Category Archives: Portal GA

Catface Turpentine Festival, Portal

Catface Turpentine Festival Portal GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

Bad weather didn’t keep people away from this year’s 34th Annual Catface Turpentine Festival in Portal, which bills itself “The Turpentine City”. The recently named Bobby Ronald Newton Turpentine Museum (background, above) is the focal point of the festival. In 1982, Denver Holllingsworth and the Portal Heritage Society suggested restoring the old Carter still and with enthusiastic community involvement, the old boiler was finally relit. The Carter still is one of only three remaining in Georgia. The two other stills are located in Tifton and Walthourville.

Roger Branch in the Bobby Ronald Newton Turpentine Museum Catface Turpentine Festival Portal GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

As he’s been doing since the festival’s inception, Mr. Roger Branch is on hand each year and eager to tell you anything you might want to know about the history of what was once South Georgia’s biggest industry. Roger is the retired chairman of the Department of Sociology & Anthropology at Georgia Southern University and has always been interested in preserving historical and cultural aspects of life in South Georgia. I like to think of him as the “Ambassador of Turpentine”. The calendars behind him were produced for many years by the American Turpentine Farmers Association (ATFA) in Valdosta and feature annual winners of the Miss Gum Spirits of Turpentine contests. The ATFA disbanded in the early 1990s, as commercial production of turpentine disappeared from the scene.

Catface Turpentine Festival Portal GA Carter & Son Marker Museum Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

There are several of these old markers on the walls of the Turpentine Museum, from the Carter & Son turpentine operations. F. N. Carter, Sr., put Portal on the map as one of Georgia’s centers of the naval stores industry in the 1930s and along with his son E. C. Carter maintained this vital part of the area’s economy until the early 1960s.

Catface Turpentine Festival Portal GA Bottling Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

David King, from the Georgia Museum of Agriculture at Tifton’s Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College (ABAC), is an expert on the distillation of turpentine and runs the old Carter still at the festival.

Catface Turpentine Festival Portal GA Barrel Distillation Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

The museum’s namesake, Bobby Ronald Newton, was a longtime volunteer at the festival and was instrumental in preserving the area’s turpentine history.

Catface Turpentine Festival Portal GA Bobby Ronald Newton Turpentine Museum Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

The little building beside the still is filled with all sorts of memorabilia, from signs and calendars to tools and even catfaces themselves. To those who don’t already know, the name catface was given to the slashes cut into pines to gather sap. They’re said to resemble cat’s whiskers.

Bobby Ronald Newton Turpentine Museum Catface Turpentine Festival Portal GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

Also on display are Herty cups (below left) and other early innovations for the collection of sap.

Catface Turpentine Festival Portal Georgia Bobby Ronald Newton Turpentine Museum Herty Cup Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

Perhaps the most popular item, though, is the hardened gum rosin itself, which has a gem-like appearance.

Portal GA Catface Turpentine Festival Gum Rosin Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

A variety of vendors and activities for the kids insure a good day at the festival.

Catface Turpentine Festival Portal GA People Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

Come and learn about this vital part of South Georgia’s history, and have fun in the process.

Catface Turpentine Festival Portal GA Crowds Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

You might even try some Rosin Potatoes.

Catface Turpentine Festival Portal GA Rosin Baked Potatoes Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

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Dr. James A. Stewart House, 1909, Portal

Portal GA Bulloch County Dr James A Stewart House Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

In their description of Dr. Stewart’s Portal Drugstore on the annual Places in Peril listing, the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation noted that Dr. Stewart was Portal’s first doctor. He built this house around the same time he built the Portal Drugstore. The house is presently being stabilized through a Historic Preservation Grant of the Georgia Heritage Program.

