134 Enterprise St.
Local markets for farm products were an important part of the economic growth of Evansville. Cheese factories and creameries were the principal buyers of
milk from area dairy farmers.
Creameries had been operating in the city for a number of years before the D. E. Wood Butter Company, of Elgin, Illinois, leased and later purchased the
Evansville Creamery. Wood leased the old creamery, a wood frame structure, located on land that today is part of the Varco-Pruden manufacturing plant,
south of Allen's creek.
D. E. Wood had founded the butter-making business in Elgin in 1868 and owned several creameries in Illinois and Wisconsin. He sent his nephew, C. J.
Pearsall, to manage the Evansville plant, in 1891.
Pearsall was a young man, but he was aggressive at making contacts with farmers and persuading them to bring their milk to Evansville. The following year, a
creamery was opened near the English settlement in Green County. The new plant was noted for its clear pure water obtained from "Pickering Springs". The
trade name of the butter from this creamery was "Cold Spring". Butter manufactured at the butter company's plants was selling for 17 cents a pound.
By 1894, the company was so well established that D. E. Wood purchased the Evansville building and a second creamery at Magnolia. From the Evansville
plant, the company was shipping a railroad carload of butter a week.
The company operated out of the old creamery until 1897, when they purchased the land and buildings of the old tack and match factory on the east side of
Enterprise Street, south of the Baker Manufacturing Company.
That year, they began the construction of a brick building on the site. Portions of the old tack factory were incorporated into the new building. The new three
story building was 170 x 36 feet in area with adjoining buildings that contained the boiler, engine, and coal storage. A storage barn was separate from the main
When the building project was complete, the company estimated it had spent $11,000 on the construction. One feature of the new building that impressed the
newspaper reporters was a new calliope whistle. The land and old creamery, south of Allen's creek, was purchased by Charles Stanford for a vegetable and
By April 1900, Pearsall was in charge of 10 creameries. It's annual report for the previous year showed that the company had produced 10,000 pounds of
butter a day. The business had an annual income of $750,000. According to the report, twenty-three men were employed in the Evansville plant and that
plant alone had produced 3 million pounds of butter.
Most of the products from the Evansville plant were shipped to the eastern United States, but D. E. Wood had also found a market for its butter in England.
In November 1904, it was announced that Evansville's factory had shipped over 400,000 pounds of butter to the British markets. The number of people
employed in the plant grew as the company expanded its markets.
The first of two major fires to hit the building was reported in May 1906. The fire started in the boiler rooms and within a few minutes the frame building that
had once been the old tack factory was entirely engulfed in flames.
The fire was out of control and the local fire company became concerned that the Baker Manufacturing Company buildings would also catch fire. The local
volunteer company sent telegrams to the professional fire departments at Janesville and Madison to respond with men and equipment. The Janesville firemen
and fire fighting machinery arrived by train, but Madison refused to send help.
The fire was difficult to fight as the old wood of the structure was dry creating heat and smoke. The fire was also between the walls and the siding and the
firemen had to tear off the siding before they could reach the flames. The heavy smoke and the odor from the melting butter was also difficult to overcome.
Several of the fire fighters were overcome by smoke. Others were cut and bruised from tearing away the siding from the building.
It was several hours before the fire was under control and the company began to estimate its losses. After insurance adjusters made their estimates, the fire
damage was $15,000.
The old wooden structure was torn down and the company decided they would rebuild that section of the building. The brick portion of the building survived
the fire, but the contents had suffered smoke damage. The butter-making machinery was still intact and after clean-up was complete, the company resumed
C. J. Pearsall and his brother, Benjamin, purchased the D. E. Wood Butter company from their uncle, in November 1907. D. E. Wood was very ill and could
no longer run the business. C. J. stayed in Evansville and his brother in Elgin, Illinois.
The local company had great competition for the dairy products. Many cities had cheese factories and creameries where farmers sought the best price for their
milk. Factories in Monroe and other cities competed to get the farmer's product.
To keep local farmers aware of their payments for milk the D. E. Wood Company began to advertise in the Evansville Review and compare their prices with
what the markets in Monroe were paying. In June 1910, they announced that the previous month they had paid $16,515 to local farmers. "This is a tidy sum
and well illustrates one of the successful industries in this city," the Review noted.
