The Potts Valley
Branch Railroad and Tri-State Incline
Lumber Operation in West Virginia and Virginia, 1892-1932
By Will Sarvis
Between 1892 and 1932, a remarkable combination of economics and technology came together to give southern Monroe County, West Virginia, and northern Craig County, Virginia, an experience in heavy industrialization unique to their history. Prior to the arrival of the Potts Valley Branch of the Norfolk and Western (N&W) Railway, most of the people living in these areas practiced the agriculture that was then typical in many parts of mountainous Virginia and West Virginia. The railroad, fully operative in 1909, provided the first commercial outlet for timber products. Enough large timber existed in the Johns Creek Valley of Craig County to entice a Pennsylvania logging company to wed temporarily its interests with the Potts Valley Branch. Although the demise of the railroad in 1932 did not restore the area to its late nineteenth-century existence, a local economy involving heavy industrialization never returned.
Regardless of political boundaries, the topography of the Big Stony and Potts Creek valleys links the northern portions of Giles and Craig counties, Virginia, with the southern portion of Monroe County, West Virginia. The Eastern Continental Divide separates the heads of these two valleys but with such a mild slope that early railroad and road builders recognized the area as a natural route. As early as the 1860s, various industrialists, farmers, and promoters of iron and wood industries, agriculture, and recreation all eyed the area with future plans in mind. The area's mineral springs hosted many resorts and Mountain Lake later became the site of a hotel. The entrepreneurs of the Shenandoah Valley Railroad proposed the Potts Creek and Big Stony valleys for their route, but were never successful.1 It was not until 1909, when the Potts Valley Branch of the N&W began operation, that the valleys would see a railroad traverse the entire route.
The Potts Valley Branch evolved out of the consolidation of three separate railroad companies in four counties: the Big Stony Railroad in Giles County and the Virginia and Potts Creek Railroad in Craig and Allegheny counties, Virginia, and the Interior and West Virginia Railroad in Monroe County, West Virginia. The Virginia General Assembly chartered the Big Stony Railroad in Giles County in 1892. The company organized two years later and began buying rights-of-way and deeds to land up Big Stony Valley. In November 1894, the company filed its only condemnation case, involving 1.9 acres owned by Bidsey Farley and others. By 1896, construction of about ten-and-one-half miles of track was completed from the main N&W line near the New River, up Big Stony Valley, to the settlement of Interior.2
Both the Interior and West Virginia Railroad and the Virginia and Potts Creek Railroad received their charters in 1906. Important N&W personnel, such as President Lucius E. Johnson (1903-18), future N&W President Nicholas D. Maher (1918-24), and Vice-President William G. MacDowell (1905-18), were involved in these companies as stockholders and/or corporation officers.3 By 1907, only the Big Stony Railroad existed as an operating concern. The Interior and West Virginia Railroad and the Virginia and Potts Creek Railroad did not progress as smoothly. Although a large majority of landowners in Monroe County sold rights-of-way and deeds, nine forced Interior and West Virginia to file condemnation cases in 1907. The Virginia and Potts Creek Railroad also had to file two condemnation cases against Craig County residents in 1907.4 This resistance temporarily halted construction of the railroads, inspiring Alfred Longfellow to compose a poem to chronicle the event:
"The Lost Trail"
At last began location
of the railroad talked for years,
By men of the vocation
of Civil Engineers.
They started from Interior
and all eyes opened wide,
'Twas said the men superior
were crossing the Divide.
Twice they drew near to Waiteville,
but something seemed to lack;
It was ever their fate still
to turn and hurry back.
Third, for they'd passes [sic] the border
A messenger did ride,
The chief had sent an order,
"Back to the great Divide."
The truck, at first they found it
and speedily they went,
But moving round and round it
they somehow lost the scent.
Hearts lifted bear the old load,
and sprouting hopes have died,
The trail once found of railroad
was lost on the Divide.
Oh, men all over Potts Creek,
Mount, mount your steeds and go
With all your might and help seek
the road we've wanted so.
