round movement, performs the churning, the engine giving the power. The cheese room is up stairs, to which the cheeses ascend by means of a dummy. Here is a large array of shelves, and pretty well filled with cheeses. In July the factory made 500, only 175 remaining unsold. In August 350 had been made up to the time we were there. A daily test of each farmer’s milk is made, as to richness, and whether watered. We were told that it was believed each farmer was honest, but it was a good plan to keep them so.

The butter room contains a large number of round deep tin pails, into which the milk is poured, and each set into a vat of water, through which there is a continued stream of cold water passing. After the cream rises it is skimmed and churned daily, and the milk finally made into cheese of the skim milk quality. Butter making will commence some time next month.

The cost of the factory was about $4500. The officers are J. W. Williams, president; J. H. Bliss, secretary; S. G. Soverhill, treasurer; and Fred S. Kelsy, superintendent: the latter being one of the best professional cheese makers in the country. His salary is $800 for five months. Two other hands assist him, one of these boarding the other two in the second story. Our company tasted the quality of several of the cheeses, and from a liberal slice allotted to us we can pronounce an intelligent verdict of “prime.” “Not to be excelled.” is the motto of this factory, and we are sure they are entitled to this reputation. The company is styled “National Cheese and Butter Manufacturing Co.:” capital stock $10,000, in shares of $5 each.


On to Tiskilwa, we found it nestled among the hills, quiet as of a Sunday. It has a goodly array of business houses, but none of them large or heavily stocked. H. P. Hepperly here is running a large business, and is flourishing. The large city school house, is beautifully located with ample woody, grassy grounds. So small a town carrying a $33,000 school house, handsome though it is, suggests the bleeding process by way of taxes that few towns like to shoulder. Here “Hon.” B. N. Stevens resides, in an unpretentious white house, in the heart of the town. He was in New Hampshire spending the heated term, which prevented us from “interviewing” him on “the situation”. In its time Tiskilwa has done a great deal of business, but it is now cut off some by railroads and rival points. Its population is 1200, and enterprising in spirit and progress. Tiskilwa is a temperance stronghold, and many excellent men reside here. It lacks a newspaper, which it certainly ought to have. It has several churches, and many fine residences. Returning, we passed the Bensen residence, a short distance this side of Tiskilwa, which is one of the tastiest, and well proportioned as well as elegant residences we have seen in this section. The day was hot and driving through the dust was slow, yet our “spirits” were kept up through Mr. Koch’s forethought, and we all reached home in good season at night, and well pleased with the day’s jaunt.

The Tiskilwa Cheese Factory Closes
Transcribed by Nancy Piper

On April 10, 1930, the Henry News Republican newpaper, Henry, Illinois announced the closing of the Tiskilwa Cheese Factory in Tiskilwa, Illinois.  It stated that it was "the last survivor of an industry which has been the source of considerable of Tiskilwa's fame as well as income for many years". According to the paper, changing market conditions caused the plant's failure.  At one time there were at least 3 factories in operation around Tiskilwa and during that time period "Tiskilwa's full cream cheese" was widely known throughout this part of the state.  The Henry News Republican stated that the local farmers would still produce as much milk, but it would now be trucked to Peoria and sold to the Roszell ice Cream company.


Taken From the Henry Republican
February 22, 1877

Not knowing that you have any correspondent here, I have thought to drop you a few lines in relation to Tiskilwa, and its surroundings. As many of your readers may know, our beautiful, picturesque and romantic little town is situated in the beautiful Bureau Valley, on the C., R. I. & P. R. R., eight miles west of Bureau Junction, and seven south of Princeton, and contains 1200 or 1500 inhabitants. The inhabitants are largely eastern, western and southern people, although we have a considerable number of Irish and Germans.

We have a very fine school building (brick) at a cost of $35,000 or $40,000, which was erected in 1868-9. It is a graded school, with a corps of five teachers. The attendance of pupils is about 200, with the whole number enrolled 290. The school park and lawn is one of the pleasantest and handsomest in the state, covering about five acres and germmed and studded thickly with beautiful forest trees of nature's planting.

We have four good churches, the M. E. Baptist, Episcopal and Catholic, and something like 10 or 12 stores, some of which are really magnificent, and metropolitan in character, and doing a business of $50,000 or $60,000 per annum. The gross business of the place is about half a million per annum.

