PUBLICATION 10 - 1976
WISE COUNTY'S OTHER INDUSTRY (1887-1940)
|WISE COUNTY'S OTHER
By Jim Bolling
The closing decades of the 19th century found Wise County under the scrutiny of northern speculators and capitalists. The iron ore deposits, the rich seams of coal and the magnificent hardwood forests were evaluated as sources of economic potential. Development and utilization of these resources ushered in an era of growth, social change, and economic optimism.
The coal industry has long reigned supreme as the most significant enterprise of the county, but there was another industry that contributed a great deal to the social and economic development of the county. The relatively untouched hardwood forest fostered the growth of a diversified industry in which this resource was utilized in a variety of methods. This industry did not flourish immediately, but grew gradually in several directions. It began modestly with the cutting of a select species of trees and antiquated methods of transporting the logs to market. Progressively, the industry attained sophistication with the inclusion of new machinery and improved transportation facilities. The men, mechanical apparatus, and the techniques employed in this task created a picturesque epoch in the history of Wise County.
The conditions of the forest in Wise County in the latter part of the 19th century were extremely favorable to the development of an industry in which this resource could be utilized. Charles Dudley Warner rode through a portion of Wise County near Big Stone Gap and gave this lucid description:
The pass itself, which shows from a distance only a dent in the green foliage, surprised us by its wild beauty. The stony road, rising little by little above the river, runs through a magnificent forest, gigantic trees growing in the midst of enormous boulders, and towering among rocks that take the form of walls and buttresses, square structures like the titanic ruins of castles; below, the river full and strong, rages over rocks and dashes down, filling the forest with its roar, which is echoed by the towering cliffs on either side. The woods were fresh and glistening from recent rains, but what made the final charm of the way was the bloom of the rhododendron, which blazed along the road and illuminated the cool recesses of the forest. The time for the blooming of the azalea and the kalmia (mountain laurel) was past, but the pink and white rhododendron was in full glory: masses of bloom, not small stalks lurking like underbrush but on bushes attaining the dignity of trees, and at least twenty-five feet high. The splendor of the forest did not lessen as we turned to the left and followed up Pigeon Creek to a high farming region, rough but fertile, at the base of Black Mountain. Such a wealth of oak, beech, poplar, chestnut, and ash, and sprinkled in, the pretty cucumber magnolia in bloom! 
Wise County had four distinct types of forests which included the following: the ridge type, the slope type, the cove type, and the hemlock bottom type. The ridge type existed on the upper ridges and spurs and had a southern exposure. The soil in these regions was shallow and had very little retention of moisture, therefore growing conditions were not conducive to producing saw-timber. The dominant species in this type of forest were chestnut, chestnut oak, and several other types of oak. The slope type comprised about fifty per cent of the forest of the county and so it was the most important from a commercial standpoint. The dominant species in this type was white oak, but the extremes of elevation offered other varieties. The lower slopes contained yellow poplar, hemlock, cucumber tree, buckeye, white ash, and hard maple. The upper slopes contained red oak, black oak, rock oak, and chestnut. The cove type contained yellow poplar, cucumber tree, basewood, white oak, white ash, buckeye, hickory, hard maple, black walnut and beech. The most favorable growing conditions are found in this area, but this type only composed about fifteen pre cent of the forest in the county. Yellow poplar was the dominant species in this forest type, but only about eight trees grew per acre. The hemlock bottomland type was dominated by hemlock, but beech, red maple, white elm, and river birch existed in this type also. Yellow poplar, cucumber tree, and basswood were found in this type, but in far fewer numbers. 
The industry began about 1887 when the firm of Horsely Tate purchased all the black walnut trees in the county. This firm paid $.60 to $1.00 per thousand board feet on the stump for this timber. Horsely Tate sold their interest to the Singer Manufacturing Company before removal of the timber was initiated. The Singer Manufacturing Company removed all the black walnut trees down to twenty inches in diameter on the stump. There were no railroads int he county at this time, therefore much of this timber was transported in the log to Abingdon by wagon. 
Daniel Bartley Hollyfield gives us an insight into the size of these huge walnut logs as well as the method employed in transporting them. He described a walnut tree which was cut on his father's farm on Bold Camp that was over four feet in diameter. This fine specimen contained four logs which were ten feet long and virtually knot free. Six yoke of oxen were employed to drag one of these logs, if the course was uphill. 
