Attention Scuba Divers! FPAN to Host Heritage Awareness Diving Seminar in Pensacola this September

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This three day seminar will be offered in Pensacola on September 11 – 14, with a welcome meet-n-greet the evening of September 11th. The Heritage Awareness Diving Seminar is intended to explain the advantages of conserving shipwrecks and other submerged cultural resources, not only to preserve information about our collective past, but also to preserve the vibrant ecosystems that grow around shipwrecks. HADS focuses on providing scuba training agency Course Directors, Instructor Trainers, and Instructors with a greater knowledge of how to proactively protect shipwrecks, artificial reefs, and other underwater cultural sites as part of the marine environment. HADS consists of two evenings of classroom instruction and one day of open water diving; participants receive the HADS workbook and a CD with all PowerPoint presentations to use in their own classes. Upon completion of HADS, participants can teach the new Heritage Awareness Specialty Course, approved by PADI, NAUI, and SSI, as well as incorporate underwater historic preservation into other courses. This program is presented by both the Florida Public Archaeology Network and the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research and is taught by professional underwater archaeologists with a wealth of knowledge and experience. If you are interested in registering or have questions you can contact Jeff Moates of the Florida Public Archaeology Network before August 15th at jmoates@usf.edu or 813.396.2327. You may also register online on the FPAN website.

 

Battlefield Archaeology Activity to Debut at Olustee!

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We are so excited because it is again time for us to pack up and head to Olustee for the battle reenactment! We have been attending for the past few years, but we are excited to debut our new activity, Battlefield on a Tarp. The

Our new Battlefield on a Tarp activity!

Civil War is an important event in our state’s and nation’s history, and archaeologists  have been hard at work studying our battlefields to create an accurate picture of the events that occurred during the Civil War. Battlefield archaeology has contributed greatly to our knowledge of past battles. Of course, there are many folks out there that collect Civil War memorabilia, including sometimes artifacts from battlefields across the country. As an archaeologist I find this trend somewhat disturbing because with each artifact that is taken off of a battlefield valuable information goes with it which can never again be recovered. Now, I understand that many people feel they have the right to collect, or think that archaeologists just want to keep the good stuff for themselves. However, that is not the case. When you take an item from a battlefield, which are often located on state or federal property, you are taking from every citizen in the state and the nation. An individual may think that they have the right to collect, but what about the rights of those wishing to visit and learn about these sites? The government has taken over the care of these sites so that they can be preserved for everyone to  enjoy  and have an equal opportunity to learn about the events that took place there. Archaeologists study these sites so that they can be better and more accurately interpreted to visitors and for scholars who want to learn about these sites. Artifacts have much more meaning and can contribute more to our understanding of the past when they are left in context. When they get removed from the site and put into a shoe box to be stored in somebody’s attic for nobody to see or learn about the context is lost! It is for these very reasons that taking artifacts from state or federal property is a crime. Our new activity is an effort on our part to show the public what archaeologists can learn from studying battlefields and exactly what damage is done when artifacts lose their context after they are removed from the site. I hope that you will make your way to Olustee this weekend for all the festivities and stop by our booth to check out our new Battlefield on a Tarp activity. We will also have a display on Florida during the Civil War that I am sure many people will find interesting.

As a related note, I often get asked how the public can get involved in archaeology. Archaeology is awesome and who wouldn’t want to have the opportunity to get involved? Well, here in Florida we have an amazing organization called the Florida Anthropological Society,  which is open to anyone with an interest in archaeology. There are chapters located throughout the state and every year in May there is the annual meeting of the organization. As a member of the Florida Anthropologist you receive the quarterly journal, The Florida Anthropologist, the quarterly newsletter and a discount on registration for the annual meeting. The 2013 meeting will be held in St. Augustine. It is also important to note that to become a member you must agree to abide by the organizations code of ethics. Many organizations have opportunities to assist on digs or  in archaeology labs, hold monthly meetings, conduct public outreach and host Florida Archaeology Month events. If you are interested you can visit fasweb.org for more information. This is a great way to get involved in archaeology and learn more about our state’s rich history!

