Southern Matters

Southern Matters

Dewey Hall (Clarksville, Florida)

With effort and a good guide, one can find Mr. and Mrs. Dewey Hall’s homestead, which is nestled in the wilderness of a national forest near Clarksville (Florida).  You expect, at any moment, to notice Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings sitting at the edge of the clearing taking notes for a book about a boy and his tender feelings toward an animal.  I can certainly say that the adventure was worth far far more than the effort and that my guide, Mr. Willard Smith (Blountstown, Florida), was superb.  Thanks, Willard.

The Halls have a two-horse (mule) operation (Slide 1), but it is an egalitarian one.  Sonny, in the foreground, has his own mill, whereas Cher, in the background, has another to herself.  This scene reminded me of the way farms used to be judged in the South.  Thus, a medium-sized farm for those days was called a two-horse farm.  That would translate today to about 40 acres in row crops; about ten times that much in today’s conventional agriculture would be required for a living.


An especially notable feature of this site was the presence of a Chattanooga No. 12 (old style) as shown in Slide 2 with Mr. Hall.  (Before this visit, I had only seen the No. 12 (Improved)).  Other photographs of this old mill are shown in Slides 3 and 4.  Slide 5, another view of the mill, shows Mr. Otis Watson (Dothan, Alabama) doing what people do around cane grindings—drink  juice.  In addition to the mill inscriptions shown, two more were found on the top.  One admonished users to “Keep bearings oiled” and the other called for a stiff lever, 12-feet long.


In number that I have seen in South Georgia and North Florida, Chattanooga cane mills are second only to Golden cane mills.  And, among the Chattanooga cane mills, the No. 12 is the most common that I have seen.  Thus, a short digression on finding this Chattanooga No. 12 (old style) would fit here.  Being financed by his stepfather, a young Mr. Newell Sanders (Slide 6, from Rufus Terral  1935  “Newell Sanders, a Biography” Kingsport Press, Inc., Kingsport, Tennessee) came South seeking opportunity and a favorable climate in 1877.  Mr. Sanders started a business that was soon renamed The Chattanooga Plow Company.  The earliest reference to a Chattanooga mill was in 1886 (  The Improved Model cane mill was patented in 1890.  Mr. Hall’s mill thus appears to have been made during a narrow window not before 1886 and not as late as 1892, when a catalog showed the Improved Model for sale.  The rest of the story is that Mr. Sanders, being pushed out of the Chattanooga Plow Company in 1901, started another plow foundry.  Later, Chattanooga Plow Company was purchased by International Harvester.


One of my favorite parts, watching the juice boil and anticipating “dinner on the grounds,” can be seen in Slide 7.  The Halls cook and skim without a rim in a 100-gallon Columbus kettle.  Mr. Hall uses lighter pine, which is becoming too scarce for most to use in wood-fired furnaces.  (Even some who do not use lighter pine miss it.  As lighter burns, it does not fall apart so the fire can be pulled out of the furnace as needed.)

The community food is covered in the background of Slide 7.  I feel obligated to mention that I did not let embarrassment prevent me from having a full (or more) meal of fine southern country food, including boiled pig liver and fried river suckers.  Even though I grew up not so far away, we never ate suckers, roaches, mudfish or jacks.  On this day, I learned that not eating suckers all my life had been a mistake.

(A special thanks goes to Ken Christison for his essential assistance with facts pertaining to this site.  Thanks also to the Halls for hospitality and a bottle of their first-rate syrup.)