W. C. Patten and the Chattanooga Evaporator

Fall in South Georgia from October through the end of the year is still syrup making time -the time that sugar cane is cut and cane syrup produced. In the 1890s, one of the biggest producers of cane syrup and cane sugar in Berrien County was William C. Patten. His production was noted for the use of the Chattanooga Evaporator, which allowed for continuous processing of the juice into syrup, rather than the “batch processing” done in the broad iron kettle of the home farmer.

 

Almost hidden in the steam, the cooker stands over a Chattanooga evaporator and dips his ladle here and there to skim the scum. Occasionally he tests the boiling syrup as it drips from the skimmer and when it "acts right" he lets it out. He doesn't need a saccharometer, and instrument commonly used for the purpose, to know when the syrup is done. His eye is keen and his judgement ripe and he knows when the sweetsome flood is ready. This interesting process is taking place in South Georgia where the natives insist upon sugar-cane syrup and cannot see the taste of a Tennessean, for instance, who has to have his sorghum, which is thicker but not any sweeter. All the same, either goes with flapjacks and hot biscuits - and what would the kids do without old-fashioned molasses candy? There is a Chattanooga cane mill nearby that crushes the stalks as they come from the field and presses out the juice, which then is piped to the evaporator where the cooker keeps a wary eye on the sugar content while the fire is taking out the water.

Almost hidden in the steam, the cooker stands over a Chattanooga evaporator and dips his ladle here and there to skim the scum. Occasionally he tests the boiling syrup as it drips from the skimmer and when it “acts right” he lets it out. He doesn’t need a saccharometer, and instrument commonly used for the purpose, to know when the syrup is done. His eye is keen and his judgement ripe and he knows when the sweetsome flood is ready.

This interesting process is taking place in South Georgia where the natives insist upon sugar-cane syrup and cannot see the taste of a Tennessean, for instance, who has to have his sorghum, which is thicker but not any sweeter. All the same, either goes with flapjacks and hot biscuits – and what would the kids do without old-fashioned molasses candy?

There is a Chattanooga cane mill nearby that crushes the stalks as they come from the field and presses out the juice, which then is piped to the evaporator where the cooker keeps a wary eye on the sugar content while the fire is taking out the water.

 

The Harvester, May, 1921

It is said that  sugar cane cultivation was first introduced into south Georgia by John Moore  when he moved to Lowndes County around 1828. By 1876, Sugar cane became one of the staple crops of Wiregrass Georgia, Berrien County, and of Ray City.   Every farmer had a small cane mill on his farm for pressing the cane to extract the juice, which was cooked down in a cast iron kettle to make syrup. Hundreds of gallons of cane syrup could be produced from a single acre of sugar cane.

Local syrup producers over the years have included the likes of Jehu Patten (1838-1907), farmer of the Rays Mill (now Ray City) District, who in 1896 had “300 gallons of syrup jugged and sealed,” as well as his home produced cane sugar; Levi J. Clements (1851-1924, patriarch of the Clements family and founder of the Clements Lumber Company at Ray City; David C. Clements (1857-1902) who shipped his Georgia cane syrup from Ray City to markets as far as Texas; Moses C. Lee (1853-1926), exemplary farmer of Ray City, who in a year “jugged and barreled 750 gallons of syrup, of the finest that can be made”; Della Outlaw (1891-1932) made cane syrup on what is today the W. H. Outlaw Centennial Farm near Ray City, and bottled it for sale in Nashville, GA (Today, her grandson, Bill Outlaw, makes cane syrup in the family tradition);  David Jackson Skinner (1898-1962), a farmer of the Ray City, GA area and a Deacon of New Ramah Church put up his syrup in cans;  Wiley Chambless (1832-1888) was a Berrien county farmer who grew “red” and “red ribbon” cane; J. McMillan, J.J. McMillan and J.L. Harper, of Alapaha together produced 25 barrels of cane syrup for shipment in 1885; J.N. Bray,  of Berrien County, in 1908 produced 2000 gallons of cane syrup; George W. Leggett (1846-1922) shared the use of his syrup making equipment with family and friends.

The December 14, 1894 the Tifton Gazette reported about William C. Patten’s cane syrup processing:

Tifton Gazette, December 14, 1894. W.C. Patten was one of the largest sugar cane growers in Berrien County, GA

Tifton Gazette, December 14, 1894.W.C. Patten was one of the largest sugar cane growers in Berrien County, GA

 

Mr. W. C. Patten is perhaps the largest sugar cane producer in Berrien County. He uses a Chattanooga Evaporator and it takes about a month to convert his cane crop into sugar and syrup. He lives about five miles north of Milltown. He produces a plenty and to spare of “hog and hominy.”

