In the mid-1700s, when Scottish Highlanders settled in the Sandhills region, the vast forest consisted of original growth longleaf pines that reached heights of 100 to 120 feet. Merchants cut the forests for timber and cultivated choice stands for use as masts for the Royal Navy ships. Merchants also harvested resin from the longleaf pines for the naval stores industry. Resin from longleaf pine yielded four basic products: tar, pitch, turpentine and rosin.
By 1850, North Carolina's pine forests were producing one-third of the world's supply of naval stores. Resin collected from elongated, inverted V-shaped cuts in the tree trunks was distilled into turpentine. Turpentine was used as a solvent and illuminant. Tar, pitch and rosin were used for sealing the hulls, decks, masts, ropes and riggings of sailing vessels.
When railroads arrived in the Sandhills in the 1870s, large-scale logging and lumbering began. As a result of logging and naval stores operations, most of the virgin growth of longleaf pines had disappeared from the Sandhills by 1900. Many of the older trees that survive today bear prominent scars of this human exploitation.
Early in the 20th century, the grandfather of James Boyd, a well-known North Carolina author, purchased a substantial tract of land east of Southern Pines to save the longleaf pines from logging. He named the estate Weymouth because the pines reminded him of trees in Weymouth, England. In April 1963, Boyd's widow, Katharine, donated 403 acres of land to the state, establishing the first natural area in the North Carolina state parks system. Additional land has been acquired, including a satellite area of 153 acres known as the Boyd Round Timber Tract, which was added in 1977. The term "round timber" is a colloquial expression that describes old growth trees that were not cut for lumber or naval stores. The Boyd tract contains a sizeable stand of old-growth longleaf pines aging from 250 to more than 450 years old. The oldest known living longleaf pine in the world resides here, dating back to 1548.