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The Turpentine Still

The Turpentine Still

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Images: The Turpentine Still

 

In the colonial south the production of turpentine and other naval stores products was secondary to other industries, especially lumber. Between the Revolution and the 1830s there was little change in the turpentine industry. It was not until the advent of new uses and new equipment that the industry began to boom and to move from North Carolina southward into virgin pine forests.

This scene shows the McCranie Turpentine Still in Atkinson County, Georgia. The McCranies were active in the turpentine industry prior to 1800, remaining in the industry throughout the following two centuries. The type of copper used in this still came into use in 1834, replacing the cast iron retort previously used for turpentine distilling. The copper stills were obtained from the Scotch liquor industry and increased the quality of the turpentine. This still operated from 1936 until 1942 when the elder McCranie brothers went to war and was never reactivated. The rapid replacement of the fire distillation process by that of steam distillation, and a labor shortage caused by the war brought on the permanent shutdown of this still.

Although other stills were destroyed or dismantled for their copper, McCranie's still was not. It remains today in much the same condition as the day it ceased operation.

(Thanks to the Georgia Forestry Commission for this information.)

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