When creosote-treated fence posts were sold at Sheboggy

Image for post
Image for post
Photography by Jeremy Roberts

Flanking the northeast side of the Alapaha River at Sheboggy — a mile and a half east of Alapaha, Georgia — a small-scale creosote plant owned by Bertie Moore once existed post-World War II until about 1957. Derived from the distillation of black tar from coal or wood — beech trees are a common source in the eastern United States — creosote is a dirty, thick preservative found on railroad cross ties and wood fence posts. It has since been prohibited for residential use as carcinogens can be leeched into groundwater.

At Sheboggy drawing knifes were used to peel pine posts so creosote, likely pre-purchased from another location, could be affixed. The creosote-treated posts were then placed in a cylindrical, metal boiler and heated in river water for a certain period of time. Upon removal, drying for several days made them stronger and resistant to rotting. Farmers, including Gene Griffin, would purchase the posts to stake in the ground and keep wire fences taut and standing. Metal T-posts are significantly more prominent today.

It is unclear why the Sheboggy operation was abandoned. Reliable laborers may have been few and far between, or supplies may have grown cost-prohibitive. All in all, it was pretty back-breaking work. Neighborhood fish fries did occur for awhile until the shelter fell down. However, the rusting boiler, secured on a two-wheeled axle, remains. An alternate theory posits that it was part of a steam engine-driven sawmill. Prior to World War II, a portable sawmill did function southeast of the river near the remnants of the dilapidated, one-story brick building which sold bait and tackle, fabric, and liquor at various times. A gristmill also stood somewhere along the mill branch [creek] running west under Gladys Road and crisscrossing the properties of Ronnie Brogdon and Donald Stodghill to the river.

Creosote plant employees included Moore’s brother-in-law Julius Brogdon, Tom McMillan, and Becky Davis’s father Purley Harper. Julius also assisted Moore at the fabled Sheboggy night spot, torn down long ago and situated on the northeast side of the river within walking distance of the creosote plant and an honest-to-goodness poker house. State representatives, sheriffs, and judges would covertly meet there on Saturday evenings. The enterprising Moore was a champion poker player who traveled extensively before his death at age 73 in 1984. And a moonshiner.

Julius’s nephew Ronnie loved to blow the boiler horn when he was a little boy. Settling into a career as a district utility engineer with the Georgia Department of Transportation, Ronnie acquired the property until his accidental passing at age 72 in May 2016. Working under a dump truck, the hydraulic lift malfunctioned, causing the body to suddenly collapse on him. A Brogdon family trust retains possession. Research assistance was provided by Becky Davis, Gene Griffin, Sandy Harper, Darrell Jernigan, and Blake McCranie.

© Jeremy Roberts, 2020. All rights reserved. To touch base, email jeremylr@windstream.net and mention which story led you my way. I appreciate it sincerely.

Written by

Retro pop culture interviews & lovin’ someone fierce sustain this University of Georgia Master of Agricultural Leadership alum. Email: jeremylr@windstream.net

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store