Sorghum Molasses Spill Threatens Settlers’ Marriage

Overflowing pitcher of sorghum molasses causes a big mess on dirt floor.

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Grandfather brought Grandmother to Kansas when she was a bride in 1868, and they set up housekeeping in a two-room log house. The tale I remember best is a sticky story that almost parted Grandpa and Grandma – for a time.

Grandfather always raised sorghum and made a barrel of sorghum molasses for the winter. Every pioneer family had a barrel of sorghum molasses in a corner in the kitchen. One Sunday morning Grandfather didn't feel well, so he decided he wouldn't go to church. The sorghum pitcher was empty, so Grandmother put it on the dirt floor and turned on the spigot of the sorghum barrel. It was winter and the sorghum ran out so slowly she couldn't wait for the pitcher to fill. She told her husband to watch it and turn off the spigot. Then she took the children and drove the team to church. Grandfather sat down to read and soon fell asleep. The pounding of the horses' hooves as Grandma returned from church woke him. With a start he remembered the sorghum. He rushed to the kitchen door just as Grandma was opening the outside door. Both stood looking down at sorghum inches deep all around the barrel. Grandfather spent that Sunday afternoon shoveling out dirt and their winter's supply of sorghum.

"And," I remember hearing Grandfather say, "a dirt floor is mighty hard to shovel up after it has been packed for years. Then I had to carry in clean dirt and pack it down. Emily was awful hard to please that afternoon!" And he winked at Grandma.

"John swore he'd never miss church again," Grandma said. "And he never did."

The neighbors heard about the loss of their sorghum and many of them came to call bringing buckets of the sweetening from their own barrels. I live on the farm where this incident happened.

Mrs. Virgil Sellers
Weir, Kan.

Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.