Sugar cultivation was a lot more labor, capital and expertise intensive than either cotton or tobacco crops in the new world. This led to a highly specialized agricultural/industrial system, many years before the industrial revolution. Many of the processes learned in sugar mills were later applied to factories in Europe and North America. The cane had to be cut at exactly the right time (January to June) to maximize the production of sugar and the juice had to be extracted before the cane spoiled. This required the sugar estate owner to have a sugar mill near the fields.
The cane was fed through rollers that were powered by either animals, men, wind or water. If the green juice was left for a long time before processing, it would begin to ferment. The juice was then sent to the boiling house, usually by chutes where it was boiled down in a series of copper kettles over the furnace, each one smaller then the last. This was a highly skilled and dangerous job. The juice went into the largest kettle and here the operator skimmed off the impurities and then ladled the contents into the next smaller kettle. The ingredients became hotter as the kettles became smaller and the final kettle resulted in a thick, brown, ropy material called muscovado, a mixture of brown sugar and molasses. At his point, quicklime was added to aid in granulation and at exactly the right moment, the fire was cooled and the sugar ladled into a cooling cistern. The head boiler needed to know where the sugar was grown, how it was harvested and transported in order to get the process right.
The muscovado was placed into clay pots and the molasses was allowed to drain for up to a month. The brown sugar was then sun dried and packed into hogsheads, large barrels that held 1,500 pounds of sugar.
Auxiliary operations of the harvest included the cutting of the cane, hauling of the cane, usually by ox cart, and hauling the expended cane stalks after the rolling process to the trash house. The trash house was an important part of the operation. The expended cane was placed in the trash house to dry and then was later used to fire the furnaces. The skimmings and molasses were converted into rum in the distillery.
Work in the sugar mill was extremely dangerous and stressful. If the mill-feeder got any part of his hand caught in the rollers, he was drawn in and crushed. An axe was kept handy to chop off the limb before it was too late. The boiling house was extremely hot and sometimes water had to be poured on the shingled roof to keep it from catching fire. If the boiler operator got any boiling sugar on his skin, it stuck like glue and many times resulted in death.
Sugar Mill Photo Gallery
After leaving the Long Pond Great House, while driving down the highway between Clarks Town and Duncans, I noticed a great house at the top of a hill. I drove up the hill, a group of men met me, and they informed me that I was at the Georgia Great House. Upon further investigation, the house is actually the Georgia Estate overseer’s house. The Georgia Great House is further up Georgia Ridge. An Everglades Sugar Company security guard gave me a tour of the outside of the house. So far, all I know about the great house is that the Thomas Gordon founded the Georgia Estate and it consisted of 1,389 acres. I hope to discover more about it later. Any help from my readers would be greatly appreciated. It appeared that several sugar mill employees now live in the house.
The two story house is constructed of square cut stones, probably brought over from England as ballast in the ships that hauled sugar to England. The builders constructed both stories of stone. There is a large cut stone stairway in the front. Corrugated metal now covers the hip roof. The remains of the original kitchen out building is in ruins and barely visible behind the house.
The house is easily recognizable, just off the Clarks Town/Duncans road, just a couple of kilometers south of Clarks Town.
John Grant, Chief Justice of Jamaica from 1784 to 1790 purchased the Georgia Estate in 1778. He was also and an Attorney for several other estates and having become wealthy from Jamaican sugar, retired to Scotland in 1790. He sold Georgia Estate to his friend Charles Gordon
Charles Gordon moved to Jamaica in 1772, from Scotland to settle the estate of his uncle who had been a merchant in Montego Bay. While he was there, he purchased the Georgia Estate from John Grant. He became very wealthy and was able to return to Scotland in 1781.
Major General Thomas Gordon who lived from 1788 to 1841 owned Georgia Estate and it’s 250 slaves. He received his title during his service in behalf of the Greeks in their war of independence from the Turkish rule of their country. He owned the slaves up until their emancipation in 1838.
Georgia Overseer’s House Photo Gallery
Georgia Overseer’s House Location Map