 

The Big Anchor Project

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If you have ever visited a coastal city you probably have seen at least one big anchor just laying around somewhere – perhaps in front of a business, a street median or even in someone’s

Measuring an anchor in Apalachicola.

yard. Have you ever wondered where that anchor came from or what it’s story was? Apalachicola has numerous anchors just laying about all over the community. Some are sitting on private property, but many are on public property as well. This past Saturday, FPAN, the Apalachicola Maritime Museum, the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research and community volunteers set out to learn about these anchors and record them for the Big Anchor Project’s world-wide database. It may sound a little strange, and you may be asking why we decided to do this, and we have a valid answer for you!

Think about the symbolism of the anchor for a minute. They are everywhere – flags, military insignia, business logos, etc. Anchors are an iconic symbol for anything maritime related. The anchor represents safety and stability and has been used by mariners as a symbol of such  for over 4,000 years. Many times an anchor is all that remains as a visible symbol of something that occurred at sea. The anchor may have been cut loose in an emergency or it may be resting atop an ancient shipwreck. The anchor is a lasting symbol, but amazingly very little work has been done to collect and organize data that exists about these anchors which are on display all over the world.

The Big Anchor Project is an effort to gather and organize this information. It was created by the Nautical Archaeological Society and currently contains information on over 500 anchors from all over the world! The great thing about this  project is that anybody from anywhere can participate by measuring an anchor and entering the information in the database online at biganchorproject.com. Online they have very descriptive and easy to follow directions on how to do it. This information is made available to researchers that may want to study anchors and thus contribute to our understanding of these very iconic symbols. If you know of an anchor in your community or elsewhere, I encourage you to check out the Big Anchor Project and record your anchor. It is a great group project for youth and adults and you make a direct contribution to furthering the understanding of your communities maritime history. In just one days time, with a great group of citizens from all walks of life, we were able to record fifteen anchors total. It doesn’t take very long to record an anchor and it is a lot of fun!

Volunteers recording an anchor in Apalachicola, FL.

 

The Tallahassee Old City Cemetery

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Yellow fever victims are buried in these graves.

This past Saturday, as many of you know, we hosted a tour of the Old City Cemetery in Tallahassee. It was a great success, due in large part to our great tour guide, Erik Robinson!

We had about 35 people attend and I have received a ton of good reviews! I like to think of historic cemeteries as outdoor museums. There is so much history to be learned at these sites, and this cemetery is no exception. This cemetery is the oldest public cemetery in Tallahassee, established in 1829 during Florida’s Territorial Period. It was later acquired by the city in 1840 and in 1841 it twas laid out in a system of squares and lots when a yellow fever epidemic swept through the city. During the time of it’s establishment it was actually located outside of the city, although now it is located downtown. The cemetery was bordered on its far side y a 200  foot wide clearing that surrounded the town to protect it from Indian attacks. The cemetery was segregated, the whites buried in the eastern sections and the African Americans buried in the western sections. Originally various religious denominations had their own plots, but there are few indications today of the Presbyterian and Catholic areas. The majority of the Jewish burials have since been moved to other cemeteries.

This is the final resting place for many men and women who contributed to the development of Tallahassee and the State of Florida. For a long time it was Tallahassee’s only

Constructed in 1890s, this platform is still used for memorial services.

public burial ground it represents a cross section of Tallahassee residents during the 19th century. As you walk through the cemetery you will recognize many names from Tallahassee and Florida’s rich history – James D. Wescott (Wescott Building at Florida State University), John G. Riley (his house is now a museum and the headquarters for the Tallahassee chapter of the NAACP), Thomas Vann Gibbs (founder of Florida State Normal Industrial School, now Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University)…well, you get the picture! I could go on and on. The graves of both Confederate and Union soldiers that fought in the Battles of Natural Bridge and Olustee are also buried in this cemetery. A platform was constructed next to the Confederate graves by the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) in the 1890s. Today that same platform is still used to for commemorations and memorial services by the UDC.

