Historic Water Street Homes

Historic Water Street
Historic Water Street

Historic Water Street - Maple Sugar Display

On display in the Johnston House is the below pictured tripod with large copper pot, long handle wooden paddle, other pots, and displayed behind it is an enlarged graphic of the Oller family's maple sugar camp on Sugar Island, the Jim (Gem) Island band.

Also pictured are two hand carved wooden troughs, a shorter paddle to stir the syrup into sugar as it cools and crystalizes, and two hand carved maple sugar molds.

The long wooden paddle would be used to stir the syrup as it heats up and is carved in a way that the Native people could determine when the syrup reaches the correct temperature. Once the temperature is reached, the heated syrup is poured into the balsam carved troughs sitting on the cold ground, and as the syrup cools it crystalizes into the sugar. As the sugar crystalizes the shorter paddle is used to continuously stir the crystalizing sugar so it stays broken up.

Jefferson Ballew (Brimley, MI) hand carved both paddles out of maple wood. He also carved the two troughs. The troughs are carved out of Balsam wood and waterproofed by scorching the interior and then oiling the wood. Balsam is a wood that will not transfer anything into the sugar. Also included in the display are two yokes, one of them from the Biron family used to haul things, like water, around.

Jefferson is new to the area and for many years lived downstate. He is a Potawatomi Anishinabe and was involved with the Native American museum in the Mount Pleasant area. He married his wife Sonja, who is a Bay Mills member, but who grew up around the corner of the historic homes.