Friday, August 19, 2011

Maple Sugar Production

One hundred years ago Josiah Morrow, a history columnist for the Western Star, a Cox newspaper, wrote, in April 7, 1910, about the importance of sugar maple trees. The trees provided a ready and cheap source of sweetener.

According to Morrow, the Indians made maple sugar long before white settlers came to the area. There were many such trees in Wayne Township on both sides of the Little Miami River. Morrow says an old Indian sugar camp was found in the area in 1787. He quotes George T. O’Neall as saying the Indians were still making yearly trips there as late as 1804 or 1805.

In 1922 Elmer Keever wrote memories from his youth, included were details of making sugar on his family farm near the village of Lytle in Warren County. The farm had 175 sugar maples. They had a sugar house where maple sap was boiled down into syrup or cooked until it became thick and granulated and made a light yellow colored sugar.

He explained the process started “after the old frost of winter was mostly out of the ground” and that this could be any time from January to early April. His family prepared throughout the fall by collecting and storing fire wood in a shed near the sugar house.

Foot long spikes called spiles were made from the stalk of the elderberry tree. A 5/8 inch auger hole was drilled into the south side of a maple tree, about 1 ½ ft. above the ground. A hatchet or mallet was used to drive the spiles into the holes. Earthenware crocks were placed under the spiles to catch the sap.

The sap was gathered, placed in barrels, and transported on sleds to the sugar house. The fresh sap was first placed in a large cistern or reservoir near the sugar furnace, a long covered limestone lined trench. Large logs were shoved in the mouth of the furnace and then it was closed by a sheet iron door.

A sheet iron pan was over the top of the furnace and went back to a chimney. Near the chimney were two large iron kettles.

Sap was poured from the cistern to the pan of the furnace where it was heated. After some evaporation occurred, the fluid was dipped into the forward kettle. Following more evaporation the liquid was moved into the rear kettle and cooked until it became syrup or sugar.

The labor involved was intensive but the settlers knew how to make it enjoyable. Irvina Dearth wrote in her “History of Red Lion Warren County, Ohio” that there were large groves of sugar maples in the area of Red Lion and she remarks “The young folks delighted in the sugar parties which took place during this season. A cup of syrup right from the kettle to the snow to cool and harden was a real treat and taffy pullings were a favorite pastime.”

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Captain William Hoel, Part 2

            Captain William Hoel led an exciting life.  He also died a violent death.
            Hoel married Elizabeth Hunt on February 11, 1869.  She was beautiful and eighteen years his junior.  They had two children: Sarah born in December of 1869 and Rion born two years later. 
            The family lived at “Kildere”, a 100 acre farm located on
Clarksville Road
near the village of Corwin in Warren County.
            The couple was active in St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Waynesville. A stained glass memorial window in the sanctuary has an anchor inside a circle with the inscription “In Memory of a noble Man, William Rion Hoel, one of the founders of this Church, Died May 23, 1879.”
            His death was recounted in many newspapers.  One article, in the May 29, 1879 issue of the “Western Star” was titled “Tragic Death of Captain W.R. Hoel”.  It told the following story:
            Captain Hoel was jealous of his wife and suspected she was having an affair with Dr. Hough, a Waynesville physician.  The Captain told everyone, including the doctor, he was taking an early morning train to Cincinnati.  Instead, he hid somewhere on his property.  Dr. Hough came to the house and he and Elizabeth Hoel went into the parlor.  Captain Hoel rushed into the room with a pistol.            
            Dr. Hough afterward said he and Mrs. Hoel were seated on chairs when the Captain burst into the room with a pistol, fired a shot which missed, and then holding the long muzzle of the navy Colt began to club him about the head.  The doctor said the gun discharged and the ball entered the Captain’s chest.  Captain Hoel fell saying, “I am shot.” Death quickly followed.
            The reporter stated that the doctor’s face was swollen and cut.  His left cheek had a gash and two teeth were knocked out. 
            An inquest was held by Squire Mannington. 
            Dr. Hough explained there was no cause for jealousy.  Mrs. Hoel suffered a chronic ailment, thus his visits.  He said she “is a woman of spotless character”.
            Eleanor Allen, a girl working for the Hoel’s said, she looked into the parlor before Captain Hoel entered and she saw Dr. Hough sitting in a chair with Mrs. Hoel on his lap.  She said Captain Hoel shot at the doctor and then began to beat him three or four times about the head.  The pistol went off again and shot the Captain.
            Mrs. Hoel said she had left the room after the first shot and did not know what happened.  
            No legal action was taken for months.  Dr. Hough finally printed a letter in several newspapers explaining what happened and proclaiming his innocence.  He was eventually exonerated.
            Hoel is buried in Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati.   Elizabeth Hoel continued to live at Kildere with her children.  At her death she was buried in Miami Cemetery in Corwin. It is unclear what happened to Dr. Hough.