Stories from the stone creamery on Champeny
On the northwest corner of Champeny Drive and Maple Avenue stands a stone building that has been called the "Cheese Factory," the "Sussex Alamo," the "Old Champeny Creamery," and "The Lisbon Co-operative Creamery."
The name Cheese Factory is completely wrong because it was a creamery that produced butter. It was built in1892 by Tiley Champeny who was a butter maker with his father, who ran Edward's Farm. After the death of his father on Sept. 7, 1891, Champeny came into a large inheritance and expecting it, he planned for a large production of butter.
Edward and William Champeny were 1840s pioneers in the Town of Lisbon who eventually owned more than 370 acres. At one time they owned the entire mile of land that fronted on the north side of Maple Avenue and went west on Main Street to Highway 164 today. During another time, they owned the entire mile of the west side of Maple Avenue from Main Street to Good Hope Road.
Not only were they successful land holders and farmers, but Edward started a four corners of Sussex general store in 1852 and ran it until 1884 when he disposed of the business to A.J. Elliott. Today, the site of this general store is the vacant lot on the northwest corner of Main and Maple. The land that William had most notably has the Sussex Pick 'n Save today.
Tiley's butter factory
Both Champenys were born in Somersetshire, England; William in 1814 and Edward in 1816. Both came to Lisbon in 1842 with Edward going back to Somersetshire in 1845 to marry Elizabeth Martin who he brought back to Lisbon in 1846. They had 10 children but five died young, three at 2 years, one at age 4 and the fifth at age 18. The five that were alive at Edward's death in 1891 were Anna, Tiley or "T.M.", Frank, Charles and Edwin. According to the late Roy Stier, each of the sons got $60,000 in inheritance, and Tiley used his to become a butter maker.
Tiley built his English/rural Gothic rubble construction lime stone factory and equipped it with two big cream separators and a butter-making churn. His first day of production on May 26, 1892, he made 60 pounds. It grew to 162 pounds in 1893. After this success, he started to branch out with factories in Menomonee Falls, Monches, Lake Five, Marcy (near Richmond School) and even in Fargo, North Dakota, where his brother, Frank, was a merchant.
However, Tiley who was formerly a member of the Temperance Prohibition Party became a Democratic Party voter and married Laura Overbaugh of the Fox River Valley, Appleton area in 1886.
There was a death from an industrial accident in the Town Line Road, Menomonee Falls plant and along with Tiley's drinking and business reverses he was out of business in 1901. The bankruptcy case was finally settled around 1934.
Around 1904, C.G. Daniels took over the creamery in Sussex, he purchased the defunct creamery for $1,000. Daniels continued using the left over stock of Chapeny butter crocks to package his product until they were gone. These mostly blue-imprinted crocks and some pink imprinted have become collector items. Some years ago, a pristine, pink 2-pound crock went for $362.50 at an auction. The Sussex-Lisbon Area Historical Society has a pink and two blue printed Champeny butter crocks.
C.G. Daniels also made ice cream at his Sussex creamery and limped along running the business buying milk from local farmers but never realized too much success. And in 1913, the plant was down again and to preserve its market for locally produced milk, a herd of Lisbon farmers combined to form the Lisbon Cooperative Creamery. They issued stock to farmers who paid in to restart the butter business. The key people in the restart were George Elliott, Walter Rankin, Westly Connell and Andrew L. Butler.
They ran into a problem as Sussex was not well-served by the railroad and the trucking of milk was starting to take off. Farmers could haul their big milk cans to the depot and a special train would quickly haul them to Milwaukee fluid milk companies. Shortly after, the railroads lost this business as milk trucks came online to offer farm pickup of milk and the butter and cheese factories of Waukesha started to disappear.
The Lisbon Cooperative Creamery was listed n the 1923 "Farm Journal Illustrated Rural Directory of Waukesha County," but it was headed for bankruptcy and would soon close down forever.
Inventor coverts factory
Around this time in 1926, there was a Chicago- and Waukesha-connected inventor named Roy P. Owen who bought the derelict plant for his large family. His intention was to convert the plant into a home. Owen is credited for his inventions of a water-facet driven small butter churn and most profitably, a malted milk powder dispenser for the Thompson Malted Milk Co.
He bought the factory and revamped it into a show place. The old butter factory that was turned into a stone castle-spacious home with great outside amenities was even featured in the Milwaukee Journal.
In the October 1933 Sussex Directory and Telephone Numbers produced by the Jannsens of Waukesha, parts of the Owens family are listed living at 225 Maple Ave. with telephone number 46R32. There are children listed as Dorothy, Mildred and Ralph with parents listed as Roy P. and wife Pearl who is listed as a teacher.
Soon afterward, there is a slip of advertising in the Milwaukee Journal that was found around 1938 in a drawer at the Sussex State Bank that advertises the sale by R.P. Owen of the remodeled butter factory for $2,500. The building now had a hot water heater, oil burner, built-in fireplace, artesian well, automatic water system, lily ponds and an outdoor clay tennis court.
The Fuchs family bought it around 1934. According to source Betty Mindemann, they lived in it until 1943 but other sources say until 1946. The Fullers moved to Sussex in 1939 and lived in a North Maple Avenue home just a few doors down from the Fuchs. The Fullers included Stanely Fuller and wife, Marie, first-born son Stanley Jr. and second-born Betty, (today Betty Mindemann), plus three more sisters and brothers.
Betty's memories of the converted factory were of a mahogany beamed lower library and the fish pond. She remembers that when she was learning to drive, she ended up with the car in the fish pond. Her brother Stanley graduated in 1945 and Betty in 1946 from the then two-year Sussex High School, which is the old Main Street School and today, Sussex Village Hall.
Meanwhile, the Fuller family lived in the butter factory home until the late 1960s when it sold for $20,000 to Donald Liesener who remodeled the single-family home into four rental units. It's estimated Liesener owned the property from 1969 to 1973. It was later sold to Diane Longseth.
The property eventually became badly neglected and the most recent owner, Thomas Pastor, hired a company to raze the building. The demo crew said it will dispose of the wood, recycle the metal and the stone walls will be crushed and repurposed into gravel. The property is zoned multi-family, Village officials said they did not know what Pastor plans to do with the property, but that he did want to have the building removed before the first of the year.