National Register of Historic Places

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Portal, Georgia

portal ga historic commercial storefronts photograph copyright brian brown vanishing south georgia usa 2010

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Stewart Drug Company, 1908, Portal

portal ga dr stewarts pharmacy drug store photograph copyright brian brown vanishing south georgia usa 2010

This is one of four identical structures which once faced Railroad Street. It’s the only one that remains and served as the office and pharmacy of Dr. J. A. Stewart. Two additional structures of identical construction were built by Dr. Stewart’s cousin, C. W. Caldwell. Stewart (1880-1952), a native of Crawfordville,  came to Bulloch County upon graduating from the Medical College of Georgia in 1906 and quickly became involved in nearly every aspect of its civic life. While boarding with the Kitchings family, in 1907, he met and married their daughter, Sarah. He served on the first city council in Portal and remained one of the town’s biggest boosters for the remainder of his life. A much more detailed biography of Dr. Stewart can be found on the National Register Nomination Form.

In their nomination of the pharmacy to their 2015 Places in Peril list, the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation noted: (This) small wooden building served as a pharmacy, doctor’s office and soda fountain over the years, and Dr. Stewart was known to do surgery in the back of the drugstore while his wife tended the soda fountain in the front. Though the drugstore closed in 1950, its interior remains largely intact. With medical books and instruments, stocked shelves and the soda fountain still inside, this is perhaps the most thorough and authentic example of an early community pharmacy in the entire state.

On 8 August 2011, Joe Brack wrote: My father’s family was from Portal, the Bracks. Dr.Stewart was my uncle’s father and in the mid to late 40’s and early 50’s he still traveled around the county by horse and buggy and many times paid with either produce or live stock when he was paid at all. Uncle Punk ran a beer and fish market next door and of course being the 40’s it had separate entrances for blacks and whites. We would visit Uncle Punk and get a Nee High soda… fond memories.

National Register of Historic Places

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Granitoid Storefront, 1910, Portal

portal ga commercial storefront photograph copyright brian brown vanishing south georgia usa 2010

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Carter Turpentine Still, Portal

portal ga carter turpentine still photograph copyright brian brown vanishing south georgia usa 2010

This was established by F. N. Carter, Sr., in 1930. Today, it’s maintained by the Portal Heritage Society and is the centerpiece of the annual Turpentine Festival.

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Carter Farms Structures, Portal

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The International truck in front of the Lummus Cotton Gin pictured above belongs to E. C. Carter Farms. The Carter’s operations were central to life in Portal for many years, ranging from turpentine to general agriculture.

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There are three gins at Portal, all involved in the Carter operations. Two are Lummus gins and one is a Centennial.

portal ga carter farms lummus gin photograph copyright brian brown vanishing south georgia usa 2010

This is one of the largest intact commercial farms I’ve found in my travels.

portal ga e c carter gin photograph copyright brian brown vanishing south georgia usa 2010

The Lummus system originated in New York during the Civil War, but relocated to Juniper, then Columbus, Georgia, during Reconstruction.

carter-farms-warehouse-portal-ga-photograph-copyright-brian-brown-vanishing-south-georgia-usa-2014

This structure, branded F. N. Carter & Son, is smaller than the two Lummus gins contained in the same complex. It was built by Centennial Cotton Gin Company of Columbus, Georgia. A local name for the street, Mullet Roe, can be seen on the sign above. Mullet Roe, of course, is really a form of Southern caviar but I like the tongue-in-cheek usage on the sign. The actual name for this once-busy thoroughfare is Railroad Street.

centennial-cotton-gin-f-n-carter-portal-ga-bulloch-county-photograph-copyright-brian-brown-vanishing-south-georgia-usa-2014

One of several antique work trucks is parked under the shed beside the gin.

portal-ga-bulloch-county-e-c-carter-warehouse-work-truck-1940s-1950s-international-door-sign-photo-copyright-brian-brown-vanishing-south-georgia

Several barns remain on the property, as well.

portal ga carter farm barns photograph copyright brian brown vanishing south georgia usa 2010

I can’t over-emphasize how important it is to see all these structures intact. They symbolize a time when agriculture was dominant in rural Georgia, and which was often its only industry.

portal ga carter farm barn photograph copyright brian brown vanishing south georgia usa 2010

 

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