Friday, March 10, 2017

The Trains and the Stories with Russel Brown

Russell Brown, a member of the Alger-Sullivan Historical Society, presented a program on the History of Escambia County Railroads in the late 1800s. He shared pictures and maps along with a number of interesting "Railroad Stories"

A little bit about Alger Loggers
Russell Brown
Alger-Sullivan Historical Society
Printed in Tri-City Ledger – January 12, 2017
The Alger-Sullivan Lumber Company mill at Century was built as cutting edge technology in 1900. The new mill's high volume production would require movement of large shipments of logs and lumber to keep it running.
Trains were the answer, they had been used here to deliver huge long leaf pine logs to saw mills since the 1880s. The Alger mill was built adjacent to the main Louisville & Nashville Railroad line in order to efficiently deliver its products to the port at Pensacola, but the lumber company would need a new railroad into its forests to guarantee a supply of logs.
The Escambia Railway was Alger-Sullivan's railroad. It would operate over 90 miles of main track to access the company's vast forests of south Alabama. The company operated largely with used locomotives, and more than fifty were known to be used by the railway over the years. The railway primarily depended on two types of wood burning steam engines. The Baldwin 2- 6-2 and 2-6-0 locomotives were the main line haulers and the powerful but slower, gear driven Heisler pulled loads on the steeper side routes.
The Escambia Railway route in Alabama was from near Flomaton, northwest to today's Frisco City. From the juncture of several railroads here, it turned east and then northeast, ending east of the town of Monroeville. Along the line were many temporary short-lines. These spurs gave the railway access to the logging areas. Early loggers would then use oxen and mules to haul logs to the closest spur and load them onto rail cars.
By 1920 the steam hoist had been introduced here to load trains. Steam winches called “Donkeys” were also introduced to pull logs from the forests to the loaders. This dragging process did much damage to the forests.
The work of loggers changed little between the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Their main tools were the two-man crosscut saw and double bit ax. The work day was usually can to can't. That is to say, from the time you can see in the morning to the time you can't see in the evening. In order to effectively work the forests many miles from town, temporary work camps for the loggers were set up by 1904 on side spurs near the work areas. The camps were established as far north as Monroeville, Alabama and could be at a site for several years. Early camp houses were just boxcars, later ones were not much better. The lumber company would utilize these logging camps for more than fifty years.
The Alger-Sullivan Company saw their forests beginning to be depleted before 1920. In the early 1920's, the company adopted the new idea of replanting the woodlands after timber was cut. It was one of the first logging companies in the U.S. to develop a plan of forest management for the regrowth of timber. The company's plan was to have sustainable forests that would keep the mill operating for 100 years.
The early 1930s saw the introduction of a new tool, the log truck. First intended to replace oxen as a woods transport to the trains, it was quickly discovered that truck operation was very cost effective. Trucks were delivering logs to the saw mill by 1941. At the beginning of World War II many employees left for better paying war-time jobs elsewhere, requiring the company to become more efficient. Before the end of the war, the introduction of stronger trucks, truck mounted hoists, bull-dozers and chainsaws had marked a new era of logging which made the old Escambia Railway obsolete. To help meet the demand for war-time steel, the railroad's last main line tracks were removed in 1945.
Only the Baldwin locomotive Old #100 survived the railways end. Until the mid-1950s it operated as the saw mill's yard engine. It was then retired and put on display with an old company box car in front of the saw mill. In the mid-1970s the locomotive was purchased and rebuilt for the nation's bicentennial celebrations, and through the end of the 1980s it pulled an Indiana tourist train.
The old locomotive was then scrapped and dismantled. Old #100 was later found and purchased by the Alger-Sullivan Historical Society. It was reassembled in Jones Park at Century and today is displayed with the old Alger box car, a last vestige of the Escambia Railway.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Jay School Visit in February

This visit by 58 Students, 20 parents and 4 teachers was a thrill for everyone. The included album here has some of the children singing along with the church organ play. We hope more classes of all ages will take advantage of the museum. Older students will enjoy more in depth information from our archives and from our artifacts. IT is fun for all ages !

