Trees

 

Trees

 

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When Malcolm Gillis first arrived here on this new land it was covered in pine forests with only a few small clearings courtesy of Native Americans and early pioneers that had long since gone.  As soon as immigrants arrived, they cut trees to build their first cabins and other shelters on their new homesites. Rough log construction was a common method of housebuilding at first. Indeed, homes of this construction could be found late into the 19th century.  Rough logs were followed in time by logs from which the bark and thin slabs had been removed to “square them off.” This trimming made them were more nearly uniform than the rough logs and therefore easier to use in building dwellings.  Naturally, with all the forests, Malcolm entered the timber business.  He built a water-powered sawmill on the Little Rockfish Creek which flowed through his land.  He then entered into the production of naval stores.

Naval stores is the collective name of all products of the gum of the pine tree. Its name derives from the original use of tar as a caulking and waterproofing substance on ships—hence, “naval.” The gum from the yellow or longleaf pine proved to be a very versatile resource. Uses for it expanded by accident and experiment until it practically dominated the burgeoning industry of America.

One method of extracting the product involved old fallen trees which had high concentrations of gum—what an citizen of these parts would call “lightard” (lightwood). These logs were cut up and piled in a shallow pit and covered with earth. A slow burning fire lighted in the top of the pile caused the gum to liquefy and the tar to run down into catch basins outside the mound. These tar kilns were a common sight in the area from the earliest settlement.

In the early 19th century industrialization was accelerating in the United States. Those who found themselves amidst forests of pine were sitting in the middle of a resource for which there was an enormous demand in the outside world--a demand comparable to that for petroleum in our time. Like petroleum, it became almost a universal ingredient in manufacturing. That is, many products were made from it and it was used in the production of many others.

Early in this century a government publication listed the use of turpentine in thinners for paints and varnishes, solvents for waxes in polishes, waterproof cements, cleaners to remove paints and oils from fabrics, disinfectants, liniments, medicated soaps, internal medicines, ointments, synthetic camphor, celluloid, explosives, fire works, synthetic rubber, glazing putty, printing inks, lubricants for grinding and drilling glass, moth repellents, insecticides, crayons, patent leather, in petroleum refinement, textile manufacturing, and ore refinement. And this is just the turpentine.

Rosin was used in soaps, sizing for paper products, paint dryers, axle grease, waterproofing products, emulsified oils, leather dressings, enamels used in ceramic manufacture, fire kindling, artificial wood, papier-mâché, roofing materials and roofing cement, grafting wax used for trees, linoleum, oil cloth, lutes and violin bows, ointments, plasters, veterinary medicines, disinfecting compounds, dry batteries and electrical insulation, setting bristles in hair brushes, insect powders, fly papers, printing inks, cements for glass—and the list goes on.

Today, we do very little haversting of trees.  We only harvest what we need for firewood and any building projects we may have to do.


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