Monday, August 9, 2010

Sawmill Operation - early 1900s


Rhonda Umfress Johnson, a descendant of Nathaniel Clayton and Martha Bowen Clayton, e-mailed this picture of a sawmilling operation. The photograph was found at her grandparents' house by her mother, but nothing is known about the picture. It was just among their possessions with no names or notes accompanying it. Cousin Rita is working on restoring the image, a tedious task, but I wanted to go ahead and share it in its original shape and will later post the refurbished image.

The photograph is so rich in details. If you click on the image you can get a better look. What a crowd that gathered for the photograph! Notice the children all lined up in the front row? The younger children appear to be barefoot, and one little girl seems to be picking her nose! Were all of these men millworkers? Note that all of the males, even the boys, have a cap or hat on their head while none of the females do. There is one small dog in the front and several large oxen in the rear.


A couple of men are on horses, and there appears to be wagons built for use on rails, probably a temporary line of rails was built to carry the cut logs out of the forest and the wagon of logs was pulled by a team of horses. Maybe the oxen were used to carry the cut timber to the sawmill for logging? You can see the yokes on the oxen. Pretty neat.

The picture shows steam or smoke coming out of the sawmill hut, or maybe it is dust?

Somebody with more knowledge than I should jump in to explain how this operation worked and give a thorough history. Lots of virgin timber was cut from the forests of Itawamba County and floated down the Tombigbee River to a lumber plant at Cotton Gin Port during the early 1900s. Sawmill camps such as this one sprung up all over the county, and small, subsistence farmers suddenly had another source of income.

Thank you, Rhonda, for sharing the photograph with all of us. Pretty amazing.

2 comments:

Lori said...

Oh Mona! What a wonderful photograph; so rich in history! I would be very much interested in what anyone could tell us about it. The details are just incredible. Thank you for sharing!

shood said...

Great resource- what a wonderful find. I, too, am very interested in learning who and what the photo represents. Nathaniel Clayton was my gr'gr'f