Thursday, March 8, 2012

Addenda to Fredonia Food Processing Industry
Submitted by Douglas H. Shepard, February 2012

Gleason Grape Juice Company: Founded in Ripley, it could not compete with Fred Randall and his Randall's Grape Juice Company, so moved to Fredonia. When William Walker purchased the Gleason operation i 1909, he did not represent a syndicate, but a solely-owned business financed by his father, Francis Walker - founder and principal owner of the Erie Lithography Company. William's objective was to test his ability to operate a grape processing business, with the idea of establishing a state-of-the-art facility in North East. After one year in Fredonia, his father agreed to finance the new Grape Products Company to produce Walker's Grape Juice and the new plant was constructed in North East. Walker closed the Gleason operation when the new plant opened in 1910. Oddly enough, Grape Products Company only lasted one year and the bankrupt company and its facility in North East was purchased from the court by Dr. Charles Welch. Welch put the facility into operation in 1912 and it has survived to this day - accounting for 52% of the Concord grape juice and jelly production of Welch Foods.

The Cudahy family established their juice processing business in Fredonia about two years prior to Armour purchasing the Chautauqua Fruit & Grape Juice Company of Westfield from Byron Fenner. While Armour had been in the "grocery" food processing business since the late 1880s, they did not enter into the grape juice business until taking over operation of the plant in Westfield in 1914.

The Pomfret Fruit Company was a fresh table grape packing and shipping business, owned and operated by local grape growers Lowell and Marsh. There is no record indicating that they did any fruit processing during the years the company was in business.

Sources consulted:
Gleason/Walker connection - Erie Dispatch, North East Breeze, and Walker family journals.
Armour - Westfield Republican, The Grape Belt, and Armour corporate documents.
Additionally, the Pomfret Fruit Company confirmation comes from extensive research from numerous sources on local table grape shipping companies from 1870 to 1940 and the absence of the company name in the compilation of Chautauqua County grape juice processors in the research of H. H. Meyer.

The above generously provided by John Slater, Grape Belt Historian

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