The company's success was evident by their need to expand again in 1912. They built a new 85 foot high smoke stack. Promoters of Evansville were happy
to see this. Smoke stacks were considered a sign of a progressive town in the early 1900s and were a symbol of industry and "a business-like appearance".
dairy product business
reflected what was
happening in the rest of
the state. By 1910,
Wisconsin was the
leading butter and cheese
producing state in the U.
Food products were coming under scrutiny by the federal government. Sanitary conditions in the production of the milk on the farm, as well as in the factory
were very important. The federal government sent inspectors to the D. E. Wood Butter Company on a regular basis. Consumers buying the products were
assured of its quality by the report of a federal inspector in August 1915. He had written that the company had "excellent sanitary conditions".
By this time the company was producing nearly 4 million pounds of butter in a year. A railroad spur ran from the main tracks to the east and north side of the
butter factory, making it easy to bring box cars into the loading dock area.
The company was was so successful that it became the target of a buy-out offer from a national company. The Pearsall's sold the firm to the Cudahy Packing
Company in 1918. It was an opportune time for food manufacturers to grow, as the country was in the midst of a terrible war. The United States government
was purchasing large quantities of food products for use by the U. S. troops.
The First World War brought a strong demand for oleo margarine by the federal government and in 1918, the local company began to manufacture this
product. The oleo margarine was sold under the brand names of Anchor and Rex. The demand for margarine was so great that the company had to put on a
night shift, operating 24 hours a day. They also made an addition to their building for a packing room.
With the shortage of men during the war, women were hired in the office. To make the working conditions more pleasing to their employees, the company
added lockers for the employee's clothing, new rest rooms, and other features that would improve the building. Madge Tomlin was one of the first women to
work at the D. E. Wood Butter Company.
Under the new owners, cheese, poultry and eggs were added as new product lines. Production of eggs was expected to be 3,600 cases each year and 5,000
pounds of poultry each week. The poultry and eggs were sold under the Sunlight brand.
To accommodate these new products, an addition was made to the west side of the building in the summer of 1923. The new building was 60 by 120 feet and
part of it was three stories high. It housed the creamery, offices, and storage. The old building was remodeled with new machinery for manufacturing
margarine. When the new plant was completed, they expected to be manufacturing 500,000 pounds of margarine each month and 15,000 pounds of cheese
each week. In August, Superintendent Fred Allen, manager of the Cudahy plant in Evansville (which was still referred to as the D. E. Wood Butter
Company), moved into the new building.
The company expected the new processes would require the addition of about 100 employees to the work force. The demand for milk had risen so much that
the local firm was having milk shipped to the Evansville plant from northern Wisconsin and Michigan.
It was a great benefit to the farmers that the company purchased whole milk and cream throughout the year and arranged for delivery to the plant. Milk was
brought to the factory by local drivers who traveled their country route, in all kinds of weather, with horses or mules and wagon.
Bert De Reamer and his team of mules started hauling milk for the company in 1892 and had driven nearly 25,000 miles by 1923. He had been operating his
milk hauling business for 31 years and had never missed a day of getting his load to the creamery. The Review noted that, "What he thinks about auto trucks
for hauling milk would not look good in print, as he backs his faith on the wagon and mules." De Reamer did eventually purchase a truck, despite his earlier
Poultry was brought to the plant by farmers living within a 20 mile radius of Evansville. Farmers in the area had been raising poultry for many years and
selling it to eastern buyers who shipped the birds by rail to be slaughtered after they reached the market. The D. E. Wood Butter Company purchased young
birds, fed and then dressed them locally.
The Leghorn breed of chicken had been the most popular among Evansville poultry raisers, but the D. E. Wood Butter Company found other breeds more
desirable. They suggested that farmers stock the Barred Rocks, Buff Orpingtons, White Wyandottes, and Rhode Island Reds, as they were better egg
producers and were heavier in weight per bird, thus giving a premium price when marketed.
The Evansville Review ran articles to promote poultry raising. "Pullets for Profit" and "Feeding of Poultry" headlines caught the eye of local farmers who
wanted to increase their productivity.
