The Phipps/Fulbright Mill and Arkansas Forests

Albright sawmill workers, Red Star (Madison County), 1918–1920. The white-oak logs came from the Fitch place on Reeves Mountain. They were 12 feet long, 44 inches in diameter, and each produced over 1,200 board feet of lumber. The logs were so heavy they had to be brought to the sawmill on a heavy-duty boiler wagon. Back, from left: Nathan Ward, Virgil Holland, and Newt Ward. Front, from left: Squire Eaton, Bill Killian, Temps Ward (barely visible), Dave Samuels, Jim Eaton (seated on ground), and Lewis Samuels. Frank Eaton Collection (S-87-55-20)

The longest lived of Fayetteville’s mills—although not located at Fayette Junction nor as far as can be determined was it originally dedicated to producing wagon parts—was that of J. H. Phipps, who had established his milling operations in 1898.  Phipps Lumber Company occupied a prominent location on the west side of old Fayetteville on the original Prairie Grove Road, now the site of a Chick-fil-A, Sonic fast-food drive-in, and Arby’s at the southeast corner of 6th Street and Razorback Road.

C. M. Jones and Company, Pettigrew (Madison County), 1910s. Bob Besom Collection (S-82-213-53)

By 1915, Mr. Phipps saw the coming decline of timber harvest along the established railways. Thirty-five years of frenzied sawing had cleared the hillsides within reasonable distance from the rail lines. Not willing to stand by and watch the decline of his profitable enterprise, he began developing a plan to reach the vast forests southeast into Franklin County. He bought thousands of acres of forest land in Madison and Franklin counties. He brought together Ed. E. Jeter of Combs, Jesse Phipps of St. Paul, and J. M. Williams and W. J. Reynolds of Fayetteville as partners in the formation of the Black Mountain and Eastern Railroad. They built a line that joined the St. Paul track at Combs and plunged south into the mountains.

According to Clifton Hull’s Shortline Railways of Arkansas, “There were trestles which spanned gulches 125 feet deep. At the Cass end of the line, the grade was so steep the locomotive couldn’t pull a car of logs up the mountain, so the cars were snaked to the summit one at a time by a team of oxen. In May 1916, the name was changed from the Black Mountain and Eastern to the Combs, Cass, and Eastern. It was abandoned in 1924.”[1]

Another short-term tangent for hauling logs sprang from the Pettigrew terminus, a tram line called the “spoke plant tram.” Railroad historian Tom Duggan notes that this line ran from the Little Mulberry River to a point several miles south of Pettigrew called Campground.[2]

Phipps sold out to Jay Fulbright in 1920, and by the time of the plant’s demolition in the 1980s, it was commonly known as the Fulbright mill. As late as the 1970s, local residents could visit the mill where an accommodating workman in overalls would deftly replace the hardwood handle of the hoe, shovel, rake, or other metal implement in question.

Sawmill, Goshen (Washington County), 1900s–1910s. The men in front hold cant hooks (metal hooks on wood poles) to turn the log on the carriage. Attached to the upright headblocks on the carriage are “dogs” which hold the log in place. Ruth Flanagan Collection (S-84-234-6)

In 1928, the plant was reportedly the “biggest plant of its kind west of the Mississippi.”[3]  During World War II, Phipps Lumber Company under the guidance of Bill Fulbright bought out Springfield Wagon Company and brought with it to Fayetteville “over a dozen new families…a sizeable payroll and…a market for more Arkansas timber.”[4]

Timber remains an important industry in Arkansas. Evidence of individual logging operations on private and public lands can be found in Pettigrew, where stacks of logs awaiting transport accumulate in the same place where the old railroad roundhouse was located. The hardwood forests of the Arkansas Ozarks have been the focus of nearly fifty years of conflict between forest industry participants and conservationists who want public forests protected from indiscriminate and harmful harvesting techniques such as clear cutting. Wildlife habitat, watershed protection, and recreational uses have become equally as important as the benefits of timber harvest.

In other parts of the state, timber production is largely a corporate enterprise involving pine “plantations” where mature pine crops are mechanically harvested, hybrid seedlings are planted, and native vegetation is “suppressed” by use of herbicides.

