ebook  History of Watertown, Wisconsin


Van Camp Packing Co

500 Milford Road




Wheelock Prentice Bingham.  Born: 1870, Indianapolis, Marion, IN.  Mar: 15 Sep 1900 Pearl Pence.


Wheelock went to work for the Pan Handle Railway, part of the Pennsylvania Railroad, when he was seventeen. He worked for them until 1905 when he was hired by Van Camp Packing Company at its plant in Effingham, IL. He became expert in plant operation and was called upon to build a new Van Camp milk facility in Watertown, WI.  He was appointed its superintendent in 1908.  His daughter, Ione Rose, graduated from Watertown high school in 1919.  




John N. Dittemore, vice-president of the Van Camp Packing Company arrived in the city last night in an effort to interest the citizens of Watertown and the farmers adjacent thereto in securing a $100,000 condensing plant — the only exactment being the contracting for 40,000 pounds of milk daily from the farmers . . . Mr. Dittemore is very much impressed with Watertown as a field for their industry from the view-point of shipping facilities, sites, etc . . .  it is a case of quick action, as the demand for their products necessitate the erection of a new milk condensing plant as soon as possible.


If Watertown and the farmers adjacent want this industry which will give steady employment to 100 people, furnishing an excellent market for milk at the highest market prices, it is necessary for them to do some active work, as it was clearly gathered from Mr. Dittemore’s conversation last evening that they have no time to waste, as other cities are holding out strong inducements, among which might be mentioned Elkhorn, Beloit, Janesville, Waupun, Whitewater and Plymouth, as well as several cities in northern Illinois.


When pressed for an answer as to what conclusion had been arrived at relative to the chances for Watertown securing the plant, Mr. Dittemore was rather undecided . . . He was not satisfied with the progress made in the preliminary work — the signing of contracts and so expressed himself . . .


“If we are assured milk from 2,500 cows within a radius of six miles of Watertown, we will erect our plant here.” said Mr. Dittemore, “but we MUST have this assurance within the next three days,” added the gentleman


1907  06 05

Many of the citizens of Watertown are now guessing as to what decision will be arrived at by the officials of the Van Camp Packing company relative to the proposition of erecting their $100,000 condensing plant here . . . A meeting of some of the members of the Watertown Advancement Association was held yesterday morning to confer with John N. Dittemore in an effort to arrive to some definite plan of action.  Mr. Dittemore generously consented to hold the proposition open till the 15th of June . . . It was proposed by Mr. Dittemore that the local association name a delegation of six - four farmers and two business men - to visit the plant of the concern at Wauseon, Ohio . . . The company agrees to pay the expenses of the delegation on the trip.


1907  06 09

Things begin to look more rosy for the landing of the proposed condensing plant of the Van Camp Packing Co. of Indianapolis, Ind., in this city at a cost of $100,000.  The sending of a committee of six to Wauseon, Ohio, to inspect the plant there was a happy thought on the part of John V. Dittemore when in the city last week.


. . . A letter was received last evening which shows that the members of the committee are very enthusiastic over the project and their enthusiasm will no doubt act as stimulance for other citizens of the city to “strike while the iron is hot” and land this industry which seems desirous to come to Watertown - and will come practically for the asking.


1907  06 22

Still there is hope of securing in Watertown the establishment of a condensing plant by the Van Camp Packing company . . . John Dittemore . . . was a visitor in the city for a few hours yesterday, to size up the situation and ascertain what progress had been made . . . While Mr. Dittemore was still determined as to the number of cows that must be contracted for - 2,000 - in order to assure the location of the industry, he still held out a ray of hope that Watertown might be successful, as is evidenced in the fact that the gentleman agreed to send a representative here next week to go into the country and canvass among the farmers in a further effort to bring the contracts up to the required amount. Mr. Dittemore was very positive in the statement that the 2,000 cows contracted for on the start must be in close proximity to the city. He said that in two years from the time of the completion of the plant, the concern would expected to receive 100,000 pounds of milk daily . . . An investigation of the contracts yesterday shows that the milk from 1,400 cows has been contracted. As this leaves but 600 to secure, it would seem that this number could be secured the coming week, providing good hard work is put in.


1907  06 28

Watertown is to get the new condensing plant of the Van Camp Packing company of Indianapolis, Ind.


This was the decision arrived at last evening by . . .  the vice-president of the company who arrived in the city yesterday noon . . .  The gentleman came to listen to the report of C. D. Van Derson, the superintendent of the Van Camp condensing plant at Effingham, Ill., who had been in the city for the past few days contracting with the farmers in an effort to assure milk from 2,000 cows.


. . .  it was announced that 1,758 cows had been contracted for, leaving 242 short of the number which the representatives of the company said would be exacted. Mr. Van Derson took a trip out to the south and east of the city yesterday morning and succeeded in contracting for 24 more cows, bringing the total up to 1,782.