Memorial Service at the Old City Cemetery in the early 1900s.

Early Tallahassee was small and frontier-like. People had to make do with what they had and what was locally available. Many of the earliest graves were marked with wood head and footboards, which have since degraded and disappeared. The last plot was sold in 1902 and the cemetery is full, although many graves have no marker above ground anymore. During the Territorial Period there are newspaper accounts of hogs and cattle roaming through the cemetery and running over the graves. There are also articles complaining about the unkept appearance of the cemetery. Today there is a fence around the cemetery and it underwent a major restoration in 1991, with financial support from the Florida Department of State. This project was sponsored and administered by the Historic Tallahassee Preservation Board. Unfortunately, due to limited funding not all of the gravemarkers in the cemetery were restored. They were able to restore the majority of those that had been badly damaged by vandalism and weathering. Unfortunately since the time of the restoration many of the monuments have been victims of vandalism once again! The cemetery is open to the public for visitation during daylight hours.

The marker for the oldest marked grave in the cemetery now lays face down in the dirt because of vandalism.

Another cemetery, located immediately north of this one, the St. Johns Episcopal Cemetery is also open to the public. We encourage you to visit these historic sites, however, please be aware that they are non-renewable historic resources that provide much valuable historical information about their community. They also provide valuable green space for both people and wildlife. Please be respectful and be sure not to damage any of the monuments. Although they are constructed of stone and metal and other very durable material, they are very old and very fragile.

If you are not able to make a trip to this cemetery, we have posted a photo tour on our Facebook page !

Join Us for a Tour of the Tallahassee Old City Cemetery on December 8th

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Many people drive b y the Old City Cemetery every day on their way to or from work, but have never taken the time to explore it. Historic cemeteries are wonderful outdoor museums that provide a unique look at a communities history. The Old City Cemetery is located between Call Street and Park Avenue in downtown Tallahassee. It is the oldest public cemetery in the city. It was created in 1829  and acquired by the city in 1840. The ground was laid out in its system of squares and lots in 1841 when a violent yellow fever epidemic swept through the city and regulations were required to assure order and sanitation to protect the public. This cemetery is the final resting place for many of the men and women who contributed to both local and state history. We will be offering a FREE  tour of the cemetery on December 8th at 2pm.  We hope that you will consider joining us in taking time to explore and learn about this local historic landmark.

 

 

Florida’s FANTASTIC Civil War Heritage Sites

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I recently came across a listing of the 12 fantastic Civil War sites, and to my dismay, none were from Florida! It was then that I realized that many folks in the North Central Region, as well as around the state, may not be familiar with the great Civil War sites that Florida offers. Florida seems to be the forgotten state of the Confederacy. Even in a 1860s Northern newspaper Florida was described as the “smallest tadpole in the dirty pool of secession”.  The state’s role in the Civil War has not been as thoroughly researched as other states in the South, but there has been a recent revival in the interest of Florida’s role in the Civil War. Florida was still a very frontier-like state at the start of the Civil War, with its territorial period having ended in 1845. The 1860 census reports that the population of Florida at that time totaled 140,424 with almost 45 percent of those recorded being slaves. More than 15,00 Floridians served in the confederate military and others, including more than 1,000 African Americans served in the Union Army. They fought in battles both in Florida and outside of the state. Eventually, decades later the “smallest tadpole” would emerge from the war as a major and influential player in the New South. Of course, this war had a lasting effect on the state, and many remnants of the Civil War remain part of the state’s great cultural history and can be seen still today. There are so many FANTASTIC Civil War sites in Florida that it would be impossible to list them all in this post. I can give a few highlights though!

The Orman House in Apalachicola.

