A. L. Brown’s Clear Springs Farm was a Model Cabarrus Dairy

3 Apr 2016

Cow Barn, Clear Springs Dairy Farm, 1936. Courtesy of NCSU Libraries Special Collections Research Center, ua023_007-003-bx0006-007-022.

Remember the days when the milkman made home deliveries from local dairies – a time when dairy farms were big enough to bottle and sell their milk in local stores? Cabarrus County has been home to a surprisingly large number of dairies, including Cabarrus Creamery, Sunrise, H.B. Troutman, Pure Milk Products, Dixie, Russell, J.C. Misenheimer, Crest Ridge, Boxwood Manor, Rose Hill Guernsey, Cold Water Farm, Cedar Grove and Clear Springs Farm. There also was York’s Goat Milk Dairy in Concord and Jackson Training School once had its own dairy.

Someone recently requested information about Clear Springs Dairy Farm. He was from out-of-state but knew his grandfather had worked there. You may see the name Clear Springs near the S & D coffee plant on Highway 29 (Concord Parkway South): there is a Clear Springs Plaza shopping center across the street. Many of you may remember the dairy once owned by A. L. Brown, but for those of you who don’t, the following is a brief history of the 550-acre Clear Springs Farm which was once located at the current home of the Cabarrus Country Club golf course between Highway 29 and Weddington Road.

Alfred Luther “A. L.” Brown spent most of his life connected to Cannon Mills in Kannapolis. He was known to be a major factor in the success and growth of the small manufacturing plant that began in the late 1880’s to the formidable textile company of the 1950’s. Brown was the vice president in charge of operations of more than a dozen plants. In appreciation of his service to the community, the city of Kannapolis gave the local high school his name in 1951.

According to a November 11, 1935 article in the Greensboro Daily News, what started as a hobby for A. L. Brown developed into a big enterprise. About 1930 he became interested in Guernseys and began building a herd. As he and his advisors toured breeding farms and dairies in North Carolina and surrounding states, he was inspired to build a model dairy.

Clear Springs Farm milk bottle.

His model became the first fully automated dairy in Cabarrus County. When it opened in late 1935, hundreds visited to see the cows milked in their glass-enclosed parlor without the touch of a human hand. A gangway connected the dairy plant to a 130 ft. x 34 ft. dairy barn and adjoining calf barn. The farm grew its own lespedeza hay and other feed and stored it onsite in silos.
Starting with forty-nine head of cattle, including calves and bulls, cows were mechanically disinfected and milked three times a day. The milking stalls were equipped with individual, automatic water fountains. Below the barn was a free-running spring from which the farm got its name. All the drinking water came from this spring while a deep well supplied water for washing. Meticulous records were kept on milk production and the health of the cows.

Using the most modern equipment available, milk would flow directly into containers and then to stainless steel tanks for cooling. After each milking, the cows were washed down and the equipment was washed and sterilized. Great care was made to ensure the whole process from milking through the automated bottling was sterile, efficient, and untouched. In a room adjoining the refrigerator room, ice was manufactured in 100-pound cakes and then packed into trucks that delivered products to patrons’ homes in Concord and Kannapolis.

Dairy processing building, Clear Springs Dairy Farm, 1936. Courtesy of NCSU Libraries Special Collections Research Center, ua023_007-003-bx0006-007-024.

A. L. Brown also wanted the dairy to be attractive. The Spanish-influenced processing building had huge archways designed to give full effect to the glass-enclosed milking and bottling rooms. Concrete walkways were landscaped with shrubs and grass, and the surrounding drives were laid out in a formal style.

G. H. Cartner managed Clear Springs Farm. He grew up in rural Mocksville and was a graduate of North Carolina State University. Cabarrus County extension service agent Roy D. Goodman (see blog Friday, January 15, 2016) was a constant advisor and assisted with the purchase and breeding of the Guernseys. A. L. Brown, G. H. Cartner and their staff built Clear Springs Farm into a model dairy that not only inspired other farmers but proved to be a profitable, award-winning, business. 

Clear Springs Farm discontinued operation after A. L. Brown’s untimely death from an auto accident on the grounds of Cannon Mills in 1955. About 1957, the dairy became a division of Carolina Dairy. In 1965, construction of the Cabarrus Country Club’s golf course began on 300 acres of the farm.

“Dairy In Cabarrus County Is One of Finest In South,” Greensboro Daily News, November 11, 1935, p. 9.
“Clear Springs Dairy Farm Held As Model In Industry,” Greensboro Daily News, July 13, 1936, p. 9.
“Shelby Firm Buys Property,” The Daily Independent (Kannapolis, NC), Sept 21 1965, p1.