I recently found a very old Longleaf pine beam in an old house I am tearing down on Redbay Farm. The piece is from a beam used as a sill. Based on notches in the beam the beam had been used before in some other structure prior to its use on the building being demolished.
Example of catfacing on Longleaf Pine beam. This historical piece is on display at La Casita.
This piece of Longleaf pine is likely to be at least 100 years old. The cat facing could have been done much earlier. The Naval Stores industry was gone by World War I and the post civil war lumber boom was over at about the same time. The diagonal marks (grooves) on the wood were made a tool called a round shave. The work was likely done by an African American. The grooves allowed the pine resin to run into a box cut into the tree, a clay pot or a tin collection can. The black marking is the result of fire burning the residual resin on the catfacing (Longleaf pines are fire resistant). The resin was collected during the winter and spring. This piece of wood is a touchstone of sorts for Swansboro’s past Antebellum plantation culture (Naval Stores were a major product of local plantations) and the subsequent post Civil War lumber boom which clear cut the virgin Longleaf Pine forests of coastal North Carolina.
The Naval Stores industry was an important source of income from the Colonial days until the early 1900’s. The picture below is from the North Carolina Museum of Natural History website on the Antebellum North Carolina Page. The picture shows men catfacing Longleaf Pines and collecting resin for distilling into turpentine. The port of Swansboro was a major collection point for and exporter of Naval Stores (turpentine, pitch and tar). From Swansboro through the West Channel, schooners would tranport the naval stores out to major ports like Wlimington
Title: “Raleigh, North Carolina.” North Carolina’s Turpentine Industry. From The New South, a supplement to Harper’s Weekly. Published on April 9, 1887. Image courtesy of the North Carolina Office of Archives and History, Raleigh, NC.
for transport throughout the world.
Naval stores were used to maintain wooden sailing ships and were a very important resource for the British Royal Navy and other navies around the world. If you are interested reading one of the best accounts of the North Carolina Naval Stores industry and learning the origin of names like Richlands, Paradise Point, Montford Point etc I recommend reading The Old Plantation: How We Lived in Great House and Cabin Before the War, James Battle Avirret, 1901. I would assume that the Naval Stores industry in and around Swansboro mirrored that industry as described in Avirret’s book.
Each man is furnished with a tool called a roundshave, which is of finely tempered steel, in the shape of a small knife, round and bent like your forefingers curved from the second joint, about an inch and a half in width, with a shank about seven inches in length to fit in a wooden handle. With this sharp instrument he scores horizontally just above the box or pocket and thus keeps the pores open and the sap running freely into the box. If the winter is an open or warm one the insertion of the box will have set the pine to bleeding so freely as to fill the box by the tenth of April. If so, another set of hands come with their dippers and buckets,dip out the boxes and fill their buckets, which they empty into barrels dropped at convenient places here and there by negro boys with their mule carts.(Avirret, pp 67-68)
Please realize that this book, The Old Plantation: How We Lived in Great House and Cabin Before the War, is a description of the Antebellum South focused on the culture and specifically written about The Rich Lands, the plantation which is the namesake of the current town of Richlands, NC. It is a book written from the perspective of a family member of an Antebellum plantation and slave owner…make your own assessments of its value. I am interested in the book accounting of forestry, local history and agriculture.
Here in the Swansboro area we had our own major and minor plantations. Palo Alto (house still standing and occupied on the Belgrade/Swansboro road near Maysville) was the largest and there were other minor plantations like Mount Pleasant nearer to Swansboro. Read more about Palo Alto and the David Ward Sanders and Family on the Swansboro Historical Society page. On that page you’ll find an accounting of turpentine produced at the plantation.
When you stay at La Casita you’ll see a historical piece of Longleaf Pine timber which is catfaced by a roundshave. The work was likely done by an African American man free or slave. As you touch the hard smooth wood of this very heavy piece of Long Leaf timber imagine all of the people who have also touched this piece of wood as it grew as a tree, was catfaced for Naval Stores, was cut down, was transported by oxen or rail, was sawn into lumber, used as part of a structure and then used again.