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Interview with M.M. Gilliland, February 6, 2002 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with M.M. Gilliland, February 6, 2002
February 6, 2002
Interview of Mr. Matthew Michael (Mike) Gilliland a long-time logger in North Carolina. Mr. Gilliland recounts the mechanics of logging, accidents, and his claim to be the first logger to deliver timber to Riegelwood. Mr. Gilliland also explains reasons why there is less logging in North Carolina than perhaps ever before.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Gilliland, Matthew Michael (Mike) Interviewer:  Wyche, Ray Date of Interview:  2/6/2002 Series:  Voices of UNCW Length  62 minutes


Wyche: My name is Ray Wyche and today we’re interviewing Matthew Michael Mike Gilliland who is a long-time logger who lives in Hallsboro. We are in Whiteville in the North Carolina Museum of Forestry. Today is February 6, 2002 and Mike is going to tell us something about his early days as a logger. He recently retired as a logging contractor having worked about or over 60 years in this area.

Wyche: Mike, you came here in 1941?

Gilliland: Yes sir.

Wyche: And you came from Mississippi?

Gilliland: I came from Georgia, we went from Mississippi to Georgia and worked there a while.

Wyche: When did you start logging? What age?

Gilliland: I was about 9, 10 years old.

Wyche: And go ahead and tell us about your first job in the log woods.

Gilliland: I’d take a horse and drag the logs up together where the wagons could pick it up and I was so little, I couldn't carry the tongs and the singletree. They let the traces out long where it could drag behind the mule and not hit his heels and drive the mule around and hook the tongs to it, bunch it up for the wagon. And we’d take chains and roll it on the wagon with the mule.

Wyche: And you did all your cutting with a 2-man crosscut saw?

Gilliland: Yes sir.

Interviewer 2: That was down in Mississippi?

Gilliland: That’s all there were back then.

Wyche: You did that in Mississippi and in Georgia?

Gilliland: In Georgia, we had a caterpillar skidder and a loader we could load with, put a block in a tree and the cables would pick it up.

Wyche: And letting the caterpillar or the wheel tractor pull it?

Gilliland: Well we had both, but the caterpillar is big stuff. It had to have a lift.

Wyche: And you hooked the log with tongs?

Gilliland: Yeah.

Wyche: Okay and how did you happen to come to North Carolina?

Gilliland: J.W. Wells owned a mill in Georgia and we’d go up there and log for him and he bought this mill in Hallsboro and he moved us up here.

Wyche: And you started logging in pine or cypress or both?

Gilliland: Pine when we first started. Around a ground sawmill.

Wyche: Would you ever work in a ground sawmill?

Gilliland: Oh yeah. I never liked to. I liked to help log, I never did like that racket.

Interviewer 2: What’s a ground sawmill?

Gilliland: Sawmill that you move around the woods from one place to another and back when I first started, they had crawl tractor with a pulley on it they would saw with. Some still had the steam boiler mounted on wheels and the engine was mounted right on top of it and you carried it along as you go. You had a little smoke stack, just a short one and you’re burning them pine slabs to make steam, burn more shirts up, them sparks coming out, catch on fire every day (laughter).

Wyche: Well Mike, they did that because it was easier to carry board out of the wood than it was a log, wasn’t it?

Gilliland: Oh yeah. Most of it back then, a lot of it was still hauling mules and wagons. Some had trucks. The old mules ought to think a lot of Henry Ford though (laughter). The trucks kept them off the road.

Wyche: And they were still using mules in the woods to snake with then?

Gilliland: Yes sir. We had four wheel wagons, had bolster on it like a truck. We’d roll them up on that wagon and carry them to the mill and dump them off. Carry a good many more than you could to drag them and kept the logs off the dirt, better on the saws.

Wyche: Kept the dirt out of them saw teeth.

Gilliland: Yeah.

Wyche: A lot of people had these little ground mills.

Gilliland: Yeah, they was all over the country at that time.

Wyche: A lot of farmers would use them in the wintertime when they had their own mill, they would make lumber in the wintertime and they called them pecker wood mills too because they said it was like a woodpecker (laughter).

Gilliland: Destroy timber, a woodpecker could destroy about as fast as they could (laughter).

Wyche: And you were still working with Wells and when did you get in on your own?

Gilliland: ’49, I bought my first truck and started hauling.

Wyche: So you were in the Army, in the infantry in Europe when? About 1943?

Gilliland: ’44. I went in about two days after D-Day.

Wyche: That’s when you went to Europe.

Gilliland: Yeah, I went in the outfit.

Wyche: The 28th infantry division and you stayed with it all the way through Europe until the end of the war.

Gilliland: Yes sir.

Wyche: And you came back and went back to logging and then in 1949, you bought your own truck. Who was helping you then? Did you hire somebody to help you?

Gilliland: No, I just hauled for other people and John Marvey used to be here in town. He helped me to buy the first caterpillar I had and I got me a little crew and started.

Wyche: And you would log on contract more or less. You’d buy the timber, cut it and sell it.

Gilliland: Both ways, I bought a lot and then I cut a lot of their timber.

