So often we hear Sonoma County referred to as “The Wine Country” which is great, but we are also known for a whole host of other things including cheese.
We just added The Guide to West Coast Cheese to our collection here at the Sonoma County History & Genealogy Library. The book is written by Sasha Davies and was published by Timber Press in 2010. I found 16 Sonoma County cheesemakers listed. Pretty impressive. The names, which range from Achadinha Cheese Company in Petaluma to Vella Cheese Company in Sonoma, will be added to the Sonoma County History Index.
The Library has a large number of dairy related images, in fact if you go the Sonoma Heritage Collection you will find the Northbay Dairy Collection which includes many photos from the Petaluma Cooperative Creamery and Clover Stornetta as well as from individual dairy families. The only pictures we have that depict cheese making specifically are those associated with the Sonoma Cheese Factory and those are from the 1970s.
This seems odd as we know that cheese making has been going on in Sonoma County for many years. For example, in 1874 there was the Petaluma Cheese Manufactory, which was located on the Petaluma Creek, about one mile south of town and known as ”the only cheese manufactory based on the eastern principle, in the state of California.” The proprietors of this business were A. Killan and J. Payne and their advertisement in L.L. Paulson’s 1874 Handbook and Directory of the Pacific Coast claimed that they were “prepared to manufacture 1200 gallons per day, into cheese weighing from 10 lbs. to 70 lbs.”
A year or so ago I assisted a patron who was researching the history of Cantels Cheese Factory which according to Petaluma As Seen Through the Eyes of Bill Lewis was located south of Petaluma at the foot of Hein’s Rockcrusher. Today we might describe that area as being at the foot of the housing development – Quarry Heights. It occurs to me now that the Petaluma Cheese Manufactory and Cantels Cheese Factory might have been one in the same – although Cantels wasn’t established until 1918. Unfortunately we do not have a photo of either establishment.