Note: The following is one of a series of columns looking at the origins and growth of the agriculture industry in Southeast Georgia and Bulloch County.
The E.E. Foy manufacturing Co. (owned by E.E. Foy, son J.E. Foy, and W.W. Olliff) started a small “tram railroad” operation to more easily carry trees to their turpentine stills and sawmills.
J.N. and W. Wood, along with B.L. Robertson, started the Wood Manufac-turing Co. and built their own “tram railroad,” which they named the Cuyler and Woodburn Railroad.
F.P. Register set up his turpentine operations in Bengal, nine miles west of Statesboro, in 1894. His nephew, J.L. Johnson, worked with him until he built his own turpentine still in the new town of Register.
Smaller turpentiners included: W.H. Sharpe, who set up a turpentine still along the Ogeechee River, W.B. Meyer with his still near Laston and R.L. Graham, who built a still near the Fellowship Church.
W.W. Bland’s still was on the Metter Road, the Carr Brothers set up their still in Adabelle, and J.A. McDougald and Jessie Outland (B.T.’s son) opened their turpentine business in Statesboro.
In 1850, North Carolina had 785 turpentine stills in operation, while Georgia had only 14. In 1891, Georgia had 228 turpentine stills producing 52% of the nation’s Naval Stores.
The biggest naval stores firms in Statesboro were: J.P. Williams, B.T. Outland; W.M. Foy & J.W. Williams; J.A. McDougald; and J.N. Wood Co. In addition, there were smaller companies.
They included the Robertson Companies, the Register Companies, and Johnson & Graham Co. In July of 1882, the Savannah Naval Stores Exchange was founded at the direction of Georgia’s Superior Court.
According to records, 63,408 barrels of NS were shipped in the Exchange’s first year. In June of 1883, the name of the exchange was changed to the Savannah Board of Trade.
Soon, the ports of Savannah and Brunswick led the nation, exporting over 1 million barrels in 1891-2. J.P. Williams, owner of the largest Naval Stores Commission House, also owned 700,000 acres of “turpentine crops.”
The Statesboro News of January 24, 1902 reported that “Messrs. Foy and Williams of Adabelle will incorporate their Naval Stores business, which will be known as the Adabelle Trading Company.”
The Bulloch Times-Statesboro News-Statesboro Eagle issue of Aug. 9, 1928 examined the current uses of products still referred to as naval stores in an article entitled “Many Uses Found for Naval Stores.”
Fred B. Merrill, Assistant State Forester explained how “Rosin and turpentine still bear the name of naval stores because of their early use in maintaining the wooden ships of the navies.”
Merrill wrote, “This demand has vanished, (if you read) the list of uses as compiled by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. Instead, the demand for naval stores has spread inland (used) in a growing list of materials.”
The paper revealed “Turpentine has more than 50 general uses and rosin at least a dozen.” These include “such every day products as shoe polish, paints, cements, soaps, insecticides, washing preparations, and waxes.”
What’s more, lesser known products, like “pharmaceutical products, synthetic camphor, celluloid, explosives, terpineol, synthetic rubber, and many other subjects.”
The Bulloch Times-Statesboro News-Statesboro Eagle issue of Feb. 18, 1932 declared that “Georgia Leads in Naval Stores Output.” In fact, more than half the naval stores produced in the U.S. come from Georgia.
According to the Department of Forestry and Geological Development, production for Georgia’s 1930-31 season was 15,465,216 gallons of turpentine and 1,013,461 barrels of rosin highest in the U.S.
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.