As we approach Memorial Day at the end of May, we tend to reflect back on family members and friends that are no longer with us. At the same time, many of us like to return to the community where we grew up. At least, I'm one of those. Who lives there now? Anyone I know? Has the area changed? No doubt, over the years it has.
Cemetery visits are an important activity for most of us in the next few weeks. My father and mother are buried in Brownwood Cemetery in North Bloomfield, along with grandparents and great-grandparents on my mother's side of the family. It is a well-maintained cemetery, and the local cemetery association has been far-sighted and purchased a much larger tract of land for the future.
Thinking about the history of North Bloomfield, it is like many communities. Businesses grew up, thrived and then went out of existence as times changed. Bloomfield and the community one mile east on the Pennsylvania Railroad had their share of those businesses.
Like most of Trumbull County, the town was built originally around farming. Early settlers that came in had to provide food for themselves and their families. As they slowly got larger, farms produced enough to sell for some family income.
Milk cows were popular on Trumbull County farms when the area was being developed. Problem was, milk is bulky and spoils quickly if not kept cold. So the dairy farmers quickly learned how to make cheese.
It was milk in a concentrated form, would keep well without refrigeration and could be shipped long distances.
At one time, northeastern Ohio was known as the cheese center of the United States, according to old Ohio Department of Agriculture yearbooks.
Problem was, the quality and kinds of cheese varied considerably, depending on the family and home where it was made. Some made much better quality cheeses than others.
That brought on farmer organizations that built small cheese factories all over the county. One source says that the first cheese factory in Ohio, and maybe in the United States, was started in Hartford Township in 1846 or '47. Since the milk, in various sized containers at first then in 10 gallon cans, had to be hauled to the cheese factory by horse and wagon, factories had to be built close to the farms. So they were scattered all around the townships. Bloomfield had at least four at one time.
I can remember two of those cheese factories. One was on what we used to call Clover Hill Road, now Flagg Road, I think, and the other at the bottom of the hill on Route 45 south of town. That one still stands and has been used for many years to house livestock.
After the railroad was built, a milk condensery was built and operated at Lockwood, a mile east of Bloomfield. This condensery bought milk from a large number of farmers locally and replaced most of the early cheese factories. When much of the water was removed from the milk, it could be shipped by rail and then trucks to areas all over the eastern United States.
Small farms in the county tended to be self-contained - the small herd of cows, three or four pigs for family use, a flock of maybe Plymouth Rock chickens, an orchard and a big garden. Fruit was available, probably not the best quality, just for the picking. Many apples were made into cider, and some of that was allowed to become "apple jack," a popular drink for special events.
Memorial Day does bring back memories. Like many of you, I will be visiting several cemeteries. They include North Bloomfield, Fairlawn west of Akron, Ravenna, Shalersville and Dorset.
Each one has its own special memories important to our family.
Parker is an independent writer for the Tribune.