Grave of Traverse Calantha Walker (Photo courtesy of Jim Kuhn)
Traverse Colantha Walker
April 29, 1916 –January 8, 1932
Life time record: “Milk: 200,114.9 lbs. Fat: 7,525 lbs. Nine Lactations.”
Traverse Colantha Walker was a world record holding Holstein-Friesian dairy cow. She was born on the grounds of the Traverse City State Hospital on April 29, 1916. The State of Michigan operated the Traverse City State Hospital—located in the northwestern community of Traverse City, Michigan—from 1885-1993. At the turn of the twentieth century, most large State institutions (State hospitals) operated a dairy farm to supplement their patients’ needs for dairy products. When Traverse Colantha Walker joined the dairy herd at Traverse City State Hospital, the institution already supported the most famous institutional Holstein-Friesian dairy herd-breeding program in the country.
In the late summer of 1929, some of the Traverse City State Hospital’s Holstein-Friesians were exhibited at the Michigan State Fair in Detroit. Entered in an open class division, the Traverse City State Hospital’s herd competed against members of other State institutional herds. Under Section Thirteen in the State’s fair premium book, State institutional herds did not compete against Michigan’s other Holstein-Friesian breeders. Instead of a cash prize, State institutional herds received “beautiful banners.” In 1929, “a select member of the Traverse City State Hospital herd received fifteen points out of twenty” and a Champion banner.
Today, most of the barns and outbuildings once related to this champion dairy herd are gone. Traverse Colantha Walker, however, rests quietly under her granite gravestone overlooking beautiful Grand Traverse Bay and the pastures she once roamed. If you would like to view the “beautiful banner” won by the Traverse City State Hospital’s dairy herd in 1929, visit the Michigan Historical Museum. The Archives of Michigan also houses photographs of this famous dairy herd.
Traverse City State Hospital Dairy Herd, circa 1940s-1950s