LOOKING BACK PHOTO

Dick Carr, Bailey Carr and Henry “Boss” Grigg are pictured with a lumber wagon around 1920. One tree can be seen already loaded on to the heavy-wheeled wagon, which would have been pulled by mules and taken to a lumber yard in Hartsville.

Our last three articles have touched on the large lumber market that Hartsville and Trousdale County was once a part of.

The close proximity that we had to the large hardwood forests of the Cumberland Plateau and the building of the Middle and East Tennessee Central Railroad tracks here in 1892 made this a shipping point for massive amounts of both logs and lumber.

Huge trees were cut down and hauled to Hartsville by the wagon load.

Once here, they might be shipped on an open flatbed rail car or taken to a local sawmill and cut to dimension lumber, and then loaded and sent to Nashville by rail.

In 1906, Elmer White began construction of a turnpike between here and Lafayette. White, who is better known today for building the large concrete sundial on his family’s farm, planned and built the turnpike.

The new road was important to the lumber business as an article in the Nashville Banner that same year reported the following ... “This pike will be of untold benefit to the people of Macon County, as it will enable them to haul their lumber to Hartsville for shipment — something which cannot be done during the winter months owing to the miserable condition of the roads, they often becoming almost impassable, making it difficult for teams to pull…putting a stop to lumber hauling altogether for three or four months out of every year.”

Hartsville had several large lumber yards.

Some shipping was still done on the river by large steamboats, and there was a lumber storage lot at Hartsville Landing, then called Lowe’s Landing and now referred to as Taylor’s Landing.

That lot made news after the big flood, or backwater, of 1926-27.

Evidently, a large amount of lumber was piled and stacked down by the river, and the flooding washed it downstream.

The March 10, 1927, issue of the Nashville Banner reported the following … “Before the high rise the latter part of last December, the Indiana Lumber Company had contracted for and received about 400,000 feet of lumber, which had been placed on the old Lowe’s landing, now the property of James Taylor, and during the rise several thousand feet of this lumber was carried away in the flood.

Something over 7,000 feet of lumber lodged on King’s island, in the Eighth district, and this was claimed by W.M. King, who owned the island. Mr. King has used some of this lumber repairing a house and has placed the balance in his barn.

O. C. Ferguson of Memphis, one of the owners of the lumber that was carried off by the water, claimed the lumber that Mr. King holds, and E.C. Scruggs of Nashville had notified him not to move it.”

We can imagine Mr. King’s feelings of seeing a small fortune in fine lumber sitting on his property. He, no doubt, felt he had been blessed by fate and mother nature to see the lumber piled up on his island in the Cumberland River.

He probably justified his good luck by saying, “Finder’s keeper’s.”

But, as noted in the article, the original owners wanted their property back.

But, they weren’t the only ones wanting the good lumber.

A separate article in the Nashville newspaper reported this ... “Frank and Joe Stanton, R.P. and Vem Whittaker, Bud Everetts and Will Allen Robertson were arrested…and bound over for trial before a justice of the peace on last Saturday, charged with the theft of lumber from the island of W.M. King, who lives in the Eighth district of this county.

The lumber had floated and lodged on the island during the high rise of last December. The parties were bound over to Circuit Court, and Everetts and Robertson made bond.”

Perhaps we can sympathize with the men charged with theft.

After all, the lumber didn’t really belong to Mr. King. It had only floated downstream to his small island in the Cumberland.

Maybe they felt as entitled to the wood as Mr. King.

In any respect, they didn’t bother to ask Mr. King for permission to share in his good fortune. They simply waited until he wasn’t looking and helped themselves to a few thousand feet of wet, but basically sound, lumber.

Now, the legal question is, who did they steal from?

Was the water borne lumber stolen from Mr. King or was it stolen from the Indiana Lumber Company?

Likewise, can a man charge someone with theft of something he was not the rightful owner of?

We will have to leave the answer to conjecture on the reader’s part, as we could find no further newspaper references to the wayward lumber and its many owners.

Over the years, just as tobacco no longer dominates the economy of Trousdale County, the lumber industry also has faded away. There are no lumber yards in Hartsville today … although you can still buy some lumber at our local farmer’s co-op.

Yet, there are still men who buy and cut timber off the hillsides of the Upper Cumberland counties and even on the forested hills of Trousdale County, and at large property auctions, the timber on a given tract of land may be sold separately from the land. There is indeed “money in them hills” when it come to quality hardwood trees such as cherry, walnut, maple and oak.

There will be more to come about hardwood trees next week.

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