Florida Society of American Foresters

Laurel Turpentine and Lumber Industry

The Sarasota County Historical Commission erected a historical marker in 1987. More information on this site can be found at Sarasota History Alive.

Text of the Marker

The naval stores industry provided employment for workers leaving the plantation system following the Civil War. Some laborers were leased by private companies from state or county prisons. This leasing system brought about conditions of peonage to many workers. Following public outcry the state legislature prohibited the leasing of convicts. Turpentine processing and lumber milling reached this area around 1910. One of the early stills and prisoner stockades operated by the Hall and Harrison Turpentine Company was located west of the Seaboard Air Line Railway in Nokomis. The still worked land north of Nokomis and south of Venice.

Later, 4,000 acres were leased from the estate of Mrs. Potter Palmer for developing a turpentine operation called the McKeithan Still after Sam G. McKeithan, the manager. It was located northeast of the Seaboard Air Line Railway where it now crosses Laurel Road. A cemetery for Blacks, evidence of which has disappeared, was located on a knoll east of the still. About 1925 turpentining was replaced by the lumber business. J. Ray Arnold Lumber Company's large mill was north of the still's Black housing. The mill was connected by rail to nine or ten smaller mills. By 1930 the timber had been sawed and hauled out.


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