Friday, August 20, 2010

More about fatlighter pine

Massive pine beam holding up the roof of John McDonald's barn is still straight and strong.
John McDonald's barn is a landmark east of Myakka City on the north side of S.R.70.

Our story Aug. 8 on John McDonald's distinctive red barn in Myakka City and the "fatlighter" pine beams that hold the roof up after so many years brought this response from a very knowledgeable Ralph Ehrhardt of Ellenton:

Dear Mr. Jones:

 Your story on preserving the past in Myakka was very interesting and a wonderful way to acquire "history" from the people who were there.

Interesting observation that John McDonald's barn suffers from termite infestation, but the massive heart-of-pine beams, what country people call fatlighter pine, still look straight and strong.

When the time comes for this barn to collapse, hopefully the massive beams will be saved as the heart-of-pine trees were very old and contained a sap which made the trees waterproof and bug resistant . Mr. McDonald's barn beams will ooze this sap when cut...after 300 years. It is an unusual tree and used for special purposes such as sailing ships.

In 1976, I met a Lumberman in Orangeburg, S.C., who operated a saw mill and he was very knowledgeable about the native pine trees that had grown along the Eastern Seaboard -- from Virginia to Florida and then west toward Texas. These were virgin trees, many over 100 feet long and 6-8 feet in diameter. They were unique, as the sap in the trees was water proof and bug proof. As such, these trees were ideal for building the large sailing ships that England had all over the world.

King George the Third, declared that ALL of these trees belonged to him and the colonists could use only those trees that that were felled by storms. Hence, we have the origin of "windfall" and this lumberman stated it was these trees that started the war against King George III, not raising the tax on tea as we read in history books.

This may be folklore, but it also would be logical, as the value of the lumber would have a greater impact than an increase in tea taxes.

While I was touring the sawmill operations, the workers X-rayed the huge timbers looking for metal hand made nails, which were dug out and dropped to the ground.

Walking on all those nails was an odd feeling, it was a needed process, as a nail would disintegrate a saw-blade instantly. .....a safety hazard for sure. While I was there, the workers cut a very long timber in two for easier handling and sawing into wood for furniture, or flooring or other purposes. This timber was about 6 foot square and when it was cut the sap oozes out. The mill owner explained that the land owners, after the Revolution, had sold the trees to be harvested and cleared for farming.

The trees were often used to build cotton warehouses in the South. Over time, the cotton warehouses were no longer used and this lumberman had them carefully dismantled and shipped to his mill for cutting into lumber for various uses. This mill was water-powered ( river) and all the equipment was vintage types. It was
a wonderful lesson in the lumber business and the history of our young nation.

Hopefully, you will share this story with the Myakka people.

Sincerely, Ralph Ehrhardt, Ellenton

Thanks for the information, Mr. Ehrhardt,


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