A Different Kind of Industry in the old South

Tom Hughes

First Sergeant
Joined
May 27, 2019
Location
Mississippi
hack image.jpg

When I first dug up this artifact at an old plantation in central Mississippi last month, I felt sure that it was some type of unusual bayonet.
Probably rare.
Probably of Confederate use.
And definitely worthy of bragging rights on the many civil war forums that exist in our cyber world.
Although soldiers did camp around the house during the war on their way to Vicksburg, it was not the type of artifact I would have guessed it to be.

It turns out that this is a turpentine hack.
And yes, I was a little disappointed that this wasn't some rare war relic.
Some of you are probably thinking the same thing I was thinking when I learned this.
What the heck is a hack?!

Here's what I discovered:
This hack would've been used to scrape bark off pine trees to extract turpentine. This one certainly dates to the 19th century and is blacksmith forged.
The turpentine industry expanded quickly across GA, AL and MS in the 19th century. Turpentine was used as a solvent and for lamp fuel (certainly cheaper than whale oil). The resin was also used in soap and varnish.
Naval stores used turpentine to keep ships afloat.
It was hard work and slaves were often used to extract the resin from the trees.
It's unknown if this planter family was engaged in commercial turpentining at some point or if they used the resin strictly for their personal use on the plantation. Regardless, it's an interesting relic that sheds light on an industry that was flourishing in the deep south in the antebellum years, yet doesn't get much attention.
 
Joined
Sep 17, 2011
Location
mo
View attachment 406746
When I first dug up this artifact at an old plantation in central Mississippi last month, I felt sure that it was some type of unusual bayonet.
Probably rare.
Probably of Confederate use.
And definitely worthy of bragging rights on the many civil war forums that exist in our cyber world.
Although soldiers did camp around the house during the war on their way to Vicksburg, it was not the type of artifact I would have guessed it to be.

It turns out that this is a turpentine hack.
And yes, I was a little disappointed that this wasn't some rare war relic.
Some of you are probably thinking the same thing I was thinking when I learned this.
What the heck is a hack?!

Here's what I discovered:
This hack would've been used to scrape bark off pine trees to extract turpentine. This one certainly dates to the 19th century and is blacksmith forged.
The turpentine industry expanded quickly across GA, AL and MS in the 19th century. Turpentine was used as a solvent and for lamp fuel (certainly cheaper than whale oil). The resin was also used in soap and varnish.
Naval stores used turpentine to keep ships afloat.
It was hard work and slaves were often used to extract the resin from the trees.
It's unknown if this planter family was engaged in commercial turpentining at some point or if they used the resin strictly for their personal use on the plantation. Regardless, it's an interesting relic that sheds light on an industry that was flourishing in the deep south in the antebellum years, yet doesn't get much attention.
IIRC I had a book on Rosewood in Florida think turpentine industry was still going in that area of Florida in the 20th century
 
Joined
Jul 19, 2016
Location
Spotsylvania Virginia
View attachment 406746
When I first dug up this artifact at an old plantation in central Mississippi last month, I felt sure that it was some type of unusual bayonet.
Probably rare.
Probably of Confederate use.
And definitely worthy of bragging rights on the many civil war forums that exist in our cyber world.
Although soldiers did camp around the house during the war on their way to Vicksburg, it was not the type of artifact I would have guessed it to be.

It turns out that this is a turpentine hack.
And yes, I was a little disappointed that this wasn't some rare war relic.
Some of you are probably thinking the same thing I was thinking when I learned this.
What the heck is a hack?!

