L.W. Paul Living History Farm – Syrup Day
Ever wonder what it would be like to live on a farm between 1900 and 1955? The L.W. Paul Living History Farm is a 17-acre fully-functioning farm operating as if it were that era in Horry County. When you visit you can witness mules plowing the fields, women spinning yarn from sheep’s wool (from sheep living down the street at Brookgreen Gardens!), and farmers making lye soap, curing meat, grinding grits, and harvesting crops in real time on the farm! The Farm hosts different activities to showcase farm family living in Horry County during the first half of the twentieth century, and in November my daughter and I visited the Farm to witness how farmers made syrup.
The Syrup Day event was from 10am – 3pm. My seven-year-old daughter and I arrived around 11am (after enjoying the annual Snowball Drop in Conway) and unfortunately missed the mule plowing sugar cane in the fields. However making cane syrup is a very lengthy process and there was much more on the farm to see and do.
We entered the farm through the gift shop where there are restrooms and you can purchase wooden toys, syrup, Blenheim Ginger Ale (made and bottled in South Carolina) and various sodas in glass bottles, wine, hoop cheese, hotdogs, popcorn, and other odds and ends. In the back room, which looked like a classroom, there was a craft table where children could make a “Thanksgiving wreath” out of a paper plate and construction paper leaves. The woman administering the craft was dressed in period clothing which included a white bonnet. For this event there were numerous craft tables set up on the farm where children could make bird feeders and turkeys out of pine cones, stamp animal prints, make a dream-catcher, and throw a fishing line.
No formal tours were offered but workers and volunteers wore blue overalls to identify themselves and there was at least one at each “station” or place of interest where they were willing to answer any questions or to talk about the farm. My daughter and I visited the living quarters where women were sewing on sewing machines with foot-treadles, spinning yarn, and baking from pot-bellied stoves. The house showcased two bedrooms with antique furniture and a working water pump was positioned outside on the porch with a bucket. We saw an outhouse with a basket full of corn-husks (the toilet paper of those days), a smoke-house, barn, gristmill, blacksmith shop, saw mill, church/community house, tobacco barn, and beehives. There were also turkeys, a pig, a cow, and two mules.
We might have missed the plowing of the fields, but we learned there was a lot more to making cane syrup, including extracting the sugar cane juice from the sugar cane. This process required a mule, Minnie, who was walking in circles to move a large wooden arm which was attached to her and to a press. Farmers fed sugar cane into this press and the arm Minnie was moving squeezed – or pressed – sugar cane juice out of the sugar cane into a bucket. My daughter asked what they did with the sugar cane “leftovers” and the farmers said they waste nothing so they fed them to Minnie and the pigs, but also had used some of it to make the potato storage mound near the barn (this was a short tee-pee looking structure which they were going to pack mud around to store sweet potatoes in for the winter). The buckets of juice were poured into a huge cauldron with a fire underneath it, located next door to the press. This is where the farmers were going to continuously boil the juice so the liquid could evaporate, leaving a pure cane concentrate for syrup. If you were lucky you could get one gallon of syrup from eight to ten gallons of sugar cane juice.
As we were leaving the Farm on Syrup Day we encountered a boy who I think summarizes what this Farm is all about: He delicately unfolded paper towels to show me two sweet potatoes and explained to me how he had dug “deep” down into the earth and had felt something hard before pulling up his own sweet potatoes! He had a big, proud smile on his face, being part of this community only for a short time but gaining an appreciation for being able to accomplish a little piece of work that contributed to the history of our community at large.
This place is worth a trip, whether to learn about Horry County’s history, farm history, or just to remind yourself there was a simpler time to enjoy and appreciate all that is around you.
The L.W. Paul Living History Farm’s events are FREE to the public. Events include:
January – Smokehouse Day
November – Syrup Day
December – Christmas at the Farm