Milton Press Gazette

March 22, 1952
Logging in County Holds Memories for Old-Timers
Timber Was Big Business in Area’s History

Logging in County Holds Memories for Old-Timers


A friend of mine asked me why I did not write about logging, in which business Mr. Crist spent so many years. She said she enjoyed listening to him relate instances that happened while he was in the business, He came here from Kansas in 1889 where there was not any lumber. I came from North-Central Texas, where there was post oak and blackjack. Neither of us had ever seen logging. I never saw a pine tree until we were traveling through east Texas the day I started for Florida, and I did not think much of their looks at the time.

The evening I arrived in Florida, a short distance this side of Flomaton, I saw two of the largest wheels I ever saw. I inquired of someone near what they were and was told they were log cart wheels. I never had a close view until Mr. Crist began to work in timber after we were married. The log carts consisted of two large wheels, an axle, tongue and two long, large chains fastened to the axle and dragging when not in use. The wheels were seven and eight feet in diameter, making the wheel three and on-half to four feet from the ground. The rims were from four to six inches wide, the tongue about fifteen or sixteen feet long.

The carts were drawn by three and four yoke of oxen. In a three yoke team the front yoke was called the lead, the second yoke was called the swings, and the third yoke was called the tongue yoke. In a four yoke team the front yoke was called the leads, the second yoke the lead swings, the third yoke the tongue swings and the fourth yoke the tongue. The yokes were made of gum trees, a hard wood. It had a ring in the center under the yoke. The yoke was placed across the neck of an ox and fastened. The tongue ran through the rings and was fastened to the lead’s yoke by two pins--one to keep the tongue from going forward and one to keep it from going backwards. A long chain, fastened to the cart, was run through the ring under the yokes to the lead yoke, holding the yokes together. The tongue yoke was fastened to the cart. The long, large chains fastened to the axle, were wrapped around the logs holding the front end off the ground. They could carry two large logs and four or five small logs.

There were no reins used. The oxen were guided by words of command. Some said “haw”, go to the right and “gee”, go to the left. Mr. Crist said he would say, “Whoa! come here”, when he wanted them to come to him, and “Whoa! Yah”, when he wanted them to go to the left. I think the whip was popped on the off-side, to which they turned. The drivers popped the whip over the oxen’s back or to one side, seldom ever touching them. A good driver had no trouble guiding his oxen as they understood the commands. The whips were made of strips of leather platted, making it round. It had a six inch popper made of a piece of rope or two strips of leather. The top of the whip was as large around as a man’s thumb, tapering ten feet to a point, The whip was fastened to a six foot staff made of hickory, which made the whip about sixteen feet long.

Oxen are very intelligent animals, or most of them are. They were turned out at night to graze, and driven into the feed lot in the morning. One of them was always belled, so they could be easily located. Mr. Crist said he worked for a man who had several head of oxen. Sometimes they would lie down in a thicket with a bell on them. The men hunting would pass the thicket several times and they would be found late in the day. The oxen made no noise with the bell.

The logs would be hauled to a place called a “log-landing” on a ditch, a creek or bay, where they could be rolled into the water. Several logs would be placed from the landing to the water, on which the other logs would be rolled into the water. These logs were called skids.

Each mill had a man to measure or scale a log and find how many board feet could be cut out of it. Each mill had a stamp placed on the larger end of each log. This man was called a “log scaler.” Another crew of men would take charge and roll the logs into the water, making them into rafts with dogs and chains. When I first heard them talk about using dogs and chains on logs, I was puzzled as I could not understand how dogs were used on logs. I learned a dog, in rafting, was a large spike with a large ring in the large end. The spikes were driven into the logs and the chain was run through the rings holding the logs together. After the logs were made into rafts, some men would take them to the mill using long stout poles. Sometimes a small steamboat, called a tug, would be sent to pull them to the mill.

(To Be Continued)


Milton Press Gazette

March 28, 1952

Timber Was Big Business in Area’s History

By Mrs. Anna L. Deen-Crist

At the mill the logs were sawed timber and boards or lumber. Mills in Northern Florida and Southern Alabama would saw logs into timber and when the waters would rise, the timber was put into the river and made into rafts. The rafts were sent down the river with men to guide them. Each raft was from 60 to 75 feet long, with a sixteen foot oar blade at each end to help the men guide the raft. The rafts were sent to receivers at Ferry Pass who had offices in a large two-story building, just a short distance below where the bridge on Highway 90 crosses the river. The receivers had the rafts turned, scaled and specifications made of the timber.

The specifications were sent to exporters in Pensacola who sent steamboats or tugs to pull the rafts of timbers they bought from the mills. The timber was taken to Pensacola Bay where it was put into a boom, made of timber to keep the rafts secure till they were put on sailing vessels and steamships and sent to different parts of the world. I have seen Pensacola Bay full of sailing vessels and steamships from many foreign countries. It was a beautiful sight.

At this time the scene at Ferry Pass was very interesting. Had it not been for a boat passage in the river, a person could walk across the river on the rafts. In 1896 a hurricane came and tore the rafts loose and scattered them. It was a costly and lengthy business gathering them. After this, the receivers formed one unit in business which was called “The Combination.” As timber became scarce, I think the mills began shipping by rail, the usefulness of Ferry Pass ceased.