In 1997 the Arkansas Educational Television Network produced “Out of the Woods,” a documentary that “takes an in-depth look at Arkansas’ timber industry.”

“The program shows that farming, the railroad industry, and a boom in logging have forever changed Arkansas’ forests. Through forestry research, careful land management and restoration efforts, however, new forests in the Natural State are thriving. In a study of forested land in the state from 1988 to 1995, each region showed an increase in the number of acres reforested.”

Conservationists would argue the term “reforested,” pointing out that a monoculture of fast-growing pine has been established where mixed hardwood forest had grown.

The thirty-minute AETN video “demonstrates that harvesting timber is the state’s biggest industry. Giant paper mills, plywood plants and saw mills pump $1.4 billion dollars into Arkansas’ economy ever year. Fifteen percent of the entire Arkansas work force is employed in the timber industry. The industry provides 40,000 jobs and an annual payroll of $938 million. In southern Arkansas, the business of harvesting trees has given birth – and continues to sustain – small towns throughout the pine belt.”[5]

As a result of the massive clear cuts and the environmental degradation wrought by the timber boom period and/or the extreme topography of some areas, the government ended up owner of thousands of acres of cut-over, nonproductive land. This is particularly true in the rugged landscape of south and southeastern Washington County, southern Madison County, and northern Franklin County, which became the western part of the Ozark National Forest.

A poem preserved at Shiloh Museum provides a slice of life from the Phipps Lumber Mill operation:

Who’s Who and What They Do At Phipps

There’s a hard-wood plant near our city

An industry of highest rank

Manufacturing buggy, plow and wagon stock

And all kinds of hardwood plank.

Lee Moore is our good superintendent

And he’s always on the hop

For to manage a business like this is

Takes a man that knows no stop.

Bill Swaney is the master mechanic

He’s built many mills here and there

He studies and schemes and sets up machines

And keeps them in good repair.

Emmet W. Lucas

Is foreman of the shop

He don’t get around like a whirlwind

Yet he knows what his men are about.

Sam Swaney is the engineer

He keeps the engine running good

And when he pulls the big whistle

She roars like a bull in the woods.

Jim Dixon runs the jointer

And also the ripsaw too

And with his helper daddy Dodd

They put the timber through.

Frank Osburn runs the bandsaw

At this Frank has no match

It makes no difference what the pattern may be

For he saws it to the scratch.

At the plainer is Billie Winkle

Dressing timber all the day

While his helper daddie Bogan

Is trucking it away.

Mose Osburn runs the shaper

With arms like the legs of a mule

If its light or heavy it matters not

Mose shapes it good and true.

And when they start the big tongue machine

Oh you ought to hear her hum

But when it comes to keeping steam

Well, the fireman most has to run.

It makes both the tongues and double-trees

And finishes them up just right

And whether you work at the front or the rear

You’ve got to go in “high”.

Harvey, Crossno, Graham, and Harper

At the turning lay this they work

Turning yokes and spokes and singletrees

And have no time to shirk.

Sang Brothers are the sanders

And theirs is no easy task

They sand all day on yokes and spokes

But they finish them smooth as glass.

Shorty Smith and Edward Bogan

In the finish shed you’ll find

Grading spokes and felloes

And tieing them up with twine.

The work on the yard sometimes is hard

And sometimes it’s easy too

But if you haven’t some sand in your craw

Toating tongues won’t appeal to you.

Claud Guist is the loading boss on the yard

He loads the cars to their brims

Sometimes axles sometimes tongues

And sometimes hickory rims.

Or it may be felloes or wagon spokes

And a lot of singletrees too

And this is the motto of this plant

“Direct from the stump to you.”

Bob Hannah is foreman of the bending plant

Where they bend plow handles and rims

Vernon Swaney is the engineer

John Grissom keeps the steam.

Add Baker runs the big bender

Bending rims and wagon hawns

Etter Hannah does the “nailing out”

Chas. Minn does the “knocking down.”

Taylor Jordan runs the moulder

Dressing handles all to size

Geo Moore and Guage do the bending

And stack them away to dry.

