In the Great Smoky Mountains the settlers had several sources of sweetener including maple syrup, honey and maple sugar. Besides these was a very dark sweet syrup called molasses. To the Smoky Mountain pioneers molasses was pretty good especially on corn bread with a little butter.
The sorghum mill was the means by which the molasses was made in the Cades Cove. Molasses begins as sorghum cane which is stripped of leaves and then fed between the rollers of the mill. The long poles of the mill were attached to the harness of a farm animal such as an ox, mule or horse. Because the animal was attached to the pole they were forced walk in a circle. The animal’s effort turned the rollers which pulled the stalks further into the mill where the sorghum juice was pressed out. As the rollers pressed the juice from the cane, it was collected. Next the juice was boiled down in an outdoor furnace until it was thick and dark. Molasses could be used as a sweetener in a variety of ways. Molasses can be purchased about the middle of September into October at the Cades Cove Visitor Center.