A smokehouse was a necessary part of every rural pioneer home in early American history due to the lack of refrigeration for fresh meat storage. As part of the preservation process, cuts of meat, primarily pork and sausage, were hung on racks in the smokehouse. Underneath the meat, a green oak or hickory wood fire was built and maintained for several days creating a dense smoke which cured the meat.
This smokehouse and syrup kettle, donated by Thomas G. and Harvey E. Hayden in memory of their parents, Dempsey G. and Hollie Wingate were part of the Andrew and Lettie Wingate homestead, which was located on the far eastern reaches of the Manatee River in what is known as the "Bear Bay" section of Manatee County.
Sugar cane mills and syrup kettles were found in most rural areas in the South, as cane provided both syrup and sugar. This sugar cane mill donated by Hazel Hankee, was used to press the juice from the cane stalks. A horse or mule was hitched to the low end of the sweep, pulled the sweep turning the mill. Stalks of cane were fed between the rollers. The juice was collected and poured into the syrup kettle attached to the smokehouse, where it was cooked over a fire.
The sweep must be made from a tree with the correct bend at the top. Senator Doyle Carlton, Jr. found this pine tree on his
Hardee County ranch.