The Cheese Factory

Sedan Cheese Factory 1918 – Adrian Inabnit Photo Collection

The Cheese Factory was also known as the Sedan Cheese Factory and Shields Valley Cheese

The Cheese Factory was a two-story structure built by the community and the Yeoman Lodge in 1914. The upper floor, which was used for the Lodge and “community affairs” had a stairway on the east side with an entry for protection. An addition on the north side enclosed the boiler which heated the vats of milk. The whey vat on the west was sunken into the ground. A drive went clear around the building back to the main road and there were two vehicle bridges and one board walking bridge.

The Cheese Factory was said to have been running by 1918. Ranchers brought their milk here and Sedan’s residents say that this factory produced the best cheese they have ever eaten. There were said to have been about 200 milk cows in the area providing milk to the Cheese Factory at one time. According to the Sedan Community Country Cookbook, “the Cheese Factory did not run steady, sometimes being closed for years.”

Cheesemakers who lived in the Sedan area were; Lawrence BlattieWalter BoegliAl Meyer and Ralph Spring. Walter paid farmers by the amount of butter fat in the milk. Holstein cows had less butter fat that shorthorns or Jersey cows, so he would take samples to determine the amount of butter fat.

Shields Valley Cheese – 1935 Don and Walt
Jene Hendrickson Photo Collection
Al Meyers – 1925 at the Cheese Factory
Jene Hendrickson Photo Collection

People who brought milk to the Cheese Factory often had pigs at home and were said to have unloaded their milk at the platform. When the milk cans were empty, they would fill them with whey to take home to feed their pigs. This was noted to be a “Pretty nice arrangement.” However, when the whey got spilled on the ground it made the surface slick and at one time a Model T car was said to have been left running there while the owner was visiting. Since the ground sloped a little away from the building the car “vibrated itself off into the creek. Of course, aid had to be enlisted to retrieve it.”

A similar story is noted in “Tracks Volume I” as remembered by Warren Reichman, “This cheesemaker drove a Model T Ford without a top, and one time he drove around the Cheese Factory a little too fast and drove into the creek…then the man came running down the road, waving his hands. ” Warren and his friend went down to the creek where and found his car upside down. Warren couldn’t believe the guy didn’t get hurt!

Unloading at Shields Valley Cheese – 1935 Jim Francis Photo Collection

Hellesmark of Farmers Creamery in Livingston was the last owner of the Cheese Factory. He contracted with Yellowstone Park to provide milk in the summer and bought the Cheese Factory where there would be a place for the milk in the winter. Hellesmark used the building in the winters from 1935 – 1941 at which time it was known as Shields Valley Cheese.

Cheese Factory – Wes, Walt & Vance – circa 1930s – Jene Hendrickson Photo Collection

With the Cheese Factory closed due to lack of business, Marie & Oscar Koch bought it in 1936 and lived in the basement. They rented it to different organizations for dances at $10.00 a night. The top floor had a very nice stage and made a perfect dance floor.

Cheese Factory Dances

Cheese Factory dances were a big family event in the community. The children enjoyed the dances as much as their parents did. Everyone brought a “lunch” and took breaks during the dances to eat and then start dancing again.

The following Sedan residents were also musicians who performed at Cheese Factory dances and “provided the best music ever and the whole community enjoyed dancing and having fun,” according to former Sedan resident Kay Seitz:

Art Fastje played the sax

Ralph Spring the Banjo

Mike Riggs played guitar

Juanita (Cowen) Francis played Piano

Walter Boegli played the accordion

Orville DeFields played the fiddle

Swede Palmer was a drummer

Elinor & Norm Amundson of Wilsall also played at these dances.

Elinor played the piano & Norm the drums

“You couldn’t beat a country dance like this, according to Kay Seitz.” Men were said to have paid the musicians twenty five cents.

Bonnie Pinkerton had this to say after attending only one dance in the Cheese Factory. “I stayed overnight with Betty Woosley – probably when we were freshmen at Wilsall. I think we went to a little rodeo or something of the sort and I got sunburned quite badly. That night we all went to the dance at the cheese factory. I remember how the floor shook and wondered if it would hold up under all that, but it did.”

School plays were held there for many years and it was a popular place for weddings until the building was condemned.

By 1950 The Cheese Factory dances begin to dwindle as better transportation made it easier for people to go to Wilsall or Bozeman functions. In 1958 The Cheese Factory building was sold and torn down. Only the cement floor is visible to identify where it was once located.