Ashland County Historical Society

Preserving the Heritage of Ashland County

Looking Back at... Ashland Sanitary Dairy

This is the history of the Ashland Sanitary Dairy, as told by Florence Faye Budd who was married to Cliffton P. Gongwer, co-owner of the Dairy.

Florence Faye Budd was born in 1892 to Franklin and Elizabeth Budd. On November 25, 1915, she married Cliffton P. Gongwer. Both were 23 years old when they married.

The early years of their marriage were busy ones.

1917 was a year of ups and downs. Cliff Gongwer and David M. Reed purchased a half interest in the Ashland Sanitary Dairy which was owned by WD Cummings and Stewart Whitcomb. Sadly, that same year Florence gave birth to a stillborn baby. However, in 1918, she and Cliff became the proud parents of son Kenneth.

In 1919, Cliff and David became the sole owners of the business. The Dairy was listed in the 1920 trade publication “Refrigeration,” volumes 25-26 as having purchased a 6-ton vertical single acting belt driven enclosed refrigerating machine and high pressure side complete from York Manufacturing Co.

In 1920, their daughter Elizabeth was born. They owned a house at 523 Chestnut Street.

Tragedy struck in 1925 when one of their employees, WB Fellenbaum, was involved in a head-on collision while driving one of their delivery trucks. The driver of the other vehicle, Frank Baum, was killed instantly. For some reason, the Ashland Press thought it necessary to report that out of the 4,400 bottles of milk that were on the truck, only eight were broken, which seems trivial in comparison to the loss of a life. Mr. Fellenbaum suffered minor injuries to his legs.

It was also in 1925 that Cliffton and Mr. Reed purchased Florence’s parent’s farm, 65 acres within the city limits on which grazed the company’s herd of pure bred Guernsey cows. Those cows produced the Dairy’s well-known “Grade A Milk.”

Florence’s mother Elizabeth Budd died in 1926 at the age of 59, and her father Franklin died the following year at the age of 60. Both are buried in Ashland Cemetery.

By 1930, Cliff, Florence and their children moved to 510 College Avenue. They owned a radio, and opened their home to Ashland College student Hattie Cordray.

Early history of the Ashland Sanitary Dairy: The Dairy opened in 1913 at 161 Center Street. The Dairy made creamery butter and Quality ice cream that was labeled as the smoothest and richest ice cream on the market. The Dairy also sold pasteurized and clarified milk, buttermilk, and cottage cheese.

In 1914, the Elgin Dairy Report listed the following: “For sale, No. 3 Simplex churn (cast frame) has been used but for a short time. Will sell cheap.”

Now back to the 1930s… In 1931, Cliff and Florence began construction of a house at 1740 Circle Drive West in the Countryside neighborhood.
Cliff and Mr. Reed added a retail store in 1934. The combined wholesale and retail trade extended within a 100 mile radius of Ashland. The estimated annual output was 300,000 pounds of butter, 75,000 gallons of ice cream, and a daily sale of milk of 1,500 gallons. Approximately 30 people were employed and the Dairy owned a fleet of nine trucks.

In 1948, Cliff bought Mr. Reed’s interest in the business. They remained close friends and are even neighbors in the cemetery!

In 1951, an eleven-year-old named Jim Witmer won the Ashland Soap Box Derby in a car sponsored by the Ashland Sanitary Dairy.

Cliff’s brother-in-law Jack Lentz, Sr. worked at the Dairy and some of his duties included making hot fudge, butterscotch, bittersweet fudge, and other toppings (known as “dope”), roasting the nuts, and freezing the popsicles.

The Ashland Sanitary Dairy was a popular hang-out and food was served in addition to their delicious ice cream. Tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches were a favorite. They sometimes printed “feature recipe” cards. There may be a copy or two of their “wonderful cream of tomato soup” recipe still in circulation.

In 1965, the Dairy joined with the Boyer Dairy to form the All-Star Dairy and was located at 725 Clark Street. Sadly, about this time, the original Ashland Sanitary Dairy suffered some damage due to a fire, but the vacant building was used as the headquarters for Ashland’s Sesquicentennial celebration. In 1967, Earl Hawkins opened a Hawkins market on the site of the former Ashland Sanitary Dairy.

Throughout his life, Cliff was an active member of the Ashland community belonging to the Elks Lodge and the Ashland Country Club. He also served on the board of directors of the Home Savings and Loan Company. He was proud to be a democrat, and he and Florence both belonged to the Methodist Church. In their later years, they moved to a house on Center Street.

Florence died in 1973 at the age of 81, and Cliff passed away two years later. They are buried in the Gongwer family plot in Ashland Cemetery.

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