James Lorne Prentice, cheesemaker


James "Lorne" Prentice, born 7 Sept 1879 in Lanark Village, Lanark County, Ontario; died 11 Jan 1951, Perth, Ontario; buried in Lanark Village cemetery. He was the son of James Prentice, (b. Lanark 1846, d. Lanark Village 1880) and Marion Umpherson (b. 1850 in Umphers(t)ons Mills, Poland, Lanark Cty; d. 1918 Lanark Village, Ontario).

Grandpa James Lorne Prentice, was a cheese­maker in Lanark County for over 44 years. He travelled about the county working in and setting up small cheese factories – at Boyd's Settlement (where my mother Jessie Marion Prentice was born), in Drummond Centre, Hopetown, Watson's Corners and Balderson. Many of the smaller cheese factories scattered through­out the county had homes on the property for the cheese­maker and his family to live in, so Grandpa Prentice's address would change often as he went from small factory to factory for a couple of years at a time in his younger days. In 1922 he bought a home at 25 Mary Street, Perth, and stayed put while running the Balderson Cheese Factory. It was in this house we children would spend holiday time with our grand­parents. The last cheese factory he set up and ran was at Drummond­ville, Lanark County – he retired from there to 25 Mary Street.

J. Lorne Prentice & Kate Molyneaux wedding

James Lorne Prentice and
Kate Molyneaux wedding,
1905 in Hopetown, Ontario.

Cheese-making seemed to be a family affair – niece Vera Paul Closs wrote of her aunt Katie Jane Molyneaux (Lorne Prentice's first wife): "She (Katie) worked so hard in the cheese factory at Boyd's Settlement; instead of Uncle Lorne (Prentice) hiring a helper she took the place of another man and did her washing and house work at night and her health got down and caused her lung trouble and Grandma (Jessie McLean Molyneaux) nursed her at home until she died." (in 1915).

Lorne was left with two young sons and a three-year-old daughter to raise. His mother, Marion Prentice Umpherson, herself widowed young and left to raise two young children, including Lorne and his sister Agnes, raised Lorne's children in the intervening years until he remarried to Christina Graham in 1919.

When we children were visiting we were expected to go along on these at least twice daily trips. With mixed feelings we went – inside the old building were huge, long vats of fermenting milk, the smell of which would make us woozy but didn't seem to affect the grand­parents. We were given what looked like big boat rowing oars and taught to walk slowly along the entire perimiters of these vats while dragging those big "oars" through the deep, thickening milk/cheese – stirring. The fresh milk ones were the best and easiest and "mine" to stir – the middle ones were for the stronger, older sisters, the rest were for the grandparents.

The smell of the place was, to me, horrific, and I wondered how my grand­parents could spend hours in there and come out upright. Our reward, however, was great – fresh cheese curds and a salt cellar – one could not eat fresh cheese curds unless sprinkled with salt, said my grand­father, and if he said so it must be so. Great round boxes of cheese were piled in the outer room, aging for various lengths of time while back in the house at Perth the kitchen table would appear naked without a salt cellar and a huge block of cheese snuggled under a big china cheese dish. That was the one thing we were allowed to help ourselves to – pry off huge chunks of cheese from the cheese dish and enjoy!

Children of James Lorne Prentice

Children of James Lorne Prentice:
Mervyn, James & Jessie.

A tall, hand­some, gentle man, Lorne spent his last years in the town of Perth, where he managed the local arena, living at 25 Mary St. where his widow continued to live after his death and until hers in 1969. He is buried in the Lanark Village Cemetery where the four generations of James Prentice's who had gone before him are buried; his son, James, was the 5th James Prentice. His eldest son Mervyn died at age 18 of TB and his daughter Jessie, my mother, had been his special delight who would break his heart. His daughter Christine, from his second marriage, did little better than my mother when it came to breaking her father's heart – both of his daughters were the exact opposite of him. The first child of his second marriage a son, William Graham Prentice, was still­born within a few weeks of the death of his son Mervyn. His third child of this second marriage, Edythe, was still­born as well. His son James Prentice 5th continued to live in the area (at Sharbot Lake) and cared for both Lorne and his stepmother until their deaths.

The last time I stopped in at the Balderson Cheese Factory it bore no resemblance to what we, as children, had known so well. Modern – no vats brewing up cheese anywhere near the place, I presumed, since no nauseous odour of old was discernable. An embarrassingly small piece of shrink-wrapped cheese was incredibly expensive and tasted just like any other cheese from any other super­market – gone was the distinctive "Balderson" cheese we knew, and there was nothing fresh about the fresh cheese curds. The entire place was a trendy boutique that would have made my grand­father turn around and run. The singular bit of my grand­father left in the place was his name engraved on a glass panel – if you look really hard, you can see it – if it's still there.