I am the company’s wood-hauler

I’ve hauled wood this city o’er

And when I drive up to a woodshed

There’s always a smile at the door.

For the wood is sound oak and hickory

With sometimes some ash and gum

And the housewife knows as she fills up her stove

Her cooking will soon be done.

And then when Tuesday rolls around

We all look for “Uncle Jay”

For he’s the man who has the stamps

And we always get our pay.

So we’re a jolly good bunch of “hardwooders”

Earning bread as best we know how

For it was spoken in the garden of Eden

Thou shalt live by the sweat of thy brow.

by B. W. Sivage

(Woodhauler)

 

Log train at J. H. Phipps Lumber Company, Fayetteville (Washington County), 1912. Burch Grabill, photographer. Robert Saunders Collection (S-96-2-452)

Photographs from the website of Shiloh Museum, https://shilohmuseum.org/project/timber/

~~~

[1] Hull

[2] Personal communication to the author, postcard dated February 2004.

[3] Campbell p 39

[4] Northwest Arkansas Times undated clip, front page; Box 20, file 13 WCHS vertical files, UA Special Collections

[5] See http://www.aetn.org/OOTW/

[Excerpted from Glimpses of Fayetteville’s Past, The History of Fayette Junction by Denele Campbell]

The Railroad Comes To Fayetteville — Gift of the Season Day 8

Fayetteville-Arkansas-Depot-date-and-location-unknown

Train depot, Dickson Street, Fayetteville Arkansas, date unknown. Courtesy http://frisco.org/mainline/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/

As early as 1855, Fayetteville city leaders had recognized the potential profit and growth that railway connections would bring to the rest of the county. The rugged Ozark terrain isolated their fledgling village, making commerce difficult and expensive for necessities and luxuries alike. Goods came north by ox cart from the Arkansas River at Van Buren or Ft. Gibson, or south from the railhead in Missouri. After the Civil War, in 1868 Arkansas legislators passed a bill granting aid to railroads which in turn prompted the St. Louis and San Francisco to start laying track south from Springfield, Missouri. The Frisco line made it to Fayetteville in 1881 with passenger service delayed until the completion of the Winslow tunnel. On July 4, 1882, a brass band and a crowd of 10,000 greeted the first passenger train at the Fayetteville Dickson Street station.

Arkansas-Railroad-Museum-45

Winslow railroad tunnel circa 1885. Courtesy Arkansas Railroad Museum.

All kinds of goods traveled along the new line from Monett, Missouri to Fort Smith—product of a fourteen-year construction effort—encouraging the hopes of men and families seeking livelihood. The most plentiful and profitable local raw material available for the taking were the old-growth trees. Land sold for $1 per acre with an estimated available merchantable timber of 5000 board feet per acre. A flourishing trade blossomed along the track as virgin forest fell to the hands of hardworking men. Within the first decade after 1882, West Fork, Woolsey, Brentwood, Winslow, and several long-since vanished whistle stops became boom towns where railroad ties, fence posts, and rough-cut lumber were loaded onto railcars.

One of the most ambitious men to exploit the timber trade was Hugh F. McDaniel,[1] a railroad builder and tie contractor who had come to Fayetteville along with the Frisco. He purchased thousands of acres of land within hauling distance of the railroad and sent out teams of men to cut the timber. By the mid-1880s, after a frenzy of cutting in south Washington County, he turned his gaze to the untapped fortune of timber on the steep hillsides of southeast Washington County and southern Madison County, territory most readily accessed along a wide valley long since leveled by the east fork of White River.

Mr. McDaniel gathered a group of backers,[2] petitioned the state, and was granted a charter September 4, 1886, giving authority to issue capital stock valued at $1.5 million. This was the estimated cost to build a rail line through St. Paul and on to Lewisburg, which was a riverboat town on the Arkansas River near Morrilton. McDaniel began surveys while local businessman J. F. Mayes worked with property owners to secure rights of way. “On December 4, 1886, a switch was installed in the Frisco main line about a mile south of Fayetteville, and the spot was named Fayette Junction.” Within six months, 25 miles of track had been laid east by southeast through Baldwin, Harris, Elkins, Durham, Thompson, Crosses, Delaney, Patrick, Combs, and finally St. Paul.

Soon after, in 1887, the Frisco bought the so-called “Fayetteville and Little Rock” line from McDaniel. It was estimated that in the first year McDaniel and partners shipped out more than two million dollars’ worth of hand-hacked white oak railroad ties at an approximate value of twenty-five cents each. Mills ran day and night as people arrived “by train, wagon, on horseback, even afoot” to get a piece of the action along the new track, commonly referred to as the “St. Paul line.” Saloons, hotels, banks, stores, and services from smithing to tailoring sprang up in rail stop communities.

As the Fayetteville & Little Rock track extended to Dutton and its final easternmost point at Pettigrew in 1897, local sawmills processed massive logs of oak, walnut, maple, and hickory into rough lumber before it was loaded onto the railcars.  “Wagons loaded with hardwood timber—cross ties, fence posts, rives, felloes, sawed lumber to be finished into buggy and wagon wheels and spokes, single trees, neck yokes, handles for hammers and plows, and building materials” streamed into the rail yards along the St. Paul line. Overnight, men became wealthy according to their ability to take advantage of the timber trade.

With the railroad came enormous population growth and the need for more homes, churches, offices, and commercial enterprise. Sufficient supply of building materials depended upon ever more distant timber harvest and upon the increasingly mechanized production of lumber. This frenzy of lumber and milling enterprises fed off the forests of southern Washington and Madison counties, with mills and factories located at various sites around Fayetteville. White oak was preferred for railroad ties, while red oak was the resilient wood of choice for wagon stock, especially bows, hubs, and spokes. Other woods milled included walnut, hickory, ash, and cherry.

All of the trains carrying lumber from the St. Paul line steamed through Fayette Junction, where loads of posts, ties, and raw materials for milling jammed the side tracks.  The 1904 Fayetteville City Directory authors summarize: “Those industries which have to do with the manufacture of various articles from hard wood timber are probably among Fayetteville’s most important enterprises. There are four factories devoted to the manufacture of wood wagon materials alone. Their product is shipped to many foreign parts, to the new Island possessions, as well as to every large manufacturing center in our own country.”

