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Columns | Bob Bowman's East Texas

Shotgun Houses

by Bob Bowman
Bob Bowman

A reader called the other day with a question: “Do you know anything about shotgun houses?”

You bet I do. I lived in three shotgun houses as a boy, once briefly at Fastrill in Cherokee County, again at Longstreet, Louisiana, and finally at Diboll in Angelina County.

A shotgun house was a long, narrow house. Most were found in sawmill or logging towns and were small enough to be lifted onto trucks or railroad flatcars and moved from place to place to house the lumber company’s employees.

The name came from the description: “You can fire a shotgun through the front door and it will go out the back door without hitting a thing.”

Southern Pine Lumber Company utilized a few shotgun houses at Fastrill , a logging camp on the Neches River, in the late 1930s and early 1940s. When the company closed the Fastrill camp, the shotgun houses were dispersed to other company locations including Longstreet, Diboll and perhaps Pineland.

In Diboll, the houses were painted red and that section of town became known as Redtown. They were usually unbearably hot in summers.

Ruth Currie said the lumber company later built additional shotgun houses at Redtown. At one time, some 50 houses stood there and Mrs. Currie said the Redtown houses were considered “more or less temporary housing” until the occupants were able to move into “a regular company house.”

When Lamon Gossett came to Diboll, he embarked from the train and was met by his “boss man,” who told him to walk down to Redtown, on Diboll’s east side, where he would find a house that would be his living quarters.

In those days, the houses did not have street addresses--just numbers. Most people, however, knew the houses by the family names.

The shotgun houses in Redtown were eventually torn down or moved to other parts of the community, including the Lakeview area. Some also went to Daisetta, where Southern Pine had another logging camp.

In 2000, Levon Coffee, a former student at Diboll, came home for a friend’s funeral and decided to locate the shotgun house where he lived as a young man. He found that his family’s old shotgun house was one of several still standing at Lakeview. It was personal, emotional moment for Coffee.

Shotgun houses may be coming back. I read in a Houston newspaper the other morning that an architect has designed a new type of shotgun house with heating and cooling efficiencies.

I wish we had lived in one like that when I was a kid.


All Things Historical December 22, 2008 Column.
Published with permission
A weekly column syndicated in 70 East Texas newspapers



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