White Carnation History
The White Carnation is an example of an outmoded factory, which was the backbone of its community, retained and converted for modern use. At one time there were cheese factories like it in almost every farming community. Today, few remain in operation and most have been torn down. The building was constructed in a very rugged fashion with three layers of brick walls and gable roof. It is said to have as many as three cement floors in places reaching almost 6 feet in depth.
The Holmesville Cheese and Butter Factory began operations in May 1895 with nearly 100 local farmers involved in its initiation as a joint stock factory (purchase price $25.00 for the property). Seven cheeses were made from 4,500 lbs. of milk taken in the first day. The first cheese maker was Edward Johnson and the last was Melville Elliott. The cheese manufactured here went as far away as Montreal and Great Britain.
The boiler was added 19 years later in 1914. The boiler doors from the cheese factory days have been retained and set in brickwork.
In 1917 the cheese factory was sold to the Imperial Cheese Company for $1,600.00. The building was then T-shaped with breathers on the roof. In 1920 McLaren Imperial Cheese Ltd. Ran the factory and in 1925 Kraft McLaren.
1925 saw the Holmesville Co-operative Cheese and Butter Company taking over. During the depression, the cheese factory provided a market for the farmers but it was not until the war years, 1944-45, that the market reached its peak. Under the directorship of Mel Elliott the factory produced 620 T per year, at that time the largest make per year in Canada.
In 1946 the cheese factory was sold to the Carnation Milk Company and the building was converted to the milk hold depot for the bulk factory in Aylmer where evaporated milk was processed. The Holmesville plant was closed in 1972 so that bulk milk could be delivered directly to Aylmer.
In 1972 the building was once again converted, this time as a private facility for catering by Bob Norman and Bruce Rathwell., and renamed the “White Carnation”
Although alternations have been made over the course of the years, there are very few buildings like this still in existence today.
Robert and Elias Disney, from Ireland, cleared Lots 36-39, Maitland. Elias, the great grandfather of the famed cartoonist Walt Disney, built the first gristmill and sawmill in this area before 1842. In 1947, the famous cartoon creator made a sentimental journey to Holmesville, Goderich, and Bluevale area in an attempt to trace his ancestral roots. According to the London Free Press Article (Feb. ’85), “about all he could find were the crumbling remains of the log cabin in Holmesville where his grandparents married in 1857.”