Look well and may you not fail,
Take every dog and ride,
To trace the precious lost trail
Lost on the great Divide.5
The Monroe and Craig county courts awarded the railroad companies the disputed tracts through condemnation and construction resumed. In September 1909, the two railroads began operating over thirty-eight miles extending from the original junction in Giles County, through Monroe and Craig counties, to Paint Bank, Virginia.6 The next year, stockholders in both companies agreed to sell the Interior and West Virginia Railroa and the Virginia and Potts Creek Railroad to the Big Stony Railroad Company. They then conveyed the Big Stony by deed to Norfolk and Western, and on December 9, 1910, the Potts Valley Branch officially began operation.7
The Norfolk and Western Railway was in the midst of expanding its considerable coal trade, begun in 1892 with the completion of the "Ohio Extension," which followed the Tug Fork River from the coalfields of Virginia and West Virginia, through the Pocahontas coalfield, northwest into the Ohio Valley. In 1902, the N&W bought the Pocahontas Coal and Coke Company and, during the next two decades, more than tripled its coal shipments, increasing from eight million tons in 1905 to 26 million in 1920. The Ohio Extension transformed the N&W from a southern agricultural carrier into a midwestern coal carrier.8 The Potts Valley Branch was something of an anomaly, for iron, not coal, inspired its construction.
The N&W sought access to various iron ore deposits throughout the Potts Creek Valley, such as the "Cornfield Mine" near Paint Bank, where Virginia Iron, Coal & Coke Company had built a siding, store, and housing for their miners and planned to construct a tipple, all in anticipation of the railroad.9 Initially, the N&W considered timber only a secondary economic concern, although the Potts Creek Valley contained significant tracts of virgin forest. For example, in 1905, N&W Chief Engineer Charles Churchill reported on one of several substantial timber tracts in Monroe County that contained an estimated $350,000 worth of timber.10 In fact, despite the N&W's original iron ore ambitions, timbering became the valley's major industry,11 as the Great Lakes iron ore industry, with more advanced technology and better freight rates, completely overshadowed the two Virginias by 1920. Companies such as Craig-Giles Iron abandoned their enterprise for economic reasons, as the Potts Valley Branch contributed to the southern Appalachian's great industrial timber boom.12
Toward the end of the nineteenth century, when timbering had cleared most areas of the eastern United States of their pristine forests, vast areas of southern Appalachia remained relatively untouched by industrial logging. Virgin timber covered hundreds of thousands of acres of steep, inaccessible terrain not yet penetrated by railroads and large-scale, commercial lumbering operations. This delayed exploitation, however, only contributed to the impending timbering frenzy once railroads and logging companies entered the region.13
From 1890 to 1900, logging and timber milling operations in West Virginia more than doubled, from 454 to 950, ranking behind iron and steel manufacturing. Virginia reflected a similar growth, rising from 663 "lumber and timber products" establishments in 1890 to 1,341 in 1900, third in industrial rank after tobacco and flour and grist milling. In 1900, the two states contributed significantly to southern Appalachian timber operations, accounting for 30 percent of the nation's hardwood lumber production.14
Since railroads had traversed the flatlands throughout the mid-nineteenth century, lowland timbering long preceded mountain cutting. Both West Virginia and Virginia lumber production peaked in 1909 at the climax of Appalachian logging. Virginia sawmills cut more than two billion board feet of lumber, while West Virginia cut nearly one-and-one-half billion. In that year, 33,287 Virginia wage earners worked in 2,617 lumber and timber products operations, which accounted for 46 percent of all the state's manufacturers. West Virginia reflected a similar scenario, with 18,643 laborers working in 1,016 lumber an timber establishments, accounting for 47 percent of all manufacturers. In both states, logging and timber mills far outnumbered all other industries. At the height of Appalachian industrial logging, the region produced 40 percent of the nation's lumber.15 It is not surprising that timber and timber products became the Potts Valley Branch's main freight.
The majority of loggers along the Potts Valley Branch were local, small-scale tanbark and railroad tie gatherers and manufacturers. In August 1908, N&W Chief Engineer Churchill reported tanbark and railroad ties stacked at Waiteville, West Virginia, in anticipation of the coming railroad. By November, Churchill estimated the Waiteville tanbark storage at some two thousand tons.16 Regular service began to Waiteville on August 16, 1909, finally providing an outlet for tanbark, which valley residents had previously spent three days hauling by wagon over Peter's Mountain, further into Monroe County to places like Gap Mills and Ronceverte in Greenbrier County. Throughout the early 1910s, the Potts Valley Lumber Company in Waiteville advertised as a buyer of tanbark, cross ties, and lumber, which was in turn shipped out on the railroad.17
As important as the railroad became to local, small-scale loggers and tanbark gatherers, one industrial logging company called Tri-State linked its entire Virginia/West Virginia operation to the Potts Valley Branch. Like numerous other timber companies that began operating in the southern Appalachians during the late 1800s and early 1900s, Tri-State, from Pennsylvania, was a northern company. In 1912, Tri-State bought the timber rights to 28,139 acres in Craig and Giles counties, Virginia.18 The tract, located in the Johns Creek Valley, measured about fifteen miles long and seven miles wide and supposedly contained an estimated 100 to 150 million board feet of primeval white oak, chestnut oak, red oak, poplar, hickory, basswood, and hemlock. In addition to this sawtimber, the tract also contained various amounts of potential tanbark and pole timber. At its uppermost perimeter, this land lay within sixteen hundred feet of the Potts Valley Branch but on the opposite side of Potts Mountain. With no railroad into Johns Creek Valley, the Potts Valley Branch became the transport route for valley timber.19 To reach the main railroad required construction of an incline haulage system.
