Borden's Milk Factory

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Condensed Milk: A New Era in Milk Production

By 1855, Putnam County was supplying 10 percent of New York City's milk. At that time, dairy products were shipped in unsanitary oak barrels, which often caused the milk to spoil. In 1856, inventor Gail Borden had finally received a patent for condensing milk that was to make his fortune. Milk is approximately 87% water. Borden determined that boiling off the water from milk in airtight vacuum pans would produce a concentrated product that would not spoil. Gail Borden had spent years of experimentation, which left him penniless and in debt in effort to come up with a process for preserving milk. It wasn't until he met Jeremiah Milbank on a train ride, that Borden was able to secure the financial backing that enabled him to construct a plant to produce his condensed milk. In 1857, Borden founded the New York Condensed Milk Company. Milbank managed the company's finances.

 The Brewster Factory

1864 Gail Borden built a factory in Brewster for the production of his Eagle Brand Consolidated Milk on the East Branch of the Croton River where Route 6 and Route 22 meet today.  This site met the requirements for the establishment of a condensery: waterpower, dairy land and access to the railroad for shipping the milk.

 The invention of condensed milk brought prosperity to Southeast by providing employment in the factory and by supplying a fixed economy for local dairy farmers. Demand for condensed milk was high during this time due to the Civil War and Borden began to see an immediate profit from his factory.

At the height of operations the Borden plant employed about one hundred people and over two hundred farms supplied the milk. Each morning, the farmers delivered their milk to the factory where it was carefully tested. After passing inspection, the milk was poured into huge vacuum pans where the water was boiled off at a low heat.  Men and women worked in the factory as sealers, machinists, inspectors, loaders, supervisors, cleaners, fillers, and tin workers.

The Bordens of Southeast

In 1879, a larger brick structure was built around the original wooden factory building. The factory continued to flourish for two generations. Gail Borden and his son John became benefactors of the Town of Southeast. John Borden founded the First National Bank of Brewster and financed the construction of the First Baptist Church in Brewster.

Unfortunately, by the turn of the century much of the best dairy farm land was flooded by the reservoirs built for the Croton Reservoir System. Milk productions dropped in Southeast and the condensery closed in the early 1920's. Most of it was later destroyed in a mysterious fire although the remains of the dam, part of the building and the turbine which powered the plant's machinery can still be seen today.

Gail Borden: Fater of the Modern Dairy Industry

Due to a large number of requests for recipes the Southeast Museum has furnished a few for your use, please click on the milk can...

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