Fred H. Keller | Retrospect
This photo of Norman “Pepper” Steffen shows the final evolution of the Steffen milk hauling company that started back in the depression days, and Pepper in 1943 at age 15 with a milk can pickup route. This is his bulk milk hauling truck that he serviced the Lisbon founded Golden Gurnsey cooperative. The photo was taken about 1960 as he makes a delivery at the then Waukesha Golden Guernsey cooperative. The truck would haul 11 tons of bulk milk from farmers tp the dairy. He left the business in 1968. Photo by:
Waukesha County was known as "Cow County, USA" as in the 20th century, the county once held the distinction of having more cows than any other county in the United States. they also had more cows than they had people, and they liked it that way. Then there was a sidelight that the Town of Lisbon and the Town of Genesee always had an argument over which township had the most cows.
For the unknowing, there was a rule of thumb that a cow herd usually could be divided by on third, as two thirds were the milking cows, and one third was the dry cows, young stock and bulls.
Just how many farms were in Lisbon? There was also a rule of thumb that for each square mile there was between four to seven farms, and the vast majority had cows. A trip through the seven square miles of today's Village of Sussex (part of the Town of Lisbon) shows a memory count of 47 barns at one time in the early half of the 1900s.
Now the whole emphasis of dairy cows was to get the milk to market. Early on, Lisbon had two butter factories and a cheese factory, plus there was a third factory for butter at the intersection of North Lisbon Road and Town Line Road, thus four outlets for milk. Then to be factored in was the railroads early on became milk pickups for the City of Waukesha and the City of Milwaukee dairies. There is a prominent photo at the Sussex Museum that shows milk cans at the depot on Maple Avenue, where today stands the Sussex Mills Apartments.
Now to get mil fresh to the users Lisbon had a t first farmers who hauled it to their nearby butter and cheese factories. And then there were the few farms that had businesses of bottling their own milk for house-to-house sales routes, mostly motivated by the Zillmer Dairy and the Hartkoph farm.
Then there was the time during World War I when roads and trucks had reached a tripping factor, and men and trucks would go from farm to farm to pick up milk in steel milk cans and deliver it to Milwaukee and Waukesha dairies, where mega dairies would process it and put it on the market, many times by home delivery, but also as a commodity in general stores.
Milk weighs 8.6 pounds per gallon and if it is going to be shipped by trucks, it had to be cooled down to 40 degrees so that it could reach factories safely. Good roads and trucks spelled an end to local creameries and cheese factories. It is said that once Waukesha County had 28 cheese factories, the last one being at Mapleton.
From the 19-teens to about 1960, the milk haulers handled all the milk in 8 gallon steel cans at 68 pounds each and/or 10 gallon larger steel milk cans at 80 pounds each.
Then there was a revolution as it was mandated that after 1955, milk would be hauled in bulk trucks, mostly 10-ton capacity bulk trucks. A few fringe farms still had a market for cans of milk for specialized dairies, but bulk was the king. This meant big-time investment by dairy farmers. should they do the investment and get bigger, or slowly go out of business? This was a huge turning point in Lisbon and farms started to disappear in the township.
The history of milk haulers in Lisbon, first with cans and later bulk has a list of very important men who owned their own milk hauling truck. The Steffen family was a third generation milk hauling family with Norman "Pepper" Steffen actually starting at age 15 with his father and brothers (Pepper got started in 1943 and went until 1968.) Other milk haulers were Milo Hardiman, Anthony Dabel, Fred Linstedt, Hugo and Ted Siewert Jr., Paul Fleischmann, Byron Kerr and an assortment of others.
Today, there are almost no milk haulers in Lisbon, as the dairy farming in the township is now down to less than a handful.
Milk haulers were important people, with Linstedt becoming a valued member of the Hamilton School District board, while Fleischmann became a long-time Sussex trustee and later a Village President. Hardiman was for over 30 years selected Sussex clerk. Steffen became a Sussex fire chief.
Steffen went from a can hauler to a bulk hauler, eventually having a 2,500 gallon bulk tank that would haul 22,500 pounds of milk from his many stops, and he would make two rounds a day for his route. his big routes were for Golden Guernsey, which switched from a Milwaukee 30th Street address to a north City of Waukesha plant. Golden Guernsey was started by Lisbon farmers George and Gavin McKerrow, just as the depression started in 1929, and existed until just a few years ago, when it closed its doors suddenly.
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