The Dairy Farm

One of the many out buildings.Maurice: In April of 1994 I pointed to a map of Acton and said to Darren lets check outside of town on Saturday. It may have been a sunny spring day, but the ground was still frozen in many shady spots. We spent most of our time at an abandoned farm with a small woodlot in back. I noticed small 1/2 pint milk bottles sticking out of the earth with embossed names. I was only successful in getting one out of the ground, being careful not to damage it. Darren and I agreed we would come back in a month. It is funny thinking back we did not get very excited about this find. We had no milk bottles of our own and knew nothing about them. Milk bottle fever had not infected us yet.

A month latter on a layoff week I drove my sister and nephew to visit an old friend in Acton. I excused myself for a few hours to check the farm. What I found was the ground was now ideal for digging, (dry but loose enough to get through it). With out getting to dirty I raked through the broken bottles we saw frozen amongst the many rock boulders. It did not take long before I had filled two bags of full milk bottles hidden between the rocks deeper in the ground. I found 1/2 pints and pints of Masales Jersey Dairy and Watson Dairy. I figured I had enough to show Darren and we would return on the weekend. I gave two to Carla who lives in Acton and she put them in the dishwasher and they survived and came out looking great for late 1930's early 1940's bottles.
Remains of the barn that burned down in the early 1970's.

Darren and I showed up early Saturday in the late May we could not believe how much broken milk bottles lay about. We figured this had to be an indication that there was a milk business here or a supplier. This dig was really fun you would find five or seven bottles at a time. Trying to get the initial one you saw, you would have to expand your hole and unearth all the surrounding bottles. I will not mention that I had three full bags while Darren was complaining because he had dug into where they broke all the bottles with rocks (now who would do that?) Oh I also won't mention I had to dig him a dozen bottles to keep him quiet. In the end Darren's little ford escort was full of bottles. It was our biggest single bottle haul then and still is. Approximately 130 1/2 pints, pints and quarts and they were all
Masales Jersey Dairy and Watson Dairy.

Darren: Our success continued for the rest of the year finding such bottles as; Erin Dairy quart,
Johnston's Dairy quart, Steel's Pure Clean Milk Queen Dairy half pint, Toronto Dairymen's Bottle Association pint, Propriete De L'union Des Laiters De Granby pint and Watson & Winton Dairy in quart, pint and half pint, and one coffin shape cobalt poison with RIGO on the base.

The following spring and early summer Maurice continue to find a few Masales 1/2 pints stuck between some rocks or nestled in some saplings roots but I did not return until late July when Maurice was in New Brunswick and I finally decided to poke around the property again. I started digging up a slight slope to one side of where we had been digging. It paid off and I unearthed a Silverwood's Cream Top all by itself. Needless to say when I told Maurice it rekindled hope in both of us and dreams of finding more bottles consumed us.

Remains of Cloverdale's dairy house.Maurice and I made a return visit to the place that we thought we were almost done with. We spent some time digging around the area where I had found the cream top. Not having much luck I decided to move back down the slope a bit even further from our original spot. I surveyed the area then started digging and almost immediately heard the sound of metal on glass. I cleared enough dirt to see it was an embossed quart but I could not budge it. I found it was jammed against another bottle which was in turn jammed against another bottle and so on and so on. I can't remember at what point I let Maurice know I just remember him flying from the slope beside me across to the other side and started digging madly. Funny thing was that Maurice was digging in a shallow test hole he dug half a year earlier and sure enough about a foot deeper he hit bottles. I must have had eight or nine quarts exposed before I actually pulled one from its long burial.

This time there was more diversity in the bottles we found many coming from Toronto and Guelph plus others such as; Donland's Dairy quart, Sani-Dairy quart,
Hamilton Dairymen's Bottle Association quart, Guelph City Dairy quart, Guelph Good For 5 Cents G.B.E. quart, Royal Milk Guelph quart, Valley Co-operative Creameries quart, Blantyre Dairy quart, several Silverwood's Safe Milk quarts, Cedarvale Farms Dairy pint, Royal (Guelph) ribbed pint, Rickert's pint, Glenholm Dairy pint, Weston Dairy pint, Caulfield’s (Toronto) pint, Elmhurst Dairy Ltd (Montreal) half pint, Purity Products half pint, Sanitary Dairy half pint and a Sunrise Dairy (North Bay) quart. Most of the bottles weren't broken and most were quarts and pints unlike the other section we had dug which was mostly pints and half pints. We cleaned out the area with another huge load of milk bottles still wondering what more this property would yield.

Label under glass Luxo For-the-Hair.: Digging out this section took most of the summer on the days we had time to come to Acton. With each dig we came closer and closer to the road and more exposed to those who might wonder what we were up to. Fortunately know one did bother us, not even the farmer who used the property as short cut with his tractor. Mother Nature was a little different however. After a rain storm it dropped an old dead vine infested tree right across our digging path. Our team work paid off in removing the obstacle, but the local chip monks became down right unnerving in their continued howling and screeching at our digging activity. I’ve let chip monks take peanuts from my lips but these guys were holy terrors. They dropped dead branches on us, made false runs at us and definitely told us off, just because we disturbed their buried treasure.

