Tuesday, August 17, 2021

1890 - The Taylor Brothers and Taylorville

The Importance of Turpentine

   Long ago this area was covered with tens of thousands of acres full of long-leaf yellow pine which provided the needed sap for the turpentine business. The highly valued pine forests stretched from today's Groveland all the way to the cities of Brooksville and Dade City.

   The collection of turpentine began during the Colonial Era as a preservative for the ropes and rigging on ships and for caulking wooden seams. These products were called "naval stores". Turpentine also had uses in numerous products such as medicines, cleaning products, paint, etc.
   Following the War of Northern Agression (Civil War), the turpentine industry reshaped the weakened economy of the South.
   In the late 1800s, extracting sap from pine trees and processing it in backwoods stills was once Florida's second largest industry, after citrus. Chevron shaped gashes were chipped into pine trees. Metal sleeves were inserted and pots were hung to catch the sap.


Harvesting Sap from Pine trees

   Scoring trees to cause them to "bleed" could eventually damage the tree. When that happened the industry was forced to move on to find new forests. The cuts made in the pine trees, in order to extract the sap, could still be seen in the area well into the 1950s.
   The collected sap was brought to the still for processing. Turpentine is a fluid obtained by the distillation of the sap from live pine trees. When processed, the sap would separate into a fluid turpentine and a hard waxy resin.
   The rosin and spirits of turpentine were then shipped out by rail for marketing.
   Long-leaf yellow pine was also an ideal source of lumber for construction, since it naturally repels termites.

   Many Florida towns emerged from what was once a turpentine camp and still or sawmill. The area of South Lake County became a large producer of turpentine and lumber, along with some cattle ranchers and citrus growers.

The Arrival of the Taylor Brothers

   Around 1889, brothers, C. C. and B. M. Taylor, along with their Negro workers arrived in Mascotte, with hopes of establishing a turpentine business. However, they did not receive a warm welcome from Theodore Ruff, who had already arrived in 1885. Ruff did not like the idea of the Negro workers living in the settlement of Mascotte. Thus, the Taylor brothers moved further East along the new train, until they found a suitable place outside of Mascotte.

   The Taylor brothers arrived and built a turpentine still just north of Lake David and soon established the town of Taylorville along the newly built railway. The still was located just to the north side of today's Hardee's.
   The town of Taylorville was shown on maps as early as 1895.
   Granville Beville Robbins (b. 1874 at Tuscanooga) was hired by the brothers to build the first structure in Taylorville, which was a storage shed for them to hold their supplies needed for the turpentine business.


c. 1890 - The Taylor brothers' Turpentine Still

   The Taylors also constructed a little 'Pepperbox' sawmill, labor quarters, and commisionary near what is now the intersection of HWY 19 & HWY 50.

[Contributors: Julian Rowe, Mary Helen Myers, Jason Brown]

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