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 Little Home Histories, Part 71 -- Eli Stanton's Sorghum Mill.

by Holloway, Harold L., Sr.

See previous entry: Little Home Histories, Part 70 -- The Old Log House of Eli Stanton, 1812-.

My Grandmother, Sarah Stanton Hall, says her earliest recollections are clustered around the cool shade of the beautifully formed maple tree, which stood near the spring -- a few rods for the back door of the old log house on her father's farm. While still too small to carry a bucket, she derived much pleasure from the privilege of going to the spring to bring back a dipperful of the cool, refreshing water.

Her father's sorghum mill was located just above the spring, and the gently sloping ground was suited exactly to his plan for efficient operation. The cane was hauled from the fields by horse and wagon and neatly piled near the mill. With everything in readiness to keep the mill going, a horse was hitched to the free end of a naturally curved pole or sweep -- while the other end was attached to the top of the mill. The horse was told to "Git up" and traveled in a circle with his hoof prints, and paying slight heed to the shouts of the men and the rattle of the mill which his efforts set in motion by turning gears which revolved two upright rollers. Helpers carried cane to the feeder who fed it between the rollers, causing the light green juice contained in the cane to be crushed out and run into a reservoir beneath the rollers. The crushed cane or "pummy" came out of the rollers opposite the feeder and was carried away to be stacked and later used for bedding stock, etc. From the reservoir, beneath the rollers, a pipe or trough followed the sloping ground away from the mill, and the sweet cane juice ran through this to a flat, rectangular pan, fitted into the top of a stone furnace. The furnace was equipped with doors at one end, and built up at the other end to form a chimney. This furnace was built to a height convenient to the skimming operation, and a roof or shed was built over it to protect the cane juice from rain and other exposure. From a nearby pile of wood a fire was kept going under the pan of juice, and care was taken to regulate the heat so the juice would boil without scorching. The boiling process caused a thick scum to form on the surface of the juice, and constant attention was required to skim this off with a flat pan open at one end and equipped with a long handle at the other to prevent the skimmer from being scalded by the sugar-laden steam. After the juice was boiled to a certain consistency it was drawn off through a pipe or trough to a second pan where the boiling and skimming process continued until the juice was reduced to a light colored molasses that was sweet to the taste and contained the vigor of the outdoors from whence it came. The finished molasses was drawn off through spigots into a cooling pan and then transferred to various containers for storing.

Grandmother's father, Eli Stanton, used great care in making sorghum molasses, and his product was widely known to be of the highest quality.

In the fall of 1871, Eli Stanton called in Sarah Briggs to assume his responsibilities in connection with watching and finishing the sorghum molasses since he felt it his duty to spend more time with his ailing wife Mary, in what proved to be her last sickness.

The scarcity of sugar during the Civil War led to the growing of cane, which was in great demand as a substitute and became an important industry. For this reason and also because Friends refused to use slave products -- sugar being one of them -- the making of sorghum developed into an important cash income for the farmers and pleased, indeed, were the children of the day when they were allowed a small portion of sorghum for the making of taffy or some other luxury.

Great quantities of molasses were hauled to Wheeling, W. Va. in large containers, and sold for $2.00 per gallon during the Civil War period.

In connection with the sorghum mill, my Grandmother recalls some amusing incidents that are perhaps worth recording.

One day Grandmother noticed several of her father's swine reeling around the barnyard and acting altogether very strangely. An immediate investigation led to the discovery that the swine had found and consumed a generous helping of discarded sorghum skimmings which had fermented in the sunlight. The conclusion was quickly reached that the swine were thoroughly intoxicated and so it proved to be since they soon recovered their equilibrium and normal health.

Grandmother also recalls that John Hartley was very fond of thick sorghum molasses and made it his business to find work around the sorghum mills in that season. He consumed great quantities of molasses mixed with various other foods and if the molasses became thin or of poor quality he refused to stay on, and sought work where he was sure of thick molasses.

Source: Written by: Harold L. Holloway Jr. and Harold L. Holloway Sr., Wheeling, W. Va.

See next entry: Little Home Histories, Part 72 -- Eli Stanton Family Anecdotes.

For the table of contents and first entry in this series, please see: Little Home Histories, Part 01 -- Table of Contents and Introduction.

This entry is adapted from Little Home Histories in Our Early Homes, Belmont County, Ohio, which was published in 1942. Its publication was coordinated by Robert D. and Beulah Patten McDonald. This entry has been reedited for inclusion in the Pierian Press Fulltext eBooks database, and is included on the Stratton House Inn Website by special permission. This entry is licensed for use ONLY on this Website. It may be used for educational purposes and personal pleasure under fair-use provisions via this Website. Please note that the Stratton House Inn iteration of this entry does NOT include the subject headings assigned each chapter for use in the Fulltext eBooks database.

CO-AUTHOR: Holloway, Harold L., Jr.

DATABASE: Fulltext eBooks: Copyright (c) 2002 The Pierian Press, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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