Turpentine still linked to Climax history

Published 9:17pm Tuesday, July 22, 2014

While the names Curry and Trulock are closely linked to Climax history and the founding of the town, there are others that left their footprints on the pages of history of this little town near the Grady County line.

The earliest known settler, Duncan Curry came to the Climax area around 1824, and Sutton Trulock came around 1830, Curry from North Carolina, and Trulock from South Carolina.

It seems from history that several came from the Carolinas to settle in Climax.

In 1905, more people began to settle in Climax, and lots of land were sold. Things began to take on the atmosphere of a growing little town.

According to recorded history, this was the thought of another man from South Carolina, one J.W. Napier. At the age of 43 with his wife, Lula G. Napier age 36, their daughter Sadie D. age 12, son J.W. Napier, Jr. age 19, another son Charles H. age five and his father J.E. Napier 69, J.W. set out to make his mark in Climax, and in 1910 Climax is listed as his home.

However, J.W. Napier must have come to Climax before 1910 because in, “Decatur County Past Present,” J.W. Napier was listed as being elected as a District School trustee for the Climax school for two years along with A.E. Bell, three years, and R.E. Page for one year.

Then from 1912-1914 J.W. Napier was a Decatur County School Board member.

Some records have Napier as passing away in 1918.

Henry Talbert age 35 is another who came with his wife, Nettie Jane age 35, son John C. Talbert age 6sixyears, and father, S. H. Talbert age 63 from South Carolina. It is thought that the Napier family and the Talbert family came to Climax about the same time.

The long leaf pine tree and the Turpentine business came to be a booming business all throughout the South.

I remember as a child seeing the huge scars on the pine trees and the metal cups attached to the tree at the end of the shaved off bark.

A sticky gum would flow from the tree, my Daddy always called it the sap, and from this sap or gum as it was called, turpentine would be stilled.

A few years ago Mayo Livingston, Jr. wrote a book and several articles about the Shade Tobacco, saw Mills and Turpentine industry in South Georgia.

“The carpet of Green and Gold,” gives a wonderful history of the progress of turpentine from the late 1700s or 1800s to the closing of the stills in 1968

In Climax, it is thought that J.W. Napier and Henry Talbert worked hard to make a go of this thriving turpentine business.

According to a 1913 Climax City map, a turpentine still or mill was located at the end of Burt Phillips Road and the new four-lane Highway 84 just outside of the city limits at that time.

In his book, “The Green and Gold Carpet,” Mayo Livingston, Jr. has J.W. Napier as owner of the turpentine still in Climax, and it was thriving in the 1900s until his death in 1918.

Henry Talbert worked the turpentine still for J.W. Napier for many years. His son, Young John C. Talbert became the father of former Climax Post Master Linda Harris.

A picture of the Napier Turpentine Still in Climax hung for many years in the Climax post office until its closing; however the post office has now been reopened.

When Linda Harris retired from the post office, she gave this picture along with other pictures depicting Climax history to the city. Today they hang in city hall.

For many years a house stood on the corner of Peabody Street and Broad Street across the street from the Curry home with the front of the house facing Broad Street. This house was known by all in Climax as “The Napier” house. It was large and had two stories.

Myra Seals remembers being in this house and recalled an unusual staircase in the middle hall of the house, not in the entrance way. She also remembers a large baby grand piano in the entrance.

Seals said, “I thought it was an awesome old house and would love to have seen it restored to its original beauty and kept as a Climax land mark.”

Some remember talk of their ancestors going to parties in the large entrance hall with the music being provided by someone playing the grand piano.

After the last of the Napiers left Climax, the house was vacant for a while, but it was used for an antique business and then a nursery plant business at one time when it was in good condition.

Due to the deterioration of the house, last year the Napier house was demolished.

All that is left now are some old pictures with the large wood and stucco type house in the back ground.

Echoes of history float across the landscape now, and if one listens closely they might hear some call about the turpentine still at the far end of town or maybe the piano music of the baby grand as it filtered out the high windows.

A picture of the Napier turpentine still in Climax shows a tall man in the foreground and is thought to be J.W. Napier.

The man standing on the platform with the turpentine barrels is thought to be Henry Talbert, the grandfather of former Climax post master, Linda Harris. Harris said her grandmother Nettie Jane, told Linda’s Mother, the best she could remember, (the picture belonged to Nettie Jane,) she thought this to be J.W. Napier and Henry Talbert in the picture.

Thanks to Linda Harris for sharing the old picture and for leaning it in Climax city Hall for all to remember and share with future generations.

Go to the S.W. Georgia Regional library and look up Mayo Livingston, Jr. little book about “The carpet of green and gold.” You will be glad you did.

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