This front part of the property also yielded some none milk bottle items such as: Horlick’s Malted Milk - Toronto Canada half pint, Nonsuch International Stove Dressing - Toronto (clear), Trade mark Vaseline Chesebrough New York (clear), The Tube Of This Atomizer Is Made Of One Piece Fill To This Line - Pat May 18th 1894 (clear), Hires House Extract For Home Use Manufactured By Charles Hires Co Philadelphia Pa U.S.A. (aqua), Orange Crush 6 Fl oz (reg. Aug 22. 1921 / clear), ALB Bottle Not Sold Deposit Charged To Ensure Return (aqua), Tabloid B.W. & Co Wellcome Chemical Works – on lid (clear), Luxo For The Hair 3 In 1 Hair Tonic Head Rub Dandruff Cure - Jones Bros & Co Limited Toronto Canada (clear / pre 1906), Edwardsburg Crown Brand Registered Pure Corn Syrup Seal Jar (amethyst / square) and my first cobalt poison B.F.C. Co – Not To B Taken 40oz.

Darren: Once again we finished out the year poking around the property wondering just where they would have put more garbage. We dug into a fair sized ash pit alongside the driveway but at about 4 1/2 - 5 feet I hit clay and nothing to show for the hole I dug.

We returned the following spring and of course found a few more Masales half pints scattered here and there buried between rocks. There was one spot Maurice had thought about digging because of all the small rocks. This was along side the drive way, and it didn’t take long to find old class shards. When an old blank amethyst milk bottle came up, we both started digging near the driveway and worked our way back towards the hill. We soon learned that there were more rocks than bottles but the odd time you would find something to tease you.

James Copp Canada West soda with iron pontil circa 1860.Maurice: I now had a trench leading from the driveway right into the side of the hill.  I was finding lots of old blank aqua medicine bottles (believe it or not as novice diggers / collectors we use to keep this stuff). I also found some nice no name aqua and amber flasks. I still have in my collection the following: Underwood's Inks (clear), aqua coned Ink, aqua Carnold's ink , aqua L.E. Waterman Co ink, N. McGarvin Druggist Acton (amethyst), J.V. Kannawin & Co Listowell Ont (amethyst), two A.J. Mcdonald Elora (clear), The T. Eaton Drug Co Limited Toronto (clear / 13.5cm), Ayers Cherry Pectoral Lowell Mass (aqua), Hood’s Sarsaparilla Apothecaries C.I. Hood & Co Lowell Mass (aqua), Scott’s Emulsion Cod Liver Oil With Lime Soda (clear), two Northrop & Lyman Co Ltd Toronto Ont Internal Dr SN Thomas Eclectric Oil External (aqua and clear), Hamlin’s Wizard Oil (aqua), Norway Pine Syrup Wood’s Toronto Ont (aqua), Dr Pierce’s Golden Medical Discovery / R.v. Pierce M.D. Buffalo N.Y. (aqua) and a cracked red ware jug with missing handle and seal. Among other forgotten bottles I haves since replaced with better conditioned ones.

Darren: Further down from Maurice I was starting to get a little frustrated at all bottles I wasn't finding. I started with my reverse psychology "That's it I'm done, I'm packing it in and going home". Hey don't laugh it has worked before. So I looked behind
This is where most of the bottles were found. me towards the driveway where Maurice had been digging. "Hey Maurice are you done digging here? Do you mind if I dig this spot", I asked and he said okay.

I started digging and found that there were a lot of rocks in this spot. I kept at it and it was only about fifteen minutes when I saw the dark base of a bottle. It was completely pinned between three rocks so I didn't get my hopes up. I gradually exposed more of the bottle trying to feel some embossing and wondering how far along the bottle the sharp jagged edge would be. I removed the top rock and finally freed the bottle. It was a style of bottle we had never dug before. It was a deep aqua colour and I gave it a rub. Embossed words appeared
Copp Guelph C.W. I couldn't believe it and Maurice couldn't believe it either. "Hey I never told you that you could dig there", Maurice said jokingly. We thought this was a sign of things to come, but we never found any other soda bottles that age, not even shards.

It wasn’t until later that I found out how rare (one of two known back then, one more was dug in Guelph a few years back) and how valuable the bottle was. It appeared in the last issue of the Canadian Bottle and Stoneware Collector before it folded. The Copp is still the only Canada West I have dug and remains in my collection.

The following year the last finds on this property were more Masales half  pints and one still unlisted Savas & Savas Dairy pint, found below a mound of broken glass and shell casings.

Based on a local Acton contact and a early dairy photograph it is safe to conclude that this farm was once home to Cloverdale Dairy. In sum total 402 milk bottles were excavated. Somewhere on this old property exists the privy’s and other unfound trash pits waiting to be discovered.

More Photographs...

Another shot of the farm remains. Maurice digging a older section where the Copp C.W. was found. Another view of the dairy house. The old residence slowly decaying.

This story appeared in the Canadian Bottle and Stoneware Collector magazine volume 8, issue 3 - November 2003.