The plant was improved once again when a new cooling system was added in 1927. In the early days, ice cut from Lake Leota and other mill ponds in the area
provided the refrigeration needed for the perishable products. The new system included two large motors installed to provide electricity for the new
A second major fire caused a shut-down in operations at the plant in October 1928. Although the fire was put out rather quickly, there was so much water
and smoke damage that all of the oils used for making butter or margarine were tainted and had to be sold for soap grease. The dressed poultry was also badly
damaged. The fire was a set back but the local plant was cleaned and restored for production. The company's loss was set at more than $13,500 dollars.
More improvements were made to the factory equipment. Two large steel tanks were installed in 1930 for the oil used in manufacturing the margarine. The oil
had previously been delivered in barrels but with the new tanks, the oil came in railroad tank cars. The cars left the main track and were placed on the spur
track that went directly to the plant. Oil from the tank cars was then placed in the two steel tanks that held 12,000 gallons.
Despite the success of the company, a state tax on margarine had a disastrous effect on the local plant. Because of heavy lobbying against margarine by the
dairy industry, the State of Wisconsin added a 10 cent tax to each pound of oleo margarine. This made production at the plant in Evansville unprofitable and
the D. E. Wood Butter Company closed its doors.
Forty-five people lost their jobs and the Cudahy company gutted the factory of machinery and fixtures. In an attempt to help local farmers, the company
referred them to creameries in Albany, Stoughton and other neighboring cities. The last shipment of margarine left the plant in early June 1931. Farmers and
local railroad workers were hurt by the plant closing. The decrease in freight from the Evansville depot caused the railroad company to fire some employees.
The Cudahy Company continued to own the buildings and six years after they abandoned the operation, they decided to tear down parts of the building. The
Evansville Construction Company, including George Mattakat, Louis Vanderhoff and Keith Weaver worked on wrecking, leaving only a small portion of the
original structure. Mattakat and Weaver were injured when the scaffolding they were standing on collapsed and they fell to the ground.
In January 1938, the Cudahy company announced they would reopen the factory for the manufacture of butter and cheese. They announced that a crew of
carpenters and other construction crews worked on building a new smoke stack and installing machinery for the remodeled factory. New vats, butter and
cheese machinery, churns, new boilers, and ice machines were installed. The company also announced it would reopen its eggs and poultry business.
Cudahy offered to pay
competitive prices for milk
to regain the support of
farmers who had shipped it
elsewhere. The company
announced they would need
86,000 pounds of milk per
day to manufacture the
Italian cheese and butter.
By 1949, Harold Hull had opened his meat market in the old D. E. Wood Butter Company. Hull installed a new meat counter and did retail as well as
wholesale business. The new owner was an experienced meat cutter. He had come to Evansville from Milton in January 1944 to work for Fred Miller in the
Miller Grocery at 137 East Main. Five years later he was able to open his own meat market in the Enterprise Street building.
In 1968, the business was turned over to his son, Malcolm Hull. The building was enlarged to the south and west as the business expanded. The retail store
was open only on Friday and Saturday.
Hull sold the business to
Larry Ringhand in
September 1988 and the
business has been
operated under the name
Ringhand Meats since
that time. Both a
wholesale and retail
market operate out of the
building at 134 Enterprise
The University of Wisconsin-Extension was working with farmers to improve their production. The school offered classes to show farmers the latest
machinery, the best feed for dairy cattle, and the best barns and other buildings for a good dairy operation.
By the early part of the century, the educators were promoting small generators and engines that operated electrical systems on farms. The machines were
used for lighting farm homes and barns and operating milking machines. One of the new milking machines was in operation on the farm of Charles Webb. A
news release about his dairy operation noted that Webb could milk four cows at a time and his new milking machine was easily cleaned.
A crew of 80 men and women were expected to be hired. In the midst of the Great Depression, this was great news for Evansville but it never happened. The
Cudahy company withdrew their plans. The factory remained empty.
The Evansville Machine Company, owned by Paul Gibbs was located in the building in 1946. Earl Kahn purchased Gibb's interest in the business in March of
In 1995, Ringhand requested a liquor license so that he could have a package retail business in the store. After months of discussion, the City Council refused
to grant Ringhand the rights to operate a retail liquor store on the site. Ringhand decided to sell the property and build a new wholesale and retail meat store
on the southeast corner of Water and East Main Streets.
The building and land of the old D. E. Wood Butter Company was sold to the Baker Manufacturing Company and Ringhand Meats has a new building under
construction at the southeast corner of East Main and Water Streets.