Wyche: A lot of the company’s timber?

Gilliland: Yeah.

Wyche: When you started, did you start with a caterpillar or crawl tractor?

Gilliland: Yeah. When I started on my own.

Wyche: Well tell us about the first chainsaw you ever had.

Gilliland: The name of it was Titan. Two men chainsaw and it ought to have been a three man cause you needed help to carry that motor.

Interviewer 2: Did you see the chainsaw we have?

Wyche: I don't think he did. I want to show it to him

We’ve got a two man chainsaw in the collection I’d like to show Mr. Gilliland.

Wyche: That speed it up to work a lot, didn't it?

Gilliland: You had to cut down a lot of labor. See that chainsaw, you could turn that blade half. You could cut a tree down and turn your blade over and go and cut through your log, cut it up.

Wyche: Cut it up and you were cutting it 16 foot, 12,14.

Gilliland: Whatever it worked out.

Wyche: To get the most out of it. You never did get into pulp wooding, did you?

Gilliland: I never did handle no pulp wood when it was cut short. Well I handled a little, but not much. I didn't handle it when I was doing it by hand. I wasn’t that big (laughter).

Wyche: And that was hard work. They say.

Gilliland: Yes sir that was hard work.

Wyche: Well Mike when you went in on your own later on, you started hauling long length pulp wood on your truck. Every time you’d get a job, you’d sell the logs and then pulp wood.

Gilliland: I carried the first load to Riegel. That went in there.

Wyche: Is that right? What year?

Gilliland: As far as I know, it was the first load.

Wyche: What year was that, about 1951? or ‘2 or ‘3?

Gilliland: No, that mill wasn’t built in ’51, was it?

Wyche: That’s when it was built I think.

Yeah it was. Early 50’s

Gilliland: It was a long time after it started before they’d take anything longer than the short wood.

Wyche: So you carried the first load of long wood in?

Gilliland: As far as I know, I did, yeah.

Wyche: They had that old gang saw there that cut it up in short lengths. Were they still doing that then?

Gilliland: Yeah.

Wyche: Well tell us about your first time you started logging with your own crew. How many chainsaws did you own?


Gilliland: I didn't own nar a one then. It was a cross cuts.


Wyche: And how many men were in your crew?

Gilliland: I just had a small crew. It would usually run about five men.


Wyche: Did you have a loader or were you pulling them up by chains?


Gilliland: Hang a block in the tree….


Wyche: A pulley?


Gilliland: …and take the same…(pause)


Wyche: You had one truck?


Gilliland: Yeah.


Wyche: Did you keep it going all the time with five men?


Gilliland: Yeah.


Wyche: As soon as you got back, they’d have another load ready.


Gilliland: Usually we’d get three loads a day.


Wyche: How many did you get toward the last there? When you quit?


Gilliland: Oh we were getting 12-15 loads. I never did get as big as some of the people.


Wyche: And you started out with five people and of course you had two or four of them on crosscut saws, didn't you?

Gilliland: Yeah, most of the time we had two on the crosscuts cutting them and topping them in the woods and had a caterpillar driver to pull the logs up and old man John Carroll, my wife’s step-daddy, took a handle off a saw and he’d stand there and cut the logs up and have them ready when we got back.


Wyche: That’s pretty good. Well now it was kind of dangerous work even back then, wasn’t it?


Gilliland: Yeah, it was right dangerous. You didn't have no cover over the caterpillar, limbs fell on you when they got ready (laughter).


Wyche: You never got hurt, did you?


Gilliland: Not bad. I had a broke leg a couple of times.


Wyche: Well one of those was when you were just a boy in Mississippi, I believe you said.


Gilliland: One of those wagons we hauled coming down them hills in Mississippi when we were at the hilly part. Turned over and caught my leg and broke it.

Interviewer 2: Mr. Gilliland, what was your day like? When did your day start when you were out there logging? I mean did you get up before sunrise and work all day? And did your wife fix you lunch to take with you? What was a typical day like out in the woods?


Gilliland: Well most of the time, the people you worked for, you harnessed your mules by a lantern (laughter). An old time lantern, you’d harness them up. You had to be at work at daylight. And very seldom did I ever eat any breakfast. We’d carry something for lunch.


Wyche: And did you ever cook lunch in the woods? Chicken, stew, or anything?


Gilliland: A lot of them after I got my own crew and all. We’d cook two or three times a week.


Wyche: And did you log with the horses and mules up here, Mike, on your own?


Gilliland: No, we had some horses, mules here working, but I was working with a bunch of people that had the caterpillar.


Wyche: And you said they get about three loads a day was a good day for you?


Gilliland: Yeah, yeah, that was a good day.


Wyche: What was your truck like? Was it a single axle trailer?


Gilliland: Single axle trailer and a two ton Chevrolet truck.


Wyche: And the longest thing you ever cut was 16 feet?


Gilliland: Oh no, we cut cypress for Wells in Hallsboro, up, went up to 26 foot.


Wyche: And you could haul it on your truck?


Gilliland: Yeah.


Wyche: And where did you get this cypress from?


