Prince Edward County began large-scale manufacturing of cheese in 1867, when two factories were started in Cherry Valley and Bloomfield respectively, both as joint stock companies. At its peak, the County had 30 operating cheese factories. Often these factories also produced butter.
Initially it was a challenging industry, as milk was difficult to store and often came to the factory in poor condition. Likewise factories were ill-equipped and generally the quality of cheese was substandard. Not surprisingly these companies frequently changed hands and many were razed by accidental fires. In the last quarter of the 19th century, cheese factories expanded dramatically and quality improved with the introduction of new technologies and standards.
The first local Cheese Board organized in 1890. The Board maintained the price of cheese and also instituted the role of a Cheese Inspector. Cheese making also had an impact on other industries. From 1905-1907 a Picton sawmill specialized in the making of cheese boxes—making as many as 40,000 in one year!
Competitions were held to award superior cheese making. In 1907 James A. Mitchell became one such prize-winning cheese maker for the Mountain View factory. He represented Canada at the Great Dublin Exhibition (1st Prize) and the London Exhibition. He also received honours at regional fairs, as did many other County cheese makers in the local industry’s heyday.
The longest operating cheese factory in Prince Edward County is the Black River Cheese Company, which opened in 1901 by a number of South Marysburgh farmers; it continues operations today.
Visit the museum exhibit at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival on June 1 & 2 or visit the Ameliasburgh Historical Museum & Pioneer Village which has a “dairy building” on site, and is the museum that has the largest focus on Cheese history in Prince Edward County.