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The Turpentine Still

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PORTAL'S ANNUAL RETURN TO HISTORY

 

In the fall of the year, Portal Heritage Society, Inc., and the Town of Portal host the annual "Catface Turpentine Festival."  The festival celebrates the history of turpentine at the historic E. C. Carter turpentine still, located in Portal, Georgia.  Although turpentine has many uses, the commercial production of turpentine is now a dying industry and very few turpentine stills remain in the United States.  The old E. C. Carter still, however, is fired up once again during Portal's annual Catface Turpentine Festival to produce this valuable liquid.  Visitors come from near and far to see how turpentine is made and to learn about the role it played in the town's history.

The festival begins with a parade along U. S. Highway 80, which runs through downtown Portal.  At the conclusion of the parade, visitors gather at the festival grounds nearby to browse through the various booths of arts and crafts, and to enjoy rides, games, delicious foods, and a variety of entertainment.  For those interested in the history of turpentine, a demonstration of how the old still works is presented, and visitors can enjoy the unique "rosin-baked" potatoes.  

IN THE BEGINNING

The turpentine industry in Bulloch County's town of Portal began with F.N. Carter, Sr., and his son E. C. Carter, who owned and operated a commercial turpentine still from the 1930's until the 1960's.

Then, for nearly 20 years, the Carter still was cold and silent.  While many stills from that period were dismantled and parts were sold for the copper tubing and iron boilers, the Carter Still remained as it was and on it's original site.

In 1982, Denver Hollingsworth and the Portal Heritage Society suggested restoring the old Carter turpentine still; and with much work and dedication from the community, the old still was restored and, once again, the old boiler was lit.  The Carter turpentine still is only one of three turpentine stills remaining in the State of Georgia.  The two other remaining stills are located in Tifton and Walthourville.

The turpentine process begins with harvesting pine tar/gum from "Slash Pine" trees.  Turpentine harvesters cut slash marks into the sides of pine trees, and the tar/gum slowly leaks into metal vats placed at the bottom of the slash marks.  The slash marks resemble wiskers on a cat's face, thus the term "Catface Country" was adopted for Portal's annual Turpentine Festival.  

After collection of the pine tar is completed, it is "cooked down" at the still to result in turpentine.