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Sheffield Road in Amenia — and milk

Sheffield Road in Amenia is only about four-tenths of a mile long as it enters off of Route 343 (on the way toward Sharon, Conn.) across from Mygatt Road and up to Prospect Street and the top of Depot Hill, but its milk history is interesting, especially as much of an original farm building is still there. 

This history is of Sheffield Farms, an early 20th century business in eastern Dutchess County, with others also in eastern Dutchess about the same time — around the turn of the century — including in Ancramdale, Coleman Station in North East and Shekomeko.  They all processed milk. 

Marvin Van Benschoten in his book, “Memories of A Farm Boy” (2011), writes that his dad delivered their milk in cans to Shekomeko, “only six miles away.” But Amenia’s plant did not bottle milk. Instead this plant made milk sugar, or casein, and “never got into bottling,” according to an article in a supplement to The Lakeville Journal and The Millerton News, June 15, 1970, written by Jolande Gumz.  

What is casein? According to the World Book Encyclopedia, it is the chief protein in milk and the main ingredient in cheese. It contains about 3 percent of cow’s milk and is produced commercially from skim milk.  

Gumz tells the story of Sheffield Farms as it “fits in” with Borden’s Condensed Milk factory, already in the area, including pickup by the Harlem Railroad while being transported down from upstate New York, Canada and other northern and western locations. This was big and the entire era ended on Nov. 15, 1957, says Gumz, “the day the Borden Company closed its last plant in the Dutchess-Columbia area” when it “was incorporated into Kraft Foods” in the 1950s, adds Google. 

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Where was Sheffield Farms in Amenia? It was the second house on the right as you enter onto  Sheffield Road as it heads east — nestled down by what is now the Harlem Valley Rail Trail (which were the Harlem Railroad tracks from the mid 1800s to the 1970s).  

Built in 1912, the two-story structure operated until 1936, when it was closed “during the Depression,” the Journal article states. 

Sheffield Farms gave Borden competition here in the valley, but became “forgotten pieces of the past,” Gumz says, adding that many of the plants were torn down or used for other purposes, all about the same time.

There is, however, a commemoration of the Sheffield Farms operation. It’s at Coleman’s Station, just north of the town line between Amenia and North East, along the Rail Trail where Sheffield Hill Road connects with Coleman Station Road and travels on to Route 22 north of McEnroe Organic Farm. It is a park-like setting that is very nice and briefly tells the story on signage, of who lived there from the late 1700s through the days of “milk by Sheffield.”  

While recorded history may be brief on this time period, it was very active while there and the area is a very good reminder of it. What happened to shorten its time? Trucks.                                                                                                                              

Trucks took over transporting milk as they could go directly to the farm and pick it up. Louis Grogan in “The Coming of the New York and Harlem Railroad (1989),” states, “The Harlem Milk Service steadily declined following World War II as the motor carriers moved into the lucrative business of transporting milk over highways conveniently constructed by both the federal and state governments.” The few left still do. 

Yours in history!      

 

Arlene Iuliano, Amenia’s town historian, died Oct. 13, 2017.