A Necessity to North Country Welfare 

 

Maple Sugaring, a practice that has been known to date back to 1557, is one of the most essential staples to rural life here in the North Country. The exact creation of the method is actually unknown, so historians are left to speculate.[1] The practice was introduced to Northern Americans by Native Americans in early settlement years. While extracting sugar from maple trees has clearly been around for centuries, the actual industry for maple syrup began during the Civil War, along with the introduction of tin cans.[2] In 1872, an evaporator with a two-pan system was developed which boosted the industrialization of maple syrup, giving way to one of the most dominant industries the North Country would ever see. Made from the evaporation of extracted maple sap, maple syrup quickly became a favorite sweet throughout the nation, specifically, the North Country. With its abundance of Maple trees, and appropriate conditions, the North Country has ever since become obsessed with this work as it’s become an essential part of the economy and lifestyle.

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[Shown above, George Seaver and Morris Hawley collecting maple sap from a maple tree. Unlike today’s method involving tubes and tractors, sap was collected and brought to the boiling room with horse drawn wagons, carrying buckets of collected sap. The image, found from North Country Public Radio, depicts sugaring in the 1940s in Colton, NY.[1]]

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A large part of what has made North Country maple syrup so unique is in its flavor and color. Cleanliness, extraction, and evaporation all factor into the quality and grade of syrup. Workers hold a set of responsibilities when extracting and creating their syrups to ensure that their quality is consistent. The first is correctly placing the sprout, a small metal tube inserted into the tree to guide sap into a bucket. By cleaning the spout with bleach and making sure the path is smooth and clear, sap yield can increase significantly.[3] Before the actual evaporation process, buckets, pails, and tubes are all used to extract the maple sap. As technology has advanced, the syrup industry has only further expanded. The relatively recent introduction of tubes to the industry has made for more expedient extraction without the need to visit each pail periodically by horse as was done in the early days of sugaring.

Overall, sugaring has not only become an economic necessity throughout the North Country, but a respected tradition that is assimilated with its rural lifestyle. A once primitive method of obtaining a sweet addition to a meal has become a staple to the North Country, as well as so many of its surrounding areas.

 

[1] Mar 29, 2017 — by Amy Feiereisel (North Country at Work Correspondent) , in Colton, NY. "North Country at Work: Maple Sugaring in Colton." NCPR. N.p., 29 Mar. 2017. Web. 11 May 2017

[1] Bailey/Howe Library, Maple Syrup (The University of Vermont Libraries)

[2] Bailey/Howe, Maple Syrup

[3] Kathy Hopkins, Maple Syrup Quality Control (Cooperative Extension Publications)

Contributor Biography

Brad Winthrop is a History & Economics double major at St. Lawrence University 19'. Having spent winters in upstate Vermont and Lake Placid throughout his childhood, Brad has become quite familiar with the culture of the North Country and its surrounding area. Along with his passion for fly fishing, skiing, and other outdoor activities, Brad has developed both an interest in the North Country as well as a deep respect for all that the beautiful place has to offer. Living in Greenwich, Ct, Brad enjoys frequent visits to the Adirondacks for fly fishing and hiking. His major in History has enabled him to develop research skills that were put to use in his study on Tupper Lake and the history of sugaring in the North Country.