Montana’s oldest hot cereal could have been discovered in 1914, 1915, 1918 or 1919. All were touted as “the start” in one story or another.
Charles Banderob wrote one of the two versions of how Cream of the West began. He writes that Dave [Savage] drove his Model T Ford out to the [Banerob] homestead to deliver a piece of farm machinery and “arrived at our farm just as we were getting up from the breakfast table… Our mother ground a couple hands full of wheat, put it in a kettle and cooked it for breakfast cereal that morning for Dave. It was so savored by Dave that he said he thought it should be manufactured and placed on the market. He asked mother to fix him some to take home. Mother fixed him a few hands full more and put it in a salt sack for him to take home. From that Dave developed it. He called it CREAM OF THE WEST.” Banderob sent a picture captioned: “The Shack where CREAM OF THE WEST WAS DISCOVERED IN 1918, on The Banderob Farm on Telegraph Creek 12 miles west of Toluca.
Bob Savage sent letters telling a slightly different version of how his father discovered Cream of the West. He states: “I am writing a history of my father who was the entrepreneur who originated the cereal “Cream of the West… I believe the company was started in 1919… Here is the story as my father told it to me: He was working out of Billings and Helena, selling supplies to ranchers in Montana and Wyoming… One time, at a ranch somewhere south of Billings, he was served a breakfast cereal that was different and more flavorful than any he had ever tasted. He asked the rancher’s wife for the secret… When he got back to Billings he went straight to the Russell-Miller Milling Company and broached the idea of this fabulous new cereal. They said they could produce it. A company was formed, Miller invested in it, and they packaged it in a small building that, I believe, was quite near the mill.”
The ‘discovery date’ is the main difference in these stories. Current owners went with 1914 as the official ‘start date, knowing that Savage spent time getting the cereal to market and forming the new company. Legal documents show that David Savage incorporated Cream of the West early in 1915.
The right date but the wrong version of Cream of the West’s discovery appeared in the introduction to the Cream of the West Cookbook, published by the Nor-West Cereal Company in 1983. It reads: “Many years ago, in 1914 to be exact, there was a small educational institution called The Poly Technique Institute, located on Poly Drive, in the fairly young and growing community of Billings, Montana. It also seems that at this time, there was a surplus of wheat bran in this area, and a group of students of The Institute were given the project of developing uses for this excess bran. The study and work were performed in the small milling facility on Poly Drive… As a result of this study, the product to be known as ‘Cream of the West’ was developed. ‘Cream of the West’ became a commercially produced product in 1919.” This version prompted Roy Agte, former Manager of the Flour Mill at Poly, to write a correction: “I read with interest your article on the Mahler Brothers… If the Mahler Brothers left Poly in 1939 they did not eat “Cream of the West” but instead consumed good old “Green and Gold” cereal…. We made 3 kinds of Cereal, ‘Fine’, ‘Medium’ and ‘Course’ [sic].”
Despite the differences, one fact rings true: Dave Savage discovered a nutritious, delicious Taste of Montana. Cream of the West has stood the test of time!