Back and Forth: The Pine Hill Dairy was popular

Pine Hill Dairy fleet 1936.jpg

There was a time around a century ago there were small neighborhood dairies in Rochester, just as there were neighborhood grocery stores and myriad cheese factories in Dodge and Goodhue counties.

Today, we'll remember the Pine Hill Dairy, started by William M. Hennessey, three miles west of Rochester on U.S. 14. Today that is Olmsted County Highway 34. Hennessey owned several hundred acres surrounding the area which would later become Channel 10 television tower and studios in 1953.

Born in Rock Dell in 1866, Hennessey's family of eight children learned how to work on the farm and dairy business. The Hennesseys first started delivering milk to nearby farms and in 1921 started bringing milk to Rochester businesses in an old truck. Stops included the Zumbro Cafeteria, the Old Olympia Café and the Franciscan nuns at the motherhouse. Early customers realized the milk came unpasteurized but bought it anyway, trusting the Hennesseys. Milk back then in the '20s and early '30s was sold by "grades."

According to Tom Hennessey, who sold the Pine Hill Dairy in 1966 to Marigold Dairies, the height of the family business came in the late 1930s when it had 12 employees and 1,000 customers served by a fleet of 5 trucks. In 1927 the city was growing and the Hennessey family moved the Pine Hill Dairy into town near Cascade Creek at 223 8½ Avenue N.W., not far from the Star Bread Bakery. In recent years that became the WorkForce Center. Tom still owns the Pine Hill Dairy building, using it as storage.

When Tom Hennessey, grandson of William M. Hennessey, the founder and son of William R. Hennessey, sold Pine Hill Dairy to Marigold Dairies in 1966, the little business was still delivering to hundreds of customers, including this writer's home on West Center Street 3 blocks west of the Miracle Mile.


We loved the personal touch of Tom coming in and putting milk and eggs right in the fridge. Tom told me "things were changing at that time as more mothers were working elsewhere and doors were locked. That began the demise of home delivery."

A historical picture in Tom's collection shows the Pine Hill Dairy float in the 1929 Rochester parade observing the city's 75th anniversary. Standing beside the rose-bedecked Pine Hill milk truck were the four brothers, all sons of William M. They were William R., Walter, Leo, and John. The 4 boys bought the dairy from their father, and in 1950 William R. bought out his brothers and ran the business until his death in 1961. That's when Tom took over for the last 5 years of the business.

In those early 1920s the Hennesseys brought milk and cream into town in a horse drawn wagon. Cans of milk were selling for 75 cents per hundredweight. Gradually pasteurization and bottling began and the rest is history .

Next week:My father survived a lightning strike in 1926 – 87 years ago.

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