Gilliland: A lot of it we got at an old dock from back in the swamp woods in ______ and a lot of it come from the river mouth down below the lake.

Wyche: Well you never did work with railroad logging any, did you?


Gilliland: Yeah, there at the lake where we hauled it, we had a railroad come out there to the dam and we took it off the rail and put it on truck.

Wyche: They had a steam powered skidder there, didn't they?


Gilliland: No, we had an old Mack truck for a loader and we used them caterpillars.


Wyche: Still pulling them up with a pulley?


Gilliland: And gas burner skidders if we had any back then.


Wyche: How about your axes? Did you always use axes with the crosscut saw?


Gilliland: Yes sir, plenty of axes.


Wyche: And when you quit did you have an axe? You didn't own an axe, did you?


Gilliland: No.


Wyche: Well what about the chains with your two man crosscut and your one man crosscut. You started making more timber with the one-mans didn't you? A little chainsaw, a one man chainsaw, you could do a lot more work.


Gilliland: You could do more than a two cut with a big one cause you could get around so much faster.


Wyche: The first chainsaw you got was a two-man?


Gilliland: Yeah.


Wyche: Did it break down much?


Gilliland: Yeah, it would break down a good bit and have to, at that time, carry it to Wilmington, North Carolina Equipment Company, they sold that kind and about the only one that had the parts for it.

Wyche: And you couldn't work on it yourself?


Gilliland: Well you could do some things to it, but if you had to overhaul the motor or something, you had to carry it in.


""Wyche: And you kept your crosscuts on hand all the time just in case.


Gilliland: Yes sir.


Wyche: Which do you think was the most dangerous, the two man or the one man crosscut?


Gilliland: The two man was a lot more dangerous.


Wyche: And it was a lot harder to use too.


Gilliland: Yeah. You had to cut you out a trail that was real thick to get around and get that saw turned. A lot of axe work. And dangerous.


Interviewer 2: Mr. Gilliland, you said you were never injured except broke your leg a couple of times. Did you ever see any other man get hurt out there on the job? Did you ever witness any bad accidents? Could you tell us about that a little bit?


Gilliland: Seen bad accidents, when we first put that short railroad and bring it to the road and then load it on the trucks, a lot of people got killed down there.


Wyche: That was in the river swamp? At the lake?


Interviewer 2: From big limbs dropping on them? From big limbs dropping on their heads?


Gilliland: Yeah, had one colored fella one day, it was raining and he crawled in the hollow log to keep dry. The wind blew a tree down across and killed him in that log.


Interviewer 2: No kidding, wow. Was that down at Lake Waccamaw?


Gilliland: Yeah, we called it King Tut in that swamp going across from Hallsboro to Lees Lake.


Wyche: South of Hallsboro just before you get to White Marsh Swamp going south out of Swansboro. What happened to most of the people getting hurt, a limb get them?

Gilliland: A limb get them or a log come around and hit them or something. A lot of times, the skidder would pull them through the woods, pull the tree on the other side back and hit them. They used to have that steam train, they had blew whistle signals, let you know what was happening back in the woods. If a car got off the track, they would blow one time. If the engine got off, they’d blow twice and if both got off, they’d blow three times. If a man got hurt, they’d blow four times, if he was killed, they’d blow five. Men would stand holding their breath when they started blowing afraid they were going to blow five times (laughter).


Wyche: It would mean somebody was dead.


Gilliland: They’d get him on a piece of tin or something and put him on the logger and haul him out to the road and get him to the hospital whatever happened.


Wyche: Did you ever have to carry a dead one out?


Gilliland: Yeah, yeah. They had a crew working down close to the lake one day and a limb flew back and hit a boy in the head and the whole crew come to the office at Hallsboro. Jack Farley was there and I asked him, “Do you know the man’s dead”, said “Bound to be the way he got hit”. So I got Jack and we went down there. They was right. His head was just soft, busted all to pieces. We put him in the back of Jack’s old Ford car and carried him to the undertaker. He had on a pair of slippers, and they wasn’t tied, his shoes was way out from him. He got an awful way.


Wyche: A lot of them got cut with the chainsaws at first too, didn't they?


Gilliland: Yeah, and you’d get cut with them crosscuts a lot too. I’ve got scars from them now.


Wyche: I got one too (laughter). As a boy.


Gilliland: Me and another boy was sawing a tree one time and we stepped back and hold your saw. Well he got scared and he swung his saw around and hit me there on the leg, the teeth went in, cut me bad.


Wyche: Well you didn't have hard hats or anything then?


Gilliland: No, you didn't have that. I finally bought me a football helmet (laughter). The crawler had tongs it dragged behind it and it would pick up them limbs and slap right over. A man got his head busted plenty of times. I got that old football helmet. I believe that helped me to get bald-headed (laughter).


Interviewer 2: Do you still have that helmet? Do you still have that helmet in your garage or anything?


Gilliland: It’s gone.


Wyche: Well Mike, most people that started working in the log woods, stayed in the log woods. They just loved to do the work out there, didn’t they?


Gilliland: Yes sir, there ain’t no work like it. You get attached to it.


