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Interview with Victor R. Brown, December 3, 2002 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Victor R. Brown, December 3, 2002
December 3, 2002
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Brown, Victor R. Interviewer:  Warren, Harry / Keaton, Earnestine Date of Interview:  12/3/2002 Series:  Southeast North Carolina (SENC) Length  18 minutes


Warren: We’re here on the 3rd of December at Mr. Victor R. Brown’s house who’s known as VR. I’m your camera man, Harry Warren, and Earnestine Keaton is the "Keaton, Earnestine" and the interviewee is Mr. Brown. Mr. Brown lost his sight about 10 years ago and just for the record, Miss Keaton, you’re related to him. She signed the consent form for Mr. Brown with his consent. It was okay for her to sign the consent form.

Keaton: As Harry Warren said, I’m Earnestine Keaton and I’m a historian in the Riegelwood area, in the town of East Arcadia is what we’re focusing on and we’re here to ask a few questions of Mr. V. R. Brown. You said a minute ago, you’ve been here a long time, lived here all your life. Now do you want to tell us how old you are?

Brown: I’m 88 years old.

Keaton: And you were born right in this area here?

Brown: I was born between this house and that road there.

Keaton: How many sisters and brothers do you have?

Brown: Good Lord, let’s see you come with something else, let’s see… Lona, Mona, Dorothy, Eula, Velma, Richard, Bill, Jack and Harry Brown.

Keaton: Who were your mom and daddy?

Brown: My mother was Mary Etta Brown and my daddy was John W. Brown.

Keaton: Of course we want to ask you about the timber industry. Who influenced you in terms of working in the woods? Who was the first person in your family, the closest to you that you saw work in the woods?

Brown: It was a friend, it wasn’t a relative, Cal George.

Keaton: What was he doing?

Brown: He was hauling the timber.

Keaton: How old were you at that time?

Brown: Be damned if I know, in my 20’s.

Keaton: So you could you tell us a little about what you saw, what it was like, your experiences just being involved in what he was doing.

Brown: He was hauling the timber, Cal George was, and I was cutting it.

Keaton: Where were you cutting it?

Brown: Anywhere you could get a tract to cut, sometimes in Bladen County, sometimes Columbus County and sometimes down in Columbus.

Keaton: Who was he? Was Cal George cutting it for somebody else or himself? Was he the boss? Who was the boss?

Brown: He was cutting it for a sawmill. A sawmill was in operation at the time and he was cutting for the saw mill. The sawmill belonged to M. L. Settlemeyers.

Keaton: Where was the sawmill? Was it near where you were cutting the wood? Where was the sawmill?

Brown: Yeah, it was in Columbus County down next to _______.

Keaton: How many other people were working?

Brown: I couldn’t tell you that. I don’t know.

Keaton: What were some of the jobs they were involved in?

Brown: The jobs they were involved in was cutting the timber and hauling it to the mill, the ones that were working there, that was their job.

Keaton: What kind of tools did you use, Mr. Brown? You were the tree cutter. Were you cutting with an axe or a crosscut?

Brown: Crosscut saw.

Keaton: How many trees could you cut in a day?

Brown: That’s what I can’t tell you. We would get around to at least 60 or 70.

Keaton: Did you cut that many yourself?

Brown: No, we did and the man who had the crosscut.

Keaton: You had a partner?

Brown: Yeah.

Keaton: Who was your partner?

Brown: Oh, Pat T.

Keaton: I think I know him. Was he a pretty good worker?

Brown: Yes maam.

Keaton: Were you cutting ties or cords. Cutting ties?

Brown: We were cutting logs for a sawmill.

Keaton: How old were you? You were in your 20’s then?

Brown: Yeah.

Keaton: Was Bud working with you too?

Brown: Sometimes he would be there and sometimes he wouldn’t.

Keaton: Who were some of the other ones that were working?

Brown: ____ Lissel, Rona Lissel, and little boy ____, you remember him I reckon.

Keaton: Now what about the sawmill, you were cutting for the sawmill.

Brown: Yeah, the sawmill was cutting it into lumber.

Keaton: So you all would cut it and who would take it to the sawmill?

Brown: Cal Jones.

Keaton: And you would go with him?

Brown: No, no, we would cut the timber in the woods. He had a pair of mules and a cart and he’d just pick it up and carry it to the mill.

Keaton: Was that called bunching? Was that bunching?

Brown: Yeah, you had someone doing what they called snaking loads. They’d make up loads for Cal to carry with that cart.

Keaton: When they were snaking, what would they do?

Brown: They’d just pull the logs up in a pile in whatever the cart could carry in a trip, maybe 10, something like that.

Keaton: Mule or ox?

Brown: Mules, no ox there.