The use of incline railroads in southwest Virginia signaled the final stages of railroad logging in the southern Appalachian Mountains. The region's industrial timber boom coincided with the early era of mechanized logging, during which time forest railroads, steam loaders, band mills, and finally, incline haulage systems all replaced earlier logging technology characterized by animal and water transport. The invention of the Shay locomotive during the 1870s and subsequent use of it and other gear-driven, as opposed to rod-driven, engines especially facilitated logging in steep terrain. The Shay, Climax, and Heisler locomotives were slow but very powerful machines, and their tremendous torque could transport heavy log trains over grades as steep as 14 percent. Steam yarders and loaders enabled faster log loading, and large band mills sawed the giant trees much faster than earlier circular saws. The most rugged areas of the southern Appalachian Mountains witnessed the employment of "incline" logging, which utilized an anchored steam winch that pulled lumber cars up slopes far too steep for even the geared locomotives.20
Throughout the 1910s and 1920s, as forest railroads progressively harvested the more accessible areas of the mountains, logging companies operating in the southern Appalachians grew more interested in incline technology. The Tri-State operation atop Potts Mountain, straddling Craig County, Virginia, and Monroe County, West Virginia, began in the midst of this period and typifed many such operations during the early twentieth century.21
Tri-State began construction of its incline railroad network over Potts Mountain and the network of narrow-gauge tracks down into Johns Creek Valley with rails leased from the N&W.22 N&W President L. E. Johnson gladly leased rails to Tri-State but could not understand the economic motive for building the incline to reach the N&W line. At $26 per gross ton, he felt "the freight rates were against them." Apparently the Tri-State owners disagreed. By October 1914, Tri-State contracted for some 250 tons of used 52-pound rails, the Craig-Giles Iron Company established a right-of-way, and incline construction over Potts Mountain began.23 On the other side lay Ray's Siding, West Virginia, Tri-State's destination, just up the mountain from Waiteville.
Activity on the Potts Valley line was concentrated at Ray's Siding, at mile post 22.08, and Waiteville, at mile post 25.76. When the Interior and West Virginia Railroad Company extended its line beyond Interior in May 1909, Waiteville consisted of "a small settlement with 2 or 3 stores, mill, blacksmith shop and post office." The N&W's branch lines engineer, however, recommended construction of stock pens, passing and station sidings, coaling and watering stations, and a telegraph office in and around Waiteville. By August, the engineer had distinguished these features on his mileage statement, and the track between Ray's Siding and Waiteville became a remarkable section of the Potts Valley Branch, including the line's most spectacular trestles. As the railroad wound down the south face of Potts Mountain, it crossed the Shepard's Branch trestle, which contained about 190,000 board feet of lumber, and the Big Shepard's trestle of more than 400,000 board feet. The Big Shepard's trestle spanned 600 feet and towered 100 feet in the air. The railroad company completed these trestles between May 1908 and January 1909.24 Subsequently, the Tri-State incline operation became the main timber-oriented enterprise that contributed to Ray's Siding's existence, for here the sawn lumber was unloaded from the lightweight, narrow-gauge incline haulage cars, and re-loaded onto the N&W's standard-gauge railroad cars.
