Thursday, June 9, 2011

Logging in Cocke County - Those Places Thursday

Cocke County Killions, c. 1920
During the early part of the 20th century industrial logging took hold in the mountains of East Tennessee. Though my great-grandfather Gee Sawyer left the mountains of Cocke County for farmland along the Nolichucky River in Greene County, his brothers and Killion cousins in Cocke County joined the thousands of men who earned a living chopping down the old growth forests and moving the lumber to the mills for processing. From 1900 to 1930 two-thirds of the forests in the Smoky Mountains were cut down.

Gee's brother Andy Sawyer and some of his sons were teamsters, hauling lumber cut in Cocke County across the mountains by wagon to mills in North Carolina. Their frequent trips to and from Madison County, NC helped maintain links to Sawyer cousins in North Carolina, links all but lost today. They would drive their horses from Del Rio, up past Paint Rock, Hot Springs and down toward Marshall, NC. A Sawyer cousin shared a digital copy of a photograph above of some of the Killions at work moving the logs. We can't identify specific individuals, but these men were the sons and grandsons of one Andy & Gee's maternal uncles - most likely Jacob Killion (1824-1903). 

School outing, c. 1920
From today's perspective clearcutting such large swaths of old growth forests is appalling, at best. It was not seen that way at the time. Many families saw incomes rise with the wages paid to the loggers and teamsters. The communities were proud of the railroads and mills. My great-aunts remembered outings or frolics up into the mountains to watch the wood being felled and moved. 

Their photo albums contain several photographs of school girls and friends posed on logs and downed trees. No one is mourning in these photos. They are playing, gawking and celebrating. In this photo the logs are resting next to a railroad line. My great-aunt Selma Sawyer, a school teacher, is seated at the right.

1 comment:

  1. These photos capture a time and place interesting to anyone with a passion for history. What you have here is a historical treasure that reveals a fascinating slice of our country's history. How great that your own ancestors are in these photos that represent how America once was!


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