Sedalia needed a cheese factory

Rhonda Chalfant - Contributing Columnist

Rhonda Chalfant

Contributing Columnist

Sedalia boosters actively sought to increase the number of industries in the city, largely because of the benefits that would come to the city.

They recognized that more industries meant a higher property tax base, more jobs, and a larger population, all of which meant more tax revenue for the city. The boosters advertised Sedalia’s virtues to prospective business owners, noting the natural resources of the area, the potential workforce, and the potential profits to be made.

In October 1879, the Sedalia Democrat printed an article outlining the need for a specific type of business — a cheese factory. The boosters marshaled a number of facts to support their contention that a cheese factory would be a real profit making business.

The Democrat began by noting the resources of timber and coal, the man-made resources such as the railroads, and the rich farming land surrounding Sedalia. The farm land, said the Democrat, was especially suited to growing bluegrass, an excellent pasture for dairy cattle. In addition, the area had several springs that could provide an abundance of water.

The Democrat then pointed out the “blind folly (of) sending money away from Sedalia to buy manufactured articles for home consumption which we might make out of our own materials right here.” The press gave as an example two dairy farmers from the Flat Creek area, Mr. Shepard and Mr. J.M. Hoadley, who each made about 900 pounds of cheese each month. They sold the cheese for 10 cents per pound. While it is possible that the Democrat exaggerated the amount of cheese the men made, the men were able to sell all that they made. The cheese factory in California, Missouri, sold all the cheese it made and had orders it could not fill.

Local grocers said they could not afford the prices of “foreign cheese” from St. Louis, which cost 25 cents for two pounds, plus shipping fees of 10 cents for two pounds, which the grocers had to pay. However, they believed they could sell locally made cheese at a profit.

The demand for the product was well documented. The Democrat talked to the grocers and restaurateurs in Sedalia, asking them how much cheese they sold each month. The amounts are surprising. Rod Gallie, who owned the largest grocery store in Sedalia, said he sold an average of 125 pounds of locally made cheese each week.

Other grocers acknowledged they sold a great deal of cheese, as did the Sicher Brothers, who owned a hotel, and Charles Kleuber, a Main Street saloon and lunch counter owner. The Democrat tallied the amount used which came to a total of 20,000 per month. Of the 36 grocers and restaurateurs, only one, Jim Story, thought Pettis County cheese would not sell well.

In addition to profits made from the sale of cheese, estimated at $30,000 per year, a cheese factory would bring other benefits to the area. The milk produced to make cheese would also yield cream to make butter and whey to feed hogs. The additional cattle needed to produce the cheese would increase the number of calves, improve the herds, and increase cattle prices.

The conclusion was that Sedalia definitely needed a cheese factory, and suggested that the “place and opportunity” were present for the person who “wanted to make a fortune.”

Rhonda Chalfant is the president of the Pettis County chapter of NAACP and the Pettis County Historical Society.

Rhonda Chalfant is the president of the Pettis County chapter of NAACP and the Pettis County Historical Society.

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