Incline technology had its origin in the old yarding donkey that yanked itself around the forest via a horizontal steam boiler mounted on skids, powering a rolling drum around which were wrapped many yards of steel cable. Anchoring the yarding donkey to a tree or large stump allowed loggers to drag timber to a central landing, after which the yarder could pull itself to a new area. Permanently anchoring the yarding donkey atop a mountain crest, then adding a rail track up and down the mountain flanks, gave birth to the first and simplest incline system, the one-way or single-line incline. The Yeon and Pelton logging company employed just such an incline as early as 1905 or 1906 in the mountains of Oregon.25 Technological improvements included the use of two-way or counterbalance inclines, which raised empty cars as loaded ones were lowered. Such systems required dual tracks for part of the distance on the delivery side of the mountain so cars could pass one another.26
Southern Appalachia was the only region in the eastern United States where loggers used incline technology, and one of the earliest incline operations was in West Virginia in 1909.27 Two steam winches using a three-quarter-inch cable were utilized to pull two 7,000-pound "narrow gauge skeleton logging cars," loaded with some 1500 board feet of lumber apiece, up a 20 percent slope. Similar to the Tri-State operation, topography prevented the loggers from building the incline rail in a straight line, and they employed pulleys to handle as much as a 75 percent curvature. Naturally, the curvature reduced pulling power and increased cable wear, but incline builders generally adapted, within reason, to slope changes and curvature.28 sing two engines, the West Virginia incline system extended as much as two miles and proved remarkably safe. During its entire operation, it reported an incidence of less than 1 percent of wrecked cars, which amounted to 50 out of a total 6,976 cars. As Leslie Brooks, a logger in the operation, remembered, it proved "much cheaper to lower logs down one mile of incline of 20 per cent grade than it [would have been] to handle the same amount of logs down three and a half miles of 6 per cent switchbacks."29
Without detailed documentation of the actual Tri-State incline system, its history can only be uncovered through remaining material evidence and logical inference based upon contemporaneous incline technology. To begin, an examination of the Monroe County side, the lowering half, of Tri-State's operation reveals only a single track, indicating it was a one-way rather than a counterbalance incline. The track, more or less, conformed with the slope, ranging from a 50 percent grade to nearly level ground. Slope changes did not hinder the progress of the steam yarding engine, which pulled at a constant torque from atop the mountain. Track ties were laid at five-feet intervals, typically further apart than in standard- or narrow-gauge railroad construction, because they would not be subjected to a heavy and throbbing locomotive.30
Since the Tri-State system was one-way, and therefore did not use empty cars to counterbalance loaded cars, braking the lowering cars was of central importance. A loaded lumber car could carry five to seven thousand board feet of lumber and weigh up to twenty tons. The steam winch on top of the mountain, operated by a "master mechanic," would likely have employed "engine reversing valve gears" in order to utilize engine compression as a braking system for lowering the lumber cars. Incline operators also utilized compressed air and hand-levered, direct and compound leverage mechanical friction brakes. Such brakes could be applied by a brave rider, or to the steam drum unwinding the cable at the mountain top, or both.31
In addition to numerous rail spikes, remnants of rail ties, and various scraps of broken iron pulleys, rollers, and rail car wheels, the landscape itself offers the clearest testimony, in terms of material culture, of the Tri-State incline operation. The incline spanned a total of some two thousand feet on the elevating side and about thirty-four hundred feet on the lowering side. After attaching the lumber cars to the incline cable, the rail line rose approximately three hundred feet. This rise began on a slope of about 10 percent, increased to 50 percent, then leveled off for a short distance, which would have required a pulley or a roller to prevent the cable from digging into the ground. The lowering side of the incline system did not involve such drastic slope changes but entailed much more curvature. Where the elevating side ran in an almost straight line, the lowering side underwent two curves, one of only eighteen degrees, but the other, a major curve spanning some seventy-two feet, changed thirty-six degrees. Such curvature required pulleys and/or rollers to keep the cable in line with the rails, as further substantiated by material evidence found on the surface.32
Down in Johns Creek Valley, Tri-State's original railroad logging network consisted of some four miles of narrow-gauge track, thirty-four hundred feet of which extended up the north side of Potts Mountain as part of the incline system.33 After Tri-State completed construction of this system, horses were used to skid logs down from ridges, and workers loaded them onto the narrow-gauge cars. When loggers finished cutting the timbr in a certain hollow, track laborers pulled up the track and laid it to a fresh cutting area. The railroad carried the logs to the mill pond at the foot of Potts Mountain, where sawyers used a band mill to cut lumber.34 The workers then loaded the sawn lumber back onto railroad flatcars and used geared locomotives to haul it as far up Potts Mountain as the grade would permit. At this point, the workers disconnected the locomotive, attached a steel cable, and thereafter, the incline system transported the lumber up the south side of Potts Mountain and lowered it down the north side to Ray's Siding. Like other incline operations using narrow-gauge rails throughout the logging network, Tri-State avoided transferring the load from its locomotive cars to its incline cars.35 At Ray's Siding, however, workers had to re-load the lumber onto the standard-gauge cars of the N&W's Potts Valley Branch. From there, the N&W carried the lumber toward the New River and markets beyond.