William C. “Babe” Patten (1849-1944),  was a resident of the “Watson Grade” community, near Empire Church just  northeast of Ray’s Mill, GA .  Watson Grade was the location of the Watson family farm and the home of Sam I. Watson, among others

William C. Patten was a son of William Patten and Elizabeth “Betsey” Register.    He married Sarah Lee, who was the daughter of Moses Corby Lee and Jincy Register. A prominent farmer of Berrien County, GA, William C. Patten was a Notary Public and Ex Officio Justice of the Peace. When his wife’s niece, Jennie Lee, married Samuel I Watson in 1900, it was W. C.  Patten who performed the ceremony.  W.C. Patten, after the death of his first wife, married Sam Watson’s sister,  Laura Watson.

The Chattanooga Evaporator

The evaporator is generally placed down hill from the cane mill so that gravity can be used to get the juice from the mill to the evaporator. The evaporator is a shallow pan about three and one-half feet wide by from five to fifteen feet long. Chattanooga evaporators have partitions about nine inches apart, with a small opening or gate at alternate ends to make the juice flow back and forth across the evaporator.

The evaporator rests on a furnace made of steel or brick. Pine wood is considered the best fuel, as it makes a quick, flashing fire and gives more uniform heat the full length of the pan. The aim is to keep a constant flow of juice into, and from, the evaporator. About thirty minutes after the juice enters the evaporator it leaves it as a clear, delicious syrup.

The picture [above] shows a real South Georgia syrup maker. The quality of the syrup depends a great deal on the skill of the “cooker.” As the juice begins to boil a thick, slimy, green scum rises, bringing with it all the impurities. This is skimmed off and thrown into a barrel.

Just a word about that barrel. Sometimes it becomes the focal point of a great deal of attention, such as might arouse the curiosity of the uninitiated. After the skimmings have stood a while a certain amount of juice settles at the bottom, and that juice develops a kick that would bring happiness to prohibition sufferers could they get a chance at it.

On account of the rapid evaporation, the vapor or “steam” sometimes completely hides the outfit, but the cooker plies his ladle, skimming the juice, dipping and throwing back and occasionally raising the ladle and allowing the syrup from the finishing end of the evaporator to drip off. If the “cooker” is an old hand he knows from the way the syrup “acts” when it is done. The inexperienced cooker tests the syrup with a type of hydrometer known as a saccharometer. – The Harvester, May, 1921

1920 advertisement for Chattanooga cane mills, evaporators, furnaces and accessories.

1920 advertisement for Chattanooga cane mills, evaporators, furnaces and accessories.

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James & Ida Lou Patten and the Cruise to Cuba

James Marcus Patten (1869-1944) was a lifelong resident of the Ray’s Mill area (now Ray City). He was a son of Jehu John Patten and Mary Ellen Lancaster. He married Ida Lou Hall, of Newton, GA about 1902. They were both teachers and they taught in the common schools of the Ray City area for many years.

In  October of 1932 James and Ida Lou took a cruise to  Cuba.    Thirty-three years earlier, the U.S. had fought the Spanish-American War which had  liberated of Cuba from Spain, along with the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico. U.S. efforts to normalize relations with Cuba had helped to make Cuba the most popular tourist destination in the Caribbean.

The Pattens traveled on the S.S. Cuba, sailing out Tampa, FL to Havana, Cuba, and returning by way of Key West, FL. Port of entry records at Key West, FL show they sailed from Havana on October 25, 1932  for the return voyage.

 

James Marcus Patten and Idalou Patten visit Havana, Cuba

James Marcus Patten and Idalou Patten, of Ray City, GA, visited Havana, Cuba in late October, 1932

 

SS Cuba at Morrow Castle (Castillo de los Tres Reyes Magos del Morro) entering Havana Harbor

SS Cuba at Morrow Castle (Castillo de los Tres Reyes Magos del Morro) entering Havana Harbor. Image courtesy of Björn Larsson http://www.timetableimages.com/maritime/index.htm

“Twice weekly the S. S. ‘Cuba’ of the Peninsular & Occidental Steam Ship Company, makes the trip from Port Tampa to Havana, via Key West and return.”

“S.S. Cuba – Twin screw, oil burner, length 342 feet, width 47 feet, speed 17 knots per hour, passenger capacity 512.  Especially designed for service in the tropics, having wide decks, all outside rooms and spacious saloons. One hundred and thirty-two first-cabin rooms with 16 parlor rooms containing double bed and sofa berth, private shower bath, toilet, running water, electric fans and every convenience for comfort.”

 

SS Cuba brochure,  P&O Steamship Company

SS Cuba brochure, P&O Steamship Company. Image courtesy of Björn Larsson http://www.timetableimages.com/maritime/index.htm

SS Cuba brochure, P&O Steamship Company

SS Cuba brochure, P&O Steamship Company. Image courtesy of Björn Larsson http://www.timetableimages.com/maritime/index.htm

Observation Deck, P&O Steamer

Observation Deck, P&O Steamer. Image courtesy of Björn Larsson http://www.timetableimages.com/maritime/index.htm

SS Cuba Promenade Deck

SS Cuba, Promenade Deck. Image courtesy of Björn Larsson http://www.timetableimages.com/maritime/index.htm

SS Cuba Promenade Deck, Aft

SS Cuba, Promenade Deck, Aft. Image courtesy of Björn Larsson http://www.timetableimages.com/maritime/index.htm

SS Cuba Main Lobby and Purser's Office

SS Cuba, Main Lobby and Purser’s Office. Image courtesy of Björn Larsson http://www.timetableimages.com/maritime/index.htm

SS Cuba, Veranda

SS Cuba, Veranda. Image courtesy of Björn Larsson http://www.timetableimages.com/maritime/index.htm

SS Cuba, Dining Room

SS Cuba, Dining Room. Image courtesy of Björn Larsson http://www.timetableimages.com/maritime/index.htm

SS Cuba, Writing Room

SS Cuba, Writing Room. Image courtesy of Björn Larsson http://www.timetableimages.com/maritime/index.htm

SS Cuba postcard

SS Cuba postcard

Havana excursion SS Cuba

Havana excursion SS Cuba

Just days after the Pattens left Cuba a hurricane struck the island, making landfall on November 9, 1932 at  Santa Cruz del Sur.  Thousands of lives were lost in the storm.

Jehu Patten and the Serpent

Jehu Patten

Jehu Patten (1838-1907)

Jehu Patten (1838-1907)

Jehu Patten was a  farmer in the Rays Mill District of Berrien County, GA. He and his brothers, William Patten, Jethro Patten, James Patten and Matthew Elihu Patten all lived within a few miles of each other. They were the sons of Elizabeth and James M. Patten. Their mother, Elizabeth Lee, was a daughter of Joshua Lee, who about 1830 dammed the northern outflow of Grand Bay, and constructed a grist mill at Allapaha, GA (now Lakeland),GA.

All five of the Patten brothers served in the Civil War. Jehu Patten served first with Company K, 5th Georgia Regiment and later as 4th Sergeant of  Company E, 54th Regiment Georgia Infantry along with John Lee, George Washington Knight, James Madison BaskinWilliam Varnell Nix, Stephen Willis Avera, William J. Lamb, Samuel Guthrie, William Henry Outlaw, Matthew H. Albritton, Benjamin Sirmans and other men of Berrien County who served in the same unit.  In late 1864 he was furloughed home on sick leave and remained there through the end of the war.

Afterward he became a quite accomplished farmer of Berrien County.  The Jehu Patten farm consisted of a home and 260 acres in section 454 of the 10th district, located just southwest of Ray City, near the farms of  Francis Marion Shaw,  Lacy Shaw, and Jesse Shelby Shaw. (In 1902, Jehu Patten sold this farm to John Levi Allen – see http://www.audubon4tet.com/FMS/21_John_Levi_Allen.pdf)

As a farmer, Jehu had an interest in and respect for the natural world.

Jehu Patten captures serpent, November 15, 1895.

Jehu Patten captures serpent, November 15, 1895.

Tifton Gazette November 15, 1895  Pg 3 Mr. Jehu Patten, from up in the Ray’s Mill neighborhood, was in town  this week and had a snake about four inches long and as large around as a straw.  He found the little snake in the road and caught it and put it in an envelope. The snake was the smallest we ever saw.  – Times.

Two months later, the Gazette noted: 1896-jehu-patten

Tifton Gazette January 24, 1896  Pg 4 The writer had the pleasure of visiting Mr. Jehu Patten’s a few days since, who lives near Rays Mill.  The weather was very cold, but after I had been there some time, he took me around to show me the results of his last year’s work.  The corn crib was the first place.  To my surprise I found he had gathered between seven and eight hundred bushels of corn, and one hundred of rice, next was the sugar house, and as I entered the door I found on my right three hundred gallons of syrup jugged and sealed, and on my left, up on shelves, five dozen fruit jars, containing apples, pear and peaches, and under the shelves was ten fifty-pound cans of lard, all full.  Next came the meat-house, and there I found he had 5,000 lbs. of meat, and about 75, or 100, lbs, of sausage, and has hogs enough yet to kill to last his family two years.  His meat was fattened on pinders, and it is ascertained that he has now in the field 80, or 100 bushels.  To go with his meat he has about an acre of turnips.  I did not visit his potato house but judge them by his other crop, and by those on his table. This Mr. Patten made with two mules and two negro boys.  He has enough stored away to supply his family three years.  Shurely, he ought to be happy.  He has raised and reared his children to a high degree of civilization, and has only three children, Miss Emma, J. M. and J. L. Patten, and all three are well educated, especially in vocal and instrumental music.  All are working to the highest aspiration.     Oh that we had more such men as him!  Yours for more,   AJAX.

Children of Jehu John Patten and Mary Ellen Lancaster:

  1. William H Patten (1865 – 1886)
  2. George T Patten (1867 – 1890}
  3. James Marcus Patten (1869 – 1944)
  4. Joseph Lacy Patten (1874 – 1898)
  5. Emma Patten (1879 – )

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