Like many parts of Massachusetts, Rochester has quite a few areas of second-growth woods. Wood lots from the heyday of sawmills (once there were 57 mills in town), abandoned pastures, cranberry bogs, and even former house lots have reforested over time. Hidden in these woods are echoes from the past. They may be lonely grave markers or lilac bushes near tumbled foundation stones.
Across from the post office on New Bedford Road are the remains of a once-thriving Rochester business. In the 1940s, Gibb’s Dairy had a dairy building for processing milk, as well as a loading dock on the righthand side of New Bedford Road as you head toward Rochester Center. When Paul M. Gibbs took over the business from his father, he decided to expand and modernize and built a new larger dairy across the street from the old one.
Today, both dairies are gone. The “new” dairy closed in the 1990s and the building was torn down to make way for the post office. Across the street in the trees are the remains of the loading dock (shown in the picture) and the foundation of the original Gibbs Dairy.
At one time, Rochester had quite a few dairies as did many other towns. In the 1950s, a lot of played-out farmland was repurposed as dairy farms following the example of Raymond White of White’s Dairy. By the 1990s when Gibbs Dairy closed, the price of milk had fallen and the dairy business was no longer profitable for many, so a lot of dairy farms became a thing of the past. The Curator’s Show at the Rochester Historical Museum, which will be opening in the coming weeks, includes some interesting items from past dairy businesses in town.
By Connie Eshbach