Tri-State's logging operation involved two distinct sets of workers: railroad builders and loggers. As in many southern Appalachian logging and railroad operations, segregated Italians and blacks built the railroads, and workers of Anglo-Saxon extraction performed the actual logging. Italian railroad workers predominated in the northern United States, and African Americans predominated in the South. In 1905, more than thirty thousand track laborers, "largely Negroes," worked in Virginia earning $1.05 a day.36 While the Italian railroad workers involved with West Virginia operations reflect this larger picture, those in the logging operations of mountainous Virginia would seem to present something of an exception this situation.37 The Italian railroad builders who worked for Tri-State were but a few of the many thousands of immigrants from southern Italy conspicuous on track gangs throughout the eastern United States during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Gangs of workers typically toiled under a bi-lingual straw boss who directed them at construction, maintenance, and repair of rail lines, including the preparation of the road bed, laying ties and track, tunneling, and later replacing ties.38
Italians became but one group of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century European immigrants exploited by industrialists operating in southern Appalachia. Company agents typically used false or exaggerated promises of wealth to lure workers, especially to coal mines in West Virginia.39 Long-time Waiteville resident Herman Harry recalled growing up in Potts Creek Valley and hearing how Italian, and possibly Greek, railroad workers toiled for six months without pay, merely to compensate company agents who had paid their passage to America. By the time the workers had finished paying off their passage, they had also finished building the Potts Valley railroad and had to search for employment elsewhere. The railroad certainly did not hire them as permanent employees.40
Over in the Johns Creek Valley, loggers lived in houses of three to five rooms, while Italian hands, called "Tallies" by the local people, lived in a segregated village comprised of one-room shanties. The Italian railroad workers involved with Tri-State, however, were employed for longer periods than their N&W counterparts, because Tri-State, like other logging companies, typically moved its narrow-gauge tracks from one hollow to another to timber new areas. Italian workers were kept busy laying down new line, then picking it up and laying it down again in a neighboring hollow as timbering progressed.41 Tri-State probably employed Italians toward the very end of its operations and possibly had them remove the final track after finishing the Johns Creek cut. Unfortunately for the historian, Tri-State whisked in and out of Craig County between censuses, thus leaving no record of its laborers. By the time of the 1920 population census, not a single immigrant, Italian or otherwise, remained in the Johns Creek area.42
Working around logging and railroad equipment was highly dangerous work, and in 1916, Tri-State met with its worst accident, involving an overturned locomotive that seveely scalded four men, two of whom died. E. E. Bitners and Bob McMasters, the two fatalities who were both from Pennsylvania, and Ed Tolley and Bob Atkins, both from Waiteville, were all riding a single Shay locomotive through the multi-track area near the band mill in Johns Creek Valley to shift some cars onto a siding. They apparently failed to release a cable coupling which connected their locomotive with the cars they were moving, and as the locomotive and cars diverged at a widening point on the dual tracks, the heavier cars caused the locomotive to flip.43
The Tri-State operation faded amidst the end of the southern Appalachian logging boom and the declining national timber market. After 1909, the industry steadily dwindled in both Virginia and West Virginia. By 1914, the logging and lumber industry had dropped in rank among other industries to ninth place in Virginia, falling further to twelfth place by 1919. West Virginia sustained the boom somewhat longer, enjoying the greatest activity from 1907 to 1916, but also quickly followed the regional trend.44 Tri-State's operations certainly never achieved the "twelve to fifteen years" duration as originally anticipated and, indeed, only operated its band mill "sporadically for five or six years" before more suitable, portable circular mills took over lumbering activity. By September 1919, at the latest, the Craig County Court described Tri-State's premises as "demised."45
Given the sharply curtailed timber industry and the abandoned iron ore industry, it seems rather amazing that the N&W's Potts Valley Branch continued to operate for another decade. But between 1913 and 1917, freight haulage seriously declined and the N&W began to make plans to abandon the line. In July 1932, the Interstate Commerce Commission gave the N&W permission to remove the track, and the railroad authorized abandonment that November. By 1933, the Potts Valley Branch had disappeared.46
With the demise of Tri-State's logging operation and the Potts Valley Branch, the brief historical phase of heavy industrialism ended in both the Johns Creek and Potts Creek valleys. This presented a modest variation as far as industrial histories go, but it stood in marked contrast to any economic activity experienced by the region before or since. In 1910, just before Tri-State arrived, farmers overwhelmingly predominated in Johns Creek Valley, with a few working in building trades, such as carpentry or masonry, or in light industry, such as saddle-making or blacksmithing. No one listed their occupation as logger, sawyer, or railroad worker. Without question, farming continued to dominate the work scene for the next decade, but for the first time, professional loggers and track layers worked in Johns Creek Valley. By 1920, they were gone and the two Virginian-born men who listed their occupation as "woodchoppers" were far outnumbered by their farming counterparts.47 Local timbering continued but on a much smaller scale and with lighter equipment, namely, the portable circular saws that grew in number and use throughout Craig County during the 1920s.48 Thus, the brief interlude of the Potts Valley Branch railroad and Tri-State incline lumber operation gave these small portions of southern Appalachia their only experience in heavy industrialization.
