Sawmills of the Past

Paul Smith blog, Sawmills of the Past,

Meloni Janzen |

I love to reminisce about old sawmills. I have always been intrigued by the movie Patton, where George S. Patton pulled the jeep off to the side of the road and just stares out into an open field. Patton exits the old Willis jeep, walking as if he were walking into the middle of a battle that happened centuries ago. To the comrade with him he starts explaining what exactly was happening in this battle fought before any of their time. General Patton was precise in telling even the smallest details of the entire battle.

During the 60 plus years of my life, riding in the early years with my dad, the later ones with my son or grandson I have stopped along the roadside and imagined long lost sawmills from the past. How they were operated with not only hardships but joy at the end of a good day’s work. How the men celebrated good production and straight, quality, grade lumber. Through the hardships and yes, the injuries and pain. How some would end with toast of good white lighting or smooth bourbon around a fire at the end of the day when available. When laughter turned into bragging and the thought of even greater production the next day.

I spent a good bit of my childhood days traveling with my dad while he explained how sawmills used to cut lumber and how saws were sharpened with a file and set with a hammer. I will say back in those days an old sawmill site was a lot easier to spot. Dad would be driving down the road and see an old dark brown sawdust pile as big as a football field. He would downshift that old Chevy pulling it as close as he dared towards the pile of old sawdust. Getting out of the truck he would walk over and scoop up a handful of sawdust in one of what I thought of as oversized hands. He seemed to me he was in that moment of years ago just in awe on how nice that sawmill was in that time. This was not just a moment in time for me, it is a memory that I hold dear. Today the really old sawmill sites are much harder to find. Many times there is little evidence they were ever even there. And this my friends proves that sawmills leave almost no footprint or bad taste in our environment or add to climate issue.

Today I was blessed with that same wonderful feeling. However, I was alone and not able to share it with my dad. I do wish my son or a grandchild or two could have been with me. As you see, driving down old Tyler Road in Nacogdoches, Texas I had that same feeling of excitement about an old mill site right to the left of me. I first passed it by, but quickly turned around. I headed off the main road about 100 yards. There, I began to see the old buildings and the old sawmill store. Weathered, but still standing it was obviously The Old Nacogdoches County Lumber Company. I stopped right there pulling my I-pad out and started googling. Below what I found out:

The sawmill operated from 1939 to 1966. It was in operation 31 years and consisted of a sawmill, planer mill and of course had a mill pond. Power source included steam, electric and gas.

I hope you enjoyed this as much as I enjoyed writing it. Pictures included are the ones I took today