MOLASSES MAKIN' RECALLS CALHOUN FARM LIFE - Historic Photos, Molasses Festival Oct. 21-23

WV's 53rd-54th Molasses Festival will be held Thurs.,
Fri., and Sat., Oct. 21-23, 2021, at Arnoldsburg

Molasses Making at the home of Charles R. and Nannie Conley
Lamb on Walker Road early 1900s (Photo courtesy of Genie Bailey)

Alva Bell keepin' the stirrin' going on Rowels
Run near Hur in 1930s (Bob Weaver Photo)

By Bob Weaver

The West Virginia Molasses Festival at Arnoldsburg is a reminder of what was a customary ritual throughout Calhoun's farm communities, the making of molasses, recalling old-time farm life and the hard work performed by our ancestors.

Molasses was an essential sugary ingredient used for baking and spicing up just about everything.

Perhaps the biggest delight, molasses and butter on homemade biscuits, in addition to cookies and taffy.

Living at the end of the agricultural era in Calhoun where life was centered on the farm, it was a community affair - "labor intensive."

Turning a patch of sugar cane into molasses required a lot of family and neighbors, the hard work softened into a social event.

Most every farm grew a patch of sugar cane.

Alva Bell and Grover Starcher were noted molasses makers in the greater Hur community, traveling from farm to farm with their mill and horse.

The horse would travel in an endless circle to turn the grinding mill, squeezing the sugar from the cane.

The squeezings were then put into cooking trays, heated by a wood fire for the stir-off, a term used for slowly boiling the juice and skimming off the impurities until the molasses becomes that delicious dark, sweet caramel colored nectar.

The process required hours of dedication, giving time for the farm women to talk and the children to play.

An admonition to kids was "Don't fall in the skimmin hole," where the leftovers spilled from the cooking tray.

The final step was to place the molasses in jars for use during the winter.

Now you can run down to the store and buy some molasses made in a foreign country.

Hur molasses maker Grover Starcher
working at his craft (Bob Weaver Photo)

Early 1900 Calhoun family squeezin' and cookin'
(Photo courtesy of the late Duck Stevens Photo)

Makin' lasses at Leatherbark
(Photo courtesy of Gene Clark)

Lasses makin' was a community event at Hur (Bob Weaver Photo)