Pinconning, Michigan: How It Became the State’s “Cheese Capitol”
It's a small Michigan town known for its cheese...so much so, that even the Kraft Company had their own plant here!
According to cityofpinconning.org, Pinconning's roots go back to 1872 when George VanEtten and Henry Kaiser were impressed by the plethora of different types of trees: birch, cedar, elm, fir, maple, oak, spruce, and white pine. With a river close-by, they made the decision to turn the area into a lumber settlement.. With all the forests came a plentiful amount of food: berries, fish, game, nuts.....and potatoes. In fact, the area was so rich in potatoes, that is what the village became known as: “O-pin-nin-con-ing”, the Chippewa word for “a place of potatoes”.
By 1873, along with the lumber company came a company store, post office, sawmill, and a handful of shops and stores to accommodate the lumbermen and their families.
The Pinconning and Kaiserville Railroad came through in 1873 and made lumbering much easier: floating logs down the river gave way to the faster way of transporting the timber by train. Faster service meant more productivity, bringing more money, making Pinconning grow more prosperous. The train also was the main mode of transportation, as no land was cleared yet for any roads. It wasn't until 1920 when Pinconning finally got their first non-dirt road, paved with stones.
The Pinconning Creamery started up in 1907 by William Reid. Thanks to Reid, an acquaintance from cheese-laden Wisconsin, Daniel Horn, soon moved to Pinconning, bringing all his cheese know-how with him. There was a lack of refrigeration which threatened the new cheese factory's output. So Horn developed a cheese that could stay good in temperatures over 40. This new cheese was then called “Pinconning” cheese, still being made to this day, causing a sprout of cheese shops in the downtown area and along the nearby roadsides.
Thanks in part to this new brand of cheese – as well as Pinconning's other popular cheeses – Kraft decided to put their own cheese factory in Pinconning. Was that supposed to be a tribute or a competition? Kraft's plant opened in 1936 and lasted a good 57 years until it closed in 1993.
The gallery below shows some old photos of Pinconning and some of their cheese shops as well!
Vintage Photos of Pinconning
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