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Recollections of Sawmills and Steamboats II

May 11, 1934

To the Editor of the Herald:

In a recent communication I promised to say something about the sawmill at Coleraine and the people connected with it. I have already stated that not long after it was put in operation Capt. J.S. Tyner became the sole owner of the business. Persons who are not familiar with conditions existing at that time would be astonished to know how much timber was wasted in getting the logs for the mill. Except for an area of a few thousand acres in the vicinity of Camp Pinckney where Mr. Edward Buck operated a turpentine business and another near Uptonville operated by Baker, Jones and Co. and one at the place where the home of E.F. Dean, Jr. is located, operated by John D. Jones, round pines covered the woods and in cutting the trees for mill logs usually about 2/3 of the length from the butt to the limbs was the part used, leaving to lie and rot on the ground enough timber without limbs or knots to please the eyes of a sawmill [owner] of our day.

When the mill got into action Capt. R.H. Bachlott was the first sawyer. Mr. Sampson Barfield was the first engineer and Mr. John G. Wickes was the first lumber inspector. Capt. Bachlott was also foreman of the mill. Almost every young man in the community at some time during the operation of the mill worked in it, besides a great many others from other sections. I had the distinction of being the first "sawdust roller". Except engineer and sawyer, I occupied every other place in the mill and after the death of Capt. Tyner when the business was purchased by J.L.K. Holtzendorf I left the steamboat where I had been working and accepted the position of lumber inspector and foreman which I held during the period of Mr. Holtzendorf's ownership and when he closed the business and sold the machinery to the firm of J. Mizell & Bro. of Kings Ferry I pulled the wire that sounded the last whistle of the sawmill that was ever heard at Coleraine. Of all the men under whom I worked and of all who worked under me, not one is living that my recollection can recall.

Referring further to steamboats and water, the sawmills and turpentine plants on and near the St. Marys River required many vessels to carry lumber and naval stores to the markets and where these products were sold. The firm of S.L. Burns & Co., who operated the largest sawmills on the river except those of J. Mizell & Bro. owned and operated two steamboats. One was the Flora Temple, a side wheeler. The other was the C.T. Sheppard, a propeller driven boat. It was the Sheppard on which I worked between the periods of my work in the sawmill for Capt. Tyner and Mr. Holtzendorf. If I had the physical ability it would indeed be a pleasure to me to make one more trip on the St. Marys and Nassau rivers and on the sounds between them and across the lapse of time I could still handle the wheel of a steamboat.

When these steamboats had been in use a number of years, like all other things they yielded to the hand of time and service and they were overhauled and rebuilt and the name of the Flora Temple was changed to Athlete and that of the C.T. Sheppard to Gladiator. These boats and their names have long passed into oblivion and perhaps all except myself whoever handled their wheels their throttles and their ropes have gone with them out of existence.

Memory carries me back through the space of these many years to one of the grandest sights that my eyes ever met. One bright fair day when a stiff gale was blowing and the waves were rolling high we were towing a big bark out to sea. As we were going seaward the Lizzie Baker, an ocean steamer, was coming in from New York to Fernandina. As the steamers passed each other and each blew three long whistles of recognition I was thrilled with awe and pleasure as I watched the beautiful white monster plow her way through the waves, her bow raising and splitting a heavy roll of sparkling spray.

--W.O. Gibson

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