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The Milk Had to Get Through

Home Delivery in Tucker County

By Carl E. Feather

Snow more than three feet deep surrounded the homes of Thomas in Tucker County. Three miles up the Western Maryland Railroad line, the storm had closed the only road to Douglas. The tracks were now the mining town's only connection to the outside world.

Charles and Chester Teets, two of the five "sons" in Preston County's "W.L. Teets & Sons" dairy, decided to brave the storm. Sixteen miles of treacherous Backbone Mountain road lay between their farm in Eglon, known as Maple Hurst, and their mining town customers. The milk, like the mail, had to get through.  

Milk bottle
Maple Hurst Farm adopted a stock logo for bottles after John Teets came up with a new name for the dairy business. Photo by Carl E. Feather
Arriving in Thomas, Charles waded waist-deep snow to deliver the ice-cold, fresh milk to the homes. When Chester saw the road to Douglas was blocked by drifts, he loaded a pair of metal milk carriers with sixteen quarts and walked the three miles to Douglas on the railroad tracks. The town's babies and youngsters got their milk, despite the storm.

"I don't think we missed more than a dozen days of delivering milk the entire time we had the dairy," says David Teets, a Horse Shoe Run resident and brother to Charles and the late Chester. David says his family took its obligation of delivering milk very seriously, despite the challenges of weather, mountains, and perilous economic times in the 1930's and '40's.

In retrospect, their dairy's milk delivery route was much more of a "convenience" than today's dairy markets and so-called "convenience" stores. Teets' home delivery ensured that neither the coal miner's nor the businessman's wife need leave the house for fresh milk. Seven days a week, she could have as little as a pint of fresh milk delivered to the doorstep. And if the family lived in Thomas, Davis, Douglas, or Benbush, they could get milk delivered fresh twice a day in the summer months.

William Lindsey Teets was a school teacher/farmer who turned full-time farmer when a Democrat became school superintendent and ousted the Republican teacher from his post. He and his wife Dora Elma turned their attention to expanding their farm on Gnegy Church Road, a steep, narrow path that connects Gnegy Church, Maryland, to Route 24 in West Virginia. W.L. and Dora Elma had plenty of help for their dairy: five boys; John, Chester, Charles, Ellis, and David; and one girl, Elmina. The family farm was typical in its production of vegetables, pork, eggs, and milk to feed the family of eight. Extra potatoes, eggs, butter, maple syrup, and produce were peddled to acquaintances in nearby coal mining towns, the largest of which were Thomas, and Kempton, Maryland.

David Teets says his parents decided to expand their produce delivery route to a dairy business after their maple syrup sales were challenged by the owner of another dairy. James Hamilton owned Gladeview Dairy, which was located on Route 50 in Maryland, between Red House, Maryland, and the West Virginia state line. The dairy's territory extended from Rowlesburg to Thomas. David says his family and Hamilton had always gotten along until one day when the two men tried peddling their products in Rowlesburg at the same time.

"We had a sugar camp where we made maple syrup," David says. "And we had hogs we butchered and made sausage. Dad and Chester decided to go to Rowlesburg and sell maple syrup and sausage — Chester had become acquainted with people there when he delivered milk for Mr. Hamilton. It so happened that Mr. Hamilton was down there delivering milk at the same time. Dad went over and said, ‘Hi, Mr. Hamilton.' But he just blew up at my dad. He said the only reason my dad was down there was to sell milk. Dad said no, but Mr. Hamilton wouldn't believe him. And Dad said ‘Maybe if that's the way you feel about it, then maybe we should just start in the dairy business.'"

You can read the rest of this article in the Spring 1999 issue of Goldenseal, available in bookstores, libraries or direct from Goldenseal.