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The Turpentine Interpretation program will be held August 19 (not August 15, which was stated in the story).

From story below ...On August 19, Gary Erixton said Stephen Foster State Park will host a turpentine interpretation program where he will demonstrate the process and history of the industry. All are invited to the event. More information can be found at


White Springs history to scale
- Gary Erixton shares his collection

By Gabrielle Stevenson

Gary Erixton has worked for the state of Florida since 1978 and became a park ranger in White Springs in 1994. He is a native of the area and recently brought a very special collection of photographs and documents, carefully time-lined with descriptions and dates, and two scale model scenes representing the turpentine industry from years gone by to Antique, Arts & Collectibles Day at Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park held last week.

Inside the park’s Museum, he and other collectors set up their various displays with everything from antique guitars to antique toys. Erixton brought two large scale model scenes with him. The first was a model of the logging industry in Florida complete with model logging trucks, heavy equipment, pine trees, fencing and more. The other scene Erixton displayed was of a turpentine still and camp modeled after the late 1800’s and early 1900’s style. The display included a turpentine still, shanty house, a barn with farm animals and examples of the products that came from this way of life such as raw gum from pine trees and rosin. Erixton built both models by hand and said the turpentine still building took about two hundred hours to completely build.

Part of Gary Erixton’s small scale model representing the turpentine industry from the early 1900’s. The above left building was called a “shanty” and the building in the background is a model of a turpentine still. - SVT Photo by Gabrielle Stevenson

Gary Erixton stands in front of the early 1900’s era small scale turpentine still model he handmade at the most recent Antique, Arts & Collectibles Day at Stephen Foster State Park. - SVT Photo by Gabrielle Stevenson

According to Erixton, the turpentine industry was an integral part of the White Springs economy and was a way of life for many people there.

He said, “Back in the 1800’s, that’s what they did. If you look at a lot of the old houses in White Springs, they were built in 1905, 1906 by the camps to house turpentine employees that ran the saw mills.” After the arduous process of collecting the raw gum from the pine trees, it would be cooked down and made into useful products. Turpentine can be used as a paint thinner, in cleaning products and more. The rosin, another product made through the still process, was used to build wooden ships because it created a water-tight seal, among other things. Rosin is also used on the bows needed to play musical instruments like violins and cellos.

To make all these products, workers needed a huge number of pine trees. Erixton explained, “You didn’t just build stills anywhere. Most people that had stills had six crops of trees. There were 10,500 trees per crop. That’s how you would determine where you’d put the still. That area could be worked for ten years.” He said a still might be located 60 miles from the nearest town, making it necessary for the workers to live where the still was built.

This led to a need for easy access to supplies. “The commissary, they called it, acted like a country store, but there was one draw back to the commissary. People would come out of the woods and buy from (the commissary) and if they didn’t have enough money, they’d write down how much they owed (the owners) on a record so they could take it out of next week’s pay. They couldn’t pay their bills, so they kept them tied down for a lifetime pretty much,” said Erixton.

But, as Erixton reiterated, this was the way of life in that era and a part of the history of White Springs, along with other places throughout Florida and in other states. The models he brought to the event told the turpentine story in a way that stuck with park visitors, both children and adults alike. Erixton added the children always want to play with the trucks in the logging model. “Some of the adults want to play with them too,” he laughed.

Part of Gary Erixton’s handmade scale model scene of the modern logging industry. - SVT Photo by Gabrielle Stevenson

Surrounding the scale models were many photographs, maps, newspaper clippings and other documents arranged on poster boards, all from the White Springs area, depicting the history of the town in a visual “walkthrough” for event guests. He acquired his impressive collection of old photographs from a woman named Virginia Johnson Daniel, also a White Springs native, who passed away in 2006. Daniel wanted someone to carry on the torch of preserving the historical photographs she’d acquired, which tell the story of the town through captured moments of an antique era long gone.

Erixton said he wanted to take on that legacy after becoming involved in an interpretative presentation project for Stephen Foster State Park at Big Shoals. He said Daniel showed him how to take on the task through her knowledge of the timelines, documents and photographs.

Admittedly, Erixton said he never enjoyed history in school, but once he began doing some digging for the project at Big Shoals, the history he found became more and more interesting. Now, he enjoys educating the public about his displays at events like Antique, Arts & Collectible’s Day and the Antique Tractor & Engine Show at Stephen Foster State Park.

His son, Tommy Erixton, was also at Collectibles Day outside the museum at Stephen Foster displaying two antique engines and many miniature models of huge antique tractor implements and equipment. Other booths displaying different kinds of collections, were set up throughout the state park as well and even included an impressive antique car show across from the museum. The two large working engines Tommy Erixton had at the event were both from the early 1900’s and were general purpose engines with uses in agriculture, heavy industry and more.

Tommy Erixton stands in front of two wroking antique engines he had on display at Stephen Foster State Park. - SVT Photo by Gabrielle Stevenson

Erixton said, “We started out as a farming family. Then after that it just kind of gets in your blood. We have a few antique tractors that have been in our family, but we started going to tractor shows and then we decided to start buying a few. You start going to auctions and other shows and you see stuff for sale.” So, their collection continues to grow. According to Erixton, it’s “Pure hobby.

There’s no monetary gain, no personal gain. It’s somewhat of an investment, but worthwhile.” He said they own about 45 antique tractors, countless pieces of mule-drawn equipment and some grain separators. “We’ve got an old wooden thresher machine that dates back to 1890 that’s still capable of being used and it’s all original,” he added.

Both Gary and Tommy Erixton enjoy sharing their collections and displays with the public at events and said it is fulfilling to educate people about history.

On August 19, Gary Erixton said Stephen Foster State Park will host a turpentine interpretation program where he will demonstrate the process and history of the industry. All are invited to the event. More information can be found at