HARD TIMES -- HARD WORK
Graham Star Correspondent
early days of Graham County saw a breed of people that
saw a lot of hard times and did a lot of hard work. The primary
occupations in those days were farming and logging, or
both. Most work was
done by manual labor using primitive hand tools.
the early lumber companies to begin logging operations in
Graham County were the Belding Lumber
Company, and the Heiser Lumber Company. They bought tracts of
timber in the Santeetlah, West Buffalo, and Snowbird drainages. Much of the county in
time was logged and cut over.
Even the present day Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest was almost logged. Samuel McFalls of
Andrews, who constructed splash dams to help float the
logs downstream, was camped where the parking lot for
Joyce Kilmer Picnic Area, called The Run
Around by locals. He
was preparing to start construction of a splash dam in
the area when it was decided not to cut the timber at
that time. Thus,
Joyce Kilmer was spared the axe, so to speak.
the earlier sawmills in Graham County that were powered
by water included one operated by Jason Hyde on Atoah
Creek, one on Long Creek run by John Barker, and Hardy
Wiggins father had a sawmill near the Sweetgum
Community in the Tallulah area.
Manufacturing Company conducted logging operations in
Panther Creek and the Welch Cove area near present day Fontana.
Two of the larger lumber companies to operate in Graham County were the Kanawah Hardwood
Lumber Company and Bemis Hardwood Lumber Company. Kanawah began cutting
timber here around 1899 in the West Buffalo area. They built a wagon
road from Andrews through Atoah Gap to Little Snowbird,
and then crossed Big Snowbird through Hardslate Gap to West Buffalo. Kanawah had the first
hydro-electric operations in Western North Carolina on Little Snowbird. Believe it or not,
Little Snowbird at that time had electric lights before Asheville did.
In 1905, the company started construction on a
railroad that ran from Andrews and down Little Snowbird,
known as the Snowbird Valley Railroad Company. The tracks were
removed in 1917 and sold to France to assist them in the war with
Hardwood Lumber Company began purchasing land in Graham County in 1924. Large tracts of land
were purchased by Bemis in the Snowbird and West Buffalo areas. Bemis began
construction of their band mill in the Milltown area (now
the recycling center) in 1926.
Much of the mill was destroyed by a fire in 1967. Bemis operated several
logging camps over the years as well as the railroad that
ran from their mill up Tallulah Creek to Topton to the
other small sawmill and logging operations came and went
over the following years.
Environmental concerns and an uncertain economy have
taken their toll on logging operations here in recent
logging has been an important part of our history, and
our people have seen a lot of hard times and hard