Logging Ten Mile Bay

The early sawmill operations of Wiregrass Georgia required a constant supply of  timber to maintain production and profitability. Smaller sawmill operations could be moved close to the timber tracts where logs were being cut. For larger operation, such as the Clements Sawmill on the tracks of the Georgia & Florida Railroad at Ray City,  logging timber typically involved transporting cut logs to the sawmill by skidder and tram.

Skiddermen like Claudie RoyalRobert Christopher Powell and Lawrence Cauley Hall used two wheel “Perry” carts pulled by a team of horses or mules to drag  or skid felled logs.  According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 1918 publications, in Georgia a typical skidderman worked a 60 hour workweek, for a wage of 22.5 cents an hour, or $13.50 per week. The skiddermen dragged logs from where they were cut the short distance to the tracks of the railway tram, where they were loaded and hauled to the sawmill.  Oxen could be used pull skidders in areas too wet for horses or mules,  but even oxen couldn’t skid logs out of the deepest swamps.

Ten Mile Bay northeast of Ray City was one of the first places in this section where logs were hauled out of the swamp by overhead skidder.

At Southernmatters.com, Bill Outlaw relates how the deep swamp of Ten Mile Bay provided a hide out for Confederate deserters and draft dodgers during the Civil War. You can read Bill’s observations on Ten Mile Bay at http://www.southernmatters.com/image-database/upload/Nashville/Nashville-051.html The fact was, there were significant numbers of Southerners who did not support Secession or the war. Outlaw describes Ten-mile Bay as lying east of a line drawn between Alapaha and Nashville. William M. Avera, son of Daniel Avera and Tobitha Cook Avera, constructed an earthen dam from 1880 to 1884 across the lower end of Ten Mile Bay.  This impoundment at the southern outfall of the bay created the Avera Mill Pond (now known as Lake Lewis), the mill run forming the Allapacoochee Creek (now known as Ten-mile Creek), which is the eastern boundary of the W.H. Outlaw Farm. Beyond the actual bay, a considerable area of land is quite swampy.

Bill Outlaw cites the unpublished papers of W.H. Griffin Jr., (1863-1932) in which Griffin describes the Ten Mile Bay as a deserter’s stronghold:

“Lying in the Northeastern portion of orginal Berrien county, four miles southeast of Allapaha, and six miles northeast of Nashville,lies an almost impenetrable swamp known far and wide as the ‘Ten Mile Bay.’ It is the sourse of Ten mile Creek, a stream running southward through the flat woods of eastern Berrien, flanked by numerous flat ponds and fed by sluggish pond drains until it mingles its wine colored waters with those of the Fivemile Creek,  near where Empire church is located when together they form Big creek, as stream of no mean importance in the county and which, harboring thousands of perch, pike, jack and trout, to say nothing of the unlimited nimber of catfish, winds its tortuos and limpid way on past Milltown to mingle its leave stained waters with those of the Alapaha river…Its denseness, its dreary solitudes, its repulsiveness on these accounts and on account of the numerous wild animals rattle snakes that frequented its fastnesses rendered it a place which the ordinary mortal dredded to enter. It covers an area of about twenty square miles, being about six miles from North to South and a average with of three to four miles. It is covered in water for a portion of the winter and spring season with a depth of anywhere from one to three feet deep, and interspersed with numerous elevated hummocks which lift their surfaces anywhere from six inches to a foot and a half above the water and from a quarter to a half acre in extent.  These hummocks are overgrown with vines and brambles, Ty Ty other swamp growth and thickly dotted with the tall growing huckleberry or blue berry bushes anywhere from three to ten feet high and from which every year thousands of berries are gathered by the neighboring citizens, who often go from a distance of ten miles away to gather berries.  It  takes a stout heart and brave resolution, to say nothing of intrepid courage and a power of endurance to hardships to get a tenderfoot into that swamp a second time. Only the person who has been through the swamp under the direction of native guides is willing to undertake an excursion into this ‘No man’s Land,’ for the chances are that he will become lost and consequently experience the greatest difficulty in finding his way out of the dreary wilderness of bog and fen, bramble and thicket. This dreary place became the rendezvous of many deserters during the war…”

When the Bootle & Lane sawmill brought overhead skidding to Berrien County in 1917 to log Ten-mile Bay, the news was reported in the Lumber Trade Journal.

1917-logging-ten-mile-bay

The Lumber Trade Journal
September 15, 1917

Complete Construction Work

Savannah, Ga. – Bootle & Lane, who moved to Nashville, Ga., from Charleston, S. C.. a short time ago to embark in the sawmill business, have just completed the work of erecting their mill, six miles east of Nashville, on the Georgia & Florida railroad, and are beginning to make their first shipments of lumber to the markets.  This firm purchased a large quantity of swamp timber in that county.  They are now taking logs out of the Ten-Mile Bay with overhead skidders.  This is an innovation in this country as no such powerful skidders were ever seen there before.  There is a large quantity of valuable timber in this swamp, but no one has ever thought it feasible to get it out.