In getting logs, a mill or a contractor would get a tract of timber and pay so much for stumpage (or trees felled). Then he would get men to do the work with oxen, carts and other things needed to move the logs to the mill. If the man lived near the work they boarded at home. If not, a camp was built where the men ate and slept. An enclosure with feed troughs for the oxen was built. Each ox had his own trough and went straight to it when turned into the lot. There was also a feeding trough for the riding stock.

One crew of men would fell the trees and cut them into logs, Another crew would haul the logs to a log landing, where they would be scaled and branded, put into the water and made into rafts by another crew.

The camps were placed near water, if possible, where the animals would have no trouble finding drinking water. There was, usually, a cook at camp to have the meals ready for the men. Ofttimes interesting incidents happened at the camps.
Hogs always followed Mr. Crist’s carts. He always kept several hogs around camp. One hog that followed the carts would enter the feed lot with the oxen and stand by a feed trough, eating the ox’s feed that fell from his mouth. When no food fell, he jumped up and grabbed the dewlap of the ox’s skin hanging from the neck. That would make the oxen jump, lose his feed and the hog would eat it. It was aggravating to the drivers and they would get after the hog but it would make no difference to the hog. At one camp, Mr. Crist had a hog that would take the bridle rein in his mouth, lead his horse to water, wait till it drank and lead it back to camp.

One time Mr. Crist was a scaler for a mill and became injured so badly he had to stay at home. The mill needed some logs but the man who owned them would not sell them till Mr. Crist scaled them. The mill sent a buggy and a man for Mr. Crist to go scale the logs. He scaled them and the mill got the logs. It did not harm Mr. Crist, as I had been afraid it would. I was glad he had gained a good reputation as a scaler.
In the summer of 1902, a driver was returning from the river where he had carried some timber. A shower came up and lightning struck a tree not far from the load. The driver was walking by the cart. When he became conscious, he was quite a way from his cart, and his oxen were down. The two middle yoke got up but the lead and tongue yokes were dead.

A friend of Mr. Crist visited us one summer and told us of an incident in his teen-aged years. His father had several oxen and one became ailing. His father told him to give him some soda, but did not say now much, so he gave a whole package. The ox got well but shed all his hair. His father wondered what caused that, but the boy never told. After a time all the hair came back and that was the finest ox in the number.
Each driver kept an account of the number of logs hauled during the day and at the close of the day gave the man in command the number. One elderly driver could not count but put a stick in his pocket for each log he hauled. At night he gave the sticks to the man in command who counted them. Mr. Crist said this man was the best driver.

In 1912 Mr. Crist and a partner bought a large tract of timber at Garcon Point. He persuaded me to leave my home at Kelkerfield and go with him and stay there while he was there. I had been working very hard at home as the children were small, and I was anxious to have things around me. He said it was near a turpentine still where I could get help and take a rest. He remodeled one of the houses near the turpentine still and it make a comfortable place for us on the beach.

He built a large camp as he had a large crew of men working for him, and he also had a large commissary. He had fourteen or fifteen carts hauling all the time. Several of the men were our friends, who brought their families with them, making it much more pleasant for me. I really enjoyed the summer till four of my five children had typhoid fever. But with a good physician, a good nurse, good neighbors, good help from all, and with the help of God, all of them recovered. While the children were ill, and Mr. Crist was in Pensacola, a hurricane came.

The hurricane complicated affairs very much. The men who were working there came to me and told me they were watching the weather and if it seemed to be more serious, they would take the children to the camp on higher ground. There was no serious damage done by the storm.
The removing of the timber did not take as much time as had been thought. Mr. Crist finished the work here in November and preparations were made to move up the Sound. We made the move on water, using seven barges and the steam tug Florida, to take all. There were 14 carts, 70 oxen, two horses, one cow, several hogs and chickens and all log camp necessities. Included were four families with their furniture. Heavy framing was put around the top of the barges on which were the animals.

We left Garcon Point late Monday for the new place. Just off Town Point a heavy fog descended and we had to anchor. It did not lift until Wednesday morning. We made “King’s Landing,” above Harris, after nightfall and unloaded. The animals had no water since Monday but it could not be helped. The fog kept them from getting too thirsty.

For awhile the business did well. That was a year when many businesses failed. The mill that took the logs failed. Mr. Crist salvaged a cart and ox team out of failure. The horses and hogs and chickens were his own. The children and I went back to our home at Kelkerfield. Mr. Crist took his carts and oxen to Mossy Head and Deerfield where he had bought some timber. Then he went to Coryville, making that place his headquarters and logged there the next year. I begged him to come home but his sister and her husband were near him. His brother-in-law had a team also. Together they bought a small saw mill and went to work with it before the machinery was enclosed.

One windy morning Mr. Crist caught his overcoat in the machinery and he was carried into it before it could be stopped. He was very badly injured. He lost his right eye and it was thought he might not live. He recovered to some extent, but has not been in good health since. For nine years he could not work. I had to return to teaching as we had no income.

I was so glad I could teach as the children were too young to be of much help.






Then and Now


Logging Industry

The Big Freeze


Hurricane of 1906

Crist Reunion



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