Interviewer 2: What did you love about it so much? What did you love about the work so much?


Gilliland: I never did understand him.


Wyche: Why did you like to log so much?


Gilliland: I don’t know, it just grows on you or something. You just get started, I want to work now so bad, I can’t stand it (laughter).


Wyche: Well Mike after you got your own crew, you really did work. You were there…


Gilliland: Yeah, I’d go in way before daylight and pull the logs and in the evening, after I got transportation to go and come, I’d go back and work til night, until dark. I was in a little old swamp up close to Tabor City pulling logs and I pulled what they call arm wood, all them limbs and things, pulled over on me, didn't hurt me, but I was pinned in there and couldn't get out. Had to take my knife and cut some of the limbs and work my way out. I wasn’t hurt, but it just had me tied down in there.


Wyche: Well it’s dangerous to log by yourself, I know.


Gilliland: Yeah, it’s dangerous anyway, but I don't figure it would hurt any worse if you were by yourself than if you were in a crowd so I took chances.


Wyche: Well Mike, most of the people you hired, they had worked in the log woods before. You liked to get people…


Gilliland: Yeah, that’s the reason I quit. I couldn't get nobody knowed how to do nothing. Men that knowed how could get a better job and could pay him more money. That’s how come he quit or I’d be working right now.


Wyche: Well Mike, when you got out on your own, if the company didn't have something for you to cut and you couldn't buy any timber, you were out of work then, weren’t you?


Gilliland: That’s right, but I never got in that shape.


Wyche: You always had something ahead of you.


Gilliland: The Harrison Company always let me go and cut when I’d seen fit, been very good to me. I went to see him and ask him about his place and he said “You know more about it than I do, go on and cut, you see it often enough”. He was a great help to me. Yes.


Wyche: Well do you remember cutting a place and then going back 20-30 years later and cutting the same place again?


Gilliland: Yeah, the place close up to Honey Hill, that I’ve cut three times.


Wyche: And you clean cut it?


Gilliland: No, you didn't clean cut back then. You just picked out what would make saw timber. The pulp wood and everything was there, it wasn’t a few years, it would be ready again.


Wyche: Well it’s kind of unusual for one man to log the same place three times, isn’t it?


Gilliland: Yeah, you just don’t do it when you clean cut it.


Wyche: Well back then, Wells or anybody, nobody replanted trees, did they?


Gilliland: Nobody.


Wyche: Well did you leave a good seed tree, one tree per acre. Isn’t that what they said you’d leave?


Gilliland: Yeah, but most of the time, you’d cut it down to 12 inch stump. Some would go down to 10, but you couldn't get nothing out of that sawmill man. They wanted 12 or nothing. It wasn’t long that you had timber there after you thinned it out like that, it’d grow a lot faster.


Wyche: So back then, they very seldom clean cut a place, did they?


Gilliland: Never seen it clean cut back then cause you didn't have a place to sell pulp wood.


Wyche: It had to be at least 10 inches at the butt before they….


Gilliland: Yeah, most of the time it was 12. Sometimes they’d buy it at 14.


Wyche: They would tell you don’t bring anything less than 14 inches in here.


Gilliland: Well if you got less than that, the landowner would come on you and make you pay for it (laughter). He didn't sell nothing under that. There was a lot of that done.


Wyche: So you never messed with replanting trees at all even after they started?


Gilliland: No, I never did mess with that at all.


Wyche: But when you were cutting the timber company’s land, would they ever replant back in the 40’s and the 50’s?


Gilliland: No sir.


Wyche: They just left a few trees for seeds and you cut every kind of tree you could find.


Gilliland: Every one that was big enough. If you cut hardwood, you cut hardwoods the same way.


Wyche: Pine, there were more pines than anything else around here?


Gilliland: Yeah.


Wyche: J.W. Wells was making lumber. He didn't make veneer, did he?


Gilliland: He made veneer to wind up there at Hallsboro.


Wyche: But he never made plywood there?


Gilliland: Yeah, he made plywood there.


Wyche: I didn't know if they made plywood or not.


Gilliland: Yeah, they had the press and everything. They pressed it. They went more for bed rail stuff. I don’t know how many carloads went. I didn't know they used that many bed rails.


"Wyche: They were plywood, weren’t they?


Gilliland: Yeah.


Wyche: Well Mike after you got your truck, it wasn’t long before you bought two trucks, was it?


Gilliland: It was a good while, but finally bought two.


Wyche: When Bill got big enough to help you, your son.


Gilliland: The first truck driver I’d ever had (laughter).


Interviewer 2: Your son was your first truck driver?


Gilliland: Sir?


Interviewer 2: Your son was your first truck driver? Your son was your first truck diver?


Gilliland: Yes.


Wyche: But you did all of it. You would take a chainsaw, fell a tree, buck it, limb it, everything.


Gilliland: I’d do any of it and get another load of logs.


Wyche: Well it changed a lot, didn't it, Mike, from the first chainsaw? You had one chainsaw to do everything with. Then you got a feller/buncher and you got the bucker on the loader there where you could cut your logs into length. You could get more money doing that than you could selling the tree length couldn’t you?


