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