Apalachicola is famous for its oysters, but it also has a great history. During the Civil War Apalachicola was the largest cotton port in Florida. It was the third largest cotton port on the Gulf of Mexico, behind New Orleans and Mobile. This port was an active area for blockade running as you can imagine. It was also an active area for salt production. As you stroll through the historic town you can find multiple sites relating to the Civil War.  At least 76 Confederate soldiers are buried in Chestnut Street Cemetery, along with other historical figures of the town of Apalachicola. Now a state park, the Orman House was constructed by Confederate sympathizer and businessman, Thomas Orman. Orman was arrested and detained by Union authorities during the Civil War. Local lore tells of Mrs. Sarah Orman warning Confederate soldiers up river of the approaching Union troops by walking on the roof and pretending to repair roof shingles. There are several other Civil War sites located in the town, including the Raney House and Trinity Episcopal Church.  There are many surrounding communities that have ties to the Civil War as well including St. George Island, Sumatra and Port St. Joe.

Tallahassee has more Civil War sites than you can shake a stick at! One of the lesser known sites is that of Fort Houstoun, also known as Old Fort. This is an earthen fort , one of

The 2nd Infantry USCT Reenactment Troop at the Battle of Natural Bridge Reenactment.

the few left that was constructed to protect Florida’s capital. At the time it was situated on a plantation belonging to Edward Houstoun. Today it sits in the middle of a suburban neighborhood in “Old Fort Park”. Due to the Unions defeat at Natural Bridge (just south of Tallahassee in Woodville), this fort was never utilized to protect the capital. The Tallahassee Old City Cemetery, located downtown, includes the remains of both Union and Confederate soldiers, some of who died at the Battle of Natural Bridge.

South of Tallahassee and Woodville, down by the Gulf Coast is situated St. Marks. Here, now as a state park, are the remains of Fort Ward. This fort was fist constructed by the Spanish in 1678 at the confluence of the St. Marks and Wakulla Rivers. Later this fort was occupied by Confederate forces in 1861. Union forces failed to take control of St. Marks and Ford Ward and the fort remained in Confederate control until the end of the war.

The Olustee Battlefield Monument.

The area surrounding Live Oak and Lake City also has several wonderful Civil War sites.  Earthenwork fortifications are visible at Suwannee River State Park in Live Oak. These earthworks were created to protect the railroad bridge that crossed the Suwannee River. Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park is located in Baker County, east of Lake City.  Here is the site of the state’s largest Civil War battle. The Confederates successfully defeated the Union Army, which were forced back to Jacksonville.  A monument was erected at the site in 1899. In 1909 three acres of the battlefield were donated to the State of Florida, and the Olustee Battlefield became the first Florida State Park. Each year the largest Civil War reenactment in the state is held at this site in February.

As you can see, Florida has a ton of Civil War sites. This post just barely scratches the surface of Florida’s vast Civil War history. There are several great resources available to those wishing to learn more about Florida during the Civil War. Online you can check out FPAN’S Destination: Civil War. You can even take Destination: Civil War along with you as you visit these sites with our Civil War iPhone App.  You can also  check out the permanent Civil War exhibit at the Museum of Florida History in Tallahassee. The Florida Association of Museums has produced the Florida Civil War Heritage Trail booklet which is available at your local FPAN office or by contacting the Florida Division of Historical Resources. This year is the beginning of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. So take some time to reflect on this influential time in our history by visiting some of our states fantastic Civil War sites. To learn about events happening nationwide you can visit the Civil War Trusts website.

A Test of Time: The Preservation and Conservation of Ancient Dugout Canoes

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Have you ever seen an ancient wooden artifact on display at a museum and wondered how it was preserved in such great condition? I sure have! I have a compost pile at home and it doesn’t take long for wooden or other organic

Archaeologists carefully remove a dugout canoe from the exposed lake bottom of Lake Munson in Tallahassee

material, to rot and turn into soil. It may seem strange that a wooden or organic object can last long enough in the ground for it to be uncovered by archaeologists hundreds or thousands of years later. Well, it turns out that it takes a very specific set of environmental circumstances for organic material to be preserved in the ground, and many times those conditions do not exist. And it may seem strange, but it is actually a wet environment that leads to good preservation! Organic materials, such as wood, are far more likely to survive the test of time if they are quickly buried in mud and muck. This creates an anaerobic environment, where a lack of oxygen prevents organisms that degrade wood (bacteria, worms, etc) from living and subsiding. As a result, the organic material is preserved until it is again exposed to oxygen. Within the last couple of years I have had the opportunity to see, first hand, how environmental conditions affect preservation of dugout canoes found in here in Florida.