A Note on Material Culture
A scarcity of documentary sources frustrates, challenges, and sometimes defeats the historian. The history of the Tri-State lumber operation in Virginia and West Virginia promised to test the limits of historical research, and without company business papers, census data, written memoirs, or contemporary descriptions, material eidence became vital for at least technical information. A few timely oral history interviews captured data that might otherwise have been permanently lost.
Despite the numerous artifacts discovered along Tri-State's incline, mostly old rail spikes, the richest material evidence probably remains buried at the former location of the steam winch and at the hook-up location where motive power was switched between locomotive and incline cable. Preliminary archaeological test pits have confirmed this theory, but extensive excavations are, unfortunately, prohibitively expensive. The material remains beneath these two important sites along the incline itself, as well as artifacts that might be found at the site of Tri-State's band mill, logging camp, and track laborers' camp, probably contain the richest socio-cultural information pertaining to the Tri-State operation. Enticing as their potential may be, they must remain, at least for the time being, mysterious and unexplored.
1. For an interesting promotional piece concerning this area, see Lewis M. Haupt, Description of 100,000 Acres of Land in Giles, Craig, Monroe Counties, State of Virginia [sic] (Philadelphia: Leisenring Steam Printing House, 1871). A copy may be found at The Library of Virginia in Richmond.
2. Giles County General Index to Deeds & etc., 1806-1923, 48-49; Giles County Order Book 15, 6, 12, 13; N&W Railroad Company, Corporate History of the N&W Railway Company Including that of its Predecessor Corporations (as of June 30, 1916), privately published, 90-93, in N&W Collection of Special Collections, Newman Library, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, hereafter referred to as N&W Collection.
3. Interior and West Virginia Railroad Company, Item 26.1, 1-3, 19, 29, 49, 55-57, 89-91 and Virginia and Potts Creek Railroad, Item 74.1, 1-2, 25, 52-56, 90-91, N&W Collection.
4. Monroe County General Index to Real Estate Conveyances, Grantees, I-L; Monroe County Law Order Book 7, 293-310; Monroe County General Index to Law & Chancery Orders, Plaintiffs, A-J, 33; Craig County Deed Book, Grantor Index M; Craig County Common Law Order Book 2, 433-35. For an example of the legally required advertisement of "Notice of Application to Condemn Land," see Monroe Watchman, 4 July 1907.
5. No date, but before 26 December 1907, Box 2.59, file 977, N&W Collection. Longfellow wrote this poem for publication in the Monroe Watchman, though a slightly different version was apparently published. See a reprint in the Monroe Watchman, 11 February 1988.
6. Big Stony Railroad Company, Box 8.1, N&W Collection. See also Oren F. Morton, A History of Monroe County, West Virginia (1916; reprint, Baltimore: Regional Publishing Co., 1980), 220.
7. Big Stony Railroad, Deed of Conveyance, Printed Materials 1896-1930, Box 2.116, N&W Collection. See also the 10th Annual Report of the N&W Railway Company (fiscal year ending 30 June 1906), 13; 11th Annual Report, 14; 14th Annual Report, 15-16; 15th Annual Report, 21, all in N&W Collection.
8. Joseph T. Lambie, From Mine to Market: The History of Coal Transportation on the Norfolk and Western Railway (New York: New York Univ. Press, 1954), 120-33; E. F. Pat Striplin, The Norfolk and Western: A History (Roanoke, VA: Norfolk & Western Railway Co., 1981), 107, 115, 129, 135.
9. Chief Engineer [Churchill] to [Vice-President] N. D. Maher, 25 August and 2 October 1908, Box 2.59, file 977, N&W Collection.
10. Charles Churchill to L. E. Johnson, 15 February 1905, Box 2.65, file 1686, N&W Collection.
11. Monroe Watchman, 2 October 1975. According to Morton, timber was the Potts Valley Branch's main freight from the outset. A History of Monroe County, 220.
12. Marcellus H. Stow, Advisory Council on the Virginia Economy, The Mineral Resources and Mineral Industry of Virginia, Report of the Committee on Mining (March 1951), 51, copy in Newman Library, VPI&SU. The Great Lakes cargo rates, of course, also seriously competed with the N&W's coal shipments. For a discssion of railroad versus lake cargo rates and the Lake Cargo Decisions of 1912 and 1917, see Lambie, From Mine to Market, 302-05, 309-11, 312-23.
13. A well-documented and detailed overview of American logging history may be found in Michael Williams, Americans and Their Forests: A Historical Geography (New York: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1989).
