Webster City Creamery


Martin E. Nass

In 1878, Harry E. Forrester was born in Sedgewick, Kansas, where his father was in the hotel business. Later the family moved to Salina, where he attended school. When he was 19 years old, he moved to Manchester, Iowa, and worked at the Manchester Farmer's Cooperative Creamery. Later, he was appointed assistant state dairy and food commissioner. He served in that position for eleven years. In 1922, he moved to Webster City to open up a branch of the Crowell Ice Cream Company. After four years he decided to go on his own, and he opened up the Webster City Creamery. The building pictured was located at 912-914 Seneca Street on lots he purchased from S. S. Parkhurst in 1926 for $1,000 apiece. In November of 1926, Forrester purchased the First National Bank property at 916 Seneca for $4,500. This was formerly Kendall Young's bank, which was moved to the corner of Second and Seneca Streets. All three buildings appear in the photograph with this story. This location is currently the west end of the fire station parking lot.

In the beginning, the creamery handled only milk and cream. Later, after more machinery was purchased, the production of butter and ice cream was added. In 1936, butter was produced in "western flat style" one pound packages. The machinery could wrap and package 250,000 pound packages per year. By 1938, the business, now widely known as Forrester's, employed 20 people in addition to the family. They operated five delivery trucks, which were on the road daily, delivering their products to towns in a radius of 40 miles of Webster City.

The children of Harry E. and Abiah L. Forrester were Clare, Paul, Harry, Jr., Howard, Helen, Robert, and Blanche. Clare, Harry, Jr., and Howard worked closely with their father in the company. Daughter Helen Mertz served as auditor of the firm. Robert, who died in 1935, also worked at the creamery. Daughter Blanche was the only child who did not work with the firm. Paul worked for a time, but left the area to enter the dairy business in Colorado.

Milk was hauled from their own farms and from other local farmers in 5-gallon cans. The milk was pasteurized and then homogenized. All bottles, in the quart and two-quart sizes, were washed and steamed in an automatic washer. Then they were filled and capped at the rate of 32 bottles a minute. All of their bottles were printed with the Forrester's logo, the words "Fine Dairy Foods, Webster City, Phone 6."

The cream was pasteurized and then homogenized. To make the ice cream, the cream was put into a freezer, which turned out a batch of ice cream every five minutes. They made ice cream in many flavors and a half-dozen varieties of ice cream bars.

A large building at 415 Bank Street, around the corner from Forrester's, was purchased and converted into a retail drive-in. This business was operated by H. E. Forrester, Jr. Its telephone number was 6, the same as the main plant. Howard and Vivian Forrester lived in the apartment above the drive-in. In the early city directories, the business was listed as Forrester's Dairy Lee.

In the 1940's, Forrester purchased the property at 722 Second Street from Floyd and Zelma Winter, and opened up Forrester's Dairyland, which sold ice cream and milk products. This property was formerly the location of Brown's Spring Ice Skate Company. Vivian Forrester, the wife of Howard Forrester, served as a clerk in the business. This business was closed and sold to H. A. Wilhelm in 1945. The property then housed a bowling alley, called the Bowlmor, Inc. After the bowling alley closed, the property was sold to Webster City Publishing on Sept. 7, 1955. Today this address of 722 Second Street is the address of the Daily Freeman-Journal.

The September 17, 1942, edition of the Daily Freeman-Journal reported that H. E. Forrester had purchased the Grempel Standard Service Station at the northeast corner of Bank and Seneca Streets. The article continued that "Forrester plans to erect a two-story brick building as soon as building materials become available. The addition will adjoin the present Forrester buildings on Bank and Seneca." Obviously, the building plan did not materialize. This brick service station was still located on the corner of Bank and Seneca when the author came to town in 1965 but was not operating. Apparently, the building was being used for storage. This service station is pictured at the right-hand side of the photo of the buildings.

Forrester operated several farms on which he raised his cows. The 1961 phone book listed for Forrester's an East Farm, a North Farm, and a West Farm. By now the telephone of the creamery was TE2-3670.

Forrester's had several competitors during its existence. The Hutchinson Ice Cream Company was operating in 1942. Other creameries were the Fairmont Creamery, the Graham Dairy, Cleveland Dairy, Carnation, and the Edgewood Dairy. Borden's Ice Cream Company, a wholesale operation was in business in 1957 and was located across the street from Forrester's. Oberg Dairy delivered milk to homes after Forrester's stopped delivery service. Today, Anderson-Erickson and others serve the area through retail stores. The home delivery is just a thing of the past. An early horse-drawn delivery wagon of Forrester's is shown with this article. The pictures are by courtesy of Mary Mertz.

By 1965, the business was operating in only one building. That was the old First National Bank building at 916 Seneca. Milk delivery was discontinued in 1965. When the business closed, the property was sold to Kenneth and Bonnie Youngdale in 1977. The Youngdales sold the property to the City of Webster City in 1978, where it became the parking lot for the Webster City Fire Station. The author recalls the surprise that contractors had when they removed the old Forrester building and discovered a brick vault in the basement. They did not realize that the building was formerly a bank building.