Look closely and you can see tool marks from where the Native Americans constructed this dugout canoe.

You may recall a few years ago that a dugout canoe was recovered from Lake Munson in Tallahassee. The city had drawn down the water and a dugout was discovered lying at the bottom of the lake bed, only partially exposed. Archaeologists from various state organizations delicately recovered the dugout and brought it to the state conservation facility where it was properly cared for and conserved. After over a year of conservation it is now on display in the lobby of the R.A. Gray Building in downtown Tallahassee. This dugout is believed to be between 800 to 500 years old and was found in an excellent state of preservation.  You can even see the tool marks were Native Americans carved out the wood to create the dugout! The state of preservation varied at different portions of this dugout, probably because different portions were exposed to differing amounts of oxygen throughout time. The higher edges are far more degraded than the lower sections and the hull because these would have been exposed to aerobic (oxygenated) conditions for longer periods of time. Overall though, the dugout  was found in excellent condition.  When the Lake Munson canoe was removed from the lake bottom care had to be taken by professional archaeologists and conservators to ensure that the wood did not dry out too quickly. After hundreds of years underwater, the material has reached equilibrium with its surrounding environment, and removing it from that environment can cause it to deteriorate to a point that it is destroyed if it is not done so carefully and correctly. If the wood were to dry out too rapidly it would cause it to shrink and crack. Wood is anisotropic, which means that it doesn’t expand or contract equally along its three dimensions. Evidence of this can be seen in many wooden objects that have been removed and stored incorrectly in what is called check cracking (it looks like lots of tic-tac-toes) and splitting.

During periods of drought many times partially exposed dugouts are found in lakes around the state. The most notable of this instance is of course, Newnan’s Lake near Gainesville. Here the largest concentration of wooden (both pine and cypress) dugout canoes in North America were recovered in 2000. They had become exposed due to extreme drought conditions. Frequent burial and reburial due to environmental conditions in a lake or other water body, can have a huge impact on the condition of the wooden object. In the event that a canoe is not entirely buried and lake levels fall due to drought, one can expect rapid deterioration of the wood as a result of it drying out too fast and exposure to the bleaching effects of ultra violet light from the sun.

Another concern with organic objects is storage. A dugout canoe was recently donated by the state to the Big Bend Maritime Museum in Panacea. Prior to its time at the state collections facility, this dugout had been found by a

This dugout is on display at the Big Bend Maritime Center in Panacea, FL. Without these wooden braces the dugout would fall apart.

private individual and was stored inappropriately on the ground outdoors for a number of years. As a result, it made the perfect home (and meal) for many different insects, including ants and termites. Pests are very problematic for organic archaeological collections, and care must be taken to ensure a collection is free from bugs. In many institutions, when an organic object is acquired –be it paper, ethnographic, wooden, etc – it is quarantined for at least 30 days. Proper storage and care of this particular dugout would have prevented the structural and surface issues that it has. Again, it goes back to the age old concept of context. If you do find a dugout, or any other artifact for that matter, it is best to leave it where it is and notify a professional archaeologist who will know how to best care for that particular object. The Big Bend Maritime Museum plans to have this dugout on exhibit and plans to include a panel discussing such preservation issues.

Typically a water-soluble wax is used to preserve extremely waterlogged wooden material. The idea is that through soaking the wax impregnates the cell walls that have been destroyed by water and degraded by bacteria, so that when the object is eventually dried out it retains its original shape.  The Lake Munson canoe was not waterlogged to the extent that rendered this time-consuming procedure necessary. Instead, it was wrapped in plastic and allowed to dry very slowly in controlled conditions over the course of a year. The plastic functioned as a very basic humidity chamber that prevented any drastic change along any one of the three dimensions of the wood. As a result of this there are very little visible signs of checking on the surface of the wood. In order to achieve such wonderful preservation results it took over a year’s work by very knowledgeable professional conservators to monitor the progress of the Lake Munson canoe. Thanks to the work of professional conservators, who work behind the scenes the majority of the time, we have a great wealth of knowledge of our state’s history. If it was not for their careful efforts we would have only part of the story and only part of the artifact assemblage would have survived the test of time.

