Bio-Pen Pictures

            One of the most important industries of Santa Clara County, and especially of the southern portion, is that of cheese-making, which was commenced here some thirty-five years ago.  Since that time it has grown to large proportions, with many establishments contributing thereto.  The leading portion among these is held by what is known as the Bloomfield Dairy, situated about three miles south from Gilroy, and conducted by Erwin A. Davison.

            Though the history of cheese manufacture for the market in this locality dates back over a third of a century, the true story of the progress of the industry may be gathered from the relation of what has been accomplished by the Bloomfield Dairy in less than eleven years of time.  The dairy was originated by Henry Miller, the owner of the land, in 1869, and it was operated with average success until the fall of 1875, when Mr. E. A. Davison, a man reared in the business in the celebrated dairy district of Herkimer County, New York, came out to take charge.  He made an unexceptionable quality of cheese, but was surprised to find that it brought, in common with other California cheese, six cents per pound less than that made in the East.  There being no difference in the quality, he determined to have the highest price for his produce that was paid in San Francisco market.  Sending East and obtaining the materials similar to those used there for that purpose, he commenced making his own drums, and imitating in size and style the Eastern cheese.  This done, he went to the commission merchants and demanded that his cheese be sold at the advanced price.  The answer to this demand was that if he persisted in making drum cheese, not a pound of his manufacture would be sold in the San Francisco market.  For this reply he was not unprepared, however, and informed the commission men that he would not only continue to make the drums, but would open a house in San Francisco, and make such terms that he would sell every pound of cheese made in Santa Clara Valley.  It was no idle boast, and the commission men were soon brought to their senses.  His cheese has since sold for from five to six cents more than the market price of the California article, and from this source alone, in a little over ten years, he has made what in many districts in the old States would be called a handsome fortune.  He found no trouble in marketing all he made, and the next thing was to keep the supply up the year round, that a new custom would not have to be built up annually.  This result was, of course, to be accomplished by the handling and feeding of the cows.  Few dairymen at that time thought it necessary to pay much attention to the feeding of their dry or milk stock, but he thought differently from the start.  The first four years after coming here he supplanted the green feed by planting corn and beets; but after that time he began sowing alfalfa, on which, with bran, he has since relied, sometimes feeding as much as three hundred tons of bran per year, and has thus continually kept up the flow of milk, while other cows were dry.  An inspection of his bills shows the receipt of sixteen cents per pound for his manufacture, while California cheese is quoted ten to eleven cents.  It will thus be seen what intelligent effort, with good business qualifications, may accomplish.  Eight hundred acres of land are used for the purpose of the dairy, and the 350 cows on the place supply the milk for the manufacture of 130,000 pounds of cheese annually.  The original stock was purchased from Mr. Miller in December, 1887, by Mr. Davison.  A tour of the dairy farm shows the same attention to every detail that has been mentioned in connection with the business management of the proprietor.  Nothing is lacking that should be there, and everything is in its place.  The arrangements for water and for feeding are excellent.  Much credit is due the man who has given to Santa Clara County the model dairy farm of California.

            Mr. Davison is a native of Herkimer County, New York, born January 25, 1842.  His father, Andrew Davison, was likewise born in Herkimer County.  His mother, whose maiden name was Maria Hempstead, was also a native of the Empire State.

            Erwin A. was reared in his native county, and, as his father was a dairyman, he may be said to have been brought up to that business from childhood.  On arriving at manhood’s estate, he embarked in the dairy business for himself, and three years later removed to Cattaraugus County, New York.  There he engaged in cheese manufacture, continuing until removing to California, in 1875.  He was married in New York State, January 1, 1861, to Miss Orphia Farrington, a native of Herkimer County, and daughter of Harvey and Anna (Fabill) Farrington.  Her mother died when she was a child.  Her father afterward removed to Canada, where he was heavily engaged in cheese manufacture.  He was an authority in matters pertaining to the business, and was president of the Canadian Dairyman’s Association.  He was the particular friend of L. B. Arnold, late of Rochester, New York, and was his tutor, and to the interest taken in him by Mr. Farrington, Mr. Arnold attributed his success in life.

            Mr. Davison is a member of the Masonic Order, retaining a connection with the lodge at Franklinville, New York.  He is also a member of Olean Chapter, Olean, New York, and is a member of the Merchants’ and Bankers’ Insurance Society.

Pen Pictures From The Garden of the World or Santa Clara County, California, Illustrated. - Edited by H. S. Foote.- Chicago:  The Lewis Publishing Company, 1888.
Pg. 328-329
Transcribed by Kathy Sedler
Proofread by Betty Vickroy


SANTA CLARA COUNTY The Valley of Heart's Delight