14. U.S. Bureau of the Census, Thirteenth Census of the United States, 1910, Vol. IX: Manufactures (Washington: GPO, 1912), 1262, 1312, 1316; Ronald D Eller, Miners, Millhands, and Mountaineers: The Industrialization of the Appalachian South, 1880-1930 (Knoxville: Univ. of Tennessee Press, 1982), 104.
15. U.S. Bureau of the Census, Manufactures, 1262, 1312, 1316; U.S. Bureau of the Census, Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1920, State Compendium: Virginia (Washington: GPO, 1925), 127 and State Compendium: West Virginia, (Washington: GPO, 1925), 94-95; Ronald B. Craig, Virginia Forest Resources and Industries (Washington: USDA Misc. Pub. no. 681, April 1949), 12; Eller, Miners, Millhands, and Mountaineers, 104.
16. Chief Engineer to N. D. Maher, 25 August and 11 November 1908, Box 2.59, file 977, N&W Collection.
17. Box 2.59, file 977, N&W Collection; Herman Harry to author, Potts Creek Valley, 20 August 1992; see advertisement in Monroe Watchman, 30 January 1913.
18. After an initial legal complication, involving Washington Lumber Company and a chancery court case, the Craig-Giles Iron Company bought this tract at auction on 24 July 1912. By October 1912, Craig-Giles had re-sold the timber to Tri-State, giving the company eighteen years to harvest the wood with an obligation to pay for at least ten million board feet annually. See New Castle Record, 27 July 1912; Craig County Deed Book P, 583; Monroe Watchman, 23 January 1913.
19. Monroe Watchman, 23 January 1913; New Castle Record, 6 July 1912.
20. Robert S. Lambert, "Logging the Little River, 1890-1940," East Tennessee Historical Society's Publications 33(1961): 32-42; Ellis Lucia, The Big Woods: Logging and Lumbering -- from Bull Teams to Helicopters -- in the Pacific Northwest (New York: Doubleday, 1975), 21; Ivar Samset, Winch and Cable Systems (Boston: Martinus Nijhoff/Dr. W. Junk Pubs., 1985), 27, 37-40. See also Nelson Courtlandt Brown, Logging -- Transportation: The Principles and Methods of Log Transportation in the United States and Canada (New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1936) and Ralph Clement Bryant, Logging: The Principles and General Methods of Operation in the United States, 2nd ed., (New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1923). For an account of a West Virginia incline operation, see Edith Kimmell Starkey, "Over the Mountain: Timbering at Braucher," Goldenseal 13(Summer 1987): 34-39. A couple of oral histories recount southwest Virginia incline operations in Elihu Jasper Sutherland, comp., Pioneer Recollections of Southwest Virginia (Clintwood, VA: Mullins Printing, 1984), 21, 53-54, copy in The Library of Virginia, Richmond.
21. For descriptions of other incline operations in the southern mountains, see C. S. Badgett, "Equipment for Incline Logging," American Lumberman (8 October 1921): 54; Lambert, "Logging the Little River, 1890-1940," 32-42; J. P. Murphy, "Advantages of Incline and Mechanical Logging," Southern Lumberman (25 April 1925): 36.
22. L. E. Johnson to N. D. Maher, 4 December 1912, Box 2.87, file 4998, N&W Collection. Common-carrier railroads often leased used equipment to logging companies, including rails and railroad cars, and even locomotives. See Brown, Logging -- Transportation, 201.
23. Johnson to Maher, 4 December 1912, Box 2.87, file 4998, N&W Collection; initial contract for 880 tons, 1 February 1913, Craig County Deed Book P, 309-12; revised contract, 1 October 1914, Craig County Deed Book Q, 37-38; further revised 23 December 1914, Craig County Deed Book Q, 75-76.
24. Big Stony Railroad Company, Box 8.1 and Box 2.59, file 97, N&W Collection; Monroe Watchman, 2 October 1975.
25. H. G. Cowling, "Logging Inclines," Timberman (August 1926): 37.
26. For technical descriptions of counter-balance inclines, see H. G. Cowling, "The Counterbalance Incline," Timberman (June 1925): 54; S. J. Dumbolton, "A Counter-Balanced Incline," Timberman (June 1924): 51, 67.
27. See Leslie Brooks, "Incline Logging," Southern Lumberman (10 May 1924): 49-50. Unfortunately, the author did not specify the exact location of this operation. Starkey describes a Pocahontas County incline in operation by 1907 in "Over the Mountain," 35.
28. See descriptions in Badgett, "Equipment for Incline Logging," 54; Bryant, Logging, 334; and Murphy, "Advantages of Incline and Mechanical Logging," 36.
