Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, WPA Federal Writers' Project Collection.

An interview given by Jane Carter

One of the early pioneer industries was that of oil making. Elijah, father of Jane Carter, was the first oil maker in Dixie. He was called by Brigham Young to leave Salt Lake and move to St. George in the year 1868.

Upon his arrival he selected a site for his mill. On the advice of President Erastus Snow, the mill was located in the extreme north west part of town, under the red hill. [About 600 Diagonal St.] The spot selected was just east of the present ice plant. Here a long wooden building was built and the machinery set up.

The two most common sources of oil were the Castor Bean and the Beania. The former was very much like the plant by the same name used as an ornamental bush now. Men would sow an acre or so in this country and it would grow without irrigation, a great advantage in this arid region.

As the seeds ripened on the Castor Bean stalk they were gathered and laid out on a canvas to dry. Not all the seeds on a stalk ripened at the same time. They were often gathered at intervals for three weeks. When dry the seeds were beaten with a large stick to thresh them and the husks were winnowed out by tossing in the wind. The beans were then stored until needed.

At frequent intervals, Mr. Thomas would run off the oil.

The clean beans were then run through the rolls. A large hopper holding about two bushels fed the machine, which consisted of two large rolls requiring two people to run, one roll at one side and the other from the opposite side. As the beans were crushed between the rolls they fell into a clean canvas under the rolls and were stored in a wagon box until all were crushed. Then they were sacked in burlap sacks about one-half the size of the burlap sacks used now and the bags were sewed like flour sacks so they could lie flat.

The following morning early, the bags of crushed beans were placed in the boiler. This boiler had a copper bottom and was about six feet square. About twelve to fifteen inches from the bottom slats were placed across the boiler and the bags were placed on these so they would not touch each other and keep out of the water. The bottom of the boiler was filled with water and a lid placed over it so the beans would be steamed. A large fire was built under the boiler and they were cooked six or seven hours.

While still hot the bags of steamed bean pulp were placed in the press one at a time. This was a large metal box about two feet square with two holes at the bottom. After the sack was placed in this, a large heavy top was placed on it; then a screw was placed on this and was tightened y turning a sweep. A horse could to used for this, but generally Mr. Thomas turned it by hand. As the screw tightened water ran from it first and then the oil. This was caught in five-gallon cans. Ten to fifteen gallons of oil was the usual day's run. When all the oil was extracted from one bag of beans another was placed in the press and the process repeated until all the oil was extracted.

After all the oil was extracted from the meal the cake was emptied from the bag and dried in the sun. When dry this was used as fuel for future boilings.

The cans of oil were allowed to settle. The top oil was poured off and recruited. It was then sold as Castor Oil, a common medicine. The next oil was poured off, mixed with perfume, thinned with alcohol, bottled in small bottles and sold for hair oil. The oil in the bottom of the can contained the water and any refuse. It was boiled down to remove the water. When about as thick as honey it was ready to used as a lubricating oil. The cotton factory at Washington used a large amount of this oil.

Sweet oil, a substitute for olive oil, was made from beania. This plant grew about three feet high and had creamy white blossoms similar to snapdragons only each flower was bout two inches long and the stalks were about eight inches long. This was cut when the seed was ripe. This, a seed which resembled flax seed, grew in cups or capsules about two inches deep. When ripe the seed would shake out when the cup was inverted. The seed pods were dried on a wagon cover, threshed out, and stored until needed. They were ground into a meal, cooked, and the oil extracted the same as the castor oil. The beania oil was a thinner oil than the Castor Oil. It did not become rancid. It was used as we now use olive oil. People used it as shortening in cooking, to fry food, or to oil baking tins. The oil in the bottom of the cans was added to the machine oil.

The meal left in the bags after the beania oil was extracted, was dried, placed in a bin, and used to feed chickens, pigs, and cattle.

As the people here began to raise other crops instead of castor beans and beania the business of extracting oil gradually lessened. Mr. Thomas moved to Leeds and devoted his time to raising fruit, grain, and other farm products to meet the demands of Silver Reef.

Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, WPA Federal Writers' Project Collection.


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