Quitman Vignettes (Quitman, Georgia)
The impetus for my foray into Brooks County was the
hope that I might locate the cane mill used by my father’s
brother, Buren. Uncle Buren returned from the war and
farmed with Uncle
Cornelius for one year. Then, he moved into a house
about 50 m from his parents-in-law and farmed with them.
After his father-in-law, Mr. Robinson, passed away, Uncle
Buren and his family moved into the big house with Mrs.
Robinson and remained there until 1955, when they moved to
Polk County, FL. The mill I sought was originally on a
stand in the open a bit out from the big house. Now, it is
My connection in Brooks County was James Robinson,
Uncle Buren’s wife’s nephew. The connection soon
spread to James’ wife, Becky, and her brother, Alton
Hamlin. Without these three, I would have been lost, and I
am therefore much obliged to them. Although I did not
achieve the goal I sought, I did gain other prizes, which
I will share here.
GA, is perhaps 15 miles north and slightly east of
Quitman, where at least three brands of cane mills were
manufactured (See Index ). A similar cane mill was
manufactured in Valdosta , which is about 10 miles
southeast of Morven. I had been told that a foundry in
Morven also made cane mills, and I had been on the lookout
for a couple of years but with no luck. It was therefore a
great pleasure to find one (Slides 1 and
2) although it
had been relegated to a junk heap. The inscription, which
one can partially make out in one of the photos, reads “Morven
Fdy. & Mach.” and elsewhere, Morven , GA, is
indicated as the city of origin. One notes that this mill
to the other open two-roller mills mentioned above.
The elderly owner of the mill, Mr. Marion Dukes, is like
many of us-he has a lifetime of projects planned. When I
visited, he was laying blocks for a spillway while he
discussed plans of making syrup.
Hunt Club occupies a plantation house that was constructed
in 1837 on a stagecoach line (Slide
3). Although I know it is
all too easy to gloss over the harsh realities of life on
the frontier, it is nevertheless fun and harmless to take
a flight of fancy, and the magnolia-lined avenue (Slide
makes it easy, too.
For the sake of readers who have not benefited from a
South-Georgia upbringing, it might pay to make a comment
about the word plantation. For many, GWTW’s Tara or the
like inspires the image evoked by this word. Indeed, these
vast agribusinesses with their peculiar society that
brandished pride and distorted chivalry did punctuate the
South from colonial times in the east, exemplified by
Jefferson’s Monticello, to ante bellum days in the west,
exemplified by H.B. Stowe’s dreaded sugar cane
plantations. I am pleased to recommend the family letters
of the venerable Reverend Charles Colcock Jones to anyone
who seeks a personal and even endearing view of this
institution. Later, wealthy industrialists from the North
bought large tracks of land in areas of the South such as
Thomasville, GA, and they were and are called plantations.
The main commodities they produced were opulence and
sport, rarely row crops. But in the context of the times
mentioned, the early 19th century, a plantation merely
meant a farm, or even a single field. Thus, Bartram, the
naturalist to come into the Deep South, referred to the
single communal plantation of an Indian village, and to a
farm on which a “mansion-house . . . overlooks . . .
extensive and well cultivated plantations of Indian corn,
rice, wheat, oats, indigo, . . . [sweet potato].” (Bartram
also described a field of sugar cane, of interest, but not
particularly relevant here.) In addition to the caution
against applying the present connotation of the word
plantation to descriptions of that era, I wish to note
that large southern areas had few or no Hollywood-style
plantations. That was the case in the southern part of
Tallahassee’s Leon County, the plantation of Prince
Murat (Napolean’s nephew) being an exception. It was
also true in Berrien County, GA, where the families of
three of my grandparents were established by 1850. But, I
digress . . . .
The large two-roller mill must have been the center of
a sizeable syrup operation sometime in the past. James and
Becky Robinson are shown on the feed side of mill (Slide
and give perspective to the 18-inch rollers, which are
seen better from the discharge side (Slide
I climbed all over this mill, I found no inscriptions that
might reveal its origins.
Mr. Walter Lewis, Jr., is a, well, .
. . er, . . . collector. To make this point, I had acres to
choose from, but decided simply to photograph a WWII DUKW next
to the mill (Slide
7). It didn’t hurt that a large stationary engine and pump
were piled into the craft!
The nameplate of a very large mill, a
Blymyer Eureka # 4 is shown first (Slide
8) and several other
photographs (Slides 9, 10, 11, and,12) show different views of the mill, some
of its parts being on the ground. James’ head provides
perspective for the size of this mill.