Days Gone By - stories from the past

Work at a sawmill was hard in the good old days! Can you imagine the strength it took to do this?

Work at a sawmill was hard in the good old days! Can you imagine the strength it took to do this?




I grew up in Walker Co. Alabama between Carbon Hill and Nauvoo. My Grand Father John Thomas Nix had a sawmill on his property and one of the things he cut was Rail Road Cross Ties.railroad ties

Walking out of woods with cross tie on shoulders

One of the stories that were passed down to me was that my Dad, Grady Chester Nix, could put one of the Cross Ties on his shoulder and walk out of the woods with it. That was quite a feat for a man only 5 foot 8 inches and about 155 lbs.

Learn more about the difficulties our ancestors faced in this historical fiction series, Tapestry of Love, which is inspired by true events and an actual colonial family who settled on the Eastern Shore of Virginia in 1638 and migrated to Alabama in the 1800s

I also recall that when I was about 6 years old my Dad had a saw mill and on occasions he would allow me to ride on the carriage and set blocks. Setting blocks is the act of moving the log sideways and this determines the thickness of the plank you are cutting.cross saw

Two men cut trees with cross cut saw

There would be a couple of men who would cut the trees down with a cross cut saw; no gasoline powered chain saws then. They would also cut the logs to length so they could be skidded to the mill using a team of mules handled by another worker.mule pulling logs


Couple of men rolled the logs up the ramp

There was also an ax man that trimmed the limbs off before the skidding took place.

Since it has been over 75 years I do not recall all of the crew but at the mill there would be a couple of men who rolled the logs up the ramp and onto the carriage and an off bearer who caught the slabs that were to be discarded and another worker to catch and stack the plank that we were keeping plus my dad who was at the controls moving the carriage and the log thru the saw. It is good to remember the old time and to remind ourselves how good we have it today.Skyline Farms sawmill 1935

Check these books by Alabama Author Donna R Causey

RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America: Tapestry of Love Series

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  1. Joanne Adams Milam

    Both of my grandfathers owned sawmills in south Alabama.

    1. This is very interesting. Where in south Alabama were your grandfather’s sawmills located?

  2. Patsy Beeson

    My mother was Ruby Lee Thomas, born in 1912, in Walker County. Suspect we might have had the same grandfather Thomas -who owned a sawmill in the old days…

  3. My grandparents were born and raised in Nauvoo (Fred Mansel Comer, born 1895, died 1955) and (Margaret Elizabeth Annie Knight Comer, born 1900, died 1974). So was my Mother, Elora Mabeth Comer Elmore, born 1931, died 2005. Spent many summers there and have alot of good memories.

    1. My grandmother Dora Knight delivered Elora.
      Mansel Comer was my grandmother Maude Keetons, brother. Annie Knight was my grandmothers sister in law, Bryan Knights sister.
      I was born in Nauvoo in 1935.
      I met Elora at the old Harbin Hotel in Nauvoo.

      1. I knew that the Keetons were kin to us but wasn’t really sure. I remember Great Uncle Bryan. His wife’s name was Minnie? About a year ago, my granddaughter, wife and I made a day trip thru Nauvoo. We visited Flatwoods Cemetery to see Mama Comer’s grave and all the rest buried there, including my Mother’s sister, Era Comer Martin. It was sad to see the shape of all of the graves. Lot of memories there of decorations and singings and dinner on the grounds.

        I assume that Gene and Earline McDaniel still own the Harbin Hotel? Thank you Olivia, for sharing with me. I live in Orange Beach, Alabama and visit my Grandfather’s grave at Bayview Cemetery in Pensacola, Florida on occasion. He died the year before I was born.

  4. Hugh Darty

    My grandmother was Maggie Nix, who was married to Lee Darty. The were in this area so I wonder if this was my great grand pa. I was also in the sawmill and timber business in my younger days.

  5. Hugh Darty

    Jim Darty, Alada Schnake do you have any knowledge of these people?

  6. Jim Darty

    I just know the name …….

  7. Alada Schnake

    I think his name was John Presley Nix, He lived on the hill just north of Mill Creek and another family of Nix lived right beside Mill Creek east of the bridge and another family lived north of us about 1/2 mile south of Nix school. I went to school there 1’st -3’rd grade. I’ll talk to my sister and see if we can come up with more imfo.

  8. Phyllis Miller

    A lot of my family worked one

  9. Caroline Jones Lockridge

    My grandfather, Garl Jones, had a saw mill. My daddy said they logged with mules and hand tools. My dad’s occupation on his enlistment papers, lumberjack.

  10. Randall Sharp

    Mennonites still do this, mostly with children. Tough work.

  11. Jack Johnson

    I work at sawmill when I was12 in ALABAMA I remember those hot days we were burning those slabs at the mill it was hard work that what you did!!! ROLL TIDE ROLL BAMA FAN FROM WISCONSIN!!

  12. John H. Allen

    My grandfather sawmilled around Fall Creek Falls, north of Jasper, and later around Sipsey in the mid 1930s, before going into coal-mining at Empire, where I was born.

  13. Larry Wiginton

    There is a saw mill on top of pea ridge, belongs to Donald Crowe. He will cut lumber for you if you ask him right. WIG.

  14. Rwandall West

    My grandfather had a saw mill in North Carolina

  15. Kenneth H. Haughton

    Now just for fun, try to imagine how those timbers get loaded in the boxcar for shipment…(Dallas County memory)

  16. Omer South

    My father did that, and he had one leg, I am telling the truth ,he walked on a crutch.

  17. Hilda Smith

    And the pay where my uncles worked was $1.00 a day in late 40’s – 50’s. Many men and boys were injured,and there was no workers comp. remember a sawmill injury was how Johnny Cash’s brother died.

  18. Alvin G Rothe Jr

    My grandmother was born in the Kaul Lumber Co Camp near Sylacauga in 1903.

  19. Carrie Cauley

    Thought you might like this.

  20. That’s my Uncle Talmadge Hopper running that saw mill! He put my father to work – taught him to be a fine carpenter. He put a lot of men to work back then taught them a trade. After all, he worked for President Roosevelt!!

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