Take a Journey to Blountstown! The Smithsonian’s “Journey Stories” Exhibit is at the Panhandle Pioneer Settlement

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The "Journey Stories" Exhibit at Panhandle Pioneer Settlement, Blountstown.

“Journey Stories” is part of Museum on Main Street, which is a collaborative effort between the Smithsonian Institution and the state humanities council. This program is also supported by the United States Congress. The exhibition shows how our ever changing methods of mobility have changed our nation and how it has helped our country grow. Just the word “journey” brings to mind a sense of adventure. No matter how long or short the distance, a journey is transformational and has the potential to change people, landscapes, and the environment-for better or for worse.  This exhibit uses images, audio and even artifacts to show visitors how traveling and movement have played a vital role in creating our diverse American culture.  “Journey Stories” is an exhibit designed especially for small communities, and the Panhandle Pioneer Settlement is the perfect location for this exhibit! After walking around the Smithsonian exhibit, you can take some time to visit the living history museum to gain an even greater understanding of the journey people experienced in the Florida Panhandle. Blountstown is situated on one of the major waterways in the region, and historically, many of the folks that settled in the region got there via the Apalachicola River.

Did you know that six out of ten Floridians come from somewhere else? Florida may well be the most mobile state in the country. Throughout history people have come to

Wakulla County was among the several communities that contributed their own stories by creating an exhibit that was incorporated into "Journey Stories".

Florida for a variety of reasons on various modes of transportation. Some came here by Spanish galleon, others by horse-drawn carriage, and let us not forget the “Tin Can Tourists”!  Some came looking for work, others for freedom and some for gold and riches. “Journey Stories” touches on all of these topics and attempts to combine the prestige of the Smithsonian Institution, the expertise of the Florida Humanities Council and the resources of the local community. The Florida Humanities Council is working with local museums in Plant City, Blountstown, Debary, Clewiston, Sebring and Dunedin to display this exhibit throughout the state. They are also encouraging local communities to enhance this exhibit with displays of local images, artifacts, and stories. A teacher workshop will be held in each location as well. These workshops will provide educators with strategies for integrating this topic into their classrooms. The exhibit will be featured at the Panhandle Pioneer Settlement from July 14th through August 25th, 2012. The museum is open Tuesday, Friday and Saturday from 10am to 5pm and on Thursday from 10am to 6pm. To learn more information about this exhibit and associated events please contact the Panhandle Pioneer Settlement at 850-674-2777 or at info@panhandlepioneer.org.

A Sticky Situation: The Turpentine Industry in North Florida

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On June 3rd I will be giving a talk on the turpentine industry in North Florida at the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. With that in mind, I thought it would be a good idea to blog about it. It was not until I moved to North Florida that I learned about the naval store industry, and I found it fascinating. It has since become one of my favorite topics to research and talk about! I am not going to give away all my fun facts (for that you have to attend the lecture), but this post will give you a good idea of what was going on at that time and perhaps entice a few of you to come check out my lecture!

The turpentine industry has its roots in North Carolina in the mid-1800s. Workers would scar longleaf pine trees (the scars are often referred to as cat faces) which would cause the gum, or resin, from the tree to run. They would

Turpentiners working a stand of longleaf pine trees to collect the resin.

attach a cup and gutters to the tree to collect the resin. This resin would then be distilled in a large still to create pitch. The reason that this industry is often referred to as “naval stores” has its origins in the fact that the majority of this pitch was used to caulk holes in wooden boats and to coat rigging to help it last longer on ocean-going vessels. Eventually the trees stopped producing any significant amount of resin and the turpentiners  gradually moved south to  new stands of trees. After some time, in the late 1800s, they made their way into Florida’s pine forests.

