History of The Milk Building

A Brief History of The Milk Building

     The following text and pictures (between the dotted lines) were provided by our good friend Max Foster of Lebanon.  Both Max and his father worked at The Milk Building during it's heyday and Max is a treasure trove of knowledge about the building.  One day soon we'll sit down and talk to Max and share some of his stories here on our history page.  For now enjoy this brief history.  Unfortunately the original author is unknown to us at this time. 

     Before we get started... If you are a local resident of Lebanon and you have any pictures or stories from the history of The Milk Building we would love to add them to the site for everyone to enjoy.  Just drop us an email or give us a call.  If you have old pictures, we will be happy to scan them and return the originals.  You will of course be given full credit for the submission.  On to the past...

Dairies Promote Milk

     The Indiana Condensed Milk Co., founded and first established In Sheridan, began activity in Lebanon in 1913 when it bought and received milk from Boone County dairymen at a receiving station on West South Street.

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Omer Gayer brings in his milk wagon to Indiana Condensed Milk circa 1915.

We're not sure which one is Omer.

     The milk was then transferred to Sheridan for processing. The company was founded by William Taylor Wilson, a Sheridan resident, and its products, sold in half-pints and pint tins with blue and white labels, became widely known as Wilson’s evaporated or condensed milk.

     The Lebanon plant on the Big Four Railroad was built in 1914 and the company’s head men came here to hire milk haulers and plant personnel.

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 Here is a view of The Milk Building form the North side.  Can someone identify the year from the cars in the picture?  If so let us know!

      By 1925, three important people in the corporate operation were Leon Chumlea, head chemist who became world renowned for the development of margarine coloring and eventually had his own laboratory; William Burress, general foreman; and Lester J. Boatman, plant superintendent.

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Lester Boatman (top photo) served as plant superintendent of the Indiana Condensed Milk Co., or Wilson Milk Co., for about 25 years, from the late 1920's to the 1950's.  Orville "Short" Foster worked with the building and it's various owners for 42 years.

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   1930 Sales Conference of Indiana Condensed Milk Co. included chemist Leon Chumlea.  Mr Chumlea stands front, sixth from left.

In the peak years of the Lebanon operation, Indiana Condensed Milk was buying from over 2,000 patrons, with raw product being delivered to the plant by 41 haulers.

      The Indiana Condensed Milk Co. discontinued processing in 1951 and in 1955 sold the Lebanon plant to the Kraft Foods Co., which used the facility as a milk receiving station until early 1958. Crystal Dairies Co., which made instant powdered milk, then operated the plant until 1968 when it closed down.

Charles Frank, who held the position as department head in various phases of operation, is a name long associated with the company. He started work in 1917 and returned to the business in 1923 after four years of other employment. He remained with the different firms until retirement in 1967. Orville “Short” Foster also was with the business from 1926 until 1968.

As you can see The Milk Building started out as the home of The Indiana Condensed Milk Company, -Manufacturers of- Wilson's Milk. Our famous "Milk Stack" you see featured here on the left of the web site, used to be nearly twice as tall as it is today.  The original smokestack proudly displayed the whole name of the company's brand "Wilson's Milk" in bright white brick letters.

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An HO scale toy train of a Wilson's Milk box car.

While researching for this history page, a Google search turned up the image above from an eBay auction.  This is an HO scale toy train box car from the Indiana Condensed Milk Company.  We pulled out our copy of a label from an actual can of Wilson's Milk and checked the label against the art on the toy.  Sure enough everything matched!  An official Wilson's Milk toy...proving once again - people will buy anything, and you really CAN find it on eBay.

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 Here is an original Wilson's Milk label.  The label was probably saved due to the SAVE THIS PART OF THE LABEL FOR PREMIUMS instructions at the bottom. (ya think!?!)   This label was found in a local antique store. (Label a gift from Max Foster of Lebanon)