Judy Spooner Viewpoint: Cottage Grove factory was hidden -- until nowWhen I read and study history, I imagine what it was like to live in that time and it’s helped me find the solution to a history mystery that has perplexed me for years. For years, I’ve heard local historians talk about the Langdon Butter and Cheese factory located in Langdon. It was once Washington County’s largest, they said.
By: Judy Spooner, South Washington County Bulletin
When I read and study history, I imagine what it was like to live in that time and it’s helped me find the solution to a history mystery that has perplexed me for years.
For years, I’ve heard local historians talk about the Langdon Butter and Cheese factory located in Langdon. It was once Washington County’s largest, they said.
The village of Langdon, where the Cottage Grove Town Hall is located, is next to Cottage Grove Public Works. It’s just a group of homes now, in addition to Langdon School owned by a 3M union.
Also, two Washington County history books stated the same information putting the butter and cheese factory in Langdon.
But after studying township plat maps, and other information, I couldn’t determine exactly where it was located. I suspected it was not in the village area.
If it wasn’t in Langdon Village, where was it? As the largest butter and cheese factory of its time, it’s an important area landmark.
Whenever I looked at city maps, historical material, or just drove around town, I looked for it. I got help with old plat maps from John Burbank, Cottage Grove senior planner.
While looking for something else, I went to the Park Grove Branch Library to consult the “History of Washington County, St. Croix Valley,” published in 1881, an original history that other authors used.
Over the past year I’ve thought that the factory might have been located in the old stone building that was on the property of Wheels for Travel at the end of 70th Street in Cottage Grove. The property has since been bought by the city and watershed district for a holding pond area and the building razed.
Then, I found it.
According to “The History of Washington County,” the factory, a 70-by-36 stone building two stories high, was built in 1876 in Section 17. I found it on a plat map.
George Woodward, who owned the land at the time, is listed as a company officer. The road into the business was the old route of Highway 61.
Dairying was an important area enterprise, according to the history, as 75,000 pounds of butter and 50,000 pounds of cheese were produced in 1880.
It all made sense.
I was also in the building years ago while it was owned by a woman who ran a ceramics business. I remember the second floor with large beams and a sturdy wooden floor. With no opening to haul up hay bales, it couldn’t have been used as a barn.
“Playing history detective again?” Burbank said in a teasing way when he greeted me in the City Hall reception area.
“I found it,” I said, and showed him where it was on a copy of a 1900 plat map that he’d given me.
Why did authors and historians put the factory in Langdon Village?
Finding the actual factory site helped me figure that out. Old Cottage Grove was the name of the area that is now the east half of the city. The western half of the township was known as Langdon.
Now, I have to find the Town of Curry that I was told was located in Cottage Grove. I just might be on my way to becoming a “history detective” after all.