The overhead skidder was powered by a steam engine which could be moved from place to place on a logging railroad flatcar. The steam engine drove a drum around which there was a steel cable which would draw in the logs to drier land where they could be loaded and conveyed to the sawmill. The steam-powered rig could drag logs from the swamp up to 900 feet in all directions.  Where this equipment was used to pull logs along the ground it was referred to as a “ground skidder” or “possum dog skidder.” But when the system of steel cables and pulleys were rigged from trees allowing logs to be suspended and hauled out above the muddy swamp, it was called an overhead skidder. Operating steam powered skidders was dangerous work.  The logs being pulled in would sometimes encounter obstructions.  Then the flying logs could move in erratic and unpredictable direction.  The steam skidders were worked by teams of men, and communications were passed from the crews to the skidder operator by flagmen, such as Henry Howard Thompson of Ray City, who signaled when the logs were ready to pull. The men knew to stay away from a log on the skidder line.

Advertisement for overhead skidders manufactured by Lidgerwood Mfg. Co. appearing in the Lumber World Review, November 10, 1921. Overhead skidders were used by the Bootle & Lane Sawmill to extract timber from Ten Mile Bay, about seven miles northeast of Ray City, GA.

Advertisement for overhead skidders manufactured by Lidgerwood Mfg. Co. appearing in the Lumber World Review, November 10, 1921. Overhead skidders were used by the Bootle & Lane Sawmill to extract timber from Ten Mile Bay, about seven miles northeast of Ray City, GA.

Advertisement for steel cable used in overhead skidder operations, manufactured by Williamsport Wire Rope Company, appearing in the Lumber World Review, November 10, 1921. Overhead skidders rigged with pulleys and steel cables were used by the Bootle & Lane Sawmill to harvest timber from Ten Mile Bay, about seven miles northeast of Ray City, GA.

Advertisement for steel cable used in overhead skidder operations, manufactured by Williamsport Wire Rope Company, appearing in the Lumber World Review, November 10, 1921. Overhead skidders rigged with pulleys and steel cables were used by the Bootle & Lane Sawmill to harvest timber from Ten Mile Bay, about seven miles northeast of Ray City, GA.

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Claudie Royal ~ 1920s Skidderman at Ray City, GA

James Claudie Royal (1893 – 1972)

Claudie Royal was born May 7, 1893, at Rays Mill (now Ray City), GA.  He was a son of William Frank Royal and Mary Jones.  His mother died when Claudie was about one year old.  When Claudie was about 4 years old, his father married Arletta Ganos and moved the family to Clinch County.

In 1920,  Claudie Royal and his wife, Thelma, were living in Ray City, GA in the home of his father-in-law, Bill Cole.  They all lived in a house on Jones Street.  The Cole  household at that time  included  William M. “Bill” Cole, his wife  Hattie, and minor children, Clarence, Leroy, Clyde, and Irene.

Claudie Royal and Bill Cole were  sawmill employees. There were several smaller sawmill operators in the area but from about 1909 to 1923 the big sawmill at Ray City, operated under a succession of owners, was the largest employer in the area. In 1920 it was the Clements Lumber Company.

Claudie worked as a “skidderman,”  while Bill Cole was a wheelwright.

As a wheelwright,  Bill Cole worked to build and repair the wheels used on horse- or mule-drawn wagons and carts used in the sawmill operation. The wheel hubs, spokes, and rims were all constructed out of carefully crafted wooden pieces.  The wheel assembly was banded with an iron “tire” that was custom made by a blacksmith.

Working as a skidderman, Claudie Royal drove a team of horses or mules, using a skidder to transport logs.  The skidder dragged logs from where they were cut  the short distance to the tracks of the railway tram, where they were loaded and hauled to the sawmill.   According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 1918 publications, in Georgia a skidderman worked a 60 hour workweek, for a wage of 22.5 cents an hour, or $13.50 per week. The workweek was six 10-hour days.

Skiddermen used two wheel carts, like the Perry Cart, to drag felled logs to the tracks of a railroad tram for loading and hauling to the sawmill. This cart has wooden wheels with steel "tires" 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 feet in diameter. Construction and maintenance of wheels such as these would have been the work of a wheelwright.

Skiddermen used two wheel carts, like the Perry Cart, to drag felled logs to the tracks of a railroad tram for loading and hauling to the sawmill. This cart has wooden wheels with steel “tires” 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 feet in diameter. Construction and maintenance of wheels such as these would have been the work of a wheelwright.

Log Carts. — In all types of carts the logs are swung beneath the wheels with the rear ends dragging on the ground. The height of wheels ranges from 5 to 10 feet with a corresponding variation in gauge.

A cart used in the Coastal Plain region has an arched axle and wheels 4 1/2 or 5 1/2 feet high. The hounds of the cart are fastened on either side of the tongue by a heavy bolt. A bunk rests on the top of the axel and carries two upright guides between which the tongue fits. The latter is held in place by a spring latch. When the cart is to be loaded it is driven up to one end of a log, then backed until the axle is directly over that part of the log to which the chains or grapples are to be attached. The latch on the guides is then released, the team is backed for a step or two and the hounds are forced into a position nearly vertical, which turns the bunk through a quarter circle and brings it near enough to the ground to permit the grapples or chains to be attached. The elevation of the log is accomplished by driving the team forward, which brings the hounds and tongue to a horizontal position.

– Bryant, R. C. (1923). Logging: The principles & general methods of operation in the United States. S.l.: s.n..

Sliptongue skidder working in the south Georgia pine forest.

Sliptongue skidder working in the south Georgia pine forest.

Hauling logs by mules. Ocilla, GA.

Hauling logs by mules. Ocilla, GA.

James Claudie Royal died  in February, 1972.  He was buried at Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA

Grave of James Claudie Royal and Thelma Cole Royal, Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

Grave of James Claudie Royal and Thelma Cole Royal, Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

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