Note: The following is one of a series of columns looking at the origins and growth of the agriculture industry in Southeast Georgia and Bulloch County.
By 1890, timber was being floated down the Ogeechee and Canoochee rivers to Savannah, with much of it being cut down in the Lotts Creek area of Bulloch County.
Expert lumbermen searched for White Oak trees, whose root-balls were then rafted down the Ogeechee Canal, to be carved into figureheads for steamships at Savannah.
The White Oak, Yellow Pine, and Cypress trees were tied or pegged into bundles, and floated downstream to mills along the river, or all the way down-the larger mills in Savannah.
The Riggs family of Bulloch County had to construct “locks” so vessels and rafts could be floated across Riggs Pond near their mill and dam, in order to allow access to Lotts Creek and then the Ogeechee River.
Rough-cut timber was sold on the Savannah market, after which much of it was shipped to the Northeast. The Statesboro News issue of Nov. 1, 1901 shared a warning from Professor Herty of UGA. He declared “that it is only a matter of time — and not a long time, either — when the pine forests disappear. The remedy, Prof. Herty says, is a systemic replanting of areas that have been denuded of timber.”
Herty shared that Georgia’s Assistant Commissioner of Agriculture had warned that once the forests were cleared, the lands would quickly become farms if the trees were not replanted.
On Nov. 12, 1901, the Statesboro News reported that Messrs. W.J. Gooding Jr., C.W. Parker and Messrs. Wyley and Gabbett of Savannah were buying large tracts of timber in the Bulloch area.
The “South’s Authoritative Industrial Journal” The Tradesman’s March 1, 1903 edition revealed that W.C. Perkins of the Perkins Lumber Company had paid $5,000 for to acquire timber on 1,000 acres of land near Enal.”
The March 14, 1902 Statesboro News added “It begins to look like a prairie now in some sections of the county, and we are approaching the time when timber will be gone, and the no fence law will be here.”
The paper mused, “It is sad to look at the dead trees and timber on the ground, all of which is wasted. Nature gave us great wealth in our timber, but we are losing the timber and the money already spent.”
The Aug. 15, 1902 Statesboro News wrote of the Foy Manufacturing Company’s Bulloch, Screven, and Effingham properties. It described how the Foys owned 24,000 acres in Bulloch alone.
The April 10, 1903 Statesboro News announced “A Big Timber Deal,” revealing “Mr. W.C. Perkins of the Perkins Lumber Co. of Hagan (had) closed a deal for 1,000 acres of the best timbered lands in Bulloch.
Then, “The lands referred to are in the neighborhood of Enal, most of which were purchased from the Alderman estate. The deal involved something like $5,000.”
The paper added that “Mr. Perkins says this will (provide a) 3 months’ supply for his big mill, which cut 4,000 acres of timber a year.” He declared they would extend their lumber-tram’s line into that section.
The Sept. 1, 1911 issue of The Lumber Trade Journal announced the Shearwood Lumber Company had purchased additional thousands of acres of timber land.
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look each week at the area's past. E-mail Roger at firstname.lastname@example.org.