~~~

All the timber from points east and south came through Fayette Junction where railroad crews tended the engines, hooked up or dropped off cars on the sidings, threw appropriate switches, and communicated by telegraph, written messages, and word of mouth with various station agents about activities along the tracks. Serving as conductor along the early St. Paul line required a special breed of man, epitomized by the fabled “Irish” John Mulrenin who took on the job after three predecessors had quit in quick succession. For the next thirty years he handled the passengers of the St. Paul line, not just families and businessmen but backwoods lumberjacks and diamond-jeweled card sharks. He became skilled in quick decisions such as cutting short the Pettigrew switching chores to leave drunks stranded at the depot.

fay junc map

Circa 1890 map of Fayetteville Arkansas and the railroad ‘wye’ at Fayette Junction.

The Fayette Junction tracks formed a “Y”, with the southern “wye” used for “storage” and the northern for “industry”. Where the northern “wye” joined the main track near the northernmost point of present-day Vale Avenue, there was a gravel platform, water tank, and depot, although there was never a passenger depot at Fayette Junction.  Inside the “Y,” Frisco built mechanical department buildings including a shop and storeroom, an 813 foot long “cinder pit” track, and a 416 foot long “depress” track, according to the 1916 Frisco map. At the southern end of the “Y” was a coal chute track, a coaling plant, boiler room, and a sand house.

The November 19, 1905 train schedule from Fayetteville to Pettigrew left the Dickson Street station at 8:10 a.m., passed through Fayette Junction at 8:40 a.m., and arrived at Pettigrew at 11:50 a.m., with stops at Baldwin, Harris, Elkins, Durham, Thompson, Crosses, Delaney, Patrick, Combs, Brashears, St. Paul, and Dutton. After turning the engine on the roundhouse at Pettigrew, the train departed at 12:55 p.m., and arrived at Fayetteville at 4:15 p.m. In 1915, the train ran approximately fifteen minutes earlier, with the stop at Baldwin now named “Leith.” Return run arrived in Fayetteville at 3:30 p.m. The same schedule and stops were in place in 1927.