The Convict Leasing System lasted in Florida from 1875 to 1923.

As you can imagine, this was hard work and dangerous.  Collecting the gum was very labor intensive and working the still was hot and very dirty work. The workers, who in some

A box ax recovered from a turpentine site, now part of the State of Florida Collection.

cases may have been leased convicts, lived in camps situated close to the area they were currently working. The housing was considered temporary and was usually poorly constructed. If they were paid (which would not include the leased convicts), usually they would receive their pay in the form of company script or coin. This could only be used at the company commissary, where they could also purchase items on credit. Many workers found themselves in debt to the company store, and of course, could not leave their employment until they settled their debt. Convict laborers were usually treated very harshly and their living conditions varied, but usually were not very hospitable. The camps were usually very remote and not well regulated by the state government.

There were tools and supplies that were very specific to the naval stores industry. The best known tool of the trade is probably the herty cup, which was developed by Dr.

Herty cups were developed by Dr. Herty, who founded the Herty Turpentine Cup Company in 1909.

Charles Holmes Herty, Sr. in 1909. Dr. Herty’s method for gathering gum was more economical, allowing for a higher yield of resin and extended use of the trees. Other tools specific to the trade include box axes, dippers and pulls. A box ax was used to cut boxes into the base of the tree to collect the resin prior to the use of cups. Dippers were used to collect the resin from these boxes and pulls were used to cut the cat face scars into the tree. Eventually, all the resin collected would go to the still to be processed into various grades of turpentine to be put into barrels and shipped off to be used as ingredients in a variety of products (in addition to being used for ship building, as previously mentioned).

Early example of a container lid for Vicks VapoRub, which once contained turpentine as an ingredient.

Many early products contained turpentine, some of which seem bizarre today. Vicks VapoRub, which you can still find on store shelves today, originally contained turpentine. In fact, at many of the turpentine archaeological sites that I have excavated have contained the fragments of the cobalt blue glass from the small jars of Vicks VapoRub.  Apparently its use was popular at the time and many company commissaries carried it. Many household cleaners contained turpentine as well and many people would mix turpentine with beeswax to make their own furniture polish. It was also used medicinally to treat burns, bites and stings. However, since that time turpentine has been found to be carcinogenic and there are strict guidelines for the proper handling of turpentine (and it is no longer an ingredient in Vicks VapoRub).

In 1923 the convict leasing program was abolished in Florida due, in part, to the death of Martin Talbert. He was a convict that was killed at a turpentine camp as a result of very harsh physical punishment. By the mid-1900s the industry started its decline due, in part, to the advent of steel ships and the development of synthetic chemicals. By the 1970s the industry had pretty much vanished from the Florida landscape. However, the turpentine industry left a lasting legacy on the landscape. This industry was very destructive to the longleaf ecosystem and the many plants and animals that depended on it. Fewer than 3 million acres of old growth longleaf forest survived. Today on many of the trees in Florida’s old growth forests you can still see the old cat face scars. While hiking many of these same forests you might come across pieces of herty cup or similar metal cups that once collected the resin (and as a reminder, it is against the law to remove artifacts, like herty cups, from state and federal land!).

The turpentine industry helped to shape a fascinating time in Florida’s history and has had a lasting effect on our environment and our culture. Much of the land that is part of the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge was once part of various turpentine operations. Today wildlife and habitat restoration efforts are being undertaken to restore these stands of forest to their previous state, prior to being worked for turpentine. I hope you can join me on June 3rd to learn more! If you are unable to join us though, there are many wonderful books dedicated to this industry. So be sure to visit your local library and check some of them out!

Perry, Florida: A Small City with a Big History!

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The historic Bank of Perry building which is now the headquarters for the Taylor County Historical Society.