The completion of the railroads in Wise County added a great deal of impetus to the logging industry. In 1891 the Norfolk and Western Railroad came from Bluefield, West Virginia to Norton. In the same year the Louisville and Nashville Railroad came from Cumberland Gap to Norton where it made connections with the Norfolk and Western Railroad.  The South Atlantic and Ohio Railroad ran through Big Stone Gap and up Looney Creek as early as 1890. 
Timber shipments were slightly delayed due to the completion of roads from the woods to the railroad stations, but in the summer of 1891 heavy shipments of logs were made to European markets.  The Hoffman Lumber Company with offices in Big Stone Gap employed twenty teams of horses with four horses to each team to haul their logs to the railroad stations.  The Virginia and Carolina Lumber Company with its main office in New York City and a branch office in Big Stone Gap shipped oak, poplar, cherry, and ash to Liverpool, England and Hamburg, Germany. 
Private individuals became involved in this enterprise also. A Mr. Petit and a Mr. Thomson purchased timber in the Preston Tract near Big Stone Gap and utilized the facilities of the Big Stone Gap and Powell Valley Railroad to reach the outgoing rail lines. Their logs were also shipped to England and Germany. 
Timber was purchased during the early 1890's by the tract and by the individual tree. It was not uncommon to purchase select species of trees at a price ranging from $.50 to $1.00 per tree.  Prices of this nature should have made the logging industry attractive to many individuals. Tracts of timber located close to railroad lines could have been cut and transported at a minimum cost. Farmers who owned timber could have removed it themselves or employed others to remove it for them. Either method would have produced a profit, plus more land would have been available for cultivation with the removal of the timber. The combination of all these factors should have made logging the primary enterprise of the county at this time.
During the same period of time that the railroads transported timber out in the log, circular sawmills operated in the county. Tacoma had a mill of this type as well as a planing mill in 1890.  East Stone Gap had a very productive mill in 1890.  C. A. Day operated a sawmill near Pound in 1890, also. 
Big Stone Gap had several mills of this type in 1891 which furnished materials for shipment as well as for local construction. George Dutton operated a saw and planing mill in Big Stone Gap where the two forks of the Powell River merge. Wolfe Clay and Company operated three mills in the vicinity of Big Stone Gap. They made weather boarding, flooring, moulding, and cornering material. In the winter of 1891 this firm had 2,500,000 feet of lumber on hand with 20,000 poplar trees branded in the woods. They sold materials in Boston and in Wilmington, Delaware to the Jackson and Sharp Car Works. 
Freight rates in 1891 were $.32 to Boston: $.23 to Chicago: and $.16 to Cincinnati, per 100 pounds. There was very little difference in the market value of lumber in these cities. Seasoned poplar weighed between 2500 and 2800 pounds, therefore, for obvious financial reasons lumbermen in the area tried to develop the market to which freight rates were less expensive. 
These small circular mills were steam driven, therefore required a close source of water. Sawmills of this type operated from the very earliest days of the industry into the 1930's. Some were operated in permanent locations while others moved from site to site as the timber supply ws exhausted. Operators of these portable mills were called "fly-by-nighters." 
The sawmill equipment was comprised of a fifty to seventy-five horse power boiler, a fifteen to twenty-five horse power engine, an edger, a carriage, and a fifty-four to sixty inch circular saw.  The sawyer filed and maintained the saw in some cases, but most sawmill operators employed an individual to file the saws and keep the mill in good operating condition. Many of these saws had teeth which could be replaced after repeated filing had made them unfit for further use. 
The operation of a circular saw mill was relatively simple. The sawyer operated the levers which controlled the saw and carriage. He was usually assisted by one or two men in the process of sawing lumber. These men rolled a log onto the carriage and set the head blocks which consisted of a base, knee, and dogs. This mechanism held the log in place while it was sawed. The saw and drive pulley were mounted on a shaft and connected to the power unit. The saw had a guide that kept it sawing straight; a spreader which kept the board pushed out slightly from the log to keep the saw from binding; and a steel roller to transport the sawed board from the saw. The sawing operation began when the sawyer set the carriage in motion toward the rapidly rotating saw. The carriage was mounted on steel wheels and rolled on light steel rails. The carriage drive on this type of mill was usually a steel cable or the rack and pinion type. When the saw completed its cut through the log, the carriage rushed quickly back to its original starting position. The setworks adjusted the log to the new sawing position and the sawing process proceeded. 