Prentice family at Balderson Cheese Factory, about 1942

Photo taken circa 1942 at the Balderson Cheese Factory, Balderson, Ontario.

L to R.: Christena Graham Prentice (2nd wife of James Lorne Prentice), Marjorie Huffman Prentice (wife of James Thomas Prentice), James Lorne Prentice, Christine Prentice (daughter of Christena & Lorne Prentice), and James Thomas Prentice (son of James Lorne Prentice & Katie Jane Molyneaux Prentice).
Child in front: Marion Palmer (granddaughter of James Lorne Prentice & daughter of Jessie Marion Prentice & Joseph George Palmer).

Lanark Era, 4 May 1898: Mr. Lorne Prentice is engaged as assistant cheesemaker in the Hopetown cheese factory.

Lanark Era, 3 May 1899: Lorne Prentice assumed his duties as assistant cheesemaker at Hopetown.

Lanark Era, 14 Feb 1900: Mr. Lorne Prentice of this place has been engaged as cheesemaker for the Watson's Crs. cheese factory.

Lanark Era, 4 April 1900: Personal Mention: Mr. Lorne Prentice returned on Saturday from Kingston where he had been taking a course in the Dairy school.

Lanark Era, 10 Apr. 1901: Mrssrs. Lorne Prentice and John Darou arrived home last week from Kingston where they had been taking a course in the Dairy School. Both are re-engaged for the coming season, the former at Watson's Corners and the latter for a factory near Eganville.

Lanark Era, 12 Apr 1905: Wed. April 5, 1905, Marriage: J. Lorne Prentice to Katie, eldest daughter of Mr. & Mrs. Thomas Molyneaux Jr. Married at 6 p.m. in the home of Katie Molyneaux's parents in the house directly beside cemetery in Hopetown, Lanark Cty On. Witnesses at their wedding were James Umpherson (his cousin) and Janet Gunn (her 1st cousin); John Pate, Minister of Hopetown Cong. Church.

Lanark Era, Apr 1905: Hopetown News: "Our own Lorne Prentice has joined the ranks of the benedicts. He was married on Wed. evening at 6 o'clock to Miss Katie Molyneaux, eldest daughter of Mr. & Mrs. Thos. Molyneaux Jr., Hopetown, at the residence of the bride's parents. Mr. James Umpherson acted as best man and Miss Janet Gunn as bridesmaid. The Lanark folk who attended were: Mr. & Mrs. James McLean and Mrs. James Prentice; Mr. & Mrs. Prentice have the best wishes of their Lanark friends. They will take up house at Boyd's Settlement where Lorne is engaged as cheesemaker. (Bride was in pearl grey cashmere, about 100 guests)"

Lanark Era, 17 Jan 1906: "Mr. & Mrs. Lorne Prentice of Boyd's are spending a while with the former's mother, Mrs. James Prentice. Lorne is rapidly recuperating from a recent severe attack of typhoid fever and will soon be his usual self again."

Perth Courier, 1 Dec 1922: "Drummond – Mr. & Mrs. Lorne Prentice have removed from here to their new house in Perth." (This would be 25 Mary Street, Perth, where he died in 1951 and where Christena lived until she died in 1969.)

Perth Courier, 1951: Obituary, James Lorne Prentice: A lifelong resident of Lanark County, J. Lorne Prentice passed away at his residence, 25 Mary Street, Perth, on Thursday, January 11th, at the age of 71.

Although Mr. Prentice had been in failing health for several years, he was always bright and cheerfull. His quiet and unassuming manner and his interest in the welfare of others won for him a host of friends.

During his busy lifetime, Mr. Prentice spent forty-four years as head cheesmaker in a number of factories in Lanark County. While engaged in this occupation he became acquainted with almost half of the farmers of the county and own their respect by his diligent attention to his work. In the winter season he was for twenty years manager of the Perth Arena.

The survivors are his wife, the former Christena Graham, and one daughter from this marriage, Mrs. Christine Crandall of Lanark. His first wife, the former Katie Molyneaux, died in 1915. Two children survive from this marriage, Mrs. Jessie Palmer of Meaford and James Prentice of Northbrook. One son, Mervyn, died at the age of eighteen. Ten grand daughters and one grandson also survive.

Mr. Prentice was a member of St. Paul's United Church. The funeral service which was held from his home on Saturday, January 13th, was conducted by the Rev. W.R. Alp, assisted by the Rev. R.J. McNaught of Lanark. The Interment was in the Lanark Village Cemetery. The pallbearers were Harry Hughes, Melville McDougall, R.J. Anderson, Henry Pownall, Harry McIntosh and Russell Borrowman.

The numerous, beautiful floral tributes testified to the high esteem in which the deceased was held in his home town and throughout the county.

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