Gilliland: Yes.


Wyche: Cut it up, if you had a crew, you could sell that for pulp wood. Well Mike would you advise a young man to go into logging business today?


Gilliland: Umm…No (laughter). Ain’t no timber here. If there was timber here, I’d say yes.


Wyche: But it’s very, very expensive to get into it now.


Gilliland: Mighty expensive.


Wyche: Because you got to have a Franklin. What does a Franklin cost you?


Gilliland: A good one now would run you $125-150,000.


Interviewer 2: What’s a Franklin?


Gilliland: That’s a four wheel outfitted, buckles in the middle, you can go around, got a wench on the back, grapples, drop it down, pick it up, one man can handle it.


Wyche: It was made in Franklin, Virginia. It’s got a ticulated steer. You can turn the thing in about 10 feet or less, can’t you?


Gilliland: You can turn it pretty short, yeah.


Wyche: Because it bends in the middle like he said, four wheel drive, funny looking thing, but it’s very, very practical for logging down here. It beats the old caterpillar tractors. Well Mike you never did use a wheel tractor in the woods, did you?

Gilliland: We used one a little about the deck. I never owned one for the log woods, but people I worked for had one. It never did do much.


Wyche: But you couldn't drag logs with a wheel tractor; it just couldn’t hold up. But you always used a crawler?


Gilliland: Yeah.


Wyche: And then you went to Franklins, you still kept a bulldozer, a crawler?


Gilliland: Yeah, kept the crawler to pull with. I just bought the Franklin and run them together.


Wyche: Well Mike when you quit, you’d never cut a tree up in the woods. You’d bring the whole tree out.


Gilliland: Bring the whole tree, yeah.


Wyche: And you had that rack that knocked the limbs off of it, didn't you?


Gilliland: Yeah, called a limbing gate. Built just like a gate. Just pull around the front of it and back up through it, turned the limbs the other way and snap them off.

Wyche: When you started selling way back in the late 40’s or the early 50’s, how high up a tree did you sell a log? When did you stop cutting? What was the minimum little limb they would take?


Gilliland: They’d usually want it at least 8 inches at the little end.


Wyche: So you left all the rest in the woods, let it rot? And you didn't do that now though. You’d make pulp wood out of it.


Gilliland: I think it would still pay though, cut them tops, timber grows mighty good.


Wyche: You mean just let it lie down and rot?


Gilliland: Let it rot back in the ground, that’s good for the land I think.


""Wyche: J.W. Wells, did he ever buy any timber or did he just cut his own?

Gilliland: He’d buy land, timber and all, any way he could get a hold of it.


Wyche: And you bought timber and logs for the companies?


Gilliland: Yeah.


Wyche: You’d do a little buying and would use half for the logger and half for the owner, is that the way it worked or was it different? Depend on what you had?


Gilliland: Yeah, depend on what you had. If it was good pine timber, the man that owned the timber gets more than half of it.


Wyche: And you said sell it where you knew you could sell it for the best price.


Gilliland: Yes sir.


Wyche: But the price usually was about the same.


Gilliland: About the same, yeah. If the Mill got low on logs they’d up it a little bit. Keep the mill going.


Wyche: Well how often did you get run out on account of weather? Damp, wet weather? Did you ever have to quit completely?


Gilliland: Uh, once or twice maybe for a week or something, but I’d always get out and find a hill somewhere, someplace.


Wyche: Well did you try to have a tract of timber on a hill? That you said “I’ll go to this when it gets too wet here.”?


Gilliland: Oh yeah, called it my smokehouse (laughter). Worked a lot of Ben’s timber like that if I know it was dry, I’d leave it til it started raining and I’d move in on it.

Wyche: Well Mike of course you were selling timber for as much as you could. Could you get more in the winter or the summer for timber? Did it depend on the market or what?


Gilliland: About the same all the way through. It’d run short in the summer sometimes as well as it did in the winter, and it’d give you a little extra to keep the mill going.

Wyche: To keep the mill going cause they had to get the logs in there.


Interviewer 2: Did you sell it by the log or by the load or how did you sell it?


Gilliland: Had to follow a rule back when I first started. They’d measure each log you carried in and tell you how many feet was in it and pay you that. Then they finally got scales and they’d pay you by the pound.


Wyche: Well Mike when you started selling, they would take it with knots and anything else in it about, wouldn't they?

Gilliland: Yeah.


Wyche: But now they won’t do that, is that right?


Gilliland: They don’t want no knots in it now.


Wyche: And crooks, they make you carry it back. Now you could pretty much look at a load of logs or a tract of timber and tell what you were going to get out of it, what the owner was going to get out of it there, but you never did scale them yourself, did you?


Gilliland: No.


Wyche: You just let the man at the mill scale them.


Gilliland: I’ve heared the people that bought timber like that, go to a man to buy timber and tell him I’ve give you a good scale, but he don’t have nothing to do with that scale. The man at the mill is the one that does that.


Wyche: In other words, say you bought some timber from me. The more you could sell it for, the more I got, the more you got.


