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Bulloch History with Roger Allen - Lumber industry blooms in Bulloch
roger allen
Roger Allen

    Another Bulloch Countian, Franklin P. Register set up his businesses in Bengal, nine miles west of Statesboro, in 1894. As two railroads made plans to pass through his land, he set up his own new town, Register. His nephew, J.L. Johnson, arrived to work with him until he built his own still. 
    The turpentining firm McDougald and Outland partnered with Dr. Charles Herty to produce the famous “Herty Cup”. This University of Georgia Chemist had devised a small pot (at first made of clay, then galvanized tin) to collect the turpentine.
    The Herty process used a much smaller cut into the tree, which was linked to a galvanized gutter that ran around the tree directly into the Herty cup. This both produced a much higher quality product and reduced the likelihood of insect infestation and disease in the trees.
    In 1810, Georgia sawmills cut and processed lumber valued at only $25,400. However, by 1860, Georgia’s sawmills produced board lumber worth nearly $2.5 million dollars, and in 1890 Georgia’s saw mills turned out nearly $6.6 million dollars worth of board lumber.
    Much of that lumber was cut down in the Lotts Creek area of Bulloch County, and was floated down either the Ogeechee or Canoochie Rivers. Once the Ogeechee Canal was completed, many log rafters were willing to pay its toll, as the canal was much easier to navigate than the rivers.
    Expert lumbermen (or axemen, as they were called) would search for the largest White Oak trees, which were rafted down-river with the root ball attached. It was from these massive trunks that many of the most ornate ships keels’ figureheads would be constructed for the vessels bowsprit.
    Large Yellow Pine and Cypress trees were tied (or pegged) together, and were then floated downstream to mills in Savannah. Curiously, the Riggs family of Bulloch County was forced to construct “locks” so that the lumber could be floated across Riggs Mill Dam in order to get across Lotts Creek.
    In Savannah, the wood was finished from hand-hewn to a fine finish and then shipped to Europe. With the completion of railroads throughout the Wiregrass, and the establishment of many smaller portable steam-powered sawmills up-country, it was no longer necessary to float trees downstream to be milled.
    In 1893, D.P. Averitt Sr. moved to Statesboro from the Guyton area, and established the first large sawmill near Statesboro. Lumbermen Averitt and businessmen John M. Mitchell, J.W. Olliff, and J.A. Brannen opened the new Statesboro Manufacturing Company.
    Fellow lumbermen J.N. Wood, J.N. Shearouse then started the Shearwood Lumber Company. In 1898, Arthur and his brothers John, George, Nathan, and Jud Howard established their own lumber business in Bulloch County.
    They would move their portable sawmill to any piece of woods where they would be guaranteed at least 85,000 square feet of board lumber at a price not to exceed $4.50 per one thousand feet of lumber.
    They were followed by the F.H. Perkins Co.; Sheridan and Perkins Co. in Metter; Nellwood Lumber Co. in Grimshaw; Durden Lumber Co. in Parrish; W.J. Gooding Co. in Belfast; J.D. Lanier Co. in Lon; and the Wylly and Gabbett Co. in Pulaski.
    There were also the Zickgraf Lumber Co. in Stilson; and the Fred W. Darby Co. in Statesboro. the Foy Lumber mills in Rocky Ford and then Egypt; the Blitch Lumber Co. near Blitchton; and both the Stokes and Perkins Mills on the west bank of the Canoochie River.
    In 1920, the Howards moved their mill operation into the city of Statesboro on Mulberry Street at the end of Park Avenue on the east side of the Central of Georgia Railroad tracks. In 1946, Arthur’s son Claude opened a new and bigger mill.
    Even to this day, the Howard and Shearouse family businesses are still in operation, as are a number of other smaller lumber concerns. Timber, it appears, will always be a part of daily Bulloch County life.
    Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look at Bulloch County's historical past. E-mail Roger at rogerdodg

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