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Maple Syrup Association

Back in 1917, when sugar was scarce and expensive, Len W. Feighner, long-time editor of the Nashville News, wrote an editorial urging that the hundreds of maple trees in the village be tapped and the sap be turned into the  precious sweetening. Somehow the idea failed to materialize, and by another spring the war had ended.

The years slipped by and Mr. Feighner sold the newspaper in 1928, after more than forty years as its editor; but he continued to make Nashville his home and his first and foremost concern. Came the year 1942 and America was again at war and sugar rationing was again in force. Len Feighner, now past eighty, but still Nashville's Number One booster, once again "wrote a piece for the paper".

Early in January of 1942 his "piece" appeared in the paper, suggesting that the maples that line the streets of Nashville be turned into a huge sugarbush as a community project. When the sap began to run that spring, the idea had become a reality. John Hamp, who was the high school Agricultural teacher at that time, with the help of village president Earl Olmstead, J. Mearle Scott, Ralph Devine, George Marshall and Elmer Gillette, soon had the project organized and underway. Scott, Devine, Marshall, and Gillette loaned buckets, spiles and "know-how". Otto Lass of the Nashville Roller Mills loaned an evaporator and space was found in the old Farmer's Cooperative Creamery for the evaporating room. Gail Lykins and his twin sons Charles and Sherman installed the evaporator and the community was turned into one big sugarbush.

With the aid of some fifty or more boys and girls who washed buckets, tapped trees, collected sap and pasted labels - and with two old pros like Menno "Peck" Wenger and Aubry Murray to do the boiling - about two hundred gallons of syrup were made that first season. It sold for $2.50 per gallon and the profits were used for the summer recreation project. The second year the Maple Syrup Committee purchased about $450 worth of equipment, including a 3' x 8' evaporator, 670 buckets, 1,000 spiles and a large collecting tank. With the permission of the Village Council the new evaporator was set up in the old pumping station just north of the river bridge. The 1943 season was fairly good and approximately 285 gallons of syrup were sold at $3.25  per gallon.

In 1944 a bigger evaporator, 3' x 12', was purchased and the smaller one was sold. It had been planned to buy a boiler and boil with steam but none could be found. A total of 519 gallons of syrup were sold at $3.39 per gallon Twenty gallons were saved until fall, made into half pound cakes of sugar and enclosed in the Christmas box that went to each service man from the community. One reason for the increased yield in 1944 was the deal made with Forrest Fiebach, a nearby farmer. The community project boiled Mr. Fiebach's sap for half and thus gained 77 gallons of syrup.

An so it went - each year new improvements were made, and experience being a good teacher, many lessons in the art of making maple syrup were learned. About 1957 the present "Sugar Shanty" was built just west of the old Water Works in Putnam Park. This building is of cement block construction with a cement floor, lots of windows for light, a hinged roof for the escape of steam and storage room. It is equipped with hot and cold running water and several big storage tanks, and a 5' by 16' arch and pan as the evaporator is called.

In 1966, because of the inability to find anyone to cut and furnish good firewood at a reasonable price, no trees were tapped and no syrup was made. However, in 1967 a small group of interested citizens, not wishing to see this project die, met and elected new officers. A new 5 burner gas unit was purchased and installed, workers were contacted, and the village was back in the maple syrup business. This burner eliminates the "backbreaking" use of wood to stoke the fires, the all-night boiling sessions, and has cut the boiling time down to about half. The latest piece of new equipment was the purchase of an automatic takeoff in 1968. This little gadget and the burners have more than paid for themselves, not only in convenience, but  because of their quality control factor.

The 1968 season netted a profit to the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, two churches, and Volunteer Fire Department and several other organizations, of $1,297.57 plus a goodly balance in the Association checking account. Over and above this, one worker donated his wages of $480 to be used for the purchase of thirty (30) new maple trees for the village to be set in place of those trees which have had to be destroyed. These trees were planted in the spring of 1969.

During the years a guest book has been kept at the Sugar Shanty for registering all visitors - and believe me, there have been thousands. A good many foreign exchange students have received their first taste of this "lickin' good" product of old Mother Nature and many pictures of the process and a good many quart cans have found their way to our friends across the sea. On any given weekend when the sap is running and a big cloud of steam hangs low over the north side of town, the population is swelled by several hundred visitors who come to watch, taste and buy the golden syrup.