Here's what I discovered:
This hack would've been used to scrape bark off pine trees to extract turpentine. This one certainly dates to the 19th century and is blacksmith forged.
The turpentine industry expanded quickly across GA, AL and MS in the 19th century. Turpentine was used as a solvent and for lamp fuel (certainly cheaper than whale oil). The resin was also used in soap and varnish.
Naval stores used turpentine to keep ships afloat.
It was hard work and slaves were often used to extract the resin from the trees.
It's unknown if this planter family was engaged in commercial turpentining at some point or if they used the resin strictly for their personal use on the plantation. Regardless, it's an interesting relic that sheds light on an industry that was flourishing in the deep south in the antebellum years, yet doesn't get much attention.
Well researched and written Tom. (What the heck are you doing digging in the middle of a Mississippi summer? I don’t go in the woods here in Virginia once copperheads are out. You have worse that that down south!).
 

nc native

Sergeant
Joined
Aug 30, 2011
Location
NC Piedmont
Turpentine was a big industry in the South during the nineteenth century. The Eastern part of the Carolinas was one of the leading producing areas of tar for naval stores and turpentine during this period and this is one of the reasons cotton production was lower in
these states than the Lower South. One of my great great grandfathers was listed in the 1860 census as a turpentine worker. I know that was a hard, dirty way for a man to make a living.
 
Last edited:

dgfred

Corporal
Joined
Apr 13, 2020
Turpentine was a big industry in the South during the nineteenth century. The Eastern part of the Carolinas was one of the leading producing areas of tar for naval stores and turpentine during this period and this is one of the reasons cotton production was lower in
these states than the Lower South. One of my great great grandfathers was listed in the 1860 census as a turpentine worker. I know that was a hard, dirty way for a man to make a living.

Easy to get Tar on your Heels. Haha
 

LetUsHavePeace

Volunteer
Joined
Dec 1, 2018
Gum (the stuff that the hack was used to scrape from the tree while leaving the rest of the bark), pitch and tar were essential naval stores in the age of Nelson. The same clever people who distilled whiskey from corn and other grain were able to figure out how to distill turpentine from the pine gum. As a result, there was a "turpentine belt" that overlapped the area of cotton production (Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida in the east; Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas west of the Appalachians. Most of the production was for local use on the rivers and coasts. For export North Carolina dominated the trade before the Civil War. After the war much of that production moved to Georgia.

https://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/business-economy/naval-stores-industry

The story of the end of the industry is told here:

http://sclfind.libs.uga.edu/atfa/history/
 
Joined
Jul 19, 2016
Location
Spotsylvania Virginia
Gum (the stuff that the hack was used to scrape from the tree while leaving the rest of the bark), pitch and tar were essential naval stores in the age of Nelson. The same clever people who distilled whiskey from corn and other grain were able to figure out how to distill turpentine from the pine gum. As a result, there was a "turpentine belt" that overlapped the area of cotton production (Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida in the east; Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas west of the Appalachians. Most of the production was for local use on the rivers and coasts. For export North Carolina dominated the trade before the Civil War. After the war much of that production moved to Georgia.

https://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/business-economy/naval-stores-industry

The story of the end of the industry is told here:

http://sclfind.libs.uga.edu/atfa/history/
Thanks. I was wondering about the process.
 
Joined
Sep 28, 2021
View attachment 406746
When I first dug up this artifact at an old plantation in central Mississippi last month, I felt sure that it was some type of unusual bayonet.
Probably rare.
Probably of Confederate use.
And definitely worthy of bragging rights on the many civil war forums that exist in our cyber world.
Although soldiers did camp around the house during the war on their way to Vicksburg, it was not the type of artifact I would have guessed it to be.

It turns out that this is a turpentine hack.
And yes, I was a little disappointed that this wasn't some rare war relic.
Some of you are probably thinking the same thing I was thinking when I learned this.
What the heck is a hack?!

Here's what I discovered:
This hack would've been used to scrape bark off pine trees to extract turpentine. This one certainly dates to the 19th century and is blacksmith forged.
The turpentine industry expanded quickly across GA, AL and MS in the 19th century. Turpentine was used as a solvent and for lamp fuel (certainly cheaper than whale oil). The resin was also used in soap and varnish.
Naval stores used turpentine to keep ships afloat.
It was hard work and slaves were often used to extract the resin from the trees.
It's unknown if this planter family was engaged in commercial turpentining at some point or if they used the resin strictly for their personal use on the plantation. Regardless, it's an interesting relic that sheds light on an industry that was flourishing in the deep south in the antebellum years, yet doesn't get much attention.
 
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