From The Scrapbook By Rev. Bill Randall

From The Scrap Book

1990 March 2

Harvey Creamery

Willis Moffitt got married in 1933 and was working for Clarence Swan, a next door neighbor, tending large flocks of hens. Willis was looking for more permanent employment and decided to investigate a new business that was about to start in Harvey – a creamery. William McLean of Oxford, Nova Scotia, had sold a creamery there to Brookfield Dairies  and was looking for a new location when he discovered Harvey in the center of a large farm population. In company with his son J. Elwood McLean, he purchased land from Howard Robison and started to build a Creamery. When Willis approached the McLean’s in April 1934 they were just starting to put up the forms for running the concrete foundation. Elwood asked, “Can you handle a saw and a hammer?” Willis allowed that he 

 thought he could, so Elwood said, “Can you come to work this afternoon?” Willis went to work that afternoon and forty-one years later, in 1975, as manager of the creamery, Willis locked the door for the final shut down.

During those forty-one years the Harvey Creamery was an important part of the economy of Harvey. The early plant of 1935 was powered by a steam boiler and steam engine. There was no electricity and a car motor powered a small generator which operated a wooden churn and the refrigerator. The butter was printed by hand. The buttermilk was run off into a holding tank at the rear of the Creamery and Mr. McLean (Bill) kept about sixty or seventy pigs to be fattened on buttermilk. Eugene Morris was the butter maker and in 1937 an Ice Cream Maker (Al Knowlton) was imported from Saint John, N.B. In winter, the crew cut ice for cooling the cream and in the early 1940’s the creamery started making ice cream bars – the first ever in the Province.

During the war years when candy was difficult to buy these ice cream bars, covered with chocolate, had a great market. Willis remembers taking a truck load as far away as Bathurst. Of course, the truck had to be refrigerated and Willis and Edgar McLean, Elwood’s brother and official Plant engineer, devised and installed their own unique refrigeration in the truck.

Another example of engineering ingenuity was the way they made these bars. A bicycle wheel (without a tire) was stationed above a vat of liquid chocolate, hooks from the wheel rim impaled a bar of solidly frozen ice cream and as the wheel was gently rotated by hand the ice cream was immersed in the chocolate which congealed on the bar and after emerging from the vat was picked of the wheel and dropped into a wax paper envelope.

Gathering cream over such a wide area, from Meductic to Brown’s Flats, became such a challenging situation it was decided to open another plant in Hampstead, New Brunswick and so in July of 1943, Ben Swan, formerly a milk truck driver became manager of that expanded plant, processing butter and milk as well as handling a big Feed business. In 1947, Hampstead farmers formed a Co-op and bought the Creamery.

By 1947 the founder, William McLean, had died. The Hampstead branch had been sold and Elwood McLean was looking for a buyer for the Harvey plant, since the Creamery was vital to the economy of the farmers in the surrounding area. Forming a joint stock Company with about 200 holding stock the farmers bought the Creamery and renamed it the Harvey Creamery, Ltd. By 1954 they were processing about 1,800,000 Ibs. of cream. They were also selling powdered buttermilk.

Under the direction of Earle Lister as Manager, they survived a disastrous fire on July 6, 1952 which had wiped out the plant. A new building was built and they began again manufacturing butter and ice cream, butter milk powder and processed cheese. In 1958, milk equipment was bought, and processed milk was delivered in the Harvey and McAdam area.

Another Creamery in Harvey once known as the Yarmouth Dairies had been in operation for many years and the products were sent by train and boat to Yarmouth, N.S. In 1960 this plant, known then as the New Brunswick Dairies LTD amalgamated with the Harvey Creamery LTD. In May, 1962, Harvey Creamery Ltd. was sold to the Capital Co operative Ltd. of Fredericton. The plant continued to reduce its operations as the building of the Mactaquac Darn and the establishment of Camp Gagetown reduced many acres of dairy farm land in the area. What cream was collected was taken to Moncton and the Co-Op in Fredericton and made into ice cream. General Dairies of Saint John took over the milk business and finally, in 1975, the man who had been the first employee in 1934 and its last manager, locked the doors and closed the business. Willis Moffitt had worked there for 41 years. Later the property was sold to Earl Grieve of Harvey and the main plant was torn down. It’s not unusual to be standing in the village near the post office in the summertime and notice a car stop with probably four elderly passengers and you’ll still hear one of them say, “We just gotta stop here and buy some of that good old Harvey ice cream!” 

Harvey ice cream ranks with Don Messer’s fiddle as a vital part of Harvey history.

Source: Rev. Bill Randall’s “From The Scrapbook Vol. One.”

Recommended Reading

Interested in learning more about the rich history and heritage of the Harvey region? Here are a few blog posts that might pique your interest: