“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Oxon Hill in Prince George's County, Maryland — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)

Sweet Sorghum

Oxon Hill Farm - Oxon Cove Park

Sweet Sorghum Marker image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, October 30, 2011
1. Sweet Sorghum Marker
This antique machine is a sorghum mill. With a mill like this, a horse, plenty of sorghum stalks, an evaporating pan, and years of experience, you can make sweet sorghum syrup.

In the early 1900s, farm families used sorghum syrup like molasses – in baking, on biscuits, and to make candy, gingerbread, and pudding. Sorghum syrup was often called sorghum molasses (though it comes from the sorghum plant and molasses comes from sugarcane or sugar beets).

Sorghum mills were usually made of two or three upright rollers fitted close together. A long wooden pole called a sweep was attached to the top of the mill and a horse was harnessed to the sweep. As the horse walked around the mill in a circle, the rollers turned.

Stalks of the sorghum plant were fed into the mill by hand and crushed by the rollers. The bright green sorghum juice dripped out into a barrel. When enough juice was gathered, it was strained and poured into a large evaporating pan.

The sorghum maker had to keep a slow fire burning under the pan, stir the juice constantly, and skim off impurities that rose to the top. The right temperature was crucial for keeping the syrup hot for three or four hours boiling or scorching. As the juice cooked, it turned dark green, thickened, and finally reached a dark, clear amber.

A sorghum
Sweet Sorghum Mill image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, October 30, 2011
2. Sweet Sorghum Mill
plant looks something like a cornstalk without the ears. A large cluster of tiny seeds sits at the top. Today, varieties of sorghum grow anywhere from about four to fifteen feet tall. Farmers usually plant sorghum in May or June and harvest near the first frost.

The leaves and seeds usually fatten up livestock. But some seeds also end up as bird food, and around the world people grind sorghum seeds into flour for cooking. The juice for sorghum syrup comes only from the stalks.

Sorghum originated in Africa and came to the United States during the slave trade.

[Drawing of the sorghum plant.]

[Background image of the rail fence surrounding the sorghum press by] Barbara S. Mogel

[Photo of the sorghum press by] Jon G. Dean
Erected by National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior.
Location. 38° 48.08′ N, 77° 0.41′ W. Marker is in Oxon Hill, Maryland, in Prince George's County. Marker is on Oxon Hill Farm Hiker Biker Trail west of Bald Eagle Road. Click for map. Bald Eagle Road is accessible via Oxon Hill Road (MD 414), only - just west of Indian Head Hwy. (MD 210) on the south side of the Capital Beltway (I-95/495). Marker is at or near this postal address: 6411 Oxon Hill Road, Oxon Hill MD 20745, United States of America.
Other nearby markers.
Sweet Sorghum Marker at Oxon Hill Farm image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, October 30, 2011
3. Sweet Sorghum Marker at Oxon Hill Farm
At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Two Centuries of Farm Buildings (within shouting distance of this marker); Why a Brick Stable? (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); A Farm for St. Elizabeths, 1891-1950 (about 500 feet away); Wheat and Tobacco (about 500 feet away); Root Cellar (about 500 feet away); The Burning of Washington, D.C. (about 600 feet away); The DeButts Family Comes to Maryland - Mount Welby (about 600 feet away); Oxon Cove Park and Oxon Hill Farm (about 700 feet away). Click for a list of all markers in Oxon Hill.
Also see . . .  ... the art of making Sweet Sorghum (sometimes called Sorghum Molasses)... (Submitted on November 8, 2011, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.)
Categories. AgricultureColonial EraMan-Made Features
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. This page has been viewed 578 times since then and 14 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on , by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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