With the radius of a mile we have two good flouring mills, and water power in abundance in the Bureau; by digging 18 or 20 feet, we have everywhere water in abundance, cold as ice, and pure as crystal. The valley here is a mile wide, the town being situated on the south side, near the base of the bluffs, in an elbow, or curve of the valley. To the northwest, west and south of us are the bluffs, 100 or 200 feet high, covered with trees, which in summer are arrayed in their bright, lovely green and velvety foliage. Across the valley are bluffs to the north and northeast of us.

In summer time our town is almost completely immersed amid the rich endowments of nature's beautiful foliage, for with us trees are everywhere. We are, as it were a beautiful picture set in a gilded frame of exquisite workmanship. Our bluffs and sparkling ravines abound in many pure, ice cold crystal springs. From the springs of one ravine the railroad supplied with water.

To the west of us, is coal hollow and rocky run. Here is a beautiful little valley, abounding in timber upon either hand, its cool grottoes and shady groves, and grassy lawns, upon a summer's day, being the envied of all, and the resort of countless dozens of a pleasant Sabbath afternoon. How sweetly and quickly tired nature seeks repose 'neath the spreading branches of these giant trees. Along this hollow are the wastes and ruins of many a coal banks. Here, thousands have been suck, prospecting, boring and excavating for the second vein. Some good banks have been established and thousands of dollars have made thereby. This winter we have to use the top vein, or haul it from a distance.

Further up we strike rocky run, abounding in great rocks, and stone without number. They are of the limestone formation, and vast numbers have been used for building purposes. The bluffs about rocky run seems to be entirely piled up with stone. Senator Whiting lives on rocky run, about one mile west of town, and his home is very rural. He owns 560 acres of land, embracing coal hollow and rocky run.

At the mouth of coal hollow, half a mile west of town, upon a gently inclined eminence is our beautiful cemetery called Mt. Bloom, in honor of the founder. To the douth is coal hollow, and to the north is the Providence road. Its tall spiral columns of granite, and many tablets, over acres of ground, attest the number in their narrow homes, where all are equal.


The New Dutch Church

Taken From the Henry Republican
December 4, 1873

We visited the new Dutch church near the Tiskilwa cheese factory, which has just been completed. The work has all been done by Snachwine mechanics, C. A. Hawkins carpenter, S. J. Haines mason, and S. H. Condit painter. Condit is the only man that has drawn a brush on the building, the work is all good. The house will accommodate 246 comfortabley. The seats ae trimmed with black walnut, the white wood is grained. It will be dedicated on the 14th inst. Dutch service at 8 o’clock a.m., English at 2 p.m.

Cook Brothers Meet For the First Time

Taken From the Henry Republican
June 29, 1871

Last week, says the Princeton Republican, in the pleasant little village of Tiskilwa, in this county, J. T. Cook, Esq., had the pleasure of entertaining a his home three brothers (the only three now living.) and what is singular about the affair, the brothers never met before.  The oldest brother, Samuel R. Cook, who is now 67 years of age, emigrated with his father from Washington County Pennsylvania, to Knox County, Ohio in the year 1805, and remained there until the year 1824, when he returned to the Keystone State, for the purpose of receiving a collegiate education. He attended college about two years, when he was compelled, on account of ill-health to abandon his studies. Subsequently he engaged in the coal mining business which he has followed ever since. Between the years 1825 and 1829, he made several visits to his parents in Ohio, but that was before S. T. Cook was old enough to remember much about him. The youngest brother, I. N. Cook, is an artist, and for the past 12 years has been engaged in business at Davenport, Iowa. He was born in 1827, and has no recollection of seeing his brother J. T. Cook, until they accidentally met last week in Tiskilwa. J. T. Cook was born in 1823, and has no recollection of seeing the last named brother but once, and then in 1846, at which time he paid him a visit at his residence in Connonsburg, Pa. Alpheus Cook removed from Ohio to this county in 1843, and now is an independent and well to do farmer, residing in the town of Wheatland. Alpheus is in the 56th year of his age. All the brothers are enjoying very good health.

