the Northwest, they were called lumberjacks, but in East
Texas they were called “sawyers” or “flatheads.”
Using crosscut saws, axes and teams of mules and oxen, they felled
the timber which fed hundreds of early sawmills and shaped the future
of dozens of East Texas
towns like Lufkin,
A hardy breed with a broad streak of independence, they were as
colorful as they were hard working, and the language they used became
a part of East Texas’
If a sawyer told you he’d “fight a timber rattler and give it two
bites to start,” you knew he was a man to avoid. And if he said
he felt “like he had pulled a dull saw all day,” you knew he was
logging crews which served East
Texas’ early sawmills between the early 1800s and the 1920s
rarely stayed long in one place, moving instead from county to county,
forest to forest, to cut and haul timber.
Some lumber mills moved entire communities, known as “front
camps,” around the East
Texas woods, carrying with them the settlement’s basic needs.
Angelina County Lumber Company operated a fleet of boxcar-like buildings
mounted on wheels, ready to roll when the latest logging job was
finished. The mobile village, named “Acol,”
became famous in East Texas
for its “wandering post office.”
A railroad logging crew usually worked ahead of the logging crews,
putting down new tracks on which trains transported the loggers,
their buildings, and machinery. When the logging was job, the tracks
were yanked up and moved to another forest.
The tracks were usually made of iron, but before the turn of the
century some logging companies fashioned the tracks from saplings
growing in the forest. The saplings, however, frequently warped,
invariably leading to train wrecks.
of the old logging lines led to the creation of shortline
railroads in East Texas.
For example, Thomas Lewis Latane Temple’s Southern Pine Lumber Company
used a logging line that ran seven miles into the woods east of
Diboll to create
the Texas South-Eastern Railroad Company in 1900.
After World War
II, the T-SE operated a mixed train pulled by a steam locomotive
and Lufkin. Passengers
riding the line sometimes called it the “Tattered, Shattered and
Expired” or the “Take it Slow and Easy.”
Another short line railroad, the Angelina
and Neches River Railroad, was also founded in 1900 by Angelina
County Lumber Company at Keltys, near Lufkin.
the chainsaw was invented in the 1940s, logging in East
Texas was a hard, dangerous job. Crosscut saws were the principal
tool for downing trees and axes were utilized for limbing and other
The chainsaw made logging somewhat easier, but it didn’t become
a less labor-intensive practice until mechanized equipment such
as scissor-bladed tree fellers, hydraulic loaders, and other modern
equipment arrived in the woods.
The work of
East Texas’ early sawyers
and loggers constitute a unique part of the region’s heritage, and
much of their work is depicted in exhibits at the Texas
Forestry Museum in Lufkin.
22 , 2012 Column
Bowman's East Texas >
A weekly column syndicated in 109 East Texas newspapers
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