Keaton: No ox okay, when they were going to take the logs to the mill, the ones, you had a crew that worked in the woods cutting and you had a crew that worked at the sawmill?

Brown: There was a crew at the sawmill. You couldn’t keep nobody there because it was hard work and they wouldn’t stay long.

Keaton: In the sawmill, they couldn’t keep anybody?

Brown: No, not for a long time.

Keaton: It was that hard?

Brown: Yeah.

Keaton: Dangerous too?

Brown: Yeah.

Keaton: What made the word so hard, Mr. Brown?

Brown: Lifting that stuff the mill cut, that’s what made it hard. You did it all by hand.

Keaton: What about accidents? Were there a lot of accidents?

Brown: Not many, very few.

Keaton: Do you remember how the saw was run?

Brown: It was run by a gasoline engine.

Keaton: Do you remember before that what they used?

Brown: That was old, gasoline, diesel or?

Keaton: What about the time when they used wood? Didn't they used to use wood or coal or something?

Brown: That was when they had the steam sawmills, they would use wood and a lighter to keep it burning. Often they had to take on water to keep the steam up.

Keaton: Who was it that was putting wood in the furnace for the sawmill running the saw and lost his sight? What sawmill was that?

Brown: That was _______, a Yankee at the mill.

Keaton: How did that accident happen?

Brown: What? Went blind? I don’t know. I can’t tell you that. Being near that furnace, the hot fire.

Keaton: No it was, it was gasoline after coal and wood. Now when they set up sawmills around here, were they small sawmills?

Brown: Yeah, sure was. They’d get a track of timber, they’d move the mill.

Keaton: So how far away did you ever go to work in the sawmill?

Brown: I don’t know. I can’t tell you.

Keaton: Did you ever go as far as Wilmington?

Brown: No, we had no business down there, no timber down there.

Keaton: They had to have crews to cut so you never went that far. Who did you work for around home?

Brown: I worked for Settlemeyer’s and worked for Eric Daniel.

Keaton: What about his sawmill, where was his sawmill? How was it run?

Brown: By gasoline.

Keaton: Did he have a lot of people in the neighborhood who worked for him?

Brown: No.

Keaton: Who worked for him, he only had a few people working for him?

Brown: Yes.

Keaton: Did you do the same thing for those men, those companies, Mr. Brown, were you cutting trees most of the time or did you actually work in the mill?

Brown: I was mostly what they call snaking logs, mule, pull them up so the man with the cart could pull them to the mill.

Keaton: Why did they call it snaking?

Brown: Putting them up together, a pile, maybe 6 or 8 logs. Then on that cart they would carry them to the mill.

Keaton: But it was called snaking, because snakes might get in that pile?

Brown: No, because you dragged the logs together and that was called snaking.

Keaton: And it kind of looked like a snake had been going through the woods or something? I see you mentioned working for Mr. George at first? Cal George?

Brown: I was working with him, not for him.

Keaton: What kind of man was he?

Brown: He was a mule man. He handled the team, the mules, that was his job.

Keaton: Was he a good man to work with?

Brown: Yes.

Keaton: Is that Mr. Jim George’s brother?

Brown: Yes. (phone rings).

Keaton: Did you ever work with George Dixon? Mr. George Dixon?

Brown: No. Never did.

Keaton: Did you cut crossties?

Brown: No.

Keaton: Never cut any crossties?

Brown: No, cut three one time. They were so ugly I let them lay there, and one day I was going to work and Jim George came and bought them for a dollar and a quarter a piece.

Keaton: Was that usually what they cost?

Brown: I don’t know because I didn't mess with that that much.

Keaton: So you were mostly working in the logging business. What about later on, did you ever work with Arthur Freeman?

Brown: Yes.

Keaton: And what were you doing? Same thing?

Brown: I was turning logs at the mill then. Don’t ask me, I don’t know and I can’t help it, don’t want to be bothered.

Keaton: Why didn't you tell me that yesterday?

Brown: I been trying to get in touch with you ever since then. I didn’t know the number. I called Joe Allen and told them to tell you.

Keaton: So you want us to cut it short? You ran out of things to say?

Brown: No, I just don’t feel good.

Keaton: We could have just put this off all together. Well Mr. Brown why don’t we just conclude our interview right now. I’ll just ask you one more question. Is there anything you’d like to add other than to tell us to get on down our way?

Brown: No, no.

Keaton: I appreciate the opportunity to meet you and to talk to you and if you get to feeling better and want to talk a little more, we’d love to come back and visit with you again. What was your exact birth date, Mr. Brown?

Brown: September 20, 1914.

Keaton: You’ve seen a lot of changes around here and anytime you feel like sharing that with us, we sure would appreciate it and come see me at the North Carolina Museum of Forestry.

Brown: Okay, thank you sir.

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