Throughout yesterday there was much speculation in the minds of Watertown citizens as to whether or not this industry . . .  would come to Watertown or not. A few appeared to feel confident, while others were prone to believe that . . .  the industry had slipped through our fingers, owing to the fact that the number of cows contracted for had not reached the 2,000 mark.


1907  07 24

Inquiries have been numerous regarding the condensing plant of the Van Camp Packing Company.  Owing to the quietness, there has been a belief among a few that condensing in Watertown had become a dead issue.  The Leader is pleased to set at rest any such doubt this morning with the announcement that the plant is an assured thing.


A telegram was received yesterday from Indianapolis, Ind., by one of our business men and pushers for the industry, the message being from John V. Dittemore, the vice president of the concern.  The message stated that the company's architect was busily engaged on the plans, which would be finished this week, also that bids for the erection of the $100,000 plant would be received on Thursday or Friday of this week and the contract let some time next week.


The delay was occasioned in the failure to get a survey of the Crangle property, which is to be the site for the new plant.  This held the architect back.  The survey was made about ten days ago and since the receipt of the report, the architect has been busily engaged in perfecting the plans.


While Mr. Dittemore did not state in his message just what time building operations would be commenced, the chances are that the first of August will see “something doing” in the vicinity of the junction, as it is known that the firm is anxious to get the factory up and in operation as soon as possible. 


1907  07 27

. . . Plans for the new condensing plant arrived yesterday and are now at the Wisconsin National Bank and the specifications are expected today, when the bids are to be received . . . The contract would be let early next week and the work of constructing the building rushed to completion.


As is known to the majority of the citizens of Watertown, the site for the new $100,000 condensing plant is the Crangle triangle piece of land at the junction of the Milwaukee and North-Western road, the land being approximately 2 1/2 acres. The plans call for a modern fire proof structure, 116x178 feet, the dimensions being a little different than was at first planned. The plant will be two stories in height together with a power house of sufficient size to house six 100 horsepower boilers. The building will be of steel frame and pressed brick. The finishing on the inside for handling the milk will be of copper. The architect has provided for beauty as well as convenience giving an appearance different from an ordinary factory.


1907  10 03

Oscar Hecker, of Sheboygan, an iron worker employed at the Van Camp packing company building now under course of construction, met with a very painful and rather serious accident yesterday morning while engaged in riveting iron, was struck in one of his eyes by a red hot bolt. The same had been thrown to workmen. The distance was misjudged and the same struck a beam and then hitting Mr. Hecker with the result that his eyelids were quite badly burned. The physician in charge was of the belief that the eye would not be affected as a result of the mishap. The gentleman will be laid up for several days, however.


1907  11 01

Any person who has not taken advantage of the opportunity to note the progress being made in the erection of the Van Camp condensing plant, could not spend an hour or two more profitably this afternoon than to visit the scene and take observations. The new industry is fast nearing completion and it is certainly a gem in architecture and a credit to the contractor . . . The building is also a credit to the city and enables Watertown to boast of as fine a factory building as there is in the state . . . It is complete in every detail and appointment and the citizens of the city can point to it with pride as a local industry.


A visit to the scene yesterday revealed the fact that the building is now fast nearing completion.


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1907  11 19

The finishing touches at the Van Camp condensing plant preparatory to the installing of the machinery are being made at a rapid rate and barring any unforeseen delays the new industry will be in operation by the first of January. . . . In speaking of the progress of the work, Mr. Milikan [contractor] said yesterday to representative of The Leader: “We will see the completion of the plant ready for the steam fitters within 100 days from the time we begin operations which is very good considering the fact that over half a million bricks were used and also because we were inconvenienced somewhat in delays,” Mr. Milikan expects to bring his work to a finish not later than the end of next week and possibly a little sooner.” . . . It is the largest job of the kind ever let in Watertown, there being about 1,700 square feet of concrete flooring to be laid . . . Three large boilers have been placed in the boiler room and three mammoth smokestacks erected It is an imposing structure of solid white pressed brick, with red trimmings.


1907  12 11

Unless something unforeseen happens to prevent, the condensing plant of the Van Camp Packing Company will be in operation on the first of January. The factory is fast assuming completion, most of the machinery already having been installed. The machinery and equipment already in place are two sterilizers, a vacuum fan, three forheaters, (sic), a shaking machine, a hot water heater, and three boilers. The electric wiring has all been completed and a large dynamo installed. A large ninety horsepower engine arrived the latter part of last week and is being installed at the present time, it being expected that the work will be completed today or tomorrow, the same to furnish the power for the plant.


A copper milk tank, a copper scale tank and cream tanks are yet to arrive . . .  will begin operations with about forty employees, but expects to increase the number ... Mr. Bingham expects to notify the farmers sometime this week when to begin bring in milk to the plant ...