Gilliland: That’s right.


Wyche: So you sort of picked around.


Interviewer 2: This is a Dole scale?


Wyche: Yeah.


Gilliland: Is that a Dole? or a?

Interviewer 2: I think. A Dole. Your brother brought it to me.


Gilliland: It’ll tell you somewhere if it’s a Dole or not.


Wyche: Right, my cousin brought it to you. They used to say a good man with a five cents pencil and one of them could break up a millionaire (laughter).


Gilliland: He was quite a man, I’ll tell you that.


Interviewer 2: Did you ever see a machine like this out in the woods?


Gilliland: Yes sir, I’ve run them.


Interviewer 2: Tell me about that machine. It looks pretty dangerous.


Gilliland: It is (laughter). That saw turned backwards and you cut a log in two and let it get down to the roots, you had to outrun that thing (laughter). It’d come back at you, I’m telling you. You’d have to drag them handles down. If it got hung on the root, they’d have to get back off it before you could bear it down …yeah, it would run you around the woods. Yeah, I’ve run them like that. It would turn each way too. You could stump with it and then turn the blade the other way and cut the logs up.


Wyche: Well it wasn’t nearly as practical as a chainsaw, was it?


Gilliland: It wasn’t nothing. Two good men with a crosscut could beat it.


Interviewer 2: When was that being used? In the 1950’s?


Gilliland: Late 40’s and 50’s.

Interviewer 2: But not much to it.


Gilliland: Well you take like a Waccamaw veneer down here. When they come springing down the logs, it was right-handed, they had to tear down the yard a clean place and pull the log out and go up there and cut it in blocks. It worked right good for them. One man could do it instead of two.


Interviewer 2: Was there a name for that machine?


Wyche: What did they call that? A Buck Saw?


Gilliland: I believe that’s what they called it. It was a buck saw as best I remember.


Wyche: But if you didn't have a clean smooth place to run it, it was dangerous and slow and …


Gilliland: You couldn’t push it through there if it wasn’t clean. You couldn't push them bushes over with it. A man had to push it, it wasn’t self-compelled at all.


Wyche: Mike, do you remember what that first chainsaw you bought cost new?


Gilliland: Less than $200.00, no the first one, that big one, it cost about $300.00. The first little one man saw, it was less than $200.00. You worked on it all day and cut one tree (laughter). It was hard to crank, you’d get the tree in the summertime and crank and when it would crank, it would get so hot, you couldn't work it (laughter).


Wyche: How much were you selling logs for in the 50’s? The late 40’s and 50’s, when you started on your own?


Gilliland: If it was right good timber, you’d get $60 delivered.


Wyche: And when you quit, how much were you getting for the same stuff?


Gilliland: Up as high as $400.00.


Interviewer 2: A man could make a pretty good living doing this?


Gilliland: You could make a better living back when you were selling it for $60 than you could when you were selling it for $400.00.


Interviewer 2: The $60.00 went a lot farther.


Gilliland: Everything was cheap then.


Wyche: How much did you pay your first hired help, Mike?


Gilliland: About $3.00 a day if he was a good man (laughter).


Wyche: And that was for what, a ten hour day?


Gilliland: Eight hours.


Wyche: Eight hours. You had, of course, you had to buy and keep up the tractors and the saws and all that. All he had to do was show up for work.


Gilliland: When I used cross-cuts, I used two and I had four and a man down below Bolden, was real good. Set them and sharpen them, I’d keep two at his house, two in the woods and I’d go and change them at night. I kept good saws for them.


Wyche: Well that made money for you. What about your axes? You sharpen them on the job?


Gilliland: Yeah, you sharpen them on the job.


Wyche: When you started logging back in the 40’s, how high did you cut a stump? How much stump did you leave?

Gilliland: If it was swelled up, we’d cut it way up. A lot of that stuff, the big cypress especially, we’d get up on that vane that comes out on the side and cut a gap out in it and take a board and stick it in in-a-ways and climb up on that and stand on that and cut.


Wyche: So you’d actually stand on a little old 8 inch board up two of them. Well that was dangerous work too, wasn’t it?


Gilliland: Well the big thing, if the tree started falling, you had to jump off that thing and run.


Wyche: And you might be 5 or 6 feet off the ground?


Gilliland: Yeah, a heap of times you would be.


Interviewer 2: Why’d you go up that high?


Wyche: That swelled out butt.


Interviewer 2: To get over the big wide part of it?


Wyche: Yeah.


Gilliland: A heap of times if it was that high, you’d have to put in two of them jogboards. You call ‘em jogboards. You’d get up on the bottom one to get on the top one.


Wyche: It was a stair effect and what they did was just cut a wedge out of the trunk, take an axe and drive that board in that slot there and then stand on that little old thing and pull the cross-cut saw.


Gilliland: When you got pulled that far, you could have your axe sticking in the tree, take it and knock that thing around and put your standing further around there.


Wyche: Well cypress logging is more dangerous than pine logging for that reason, wasn’t it?


Gilliland: Yeah, it was more dangerous. The limbs were more brittle. The cypress limbs will break up bad.


