Chattanooga Plow Company

So over the weekend, Emily and I went on a road trip to Pleasureville, KY.  Thumper told Bambi what his Mom had pounded into his head, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all”.  In regard to Pleasureville, KY, I will follow the Thumperian Principle and let you visit sometime to make up your own mind.

Chattanooga #14 cane mill
Chattanooga #14 cane mill

Anyhow, back to my main purpose…let me give you some back story… Sorghum is a plant native to Africa that was first raised in the United States in 1853 or so.  Much like sugar cane, sorghum cane has a sweet core that can be pressed and boiled to make sorghum syrup (some people call it molasses or sorghum molasses.  Molasses is technically made from sugar cane only).

Chattanooga #14 cane mill
It’s huge…rated as a 2 heavy horse mill. It weighs 1158 pounds

It was commonly grown on farms in the south where sugar cane wouldn’t thrive (i.e. the mid-south) so families could have access to sweetener.  Anyhow, as family farms declined in number and as artificial sweeteners grew in popularity and cheap labor (I read this as large farm families) became less accessible, sorghum fell by the wayside.

Chattanooga #14 cane mill
Here it is getting gas in KY

There really isn’t anyone making sorghum presses, at least not in the old style, so the only ones left are 100 or more years old.  There are a few old cane mills left but they are becoming more and more scarce as old-timers pass away and old farms rot back to the land.  There are a few people still willing to turn loose of an old cane press they have laying around, but it is hard and expensive to find them.  That brings us to our trip to KY.  We bought an old sorghum cane mill made by the Chattanooga Plow Company from a guy who had one there.

Chattanooga #14 cane mill
Can you tell how huge this thing is?!

I have another bit of info you didn’t ask for but I am going to tell anyhow…Chattanooga Plow Company  made plows and basic cast iron farm equipment and was a very large producer in the mid to late 1800s.  They were bought by International Harvester when it appeared John Deere was going to get into the harvester business.  JD had been absent in that market while focusing on plows and similar implements.  When IH got word that JD might be getting into harvesters, IH decided to get into plows.  (Read a really interesting history here).  So, ultimately, my cane mill is in the International Harvester family.

I also have bees, as you may know, so you could say I have a thing for sweets.  What really made me think about raising sorghum though, is a recent article in Mother Earth News (here’s the article).  Basically, as folks long to understand old ways and to eat natural food or produce their own “stuff”, sorghum has enjoyed a bit of a revival.  I read the story in Mother Earth News and read a bunch more online and was hooked on the idea.  Getting started in any new endeavor can be a problem if you do not have folks around who understand how to do things, like, say, grow and process sorghum.

Chattanooga #14 cane mill
I just can’t get over how big it is!

I am very fortunate that Granny Sue, my neighbor, used to process sorghum on her farm and the man who originally owned both her land and mine, also ran sorghum.  I think this new project was meant to be!  I have a few months to restore this old cane mill while our sorghum grows, and I will be sure to keep you up to date on that process.  I hope some other folks in the area will plant sorghum so we can have a regular old fashioned sorghum cook-off.  I think that’s a big part of the old ways too…doing thing as a community.

My cane mill/sorghum stuff

27 thoughts on “Chattanooga Plow Company

  1. Wow! You found one! I think it’s a lot bigger than the one we had, from the look of it. Now I understand that comment on Facebook 🙂 Looks like you’ve got some work ahead getting that one fixed up and ready to use. Need a pan and furnace too, some skimmers, stirrers–and a power source for that mill. How amazing it will be to make molasses on this hill again.

  2. So are you going to be looking for 2 heavy horses to power that thing?Or maybe a couple of the neighbors free ranging cows? Will growing sorghum affect the taste of your honey? How will all of this extra labor effect your “Mountain Dew” intake? And finally and most important………..Have you licked it yet?

  3. Back when I was a wee lad, I remember my neighbor dropping off pint jars of molasses now and then. I remember people using it in their baking instead of sugar like they do now and I definitely remember having some on my biscuits. Man you have brought back lots of memories. Wish your endeavor lots of success!

  4. Very cool! I’ve only seen two presses and that is by far the most heavy duty I’ve laid eyes on. Estimate of the weight?

  5. Woody – it is something like 1158 pounds. When I lifted it, it felt like a little more, but I don’t usually lift things quite that heavy 😉

  6. Woody – I looked on CL and there are some on there. I also looked on ebay a lot and they occasionally come on there. I called everyone on the list from the classified page of the National Sweet Sorghum Producers’ Assoc ( adn that is where I found one. I also searched a lot just randomly on the web and found another one there but it was priced higher and was farther from me

  7. How much did you pay for that? I found one in the NC highlands and was curious what it’s worth?

  8. I have seen mills run from around $600 – $1500 and up. I was right in the middle of that range. Of course, mills that are restored are often much higher and horizontal mills can go into the several thousand dollar range. Are you wanting to buy one to get started making sorghum or are you planning to re-sell it?

  9. I planted Sorghum for the first time since 1982 we used to raise it for spending money when we were kids. I am looking for a Press I have a cooker I built for maple syrup this spring and this just a extension of that. We took our Cain to be processed then. They are no longer doing it. Do you Have any Leeds on a press near Wisconsin.

  10. Tim – I do not have any leads. I searched all over but it seems like the most common place I have seen them is on craigslist. Search for sites that search all of craigslist at one time so you don’t have to search city by city. They are def out there!

  11. I have a cane mill made by chattanooga plow company in 1901 that I was considering selling

  12. Please get me in touch with Robert,,,I would like pics, condition and Price & general location (City & State). Thank you. I planted Sorghum for the first time since 1982 we used to raise it for spending money when we were kids. I am looking for a Press I have a cooker I built for maple syrup this spring and this just a extension of that. We took our Cain to be processed then. They are no longer doing it. Do you Have any Leeds on a press near Wisconsin.

  13. i have the hole set up an looking to sell. is there any one inrested in it. the mill is just like the one u have, an it has a copper pan also (ribs in it)

  14. i’m also looking for either a tractor driven or smaller cane cracker and roller presser… the smaller machines they use a slotted roller…sometimes called a 4 roller press……please state condition if known…thank you…..ray

  15. where can you find parts, or have parts made for chattanooga cane mills? any suggestions would be appreciated.

  16. I have the same mill in alparetta ga. I’ll take $450.00. a little bit rougher than the one in your pics.

  17. I have the same one u have it in mantee Mississippi …. need to get rid of it asap if u knon some body want one

  18. I have an old Chattanooga Plow Corp. Cane Mill #12 for sale. (looks just like the one in these pics)
    I live in Pensacola, Florida.
    I am going to list it on Craigslist and post pics if anyone is interested please contact me by email

  19. John contact me I am in south Mississippi an looking for a cane mill
    critt 77 matt at yahoo dot com
    take out the spaces and use symbols of course

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