The Agrirama is a state-operated
historical site. The buildings are original and from the
immediate area, or typical of those of the immediate area.
Although they have plans to expand to Native American
culture, the setting is now representative of South
Georgia during the period 1870-1910. If you like old iron
things, this is a MUST SEE. . . . just the steam-powered
saw mill with a daily capacity of 10,000 board feet is
worth the trip. Of course, you and I like cane mills, so
that was the focus of my trip. They have two areas set
up-one near the pavilion (where syrup is made several
times each year), and a second one, which was not in use
when I visited. Both of these sites are shown here.
The people at the Agrirama are
real and really nice. They have lived the life they
explain, and they are eager to interest others. One of the
syrup makers, Bill Carter, even offered to give me some
hands-on experience. Visit the website (http://www.agrirama.com/)
of this magnificent park.
Slide 1 is a Chattanooga
mill in superb shape. Mike Collins, an Agrirama employee,
made new bearings. He first made wooden molds, which if of
pine burn slightly if the Babbitt is sufficiently hot. The
Chattanooga No. 13 is a two-horse mill weighing 855 pounds
and rated at 500-750 gallons per day. The king roller is
14 x 7 inches. Ken's
Catalogue Page. A long-time
friend and associate, Professor Shuqiu Zhang of China
Agricultural University, provides perspective.
Slides 2 and
3 are close-ups of
the Chattanooga No.13 rollers. Note that the spacing between
the first small roller and the king roller is more than
1/8 inch, whereas the spacing between the second small
roller and the king roller is nil. An inscription on the
mill specified that the butt end of the cane must be fed
first (to ensure that the mill is not stressed by
coincidental simultaneous passage of several butts).
Notice, also, that the king roller (as on Golden mills)
has rims at the top and the bottom, between which the
smaller rollers run. This was advertised as a precaution
against the cane running off the rollers and jamming the
Opinions seem to vary a good bit
about how much juice should be extracted from the cane,
which is about 85% juice. My readings indicate that power
mills are much more efficient and some extract nearly all
the juice, leaving the bagasse very dry. Obviously, the
more juice extracted, the greater quantity of syrup from a
stand of cane, and some authors stress this economy,
disregarding all else (e.g., Yoder, USDA Farmers' Bulletin
1034, 1925). Horse mills properly set are said to extract
about 50-60% of the cane's weight. It is said that
extracting a greater percentage will result in an extract
containing more starch (especially with sorghum), waxes
and other impurities and result in a poorer quality of
syrup. Dale and Hudson (USDA, Bureau of Chemistry,
Bulletin 921, 1920) say outright: ". . .it is
generally believed that it is impossible to make a high-grade
sirup by the ordinary [means of skimming] when very high
extraction is obtained." Something for everyone!
Slide 4 shows the 60-gallon
kettle, which was made
by John Rourke of Savannah, GA. The
Rourke kettles are quite thick in comparison to some
others. (The thickness is noticeable in the foreground of
the furnace.) Note the atypical position of the furnace
door, adjacent to the chimney, instead of opposite to the
chimney. This arrangement is more convenient and less
hazardous, but I wonder if the draught is affected
Slide 5 is the handsome shelter
that houses the above kettle.
Slides 6 and
7 are of a mill made
by Quitman (GA) Manufacturing. That example raises to at
least three the number of brands of mills made in Quitman,
which had a population of 2281 souls when the 20th Century
rolled in, has only doubled in population at present
(5034), compared with a six-fold increase in population in
nearby Valdosta. Interestingly, Wiley (USDA, Div.
Chemistry, Bulletin 70) tells us that Quitman was the
center of syrup production from sugar cane in 1902.
[Thanks to Reference Librarian Bill Modrow for the
As an incidental point, I was
struck by Wiley's narrative concerning E. A. Van
Landingham's primitive syrup "factory" near
Cairo, GA. This outfit employed a one-mule mill and a cast
iron kettle. Thus, Wiley noted, "It must be admitted
that some of the best sirup which has been brought to our
attention has been manufactured in the simple way
illustrated [by Van Landingham]. Of course, the quantities
that can be made in a single kettle are limited, and there
can be but little commercial importance attached to goods
manufactured in this way. For the supply of the farmer
himself and his neighbors, however, it is more than likely
that this method of manufacture will continue to exist for
a long while, and, in fact, there seems to be no necessity
or desire that it should ever entirely pass away."
Wiley's prophetic statement, therefore, encourages us that
bigger is not necessarily better. Wiley probably did not
think about it, but the Van Landinghams have good genes,
and intelligence probably had something to do with that
good syrup, too. Interestingly, Wiley's visit more than a
century ago is part of the Van Landingham family history.
(Thanks to Cody Van Landingham for sharing a photograph
and other information.).
Slide 8 is a second, more rustic
syrup shed, which features a 60-gallon Chattanooga kettle.
Slides 9 and
10 show an unknown
2-roller mill. Although such mills are uncommon in South
Georgia, some syrup makers opted to buy the mill without
the frame. I believe that the frameless mills that I have
seen are typically older than the framed mills.
Slides 11 and
are close-ups of
the mountings for the top shaft of the roller (held firmly
by a leaf-type spring) and for the bottom shaft, which
appears to sit in a typical bearing box that was placed in
a well carved into the wood.