"Lone Star Historian" is a blog about the travels and activities of the State Historian of Texas. Bill O'Neal was appointed to a two-year term by Gov. Rick Perry on August 22, 2012, at an impressive ceremony in the State Capitol. Bill is headquartered at Panola College (www.panola.edu) in Carthage, where he has taught since 1970. For more than 20 years Bill conducted the state's first Traveling Texas History class, a three-hour credit course which featured a 2,100-mile itinerary. In 2000 he was awarded a Piper Professorship, and in 2012 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Wild West Historical Association. Bill has published over 40 books, almost half about Texas history subjects, and in 2007 he was named Best Living Non-Fiction Writer by True West Magazine.
Recently my wife and I drove to the Texas Forestry Museum, the first of three related stops (four, counting lunch!) during a highly interesting day. The Texas Forestry Museum opened in Lufkin in 1976. Indoor and outdoor exhibits trace the history of one of the oldest and most important industries of East Texas, where lumbering enterprises have produced forest products for nearly two centuries.
Outdoor exhibits feature a logging train with locomotive, tender, log loader, log car, and caboose, alongside a venerable depot building. Looming high above these excellent displays is a forest fire tower. Inside the museum are artifacts large and small, including a superb collection of early logging tools and equipment. There is a paper mill room, and enlarged photographs which depict life in sawmill towns.
|Inside the Texas Forestry Museum|
We were greeted by Museum Coordinator Laurie Vaughn, who courteously responded to our questions and introduced us to the new Museum Director, genial Rachel Collins. Director Collins is in her first week on the job, and her background as a teacher will be of help while legions of schoolchildren descend upon the Texas Forestry Museum. Laurie escorted us to the gift shop, where we found Christmas presents for our little grandson.
|Bill with Laurie Vaughn|
We drove ten miles south of Lufkin to The History Center in Diboll. Diboll came into existence as a company town in 1894. The previous year T.L.L. Temple purchased 7,000 acres of timberland from J.C. Diboll, and in 1894 his Southern Pine Lumber Company began operating its first sawmill. A school was opened, houses built by the Southern Pine Lumber Company were provided for workers, and a large company store stocked everything from groceries to medicine. There was a company doctor, a post office, and a depot. By 1908 Temple controlled more than 209,000 acres of timberland. Temple's grandson, Arthur Temple, Jr., began managing the company as well as to the town, which was incorporated and elected its first mayor in 1962.
|Research room at The History Center|
Diboll's T.L.L. Temple Memorial Library collected an extensive archive of local and area history, including newspapers, documents, photographs, and interviews. To house this growing collection, The History Collection was erected just south of the T.L.L. Temple Memorial Library. The 11,500-square-foot History Center boasts a large, well-appointed research library, with company records, manuscripts, 70,000 photos, and many other resources available to researchers. Nearby an exhibit hall portrays the history of Diboll and of the Southern Pine Lumber Company, as well as general aspects of the East Texas timber industry. Outside a statue of Arthur Temple, Jr., overlooks a 1920 Baldwin-built 68-ton steam locomotive, a tender, a log car, and a caboose. The log train is maintained in pristine condition.
|Logging train at The History Center|
On the way home we drove to Stephen F. Austin State University and parked in front of the Arthur Temple, Jr., College of Forestry and Agriculture. Another log train is parked here, a train used by another prominent area lumberman, W.T. Carter.
|Logging train at SFASU|
Within 30 miles - from Nacogdoches to Lufkin to Diboll - a trio of historical displays perpetuate the story of the East Texas timber industry. By the late 19th century, logging employed one-tenth of the East Texas labor force. The largest part of Texas's timber production came from three species of pine: loblolly, shortleaf, and longleaf pines. Hardwoods, such as several kinds of oak, also had commercial value for furniture-making, pilings, cross ties, and ridge timbers. Forests across East Texas were abundant, and hundreds of small "peckerwood" mills were set up, while larger mills and operators - such as T.L.L. Temple - began operating on a large scale, with logging trains a key to transportation. A trip to Lufkin-Diboll-Nacogdoches offers fascinating insights to the sawdust trail.
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