Wyche: When you were logging sometimes those trees were growing in the water too, weren’t they?

Gilliland: Yeah, but most of the time when you do that, you’d get out there and cut two or three trees and saw them cross way, they were going to fall, for it to fall on down in that mud, you’d have to take a handle off and jog saw it down there to cut the thing off. You’d cut them trees for it to fall on and hold it up out of the mud.


Wyche: Cause you didn't want your log to get muddy cause you knew you were going to have to buck it up.


Gilliland: Yeah, you had to buck it up. Some of them cypress in that bad swamp would half bury theirself in there. They’d go right down and hit that mud.


Wyche: And you had to go saw in the mud, buck them up cause you couldn't pull them out, the whole tree.


Gilliland: No, you didn't have nothing big enough to pull them out with then. Well, you still ain’t; one of them big cypresses.


Wyche: Do you remember what the biggest cypress you ever cut was? How big was it?


Gilliland: I don’t remember in inches, but the butt of it is about that much higher than my head. I hauled it from the river mouth on one of them little trucks, 3300 foot in that cut. I got the picture of it somewhere at home now.


Interviewer 2: I’d love to see that, love to see that photograph somewhere.


Gilliland: It was a nice tree.


Wyche: Is that about the biggest you’ve ever seen around here?


Gilliland: Yeah, I believe that’s the biggest I ever seen around here. There might be some bigger, but they’re hollow. And we didn’t cut them.


Wyche: How did you load that big one on your truck? Did you have a pulley or a skidder?


Gilliland: We had an old-timey Mack truck. When they first came out, they was chain drive. Your rear end sat on top of the chassis and you had them chains to go down and put on your wheel. Well we put a wench or a drum back and take them chains off and put them on that drum and you had all your gears you could change. It’d would pick up ‘bout anything and them big ones, we had to put a bluff back up to it, tie it to the end of the boom up there, you’d have to roll it and get in a cable. Tongs wouldn’t pick it up, it would tear out it was so heavy. Back it up, I mean load it up and get it higher than your truck and then back your truck under it. Never would take the chance that something would break and it’d fall along the truck. It would tear it all to pieces.


Wyche: Yeah, as heavy as it was. So you carried one cut then?


Gilliland: Yeah.


Wyche: And that was a big load.


Gilliland: 3300 feet.


Interviewer 2: When you were out in the swamps, did you have a pistol or anything to shoot snakes with? Were snakes ever a problem? Did you have to take a firearm with you to shoot snakes or alligators or anything like that?


Gilliland: No, we just let them go.


Wyche: Well Mike, when you started logging, you’d run over the snakes with leaves, somebody says first tree hits the ground, snakes?


Gilliland: You have trouble with snakes when you first move in. That racket, they’ll move out. The second day, very seldom do you ever see one. Now if you want to see snakes, you log at a place and let it get wet and have to move out and come back and leave some logs decked up or something, they’ll den in there. You’ve got snakes, plenty of them then (laughter).


Wyche: You never shot any? You didn't carry a gun in the woods?


Gilliland: I never carried a gun. If I had one, I’d shoot one, but very seldom ever have one. When we had that railhead coming out at the river mouth down at the lake, I kept a rifle in the truck. I’d shoot gators and things, see them come out, I’d shoot them.


Wyche: Well there wasn’t any law against shooting a gator then, was there?


Gilliland: If there was, I didn't know about it (laughter).


Wyche: Well Mike, if a man had some timber to sell, first thing you’re going to do is walk it over and see what he’s got, see if it’s worth your while and make a deal. Did you ever went up a liquor still walking through the woods?


Gilliland: Plenty of them. I got part of one in my shop now (laughter). They were moving it out up along the river swamp and I took the condenser and carried it to the house. I got it now. It’s made out of pure copper and it run a 3” stream. I don’t know if they run that big a stream. I’d like to seen the kettle, but they done had it and gone.


Wyche: And you did run across a lot of liquor stills?


Gilliland: Yeah, back out when I first growed up, I helped make a lot of whiskey. You’d have to have water. You’d have to dig you a well. You had to have water. That condenser had to stay cool all the time for that whiskey to go through.


Interviewer 2: Was there anybody doing any turpentining when you were …the naval stores? The pine trees, was there any turpentining?


Wyche: You never did get on boxing trees to make turpentine, did you?


Gilliland: I never did do any of it, but when we logged down in Georgia, it was going on there.


Wyche: Up here, you’ve cut a lot of box face trees where they got the turpentine from.


Gilliland: Always wanted to find a good box face one and carry it to the lake to give to them people, but I never did run up with it.


""Wyche: They’re getting gone now. There’s a lot of old tar kills, you run across them about everywhere you went, I reckon.


Gilliland: Miss Mintz, her sister has the most of them than any place I’ve ever been close to Elizabeth. She’s got about 30 acres there and I believe there’s three on there.


Wyche: There must have been a lot of long leaf pine growing there.


Gilliland: Yeah. They always put where there’s a lot of long leaf.


Wyche: Well Mike, some of your people stayed with you a good long time, didn't they? Some of your old crew, Marvin?