-- --         MIKE BEGAN, SUPERINTENDENT (Beggan)


John Beggan, brother of Mike Began (Beggan) in front of Van Camp. Mike was superintendent of Van Camp in 1908 before moving to Effingham Il. to supervise their condensery.    Contributed by Mary Beggan Mueller


1908   02 09

Some idea of what the Van Camp Packing Company is doing in the way of distribution of money among the farmers adjacent to Watertown can be gained from a list of farmers, together with the amounts they have received for milk for the month of January, first month of operation of this new industry.  It not only shows what has been done during, the first month but gives an idea of what will be the future benefits, for it should be remembered that the month of January is the very poorest month of the year, also that the plant is new and is hardly in smooth running order yet.  There are sixty-five farmers who have received over $50 for the month, making a total of $5,753.85.  There are many who have received less than $50 for January, the total making $2,560.20.  Thus the total amount paid out for January is $8,143.05, payment to be made on the 15th inst.


This is only a starter and the superintendent of the local plant informs The Leader that he expects the amount will increase from month to month till the total for the first month of operation will look like an insignificant sum . . . 02 09 1908


The second month (February) of operations for the Van Camp Packing Company at its condensing plant in this city shows quite an increase over the first month, despite the fact that February is the short month.  The amount to be paid out for the February delivery is $10,298.88, an increase of $2,153.83 over the preceding month.  The total number of pounds of milk received during the month of February is 619,293.  This gives an idea of what the increasing business means to the farmers adjacent to Watertown, who for the months of January and February have received $1.65 per hundred pounds.  The Leader again takes pleasure in publishing a list of the 85 farmers who have received over $50 for their February delivery of milk, while there are many who have received less than $50.   03 12 1908


01 03       A. J. Volkmann and wife of Wauseon, Ohio, arrived in the city Saturday evening to make Watertown their home, having taken up residence quarters in the Hertel & Hoffmann building on Main Street.  Mr. Volkmann will have charge of the sealing department at the Van Camp condensing plant.  B. Peirson, also from Wauseon, is here to have charge of the pan department; his family to join him later.


03 14       Twenty-eight thousand pounds of milk is being received daily at the Van Camp Condensing factory and the receipts are increasing, and will continue to increase until midsummer, when the grass will be at its best. The company is adding to its force at the factory until it looks like a bee-hive when the factory is in operation. 


09 04       M. A. Began of local plant left for Effingham, Ill. Facility    WG


10 02       GORDER FACTORY RENTED.  Wm. Gorder has leased his factory in First [Water?] Street, just vacated by the M. D. Wells Shoe Co., to the Van Camp Packing Co., receiving $600 a year rental.  The Van Camp Co. intended enlarging their factory in Milford Street, but for the present will not do so, but will use the Gorder factory for storage purposes, there being no room in their factory for that purpose.   WG


11 27       A 275 feet deep well drilled; plant consumes 80,000-100,000 gallons of water a day.   WG


12 25       Amount of water pumped by city was enormous on account of Van Camp Co.    WG




A Fine Christmas Gift.  The employees of the Van Camp Packing Co., this city, presented Superintendent W. P. Bingham with an elegant mission clock as a Christmas gift.  The gift was most worthily bestowed and Mr. Bingham appreciates it very much.     WG


03 26       $12,000 addition to plant; principally for storage    WG


04 30       Impact of proposed interurban route change   WG


08 13       Trouble with farmers over prices paid for milk    WG




Van Camp Packing Co 1910, Condensed Milk Factory

Van Camp Packing Co 1910c, postcard



02 08       W. P. BINGHAM INJURED

W. P. Bingham, superintendent of the Van Camp Condensery, had his foot crushed last Saturday by a heavy box he was handling falling on it.  He is able to be around with the aid of crutches.   WG



Van Camp Packing Co 1913c, PC_116



02 19       OVER 1,000 TONS OF MILK IN JANUARY

The Van Camp milk condensery of Watertown paid to farmers $38,055.59 for 2,016,345 pounds of milk in January.  Besides this large amount paid to farmers, the local condensery has a monthly payroll of $2500.   WG



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04 18       KARMA CORP. LOCATED AT 500 MILFORD  (former division of Brandt’s)

FORT ATKINSON - Karma Corporation of Watertown was named the Opportunities Inc. Employer of the Year during the seventh annual recognition banquet Thursday evening at The Fireside in Fort Atkinson.  Formerly a division of Brandt Inc., Karma was purchased last year by its management group.  It has been in Watertown since 1970, currently occupying a 36,000-square-foot building on Milford Street and employing about 30 people.  In addition to hiring Opportunities graduates, the firm also helps with interviews and job tryouts.




     WDTimes article




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History of Watertown, Wisconsin