University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The State of Wisconsin Collection

Page View

Cartwright, Carol Lohry; Shaffer, Scott; Waller, Randal / City on the Rock River : chapters in Janesville's history

3. Agriculture,   pp. 52-57

Page 55

In 1864, the society reorganized and held a county fair in conjunction with another state fair.
The society continued to hold fairs through the 1860s and 1870s, and state fairs were held in
Janesville in 1865, 1866, and 1877. In 1879, the agricultural society arranged with a Janesville
group to hold a fair in conjunction with the Fourth of July celebration, but this arrangement was
not a success, and the society disbanded. A new association established the Janesville Fair,
which operated until 1930, when it became the modem Rock County 4-H Fair. (Brown 1908:
Agricultural Processing Facilities in Janesville
The most important historic resources related to agriculture in Janesville are facilities that
processed agricultural goods. During the nineteenth century, mills in Janesville processed raw
materials from both area farmers and other parts of the country. Locally grown wheat was
processed at Janesville's many gristmills, and wool and cotton were processed at the cotton and
woolen mills in town.
Later in the nineteenth century and during the twentieth century, other agricultural products
were processed in Janesville. Many tobacco warehouses and small cigar factories were
established in Janesville in the late nineteenth century to sell and process the vast amounts of
tobacco being grown in Rock County. These operations continued until well into the twentieth
century. Local farmers also supplied sugar beets and vegetables to the city's sugar beet and
canning factories. The factories continued to process vegetables throughout the twentieth
The processing of wheat, wool, cotton, sugar beets, and vegetables is discussed further in the
Industry chapter. The processing and retail trade in tobacco, one of the most important historic
commercial activities in Janesville, is discussed in the Commerce chapter.
Dairy Processing
During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, farmers expanding their dairy
operations organized and supported numerous dairy processing facilities to market their milk
production. Before the late nineteenth century, most farmers processed their milk into butter or
cheese on the farm, then sold these products to retailers. As dairying expanded, many farmers
organized or joined cooperatives that operated butter and cheese factories.
Soon these small creameries and cheese factories in rural areas were not large enough to process
all of the milk being produced by state farmers. In response, entrepreneurs established larger
creameries, cheese factories, and milk condensing factories in many of the state's communities,
including Janesville. Some of these new processing facilities grew out of the small nineteenth-
century dairies. Others were large operations built specifically to take advantage of the
booming dairy industry in the early twentieth century.
Before 1900, the dairy industry in Janesville consisted primarily of small milk delivery
services that brought milk from the farmers to individual homes in the city. The exception was
the Shurtleff Ice Cream Company, founded in 1878. George Shurtleff started his business with
a single ice cream machine powered by horses. He served his ice cream in his parlor on West
Milwaukee Street (not extant). In 1887, Shurtleff expanded his business, erecting a small
factory at 106 S. Main St. (not extant), where he used steam power to manufacture his ice cream
and other dairy products. In 1912, a larger brick building was constructed on the same site. This
building (not extant), with additions, was used by the company until the Schoep Ice Cream
Company acquired Shurtleff in 1969 and closed the factory shortly thereafter. (Foster 1969:1;
City Directories)

Go up to Top of Page