Maasdam Sorghum Mill History
There is a lot of family history behind the Maasdam Sorghum Mill. There has been seven generations of family making sorghum. The first was Fred Mathes in the late 1800's in Pella, Iowa.
Henry Mathes and his two son-in-laws, Henry Van Wyk and Lane Maasdam, made sorghum from 1905 to 1910 near Lynnville, Iowa.
Then the mill was not used for a few years. William Rozendaal bought the mill and moved it 3/4 miles north. He made sorghum with the help of his boys, but then quit in the early twenties.
In the spring of 1926 Lane Maasdam bought a mill from Kellogg, IA and started up the operation with the help of his boys, Leonard, Henry and Fred. The first year they were making less than 1,000 gallons. In the thirties they were employing 25 to 30 men on a 24 hour basis which furnished a lot of employment during the depression for the boys in the neighboring community. In the winter they would employ eight men to cut wood to fuel the furnace the following year.
Leonard Maasdam moved the mill in 1944 to Henry Austin's Farm which is located 1/2 mile southeast of the original site. He installed a steam boiler, used a steam engine to power the cane presses and other machinery, and heated the steam coils to do the evaporating of the sorghum juice. He used the cane plummies as part of the fuel.
Charles Kramer, son-in-law of Leonard Maasdam, has been working with the sorghum mill since 1963. With much improvement and labor saving machinery by Leonard and Charles, the mill employs an average of eight to ten people plus family members to operate during the year. The Maasdam Sorghum mill produces an average of 10,000 gallons a year, but as much as 18,000 have been made.
John Kramer and Craig Maasdam are the grandsons of Leonard Maasdam. They have grown up helping around the mill. They did clean-up work and odd jobs when they were young. Now they are active with the operation of the mill.
Curtis Maasdam and Austin Kramer would be the seventh generation. Curtis is the son of Craig Maasdam and helps his dad out in the cane fields and Austin is the son of John Kramer, he helps with the clean-up.
The mill has produced sorghum every year since 1926. The mill is still powered by the steam engine that was installed in 1944.
In 2003, Leonard Maasdam passed away, but before he did John Kramer’s fourth son was born. Leonard's thoughts about the four boys "More help for the sorghum mill". We hope this family tradition of producing this old fashion syrup will continue for many more generations.