The Importance of Turpentine
Long ago this area was covered with tens of thousands of acres full of long-leaf yellow pine which provided the needed sap for the turpentine business.
The highly valued pine forests stretched from today's Groveland all the way to the cities of Brooksville and Dade City.
The collection of turpentine began during the Colonial Era as a preservative for the ropes and rigging on ships and for caulking wooden seams. These products were called "naval stores". Turpentine also had uses in numerous products such as medicines, cleaning products, paint, etc.
Following the War of Northern Agression (Civil War), the turpentine industry reshaped the weakened economy of the South.
In the late 1800s, extracting sap from pine trees and processing it in backwoods stills was once Florida's second largest industry, after citrus. Chevron shaped gashes were chipped into pine trees. Metal sleeves were inserted and pots were hung to catch the sap.
Harvesting Sap from Pine trees
Scoring trees to cause them to "bleed" could eventually damage the tree.
When that happened the industry was forced to move on to find new forests.
The cuts made in the pine trees, in order to extract the sap, could still be seen in the area well into the 1950s.
The collected sap was brought to the still for processing. Turpentine is a fluid obtained by the distillation of the sap from live pine trees. When processed, the sap would separate into a fluid turpentine and a hard waxy resin.
The rosin and spirits of turpentine were then shipped out by rail for marketing.
Long-leaf yellow pine was also an ideal source of lumber for construction, since it naturally repels termites.
Many Florida towns emerged from what was once a turpentine camp and still or sawmill. The area of South Lake County became a large producer of turpentine and lumber, along with some cattle ranchers and citrus growers.
1860s-1880s - Pre-Taylorville Settlers
The Taylor brothers would eventually arrive in an area that was already inhabited by some of the area's early families, but had not become an "official" settlement.
Some of these pre-Taylorville families include: the Browns, the Daniels, and the Dukes. (Read more about these families here.) Along with Daniel Sloan, who built a home (believed to be the first) in the area as early as 1866.
Simon Brown and his family came to the area around 1870.
George Washington Dukes, who married Sarah Ann Lastinger, arrived to the area in 1874.
John Wesley Daniels and his wife, Cassidina (daughter of George W. Dukes) had squatter's rites to property west of Lake David which he sold to E. E. Edge, sometime after 1899.
1889 - The Arrival of the Taylor Brothers
Around 1889, brothers, C. C. and B. M. Taylor, along with their Negro workers arrived in Mascotte, with hopes of establishing a turpentine business.
However, they did not receive a warm welcome from the settlement's leader at the time, Theodore Ruff, who had already arrived in 1885.
Ruff did not like the idea of the Taylor brothers living together with their Negro workers in the settlement of Mascotte.
Thus, the Taylor brothers moved further East along the new train tracks, until they found a suitable place outside of Mascotte.
The Taylors built a turpentine still around the north side of Lake David.
Legend states that the lake was named after David Crum who killed a large black bear along the shore in 1880.
Their home and still was located around the north side of today's Hardee's.
Granville Beville Robbins (b. 1874 at Tuscanooga) was only about 15 years old when he was hired, along with Will Vinson, a Tuscanooga school teacher, by the Taylor brothers to build the first structure in Taylorville. It was a storage shed for them to hold their supplies needed for the turpentine business.
This structure was built on the north side of today's Groveland Post Office and would later serve as the camp's commissary.
At this point, the brothers were still camping under their wagons which they leaned against a tree on the north shore of Lake David. Old writing tell of how the brothers would sit and watch the deer and bears coming to the shoreline to drink the water.
Sometime around 1889-1890, they set up their operations, building homes for themselves and their workers that included: overseers, chippers, dippers, rakers, strippers, stillers, and woodsriders.
The railroad needed a name for the spot in order to drop off supplies, so even though their had been people living nearby for at least 30 years, the brothers named the area Taylorville. The town of Taylorville was shown on maps as early as 1895.
c. 1890 - The Taylor brothers' Turpentine Still
The Taylors also constructed a little 'Pepperbox' sawmill, labor quarters, and commisionary near what is now the intersection of HWY 19 & HWY 50.
[Contributors: Julian Rowe, Mary Helen Myers, Jason Brown]
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