A Fire a Tiskilwa

July 23, 1874 - Local Items

A fire at Tiskilwa on Friday morning last, destroyed 8 wooden buildings occupied by Moore & Miles, dry goods, Kellogg & Hopkins, druggists, D. Kirpatrick, dentist and Charles Towner, hardware. Loss - $20,00 with no insurance.

Local Correspondence - Tiskilwa

July 22, 1880

Well here we are again, endeavoring to indite and condense a few lines from this "rural retreat," for the perusal of your many readers. Last week it was hot, hotter, hottest, for 98 to 106º in the shade, and wilted down was man and many of the vegetable kingdom in donsequence of the scalding heat. Many seemed to have suffered as much or worse from the heat than at any former period.

The soil of the Tiskilwa valley is very productive. Corn planted just two months measured nine feet four inches. A Snyder blackberry, one bush, belonging to a neighbor, has by actual count 1050 berries. Turnips were raised on the first of July weighing 2 1/4 pounds; onion grown from seed measure 9 1/2 inches around. Potato crop is abundant and some are the finest I have ever seen. We have some fine peach orchards and all are full of promising luscious fruit. A number raise as fine peaches as I ever saw. What is wanted is to get hold of hardy varieties adapted to the climate. Plums may be successfully grown each year by feeding chickens under the trees each morning, and placing a brood of young ones there, as they pick up the destroying curculio which drops to the ground in the daytime. The green cabbage worm are quite plentiful. They are the result of the larvae of the white butterfly. Oh for less white butterflies or for a remedy vs their destructiveness. Who can tell us how to protect our cabbage.

Morris Colby, living with his parents, or in the same house, is married and has two children. The children are the fourth living generation and have nine grandparents living.

The great orchard farm of the county adjoins our town. A walk through J. G. Calef's 5000 trees would do you good and convince you that many thousand bushels of apples will be gathered this fall. He has 100 barrels best cider vinegar we ever tasted, which he offers at 10c per gallon, barrels included. Where his orchard now stands was a former wilderness of brush and trees. Energy and pluck has made it the finest orchard in Bureau county, if not in the state.

Senator Whiting is finishing a large, fine new house. Adelbert, son of the senator, was severely kicked by a horse the other day.

For the pasts week the "Western Theater company" have been performing to delighted audiences. They are all old actors and stars of first ability. As practice makes perfect, so they perform on the stage with that ease and grace and self poise only gained and acquired by long practice and experience.

Bureau County Republican
Thursday, April 21, 1881 - Tiskilwa.

Mrs. B. M. Ferrel has returned, after three weeks visiting in Chicago and attendance on a sick relative, and is prepared to greet as of old, her old friends and new, in all the latest styles of the art, fashionable modiste.

Dr. Leach, dentist of Colorado and formerly a resident here, is in town visiting relatives and friends. The Doctor¹s health is much improved since he left here. Consequently, he is "muchly" in love with the atmosphere of the mountains and its business prospects.

The most exciting town meeting ever held in Indiantown was that of the other week in relation to the town house. The large building was completely filled. Now that the matter is settled, we hope to bury all bitterness in oblivion, and hereafter come together in true fraternal feeling, each section recognizing the rights of the other.

Bureau and Monday. Old settlers say they never knew it higher than Monday morning, but once and had the railroad been away, the water would have backed almost to the school house. For the first time since the pile bridges were built the water was about touching them. It was a great flowing river and was from a half to a mile wide. Great damage has been done all along the bottom. For two days or more mail for Princeton had to be ferried across Bureau and carried by a footline passenger boat.

Last week was the most exciting week on the school question ever occurring in Tiskilwa. For the first time in our history, two very large caucuses were held for the purpose of nominating directors. The aims and objects of the first caucus was too much enveloped in mystery and discussion too limited, and the candidates not representative enough to suit some, or rather its aims and object was too little understood; so another caucus was called the next night, and everybody was there and discussion freely had; after which the exciting contest of the ballot was commenced, and resulted in nominating one of the first candidates and a new one. The first candidates were J. W. McFeely and Dr. F. W. Lee. The second caucus nominated O. W. Battey and Mr. More. It is due Dr. Lee to say he did not wish to be a candidate, and owing to some misapprehension did not get all the vote of his friends. Considering the many disadvantages under which they labored, the friends of McFeely made a gallant fight.

Back to Bureau County Illinois History and Genealogy