There was a substantial increase in the number of these circular sawmills in the decade of the 1890's. In 1891 J. J. Wolfe bought tracts of timber from the Virginia Iron and Coal Company on Looney Creek and on Guest River. The tract on Guest River extended from Norton to Tacoma.  Mr. Wolfe acquired a contract to supply lumber for the construction of forty shanties in the mining district at Tacoma. He also completed a tramway from the mountains to the railroad line and began to make heavy shipments of lumber to outside markets. 
T. J. Templeton operated a sawmill on Roaring Fork in 1894. Mr. Templeton contracted to cut two million feet of poplar lumber on this tract. Many enormous poplar trees were taken from this tract. On one occasion Mr. Templeton sawed twelve thousand feet of lumber from three poplar logs which were twelve feet long. These logs were so large that they had to be split before they were transported to the mill. 
In 1897 M. C. McCorkle purchased 2,000 acres of timberland Powell Valley from the South Appalachian Land Company. This timber was located on the Preston Tract and was estimated to contain several million feet of oak and poplar.  Mr. McCorkle erected a sawmill here and proposed to build a commissary and about a dozen dwelling houses for his employees. 
The devastating effects of a sawmill fire were dreaded by all lumbermen. This malicious culprit visited the firms of two Wise County sawmill operators. In 1895 a planing mill and a considerable amount of lumber was destroyed at J. C. Moore's sawmill at East Stone Gap. This lumber was to be used in the construction of houses at the Iron Furnace near Big Stone Gap.  In 1898 E. W. Miller lost a sawmill and approximately one half million feet of lumber in a fire at Norton. 
From the early days of the industry people in the area of Big Stone Gap advocated the establishment of local industries to utilize the products of the forest. The most elaborate plan was proposed by the Virginia Iron and Coal Company. This firm owned about 64,000 acres of land in the county at this time with a great deal of valuable timber on it. They planned to construct a flume 3,590 feet long on Powell River for the purpose of floating logs down to any company which would establish a woodworking industry here. Nothing ever came of this notion. 
The only furniture manufacturing firm that operated with any degree of success was owned by J. C. Moore of East Stone Gap. In the late 1890's Mr. Moore made coffins, desks, bedroom furniture, and tables that were sold in Lee, Scott and Wise Counties. Mr. Moore also sold furniture in the wholesale trade at the Virginia Iron and Coal Company's Store located at Stonega. 
Some of the lumber from these circular sawmills was used in local construction, but much of it was sold int he form of dimension stock (dimensions specified by the buyer.) These purchasing companies usually operated milling equipment of their own, therefore, they sawed this dimension stock to meet their own specifications. Yellow poplar was used in car bodies, refrigerators, and for interior and exterior house trim. Oak was used in the construction of wagons and in the barrel industry. 
The price received for lumber near the turn of the century was not nearly as high as one might suspect. In 1898 G. A. Moore contracted to furnish lumber to Reynolds Tobacco Company for tobacco boxes. Mr. Moore received $3,000 for 250,000 feet of lumber which was mostly oak.  The magnitude of this operation could be visualized if one estimated each tree to contain an average of approximately 5,000 feet of lumber. It would have taken 500 trees to fill this contract. If one considered the cutting, hauling, milling, and transportation to the buyer, one could argue that the profits could not have been excessive.
A new dimension was added to the industry during the latter part of the 1890's. There probably had been some participation in the tan bark industry, but in 1897 the Goodloe Brothers of Big Stone Gap placed a great deal of emphasis on this business. They hired approximately one hundred men to peel tan bark from the trees in the spring of this year. 
In 1898 construction of a tannery was begun in Big Stone Gap under the supervision of J. C. Specht. Long before the plant was completed Mr. Specht urged area farmers to deliver their tan bark to the tannery.  This plant, the Virginia Tanning and Extract Company, was owned by General Rufus A. Ayers. General Ayers expanded his facilities in the summer of 1899 and expected to begin shipments of tannic acid by September and shipments of leather by October of that year. 
During the summer of 1900 the United States Leather Company purchased the tannery of General Ayers and began the construction of a $250,000 plant adjacent to it. Herbert Moore managed the extract plant and L. F. Frisby managed the tanning department of this enterprise. 
The Clinch River Extract Company operated an extract plant at St. Paul. This firm acquired about fifteen per cent of tan bark and wood from Wise County. Their main source of supply came from North Carolina along the C. C. & O. Railroad lines. 