Last week I had the good fortune to be invited to Perry by the Taylor County Historical Society. I have to admit, I had driven through Perry many, many times on my way to other locations, but have never actually taken the time to get to know Perry. The folks at the historical society were so wonderful and sat down with me to discuss the history of the area. I learned a lot and found that although Perry may look small on a map, it’s role in Florida’s history is in no way small! Perry is located south from Tallahassee about an hours drive on US 27. I was surprised to find out that Perry had paved roads before the state capital did! Perry has played a significant role in history in many different ways. Today it is known for it’s tree and lumber industry and is known as the Forestry Capital of the South. The city was originally called Rosehead, named for the many wild roses that were found around the area. In 1875 the name was changed to Perrytown, after Florida’s fourth Governor, Madison Stark Perry. Later it became known simply as Perry.

While visiting with the Taylor County Historical Society I got to go out and visit some of the sites in the area. Some of the most fascinating sites that we visited were the Confederate salt works. To

One of the many Civil War-era salt works we came upon during my visit.

the unfamiliar eye, these sites look like nothing more than small piles of lime rock rubble, but someone familiar with local history can spot these salt works from a mile away. Prior to the Civil War, the majority of the salt that made its way into the South came from Europe. Salt was important because there was no refrigeration and it was needed to preserve meat. It was also used for seasoning food, packing fragile food items and was an ingredient in  many important products. During the Civil War Union blockades prevented salt from Europe reaching the Southern states. However, Florida’s Gulf Coast was ideal for producing salt and salt works were set up along the coast of Taylor County and other areas along Florida’s Gulf Coastline. In fact, salt production became so important that workers at the salt works were exempt from conscription into the Confederate Army. The workers would boil salt water in kettles to evaporate the water, leaving only the salt. During the Civil War the Union forces would frequently locate and attack these salt works in an attempt to cripple the Confederate forces, thus, working at these sites could be very dangerous. Today the remains of hundreds, if not thousands, of salt works dot the northwest coast of Florida.  All that remains of these sites are piles of rubble where the kettle would have once sat. In high tide the water would wash in towards the salt works and then as the tide went out the workers would boil the water to get at the salt. They would do this day in and day out.  These elevated, island-like features  consist of limerock and brick rubble. Many times the only trees growing in an area are those that grow on top of these little islands.The elevated rubble provides the plants with some protection from the saltwater during the incoming tides. In some cases, the salt works might sit on top of Native American middens or mounds that were created a long time before the Civil War, and thus you might sometimes come across some Native American artifacts mixed in with the rubble. Many have been heavily looted for artifacts, and in some cases people have even taken the lime rock for use in modern construction. Very rarely will you find remnants of the actual cast iron kettle used to boil the saltwater.

At this point I have to put my “Archaeology Hat” on and remind my readers of the great loss that occurs when archaeological sites are unscientifically excavated, or “looted”. Studying these salt works could allow us to gain a greater understanding of the Civil War-era industry in this region. Without these sites we may never be able to gain an accurate understanding of the industry or those that worked at the salt works. It is also important to remember that many of these sites are located on private property

The historic Bloodworth's Pharmacy Building in Downtown Perry.

or on state and federal land. Please do not trespass onto somebody else’s property. During our visit we had permission from the landowner to access these sites and we took nothing but photographs.

In addition to the salt works, I became familiar with many of the historic buildings located in Perry. The Taylor County Historical Society is located in the old Bank of Perry

The recently restored historic Perry Train Depot.

building. Bloodworth’s, established in 1904, was the second pharmacy ever opened in Perry and the sign is still painted on the side of the brick building. The historical society has been able to collect much of the local history and has an amazing collection of documents, artifacts and photographs. They also have very dedicated members that understand the importance and value of preserving one’s history. I could have sat with them for hours discussing old buildings, salt works, historic cemeteries and much more! I hope that in the near future I can work with the Taylor County Historical Society to help them preserve more of their history and record historic cemeteries and sites in their wonderful city!

The city has established a historic walking tour of the downtown area which highlights many of the historic buildings, including the historic Perry train depot  situated on the Live Oak, Perry and Gulf Railroad. So the next time you find yourself driving along U.S. 27, be sure to stop in Perry and take some time to explore. In fact, try to do that in every small town you visit because you never know what you will come across!

 

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