Click for the full album

Saturday, February 18, 2017

LDS Visits to educate on Genealogical Tools

Wayne Cook
The February meeting of the Historical Society featured a presentation by the local LDS genealogical FAMILY SEARCH, a user friendly site with free access. Just sign in with a username and password and begin searching for family ties. After entering only a few of your recent family tree it is likely much more of your tree will fill in quickly. From there you can begin to do some very intensive genealogical research and you will have a great point from which to begin.With their efforts the organization was introduced to "Famly Search" and assisted with account set up.

Frank Wilsona and Sally Simpler
The meeting was opened by Wayne Cook and quickly the team was introduced from the LDS Church.  Frank and Lorna Wilson of "The Wilson Family Farm" ( Frank and Lorna have homegrown raw honey, eggs and bees wax products.

Others helping were Sally Simpler, who counts many marines among her family, Sister Pau'u and Sister Viola. While Sister Pau'u is a native of Tonga, her mastery of valley speak from California exposes the primary region of her residence youth and education.  Sister Viola is from Ohio. Both young women appreciate history and love learning about our region.  A brief discussion on local history pointed them to the origin of the name
of "Murder Creek" in Brewton, and the massacre at Fort Mims, and the Creek Wars and the War of 1812 among other things.  Sadly their missionary status will not allow them to use the internet for two years. By that time it will probably no longer exist since it is obviously a fad anyway.   But if they could, the links above would be of great interest. Sister Viola was informed it was her "Ohian native", of the Shoshone Tribe,  Tecumseh and his brother the prophet, Tensquatawa, who brought ideas of murder and blood to the underappreciated "red stick" Creeks - leading to the massacre at Fort Mims among other sad consequences.  But, other Ohioans - since the "late unpleasantness" of 1865 anyway, have been quite civil  among the people of Northwest Florida.

Sisters Pau'u and Viola
The lesson on genealogy continued by helping several of the society members with account set up and some basic family research.

The Museum has been seeking local volunteers to help organize items in the museum, scanning documents and photos and archiving many of our items.  Sally Simpler suggest an
Marshall and Dot Diamond
organization called JUST SERVE that helps organizations find volunteers to help with projects like that.

SO -- now we know.
 This was a valuable and much appreciated meeting.

You should know that volunteers from the LDS and Family Search will gladly take time to visit with you and help you start your own account.

It is a valuable service.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

JULY 2017 Speaker- Sharon Marsh

This talk will delve into her latest book about the Union First Florida Cavalry.  It is a fascinating topic as a lot of Panhandle farmers and merchants and tradesmen did not follow the Confederate line and provided a ready resource for this unit. It was not unusual for dissatisfied Confederates to desert
and join the Union First Cavalry.  It was trying times of course and such moves were risky. She recently spoke at the Genealogical Society of Santa Rosa County.

Books   Website

"I have been writing most of my life but only working at publishing anything since retiring from a day job.  I am an avid family historian, having become hooked on climbing ancestor trees about 25 years ago.  I have also developed a keen interest in history as I've discovered ancestors living
Genealogical Society Presentation
during various historical periods and in locations that saw history unfold.  But my favorite location is northwest Florida (it has always been my "home" even when I've lived elsewhere) and my favorite period of American history is 1840-1895.

I spend my days studying various subjects of interest, writing, reading, gardening/mowing, genealogy, watching the wildlife on my 5 acres, photography, volunteering and spending as much time as possible with my Mom.  Oh, and I try to care for my half feral cat who is a beautiful little soul who seriously distrusts all humans except her two servants.  I am unsure how she decided we were okay when she showed up on our doorstep.  Mama calls her Pester Butt but her name is Emma Jane."