Massive Longleaf Pine Trees
Were Cut by Hand Axes or Two-Man Saws and Pulled From the Site by
Mules or Oxen
(bolded words in text indicate key words
Old longleaf pine trees produce beautiful lumber, highly valued
for its strength, straightness, and resistance to rotting. Some
have even called longleaf pine one of the finest timber trees
the world has ever known. By the turn of the 20th century,
most longleaf pine forests were being heavily logged to supply timber
for a growing nation.
At the turn of the twentieth century, much of the longleaf pine
forest (also called yellow pine) was being logged. Massive longleaf
pine trees were felled with hand axes
or two-man cross-cut saws and
skidded by draft animals to a more efficient transportation source
(like a stream or a rail line). Oxen were the most preferred draft
animals because their initial cost was low, they required little
attention, they could live on rough, coarse food and because of
their cloven hoofs did not mire in boggy conditions. Except in wet,
marshy country, mules could also have been used to haul logs. Mules
were faster then oxen, could withstand warm weather conditions,
were less excitable and required much less care then horses. Despite
horses being more quick, active and intelligent then both mules
and oxen they required considerably higher upfront costs and higher
level of care. Also horses are tall animals making it difficult
for the teamster to see trouble
spots in the forest. This generally meant horses were not preferred
in logging operations, though
they were occasionally used.
Although two-man cross cut saws were more efficient than hand axes,
many logging crews were slow to adopt them in the late 1800s.
One reason for the slow transition was the opposition by skilled
axemen. These men were considered the aristocrats of laborers and
took great pride in their trade. The crosscut saw required much
less skill then the axe. But, so long as kerosene was liberally
applied to the saw blade to prevent it from bogging down in the
sticky resin of the longleaf
pine tree, productivity was much higher using the saw rather then
the axe. The more difficult, unpleasant work (like a swamper
or a road monkey) was often
left to the unskilled workers.
In the longleaf region, displaced farmers and sharecroppers
replaced the picturesque lumberjack of the northwoods. Afro-Americans
were segregated in their eating and sleeping arrangements and seldom
were allowed to hold the jobs requiring the most skill. Except for
the few Caucasians with a specialized skill, however, both races
worked very long, hard hours for the same uniform, low pay. Some
loggers were employees of the logging company and others were self-employed
and hired for a specific project (called jobbers).
If a company was logging extensive areas that took a significant
time to cut, then they usually established camps for their workers.
Work days were long and when the loggers had to stay in these camps,
these were usually too busy to see their families-- except on Sundays.
Being a forest worker was fairly hazardous work. Although there
was always the chance that a man could get cut with an ax or saw,
the greatest danger came from falling trees. The hazard came particularly
from limbs that would break off and hurtle through space unpredictably
when a felled tree hit the ground.
Key Words and Concepts (click
on for glossary definition): axe,