The process of peeling tan bark was usually pursued in the spring while the sap was rising. Bark was much easier to remove from a tree during this season. The types of trees selected for this purpose were generally hemlock and chestnut oak because they yielded the highest percentage of tanning. In later years after most of the hemlock and chestnut oak trees were removed, these companies had to utilize other species of oak and chestnut wood in their extract plants. The removal of the bark began once the trees were cut and on the ground. After the limbs were removed, the circumference of the tree was chopped with an ax at four foot intervals. A specially designed tool called a spud was employed to gouge the bark from the tree. These four foot sheets of bark were then loaded on sleds or wagons and hauled to the extract plants. 
A tremendous amount of waste occurred during the first ten to fifteen years of the logging industry. Thousands of magnificent trees were cut only to have some sort of defect that made them unfit for use. Quite frequently yellow poplar trees were found to have blue streaks or knots and for this reason they were condemned. Very fine white oak trees received the same treatment if they were found to be damaged by worms or wind shakes. Trees of this nature were simply left to deteriorate where they lay. The markets at this time demanded the finest quality of lumber available, therefore it was considered unprofitable to transport these logs to the mill. Vast quantities of chestnut oak trees were cut for their bark. Once the bark was peeled the remainder of the tree was left to rot. 
The removal of Wise County's virgin timber was hastened with the arrival of larger and more affluent operations. Yellow poplar and white oak were the favorite species of these companies, but other types of trees were not neglected. Circular sawmills were still utilized, but the band mill was far more efficient and productive.
These large firms did not change the method of cutting the timber. This process remained virtually the same from 1887 to 1940. Timber falling crews usually worked in pairs and the overall size of the entire crew depended upon the needs of the sawmill operation. The tools of these crews consisted of an ax, crosscut saw, and wedges. A great deal of skill and judgement was needed by these men. They had to decide the best direction to fall the tree. Their decision was based on several factors. Usually they chose the most convenient spot in which the tree could be sawed into logs. Sawing a tree into logs was called "bucking." They also had to choose the most accessible spot to the teamsters who skidded the logs away. Their ultimate choice was based on their own personal safety. Once the desired falling direction was chosen an "undercut" was sawed in the side of the tree facing the desired landing spot. This "undercut" or "lead notch" as it was sometimes called, was then chopped out with an ax. The tree fallers then moved to the opposite side of the tree and began to saw in the direction of the notch. If the saw started to bind deep into the cut, wedges were driven behind it to relieve the pressure. The sawing continued and eventually the tree toppled over, usually in the pre-selected spot. 
The arrival of these larger firms eliminated some of the brute labor of both man and beast. Logs were still transported from the falling locations by teams of horses and mules. The process of "nosing" a log was accomplished by tapering with an ax the end of the log to which the team was hitched. This eliminated the sharp outer edges on the front end of the log and kept the log from digging into the earth as it was skidded. The teamsters drove grab jacks into the nosed end of the log, to which they hooked their teams. The log or logs, depending upon the size, were skidded to loading points near the narrow-gauge tram or railroads. It is at this point that changes began to take place. Operators employed stream driven log loaders to hoist the logs onto the small rail cars. In the earlier years of logging the logs were loaded onto wagons by the combined effort of man and beast. 
As the logging operations pushed higher and higher up the slopes the small tram roads pursued them. This was done to cut down the skidding distance of logs as much as possible. Much of the terrain in Wise County was too steep for these small trams to ascend straight up the slope. This problem was alleviated by approaching the slope at an angle. Several hundred feet up the slope a switch was installed and the tram reversed its angle of approach to the slope. This process was continued until the desired point was reached. In other words, the tracks zig-zagged up the mountain through a series of switches called "switch-backs." 
One of the largest companies to operate in Wise County was the Tidewater Stave and Lumber Company. This firm was owned by R. D. Benson of New York City. In 1906 this firm purchased the interest of W. J. Stevens and began operations. They operated seven saw and stave mills on the Pound River, Bold Camp, and Indian Creek. Approximately 600 men were on the payroll, which was estimated to be $12,000 a month. These employees came from Dickenson, Wise, Letcher, and Pike Counties. Common laborers were paid $l.23 per day and skilled laborers were paid $3.00 per day. A working day consisted of 10 hours. 
This firm furnished medical services for their employees as well as some housing facilities. Medical services were provided by Dr. Hix and Dr. Richards at the rate of $1.00 per month for married men with families, and $.50 per month for bachelors. The company owned approximately 100 houses which it rented to its employees. House rent ranged from $4.00 to $6.00 per month, depending upon the number of rooms contained in the house. 
