Many of the pioneers who moved to the Tillamook Valley brought with them a cow or two to provide their family with fresh milk and butter. A few even made their own version of cheese called “Dutch cheese” or what was probably also called pot cheese. According to all accounts, it was similar to cottage cheese.
Surrounded by a generous supply of milk, a few folks attempted to make a harder cheese, like cheddar. It really was the product of choice since it was easier to store and transport. Butter would often turn rancid before it could reach the markets. But cheese, especially a cheese like cheddar, could survive a journey on a trading vessel.
A man by the name of Merriman Foland left New York after fighting with the Union Army during the Civil War. After serving time as a prisoner of war, he moved to California and spent time working at a dairy learning to make cheese. In 1878, he packed his belongings and moved to Beaver, Oregon, with his wife.
With his acquired knowledge and all the milk, he decided he was going to make cheese. He was so sure he remembered the recipe. Well, he didn’t. His first batch of cheese was a disaster. Some of the cheese rounds were so swollen with trapped gasses that they rolled right off the shelves. Other rounds exploded! The entire batch was inedible.
“I must not have remembered very well how they made them cheeses in California,” he remarked to a friend.
Merriman was a workaholic and he kept working at that recipe until he made an edible batch of cheese. He didn’t have an opportunity to get much further than that. Shortly after his triumph, he died in 1893.
But 1893 was a turning point in Tillamook County’s history of cheesemaking. It was a year that forever set us on the path as being cheddar country. More on that later…