29. Brooks, "Incline Logging," 49-50. See also Blaine H. McGillicuddy, "Lowering Systems Versus Switchbacks," Timberman (November 1921): 48-49.
30. See Badgett, "Equipment for Incline Logging," 54; Bryant, Logging, 334; and J. S. O'Gorman, "Logging Steep Ground with Inclines," Timberman (November 1921): 47.
31. Knute Berger, "Logging Inclines," Timberman (May 1925): 71; Brown, Logging -- Transportation, 92; Bryant, Logging, 336-39; Cowling, "Logging Inclines," 37; O'Gorman, "Logging Steep Ground," 47.
32. JNF Forest Service Technician Larry Moore discovered the broken pulley on the elevating side of the incline, while the author and Forest Service Archaeological Technician Joel Hardison discovered the broken roller on the lowering side. H.G. Cowling describes similar devices in "Logging Inclines," 40.
33. Larry Moore's fieldwork and topographical analysis, corroborated by account given in the Monroe Watchman, 23 January 1913.
34. The efficacy of erecting a band mill in what turned out not to be a lucrative operation seems doubtful in retrospect, though numerous references to the band mill exist. See, for instance, Craig County Chancery Order Book 4, 318-19; interview with the author, Lucy Huffman, Johns Creek Valley, 2 June 1992, tape on file with Jefferson National Forest Cultural Resources, 5162 Valleypoint Parkway, Roanoke, Virginia; or R. L. Humbert, Industrial Survey: Craig County Virginia (Blacksburg, VA: VPI Engineering Extension Service, 1930), 32, copy in Newman Library, VPI&SU.
35. For a broad assessment of this aspect of incline logging, see Badgett, "Equipment for Incline Logging," 54.
36. Frank J. Sheridan, Italian, Slavic, and Hungarian Unskilled Immigrant Laborers in the United States, Bulletin of the Bureau of Labor, no.72 (Washington: GPO, 1907), 434.
37. In addition to those involved with the Tri-State operation, Italians also helped build the Clinchfield Railroad in southwest Virginia. See Margaret Ripley Wolfe, "Aliens in Appalachia: The Construction of the Clinchfield Railroad and the Italian Experience," in Appalachia: Family Traditions in Transition, ed. by Emmet M. Essin (Johnson City: Eastern Tennessee State Univ. Press, 1975), 83-88. They also labored on the forest railroad of the Hassinger Lumber Company lands in southern Washington County, Virginia, near North Carolina. Martin Hassinger to the author, Bristol, Virginia, 17 June 1992. A description of the Hassinger Operation may be found in The Plow (July 1976): 13-15, copy in the Kelly Library, Emory & Henry College, Emory, Virginia.
38. Robert F. Foerster, The Italian Emigration of Our Times (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1924), 357-60. See also Dominic Ciolli, "The `Wop' in the Track Gang," 141-45 and Cesidio Simboli, "When the Boss Went Too Far," 146-49 in A Documentary History of the Italian Americans, ed. by Wayne Moquin (New York: Praeger Pubs., 1974).
39. Kenneth R. Bailey, "A Judicious Mixture: Negroes and Immigrants in the West Virginia Mines, 1880-1917," West Virginia History 34(January 1973): 141-61; Barry J. Ward, "Italian-American Folk Poetry in th Industrialized Appalachian Mountains," West Virginia History 43(Spring 1982): 285. Italians also worked at the logging operation surrounding the Brancher area of West Virginia, described in Starkey, "Over the Mountain," 35.
40. Harry to author, 20 August 1992.
41. Huffman interview.
42. Census of the Population, Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1920 (National Archives Microfilm Publication T625), Craig County, Virginia, hereafter referred to as 1920 Census.
43. Huffman interview; New Castle Record, 22 January 1916; Monroe Watchman, 27 January 1916. Mrs. Huffman specifically recalled the locomotive as a "Shay," though it is possible that this name was generally used to describe gear-driven logging locomotives.
44. U.S. Bureau of the Census, State Compendium: Virginia, 127 and State Compendium: West Virginia, 94-95.
45. Humbert, Industrial Survey, 32; Monroe Watchman, 23 January 1913; Craig County Chancery Order Book 4, 319.
46. 37th Annual Report, N&W Railway Company, fiscal year ending 31 December 1932, N&W Collection.
47. Census of the Population, Thirteenth Census of the United States, 1910 (National Archives Microfilm Publication T624) Craig County, Virginia; 1920 Census.
48. In 1920, one man owned such a sawmill in Sinking Creek Valley, neighboring Johns Creek. By 1930, fifteen such mills were in use. See 1920 Census; Humbert, Industrial Survey, 32.
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