This company owned and operated a small narrow-gauge railroad that ran from the foot of Jenkins Mountain to Glamorgan. Side switches were built off the main line up both forks of the Pound River near Flat Gap, up Bold Camp Creek, and several other hollows. These side switches were extended when a mill had to be moved into a new boundary of timber. The railroad crew was composed of twenty or thirty men who worked ten hours a day. These men laid thirty pound steel rails to a thirty-eight inch gauge of oak ties which they cut and sawed themselves. During the early years of this operation two Heisler engines were used by the railroad. The railroad employees named one engine "Heisler" and the other "Huldy." The company later purchased a more powerful Shay engine. 
This little railroad was a colorful addition to the logging industry of Wise County. The company utilized it to haul their lumber and staves to the planing mill at Glamorgan, and many people in the area used it for transportation to Wise. Individuals rode at their own risk on top of the logs going to Glamorgan, and the empty flatcars coming back to Pound. There was no fare charged for this service. The railroad also hauled mining supplies to the Virginia side of Jenkins mountain where they were unloaded and transported across the mountain by wagon. The company earned substantial profits from this practice. 
This firm utilized the facilities of the Wise Terminal Railroad to transport their staves and lumber to the Norfolk and Western Railroad at Norton. These staves were used in their own cooperage industry located at Bayou, New Jersey. The lumber was sold principally to markets outside the county. 
Most of the inhabitants of the area in which the Tidewater Lumber Company operated accepted it with enthusiasm. Many men who would have had to seek employment outside the county acquired jobs with this firm. The type of employment offered by this company was preferred to working in the coal mines by most of these men. 
The most extensive logging operations in the county began with the arrival of single-band mills. Mills of this type were located at Pardee, Exter, Glamorgan, Ramsey, at the head of Powell Valley, and much later at Stonega. These band mills had a daily capacity of 30,000 feet of lumber. 
The operators of these single-band mills usually selected a level section of ground near a source of water. Like the circular mills, the band mills were steam driven. The building that housed the milling equipment was a two- story building with a small attic above the second story. The first floor contained the driving apparatus and the second floor contained the saw and carriage. The attic section of the structure was reserved for the saw filer and mill mechanic.
Due to the fire hazard involved, the steam boiler was usually separated from the mill. These boilers were either hand fired or they were fired by a device called a "hog." Sawdust and slabs from the mill provided the fuel for the boiler. 
The band mill always had a log pond close by. The logs were stripped of their bark and prodded with long poles toward the "slip jack." This apparatus extended from the second floor of the mill down into the pond. Sharp cleats snared the logs and conveyed them along a trough into the sawing room. The sawing operation was very similar to that of the circular mill except for the saw. The band saw was a ribbon of steel ten to twelve inches wide and approximately eighty feet long with sharp teeth on one side. The carriage propelled the log toward the saw and once the cut had been completed it darted back to its original position. This feature gave this type of hand mill its name. In a double-band mill the saw had teeth on both sides and the carriage sawed boards coming and going. 
On February 16, 1906 J. B. Adams sold the Tug River Lumber Company for four hundred acres of timber located at the head of Powell Valley. This firm, co-owned by M. N. Offutt, C. L. Ritter, and B. B. Burns, paid $20,200 for this purchase. Specifications for cutting the timber had changed drastically when this contract was drawn up. Extremely small timber could be removed. Chestnut and chestnut oak, six to twelve inches in diameter, were cut three feet above the ground. All other species, twelve inches and over, were also cut three feet above the ground. 
Raymond Ellis was an extremely efficient timber boss for this firm. He allowed nothing to be wasted. Anything that could be sawed into a two-by-four was utilized. Chestnut oak and hemlock bark was stripped and sold to the tanneries. The best grade of chestnut was sawed into furniture stock and the poorest grades were cut into cord wood and sold to the extract plants. Even chestnut sawdust was sacked and sold. Small poplars, lynn, cucumber, and other laps were sold as pulpwood. 
This company established their band mill above East Stone Gap on the Powell River. In their total operation they employed 160 men. Their lumber was transported over their own narrow gauge railroad to East Stone Gap. At East Stone Gap the lumber was shipped to various parts of this country and Europe. 
The Blackwood Coal and Coke Company installed a band mill on Roaring Fork at Pardee in 1911 at an estimated cost of $50,000.  In 1914 the Keyes Walker Lumber Company of Roanoke, Virginia purchased this mill and 7,000 acres of timber. They also purchased 8,000 acres of timber from the Virginia Iron and Coal Company. 
A band mill was operated by the Virginia Iron and Coal Company at Exeter under the direction of John Crocker. This band mill operated from 1912 to 1918. The majority of the houses in Exeter at this time were constructed of yellow poplar lumber from this mill. 
