Humphreys’ Dairy Farm started in 1911 in Hot Springs (Garland County) with two cows and several acres. As the farm and family grew, so did the importance of the dairy farm to Hot Springs and surrounding towns. As an early adopter of homogenization and pasteurization, the dairy led in innovations that transformed the dairy industry. Humphreys’ Dairy Farm, which closed in the 1990s, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2012.
Harris Humphreys founded Humphreys’ Dairy Farm in 1911. He was born in Arkadelphia (Clark County) in 1878 and attended Ouachita College (now Ouachita Baptist University). After moving to Hot Springs in 1909, he began buying land and clearing it for farming. The extant farmhouse was built in about 1920 and was designed by Hot Springs architect J. C. Copeman.
In the early years, the farm was a diversified operation. Humphreys brought milk to town to sell, along with chickens, eggs, and sausage from hogs he raised, as well as other produce. His dairy business grew quickly, due in part to his forward-looking management. Although rural electrification was not widespread in the 1920s, Humphreys brought electricity to his operation. He also obtained phone service to better communicate with his clients.
Plant operations continued to grow through the 1940s, when Humphreys’ Dairy was at its peak. At this time, the family business was running eleven trucks on daily runs to four towns. There were two trucks to Arkadelphia, one to Jones Mills (Hot Spring County), two to Malvern (Hot Spring County), and the remaining six to Hot Springs. The plant underwent a major modernization campaign during the 1940s and was profiled in theSouthern Dairy Products Journal. The plant also began to manufacture ice cream, butter, and Bulgarian buttermilk.
Humphreys, a strong supporter of cleanliness for his plant and his employees, maintained high health and safety standards as part of his operation. According to family history, he was the first in Garland County to test his cows for tuberculosis, along with requiring health certificates for his employees. In addition, Humphreys was the first farmer in the Mid-South to pasteurize his milk, according to correspondence between Humphreys and a colleague.
Despite the growth that Humphreys’ Dairy Farm experienced, it always remained a family-run business, even as larger dairies were becoming milk factories. This prosperity for the Humphreys family continued for many years, but it began to decline as large national dairy producers cut into the market. The last home delivery of milk by Humphreys’ Dairy Farm was in 1991, and the plant closed in 1993.
Humphreys’ Dairy Farm is a significant part of the agricultural and industrial history of Hot Springs. The property was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on July 26, 2012.
For additional information:
Anthony, Isabel, ed. Garland County, Arkansas: Our History and Heritage. Hot Springs, AR: Garland County Historical Society, 2009.
Dever, Bill. “The Dairy Industry of Garland County.” The Record 31 (1990): 111–126.
“Humphreys’ Dairy Farm.” National Register of Historic Places nomination form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas.
Arkansas Historic Preservation Program