The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

I remember distinctly when the seed of sorghum cane was first introduced into our neighborhood when we lived on the farm on the south bank of White River in the southeast corner of Taney County, Mo. In the fall of 1857 my father went on a visit to Decatur and Maury Counties Tennessee to see his relatives and brought a few of the seed with him to Taney County. Later on in the fall of the same year John Jones moved here from Tennessee and he brought a few of the seed with him. The seed had been introduced in some localities In Tennessee in the early spring of 1857. My father had just enough seed to plant 9 short rows in a small patch of land on the bank of the river just below a little hollow. The sorghum was planted between the river bank and the graveyard and was just over the line in Ozark County, Mo. Of course the seed was not planted until the spring of 1858 and when it had matured in August following our first start at making syrup was ludicrous. After stripping the blades from the stocks and cutting down the stocks and taking them where we wanted to make the syrup we cut the stocks into small bits and placed them into a trough and mashed them with a pellet like Indians beating corn. We now put the stuff in a pot and pouring water in we boiled the juice out and reduced it to a syrup and strained through a coarse cloth. It aid not take long to find out that this process of making molasses was a failure and other means had to be resorted to. My father now hired John Anderson to make two wooden rollers to press the juice from the cane. Anderson tried to make them with drawer knife and ax but they failed to work and then my father hired Martin Johnson to make a sorghum mill of wood and he succeeded in doing it and the cane was run through it and the juice squeezed out. This mill was the first of the kind made on this part of White River. The cane juice was reduced to a syrup by boiling it in iron kettles. No one understood then how to make molasses without scorching them and they were as black as tar or stone coal which colored the lips gums and teeth a deep black.

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