The Sego Milk Plant in Galt, CA
In 1917, Galt was the center of a large agricultural area dotted by many dairy farms with milk to be shipped to market. Fred Harvey, son of Obed Harvey who founded Galt, was a dairyman and saw the need for a closer market. He was responsible for interesting the Utah Condensed Milk Company in establishing a plant in Galt. He and some dairymen and businessmen of the community worked to obtain the property near the railroad tracks on which the Sego Plant could build. The acquisition of the property was enough to convince the Utah Condensed Milk Company that Galt really wanted them.
On Jan. 5, 1917, The Galt Herald reported, "The superintendent, bookkeeper, and manager will come from the Utah Plant, while the rest of the employees, totaling forty, will be selected locally. One girl will be necessary in the office; one in the laboratory, and four in the factory." The rest of the employees were men employed to work in and about the plant receiving the milk from the dairies and shipping the finished product, evaporated milk known as "Pet Milk." The salaries ranged from $2 a day to $125 a month.
On Feb. 7, 1917, the Sacramento Union ran the headline, "Big $200,000 Condensed To Be Formally Thrown Open at Galt on February 7th." Although the milk condenser had been in operation since the previous May, it was not formally opened until then. The article that followed outlined the celebration that was planned. A delegation from Sacramento, which included representatives of the Consolidated Chamber of Commerce and the Retail Merchants Association, the Sacramento Boys Band, and the Chamber of Commerce Quartette, would join the citizens of Galt and the officials of the Utah Condensed Milk Company for a gala luncheon and music, followed by a tour of the plant. On that day, the schools were closed, and the children and adults who toured the plant received a sample can of the new product, "Sego Milk".
Milk began coming in from the dairies around Galt on Sept. 19,1917. Mr. G. Barsetti was the first in the area to bring in a load of cans laden with milk. Lafe Ward was second; Tully Kreeger came third. Gus Gerling, The Aitnow family, Ben Stevens, Lloyd and Clarence Hauschildt, Carl and Freddie Johnson, Harry Meirs, Ben Menicucci, Mrs. Louisa Krull and son Robert, Ernest Gudel, James Lavagnino, Pete Masdonati, John Fry, Hans Madsen and Fred Harvey were all local dairymen who shipped their milk to the local plant.
To get the milk to the plant required hauling it twice daily. The first milk was hauled in Autocar trucks. By October 1917 the second of these trucks was purchased. The first milk hauler was Harry Ambrose. Other early haulers were Frank Carpenter, Ben Beossow and Louis Patterson. The first field man for the Sego Milk Plant was George Smith.
Driving truckloads of milk to the plant once in the morning and once in the evening were Gus Gerling and Vic Johnson. By 1957 the milk haulers were self-employed men whose job it was to haul the milk to the Sego Milk Plant twice daily. Each morning they would go to the dairies, load the milk cans on their trucks, haul them to the Plant, unload them and, by the time they were through unloading, drive to the bottom of the ramp and load the clean, empty milk cans on their trucks. These were hauled back to the ranches when they made their second trip. In the evening they would repeat their route of the morning, taking the empty cans home to deliver when they hauled the morning milk.
The arduous task of lifting milk-filled cans into the plant and into trucks twice daily was accomplished by such men as John Mehlhaff, Irving Mehlhaff, Gus Mehlhaff; John F. Mehlhaff, Adolph Mehlhaff, Jack Weber, Chester Caldwell, Joseph Klaner, Don Uhrich, Rasmus Rasmussen, Melvin Welkler and Jeff Brown.
Sego Milk Plant grew and added a powdered milk plant and more warehouse space. They made both powdered milk and ice-cream powder which were especially important during the war years when shipping a perishable like milk to the Armed Services was impossible to do.
No history of the Sego Milk Plant could be complete without a mention of Robert Carpenter, the only man who worked at the Sego Milk Plant longer than the plant existed. Bob Carpenter began work two days before the first delivery of milk to be processed. It was he who fired up the boiler that brought about the power and heat to process the first Sego Evaporated Milk in Galt. It was also Bob Carpenter who planted the trees and roses and other lovely flowers which made the plant seem park-like, adding an attractive area to Galt.
Sego Milk Company grew, and it eventually outgrew the Galt plant. With no further expansion possible for the Galt plant, Sego closed the plant and sold the building to private ownership. Over a period of years, the old building had a number of owners. Each took away or sold some portion of the inside equipment, until there was only a shell of a building owned by someone outside the Galt area. The building fell into neglect. The grounds, once beautifully manicured, became dry and weed-ridden. Vagrants found it to be the ideal haven to spend the night when the weather was inclement. The victim of neglect, the old milk plant became an eyesore.
On the afternoon of Nov.24, 1992, as the rain began falling the old Sego building was destroyed by fire. Those who remembered its "glory days" stood by in sorrow as the major portion of the Sego Milk Plant was consumed. The next day, Thanksgiving Day, the remaining standing walls crumbled under the attack of a wrecker's crane. Folks from around the area came and stood in silence, some shaking their heads as if to say, "We've lost a friend."
Sego Milk had brought industry to the quiet town of Galt. It had brought employment not only for adults, but during the summer, it helped young people who needed to raise money for their college education. Its whistle, which could be heard throughout the area, started each work day, called time out for lunch, and closed each day at 5 p.m. The Sego Milk Plant was the heart of the community, the whistle was its heartbeat, and its connection to the dairies in the areas surrounding it. Looking at the ruins on the site today, we can only hope that someday soon the old Sego Milk Plant property will see gentler handling and care.
On the southeast corner of F and Third streets the old water tower is all that stands in 2004. This water tower and Galt's historic water tower are all that remain of the old water towers. All of the rubble at the Sego plant property has been cleaned out.
To read more about the history of the Pet Evaporated Milk Company click here.
Last edited 15 April, 2006