The band mill located at Ramsey was believed to have been operated by either Keyes Walker or Douglas Walker of Roanoke, Virginia. This mill was believed to have operated until 1916. 
Currier Lumber Company operated a band mill at Glamorgan during the second decade of the 20th century. Mr. Currier had formerly been employed by the Tidewater Stave and Lumber Company. He was believed to have purchased some of the equipment of this company when he established his band mill. 
Currier Lumber Company provided a wide variety of services for its employees. This firm maintained a company store, through which the employees purchased many of their necessities. An employee could also buy a wagon load of coal or wood through the store. They were charged $1.50 for a load of coal and $.75 for a load of scrap wood from the mill. A fee of $1.50 was deducted from each employee's salary for medical service. Electricity was furnished by a steam generator located near the sawmill and each employee was charged $1.50 a month for this service. All the houses at the mill rented for $5.00 a month. 
There were about fifty or sixty men employed at the sawmill. Twenty-five or thirty men worked in the mill and about the same number worked in the lumber yard stacking and loading lumber. Most of these employees received a daily wage, but a few did piecework. Employees who operated stave machines received $.65 per one thousand staves. A good stave operator produced five or six thousand staves in a ten hour day. 
The combined efforts of band and circular mills had removed most of the virgin timber from the county by the early 1920's. At this time there were only two or three tracts of timber that would have been conducive to a band mill setting. Lumbering operations at this time were performed by circular sawmills and local labor. Many sawmill operators at this time used this activity as supplementary employment. 
In 1929 the McCorkle Lumber Company acquired a contract to cut timber from the Virginia Iron and Coal Company's land. This boundary of timber was located on Callahan Creek above Stonega. This firm moved its band mill from Russell County and erected it at Stonega. 
McCorkle Lumber Company agreed to pay $200,000 over a three year period for the right to cut this timber. On the twelfth day of each month this firm had to pay the following sums for lumber sawed in the previous months: $25.00 for each thousand board feet of poplar, walnut, ash, and cherry; $12.00 for each thousand feet of lynn and red oak; $8.00 for each thousand board feet of white oak and chestnut oak; and $4.00 for each thousand board feet of chestnut, hickory, gum, buckeye, birch, beech, and hemlock. There were two unusual stipulations in this contract. One stated that there were to be no houses of ill repute on this property, and the other stated that no person could make or sell liquor. 
This tract of land contained all virgin timber and several of the logs were so large that they could not be accommodated on the saw carriage. When a log of this size was encountered the saw mill personnel drilled holes in it and split it with small charges of black powder. If a tree of this nature was damaged int he falling process the persons responsible had to pay the market value of the lumber contained in it. 
In 1936 this firm moved its narrow gauge railroad and logging operation to Guest River. The band mill remained in Stonega. They removed the timber from land located on the South Fork of the Pound River. "Cooge" Branham was employed to haul the logs across Fox Gap by truck. The logs were then loaded onto flatcars and transported by the little Shay engine to the Interstate Railroad at Norton. From there they went directly to the mill at Stonega. 
The McCorkle Lumber Company erected new houses on Guest River as well as a company store. These houses had no plumbing or electricity and rented from $4.00 to $6.00 a month. 
After the timber was removed from this section the operation relocated on Black Creek near Blackwood. The narrow gauge railroad was no longer used due to the increased efficiency of trucking. "Cooge" Branham was contracted to haul the logs to the mill at Stonega. In 1940 the McCorkle Lumber Company sold its band mill and moved to Pike County, Kentucky. At this time all the easily accessible virgin timber in Wise County had been removed. 
The removal of these last stands of virgin timber ended an era that had begun approximately half a century earlier. An enterprise that had begun with speculation grew into a reality. The years of wanton waste in this industry can never be excused, but one must consider the circumstances under which these acts were committed. These early participants had to adhere to exacting standards, while all around them appeared a seemingly inexhaustible supply of timber.
The effects that this industry had on the county are contradictory. It gave employment to hundreds of men who would have had to seek employment outside the county or in the coal mines. It provided them with medical service, housing and electricity. The benefits received by these people came at a very dear cost. The magnificent virginal resource was eliminated forever. It would take centuries to produce the kinds of trees that this industry utilized. The demands of our present day society could never allow this to happen.
All files on this site are copyrighted by their creator. They may not be reproduced on another site without specific permission from Vickie Sturgill Stevens . Although public information is not in and of itself copyrightable, the format in which they are presented, the notes and comments, etc., are.