Tag Archives: South Georgia Turpentine Industry
This is about as good a view as can be had of this shotgun house in northwestern Wayne County. It’s located in the vicinity of Tetlow, which still exists on the map and in a nearby road name, but seems lost to history otherwise. Because there are the remains of several nearly identical shotgun houses at the site, I presume this was a turpentine camp at one time. The area in which its located was heavily involved in the naval stores and timber industries throughout much of the twentieth century; the camp was likely abandoned by the 1960s.
Colonel Edward Bird (1825-1893) was a successful timber and turpentine operator before the Civil War. He joined Company A, Squadron B, Georgia Cavalry, as Captain. It was nicknamed Captain Bird’s Mounted Company, 2nd Battalion, Georgia Cavalry. Captain Bird was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on 17 May 1862 and took command of the 2nd Battalion. He transferred to the 5th Regiment, Georgia Cavalry on 20 January 1863 and was promoted to Colonel in 1864. He commanded the 5th Battalion until surrendering at Greensboro, North Carolina on 26 April 1865. After the war, Colonel Bird resumed his business and remained a prominent citizen of Guyton until his death.
Guyton Historic District, National Register of Historic Places
Isolated in the countryside near the Lowndes County ghost town of Delmar, this historic farm is one of the most intact collections of original agricultural structures I’ve ever seen in South Georgia. I’m grateful to Mandy Green Yates for bringing it to my attention. Mandy travels the back roads of South Georgia and North Florida finding lots of places like this. Follow her to see what she finds next.
I believe this was primarily a turpentine camp, as the area was well-known for large scale naval stores production. There would have been tenant houses here at one time, also. The structure above was likely the office for the operation.
My favorite structure is the commissary, which would have served all the needs of this small community.
The shingle-sided barn and water tower are amazing survivors, as well. The owners of the property should be commended for keeping this place in such relatively good condition throughout the years.
Joe Hopkins writes that this the was commissary for the turpentine operations at Toledo. I would go there on Saturday mornings when I was a kid with my great uncle to pay off the turpentine employees. The store housed basic staples and dry goods for the workers living at the Toledo settlement and the business records of the company. The dirt road on the porch side of the commissary was the original road running from Folkston to St.George.
While I was out photographing with Mike McCall today, we ran into Jimmy Parker, who noted that he was born in this cabin and restored it in recent years.
This commissary was part of the family’s timber and turpentine operations and was at its busiest during World War II.
South Georgia Snowstorm, 2018
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.
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.
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.
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.
The museum’s namesake, Bobby Ronald Newton, was a longtime volunteer at the festival and was instrumental in preserving the area’s turpentine history.
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.
Also on display are Herty cups (below left) and other early innovations for the collection of sap.
Perhaps the most popular item, though, is the hardened gum rosin itself, which has a gem-like appearance.
A variety of vendors and activities for the kids insure a good day at the festival.
Come and learn about this vital part of South Georgia’s history, and have fun in the process.
You might even try some Rosin Potatoes.