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Faces” in the Piney Woods: Traditions of Turpentining in South Georgia is an oral history project of the South Georgia Folklife Project at Valdosta State University. It is developed from the perspective of the field of folklore and focuses on the occupational folklife of South Georgia turpentine workers. For much of the past century, Georgia was the nation’s leading producer of gum naval stores, or the industry of extracting products such as turpentine and rosin from living pine trees. The last bucket of gum for commercial turpentine was dipped in the summer of 2001 in Treutlen County, Georgia.  The end of domestic turpentining in the U.S. inspired the project team to interview former turpentine workers about their lives and traditions. The work of gathering and processing the raw gum was done chiefly by African American men, although countless European American small gum farmers turpentined on their own land or on land leased from others. These workers developed specialized knowledge, terminology, customs, and lore which folklorists call “occupational folklife.” This site contains information gathered from 1998-2004 through background research, photographs, video, and oral interviews.  It includes information on work in the woods and life in the turpentine camps told as told by those who lived it.

 

Cover photo:  Major Phillips dips the last buckets of commercial turpentine in the United States for Soperton (Georgia) Naval Stores, August 9, 2001.  Photo by Bill Godfrey courtesy Georgia Forestry Magazine. 


 
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