2023 Master Breeder Awards
Historical Master Breeder
Walhalla Farms (1899-1962)
(Frank Freemyer, J. Frank Zoller, Mrs. Jessie T. Zoller)
Breakabeen, NY, Middleburg, NY, Rexford, NY
This year’s Historical Master Breeder had a tremendous influence on the early development of the Brown Swiss breed for over 60 years from 1899 to 1962. This year we recognize the Walhalla Farm of New York and the 3 owners over those 60 some years.
The Walhalla herd was founded in 1899 by Frank Freemyer (owner from 1899-1924) initially at Breakabeen, NY and then at Middleburg, NY. While taking a course of Agriculture at Cornell University, he was attracted by the sturdy and pleasing appearance of Brown Swiss and the recent record of the cow Brienz. By 1922, he had as many as 150 head and had sold more than 600 head in 26 different states and 5 foreign countries. He also had the first Swiss to go into Canada.
The September 1922 Bulletin cover shows one of two fine big dairy barns at Walhalla Farms in Middleburg, NY. Also shown is Mr. Freemyer and the cow, Edna C 3rd as referenced below.
If you have read the recent April Visiting the Past page in the Bulletin, you will see that Mr. Freemyer was appointed Secretary of Production when the Registry of Production (ROP) program was established in 1911. He was also the first to enroll his cows on the ROP program.
Also beginning about 1911, the herd traveled the show circuit east of the Mississippi for 10 years winning highest honors at the St. Louis exposition where it won ten blue ribbons, three championships and two diplomas. The herd was also recognized for its records of production. The cow, Iola 3923, produced 16,844 pounds of milk and 685 pounds of fat as a five-year old placing her 4th in her honor roll class. The cow Edna C 3rd, on the September cover, produced 16,496 pounds milk and 669 pounds fat, making her the World’s Record four-year old of the breed.
Mr. Freemyer developed the bull, Tom Phylis 1769, who was the first bull to have 6 daughters on the ROP list. Born in 1903 and registered by Walter Fish, Mystic, CT, Tom Phylis was sold to Adna Barnes of Burlington, CT and then to Freemyer, who eventually sold the bull to Mr. T.N. Vail, President of the Bell Telephone Co. Your Historical Society has the yoke worn by Tom Phylis on display at the Historical Museum at the National Office.
In 1924 the Walhalla herd was purchased by J. Frank Zoller (owner from 1924-1932) of Schenectady, NY including the Walhalla name. Zoller, an officer at the General Electric Co., after a tour to Europe, was determined to have the best herd in the country. He found that in the Walhalla herd. He also bought splendid stock from various parts of the country. The herd was located at Hammond, NY and the Herdsman was R.C. Klussendorf.
In March of 1927, Zoller hired Harold C. Magnussen of Wisconsin as Herdsman. Magnussen served as manager of Walhalla Farms for 35 years until their dispersal in 1962.
Beginning in January 1926, Walhalla held the back cover ad of the Bulletin until the mid-thirties. The December 1927 ad shows their success at various shows including their first Grand Champion bull, Maiden’s Vronicka’s College Boy. This began a series of 8 Grand Champion bulls from 1927 to 1950 as either Owner or Breeder. They also garnered Grand Champion cows in 1928, 1931, 1935 and 1939.
Also reported in December 1927 Bulletin, was the announcement of the cow Minnie W 11024, record breaking Fat record in the Mature Farmer’s Class of 639 pounds. In the January and November issues of the Bulletin in 1928 Walhalla ran 10-page ads.
In December 1928, it was reported that Walhalla had again bought the best cows as they purchased Cyrene L. 12308 owned by Orbec Sherry of Wisconsin and bred by A. Lilly of Minnesota and Cinnamon’s Maiden from N.C. Schmid of Wisconsin. Cyrene L. had recently become a world record cow in the 10 months Farmer’s class with 701 pounds of fat. Cinnamon’s Maiden was grand champion cow at the National Dairy Show in 1925 and is the dam of Maiden’s Vronika College Boy, grand champion bull in 1927 and 1928. The April 1930 Bulletin back cover shows these 4 famous animals, June’s College Girl, Swiss Valley Girl 10th, Silver Belle, and Maiden’s Vronika ‘s College Boy.
In September 1930, the Walhalla herd was moved to a new farm near Rexford, NY. It consisted of 150 acres. The main barn was 131 feet long, with twin silos. At the end of the barn was a small room for milking 4 cows at a time, a milking parlor. The dedication program shows Mr. Zoller, Ira Inman, and Lewis Hull.
Zoller felt that new Brown Swiss blood needed to be brought to America, so in the summer of 1931, he imported two bulls, the second importation that year and the first animals since 1906. They were Imported Jack of Walhalla from Switzerland born in 1927 and Blankus of Walhalla from Mexico, born in 1930, whose sire and dam were imported from Switzerland.
Tragedy strikes on September 3, 1932, when Mr. Zoller was attacked by one of his bulls and died later that day. Zoller was 54 years of age. At the time of his death, he owned such famous producers as June’s College Girl, Swiss Valley Girl 10th, Swiss Girl F.C. and others. Following his death, his wife, Jessie T. Zoller became owner and continued to operate the farm along with Manager Harold Magnussen until the herds dispersal in 1962. In the over 60-year history of Walhalla, Mrs. Zoller had the longest term (30 years) as owner and operator.
The Walhalla Farms Dispersal was held on Saturday, May 12, 1962, at Rexford, NY. The sale averaged $422 on 140 head. The largest buyer was Derrick Webb of Shelburne Farm, Vermont, purchasing 23 head. Harold Magnussen was then associated with Shelburne Farm. Top selling animal was Walhalla Holly Della purchased by Meythaler-Cold Springs Farm of Monroe, WI for over $1000. The sale was managed by Norman E. Magnussen, Brown Swiss Sale Service, Lake Mills, WI.
Congratulations to Walhalla Farms as your 2023 Historical Master Breeder.