The Frisco Fayette Junction Roundhouse was listed in the 1932 Fayetteville directory with a telephone number of 641 under “Railroads” in the Yellow Pages. The Personal Data Book of the Division Superintendent for the Ft. Smith station reported the Fayette Junction population that year was fifty, but it is not clear what area he considered “Fayette Junction.”  Three years later, Superintendent S. T. Cantrell inventoried the 75 steam engines and other assets of the division. The oldest engine of the bunch, a “ten-wheeler” No. 488 Baldwin 1910, was in mixed service on the St. Paul to Bentonville line. Also in use to St. Paul was another oil-burner 4-6-0, No. 552 Pittsburgh 1901. Cantrell reported the following locomotive assignments to Fayette Junction as of February 26, 1935. In the shop:  #598, 4-6-0, oil, Dickson 1903. In storage: #648, 4-6-0, oil, Baldwin 1904; #750 4-6-0, oil, Baldwin 1902; #755, 4-6-0, oil, Baldwin 1902; #779 4-6-0, oil, Baldwin 1903; #3651 0-6-0, oil, Baldwin 1906; #3676 0-6-0, coal, Baldwin 1905#3695 0-6-0, coal, Baldwin 1906. Later observers remarked on the number of engines in storage as evidence of the “sorry state” of the railroads by 1935.

The Fayette Junction station force in 1932 included an agent-telegraph operator working 6 a.m. until 3 p.m., with a stipend of $0.67 per day. Holidays the hours were 6:15 a.m. until 8:15 a.m. The schedule by 1931 for ‘St. Paul Branch’ showed a mixed train daily (passengers and freight), starting from Fayetteville at 7:45 a.m., arriving Pettigrew at 11a.m., leaving Pettigrew at 12:01 p.m. to return to Fayetteville, where it arrived at 3:10 p.m.  All the intermediate stations were shown as flag stops except for Combs, where the train stopped at 9:54 a.m. on the outbound trip and 12:50 p.m. on the return trip, and St. Paul at 10:15 a.m. on the outbound trip and 12:30 p.m. on the return trip.

The fifty years from 1887 to 1937 had seen it all come and go through Fayette Junction. According to favored accounts, the last train to St. Paul ran July 30, 1937, “when ‘Irish’ Mulrenin had in his charge one wheezing locomotive, Mogul #345, and one empty, creaking old wooden coach” with a crate of two hound dogs for passengers.  The logging boom had come to an end. The tracks were taken up some time after, but remained across south Fayetteville accommodating various manufacturers in the new Fayetteville industrial park (east of City Lake Road, south of Hwy 16 East) and the shipment of new and recycled metal to and from Ozark Steel Company on South School as late as the 1970s.

 

This a condensed excerpt from my article on Fayette Junction, a location in South Fayetteville (Washington County, Arkansas) where the 1880s logging boom centered. For the full article, look for my book Glimpses of Fayetteville’s Past, available in local bookstore or at Amazon.

 

[1] Hugh McDanield, b 1843 to B. F. and Sarah (Terrell), fought for the Union in the Civil War, worked in mercantile trade in Kansas City until 1873, built the Kansas Midland Railway from Kansas City to Topeka, and then operated a ranch in west Texas. After completing the Texas Western Railway in 1877, he turned his attention to Northwest Arkansas and began selling ties in 1881. He bought, logged, and sold thousands of acres of Washington County land and later Madison and Franklin counties over the next seven years and made a fortune furnishing the Santa Fe Railway nearly all its ties for the railroad west. He is credited as founder of St. Paul by the 1889 Goodspeed. He died at age 45 (1888) in Fayetteville of a month-long, unnamed illness.

[2] Backers included F. H. Fairbanks, J. F. Mayes, and J. S. Van Hoose, along with McDaniel’s brother J. S. McDaniel, all of Fayetteville, and D. B. Elliott of Delaney, J. Pickens of Eversonville, Missouri, J. W. Brown of Brentwood, and another brother, B. F. McDaniel of Bonner Springs, Kansas.