Note: The following is one of a series of columns looking at the first road systems in Georgia and Bulloch County.
In 1653, the Governors of the United Colonies of New England were instructed that “the need (of the British Government) for (pine) tar, (tree) masts,…etc.” was extreme.
In fact, Massachusetts’ second Royal Charter in 1691 stated “We (the King) doe hereby reserve to Us all trees of 24 inches in diameter…and forbid (any) felling, cutting or destroying any such Trees without the Royall Lycence.”
The Massachusetts Bay Company requested men be sent from London “skylfull (sic) in making of pitch…(only) Then shall this kingdom… (enter into the)…commodious trade of cordage, pitch and tar.”
In 1705 the British Parliament declared the “Colonies and Plantations…may commodiously afford great Quantities of all Sorts of Naval Stores.” These “Naval Stores” (NS) soon became as valuable as gold. The Yellow Pine in the South was found to the best trees from which to collect these NS.
The colony of Carolina, from which the colony of Georgia was cut, had an extremely large number of Yellow Pine forests that would produce the best NS.
In 1715, the “Absolute Lords Proprietors of the Province of Carolina” began regulating the sale of NS. Once Oglethorpe established Georgia, its sales of NS became a major export.
In 1850, North Carolina had 785 turpentine stills in operation, while Georgia had only 14. By 1891, however, Georgia had 228 turpentine stills that produced 52 percent of the nation’s NS.
Most were located in the Wiregrass of Southeast Georgia. The biggest firms were J.P. Williams, B.T. Outland, W.M. Foy & J.W. Williams, J.A. McDougald, J.N. Wood, the Robertsons, the Registers,and the Johnson & Graham Co.
As the naval stores business in Bulloch County picked up, the E.E. Foy manufacturing Co. (owned by E.E. Foy, his son John E. Foy, and W.W. Olliff) started a small “tram railroad” (or Foy Railroad) to carry the fallen trees to their mills.
James N. and William Wood, along with B.L. Robertson, started the Wood Manufacturing Co., and then built their own “tram railroad” (or Cuyler and Woodburn Railroad).
F.P. Register set up shop in Bengal, nine miles west of Statesboro, in 1894. As two railroads crossed through his land, he set up his own NS business. His nephew, J.L. Johnson arrived to work with him, until he built his own still in the new town of Register.
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look each week at the area's past. E-mail Roger at email@example.com.