A Look Back in History: Village Creameries, from Schlop-Milk to the art of Butter Prints

Hettie Yearger, of Oley, was a fine teacher of the piano and known by the people she taught around Lobachsville as a wonderful person.  Here Amandus Moyer captured her smile for eternity in the early 1900s.
Hettie Yearger, of Oley, was a fine teacher of the piano and known by the people she taught around Lobachsville as a wonderful person. Here Amandus Moyer captured her smile for eternity in the early 1900s. Submitted photo — Courtesy of Mrs. Minnie Levengood

Farmers in the East Penn Valley and Oley Hills relied heavily on village creameries for butter, but more importantly, the “Schlop-milk” waste product they discarded that was so vital to all pig farmers. Many Pennsylvania Dutch creameries discarded it as a normal by-product of butter to feed and raise pigs in the old days. Many local farmers knew how nourishing this Schlop-milk was in feeding pigs on a traditional farm, where perhaps there was no better use. Locally, farm families took their raw milk up to the creamery at New Jerusalem, operated by Homer Henry, a relative of Levi Boyer who owned the New Jerusalem Hotel.

Like Dryville Hotel, Mrs. Martha Boyer (Levi’s wife), achieved an outstanding reputation for fine food and drink, located there at the end of the Pricetown Road. Although a village tavern was the place where commerce and politics were discussed, any village that had an active creamery in bygone days, besides the necessary general store, was a more successful community. Take for instance, the old New Jerusalem creamery located at the northwest corner of the village at end of the Pricetown Road and the road immediately intersecting it on the north side of New Jerusalem Hotel by Henry Road.

This was the romance of the lives of this hill folk that lived high in the Oley Hills where PA Dutch mannerisms and religious principles were not yet challenged by cutthroat commercialism of modem American urban life. Grandmothers taught the difference between fresh butter and dairy cheese, as well as homemade bread and fresh shoofly pie. And of course the idiom that, “Everything tastes better after a hard day’s work.” There should be little doubt why Pennsylvanish Deitsch cooking remains so popular, and our nation prizes all quality ethnic early American foods that should be shared by everyone.

There is nothing as quaint in our PA Dutch rural folk culture as the weekly churning of fresh butter among the households that number at least a few dairy cows. This ancient art form of churning cow’s cream into a delectable butter to be spread on homemade bread with or without apple butter was once the pride and joy of every early American PA Dutch housewife. But with this quaint practice, proud PA Dutch women, soon competed with one another for the very best achievement of butter spreads that were either the product of their dairy cows or the exemplary ability of their individual skill to churn homemade butter.

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H. Winslow Fegley’s lifelong hobby of photographing the countryside of southeastern Pennsylvania at the turn of the 20th Century made him realize at that time that automation was changing much of the historic landmarks, including out-buildings such as spring houses and bake ovens, which had survived with horse and buggy lifestyle. Winslow tried to photograph as many historic buildings and rural folklife, as possible. One of Winslow’s favorite areas for photographing was of course the Oley Valley. He shared this venture with a fellow photographer, Amandus Moyer, of Lobachsville. When Amandus Moyer wasn’t working his farm, he dabbled in a relatively new hobby for his period.

Camera in hand, he traveled the Manatawny region, photographing his humble farming neighbors and kin for the sake of posterity. One of the earliest photographers to capture the inhabitants of the Oley Valley, Moyer did not forget the hard working people in the Oley Hills, where his wife was born. Later in life, this enterprising Dutchman established the Amandus Moyer Lumber Hardware Co. at Gilbertsville. He enjoyed driving when the automobile industry was just beginning, and this mobility allowed him and his camera to record Berks County folklife where no photographer had gone before.