Gilliland: Yeah, they stayed, some of them until they died. I had one man, he lives in Bolden, he worked for me 28 years. He run the loader for me. Colored man, Marvin Beatty.


Wyche: Yeah, I remember Marvin.


Gilliland: He named his last boy after me.


Wyche: Is that right? (laughter).


Interviewer 2: Is he still alive?


Gilliland: Oh yeah, he’s still logging. He’s about, I reckon about 58 or 60 year old now. He was just young when he started with me.


Wyche: Where’s he logging? Who is he working with now?


Gilliland: I believe there’s a fella Mitchell, he lives there in Freeman. Got that shop with all that equipment. See the second one on the left, that’s him. He’s got these high priced skidders. You put dual wheels on them for these wet places, that’s why I recon they so high. He’s got one outfit at….they call it a shovel, it’s like a dragline with grapples on and he loads the end up on that thing. He’d bring a truckload at a time with it.


Wyche: He can pick up a whole bunch at a time.


Gilliland: Yeah, he just stacks them in there, and he get all in there he can get. He takes them to the loader like that. He can get reasonably good timber. He can carry a truckload of pulp wood at a time with that thing.


Wyche: Well Mike, can a man make a living logging just pulp wood now? Be kind of hard, wouldn't it?


Gilliland: Be mighty hard.


Wyche: But the paper company, the owner says you’ve got to sell the pulp wood too.


Gilliland: Yeah, and if you sell pulp wood, you got to go through a dealer and he gets…he can eat ham while you eat fat back. (laughter). I finally got a dealership with two companies. I had my own dealership.


Wyche: Okay, so if anybody sold that kind of company a load of logs, they had to sell them through you.


Gilliland: If it come from me, yeah, but I never had nobody, I just used it for myself.


Wyche: For your own business. You were your own dealer in other words, your own broker there.


Gilliland: You could take that dealer cut and give to the man that owned the timber and you could buy the timber and still get as much as you would log the other way. It made it mighty easy to buy timber.

Wyche: You cut out one man there that was taking some of the money without doing any of the work. Well Mike, you sold to just about everybody that used timber around here, Pearson Company, Sledge, Georgia City.

Gilliland: Ward Lumber Company in Elizabethtown, Tabor City Lumber Company and got one over at Wallace and I hauled some timber to Sumpter, South Carolina. Choice Sweet Gum. They paid a good price, I hauled some over to Sumpter.


Wyche: Well what were they going to use that for? pulp?


Gilliland: Plywood, they were big logs.

Wyche: It had to be good stuff?


Gilliland: Oh yeah.


Wyche: But now, when you started, could you sell sweetgum anywhere?


Gilliland: Yeah, it sold better then than it does now really.


Wyche: What were they using it for?


Gilliland: Using it for veneer and crossties.


Wyche: But most of your logging dealt with pine …


Gilliland: Oh yeah, you had a bottle in your pocket (laughter) with a fine straw in it, and you’d shake that, if it was a big tree, you’d put it on several times cutting that tree.


Wyche: Because the gum in that pine tree, the turpentine, you couldn’t pull it. Everybody carried a bottle in their pocket.


Gilliland: In the summertime, it would blister your back (laughter). We hired a boy down in Florida, logged down there too a year, and he come out there and he wanted to use a crosscut. He said that’s the easiest thing down here. He said you just work half the time, you pull it one way and the other man has to pull it back (laughter). Just working half time.


Wyche: Well Mike when you first started, I know you used both. Was it easier to run a chainsaw, a one-man chainsaw or a two-man crosscut?


Gilliland: Really, on the men, it was easier on the crosscut.


Wyche: I have heard that. Even with the new saws.


Gilliland: Yeah. You could get so much more done, but you’ve got a lot more work with the chainsaw. But cutting with the crosscut saw, if you’ve got somebody that knows how to pull with you and a good saw, it’s easy work.


Interviewer 2: How often do you have to recalibrate that crosscut saw?


Wyche: How often do you have to reset the teeth in that thing?


Gilliland: It would depend on you. If you let tree pinch on it much, you had to do it pretty often. But if you keep your wedge and keep the tree picked up off of it, when it pinched, it would push that thing together, your teeth. If you keep it from pinching, you could go two or three weeks without setting it.


Wyche: How about sharpening it?

Gilliland: You’d have to sharpen it every other day if you kept it out of the dirt. If you got it in the dirt, it would need it every day. It’s just like anything else. You run a chainsaw in the dirt, you’d ruin your chain right quick. If you saw in the dirt with a crosscut, it does the same thing to it.

Wyche: Well Mike, you obviously made a little money logging, but you worked hard.

Gilliland: Yeah, I made a little money.

Wyche: But you had to be careful in buying timber and in cutting timber. You couldn't go out and buy a new tractor every week.

Gilliland: No sir. I always tried to take care of my equipment. Usually go into the woods and change, grease and oil on Sundays so it would be ready Monday.

Wyche: And you’d do that about every time. I mean every week, you would change that oil?

Gilliland: Yeah. North Carolina Lumber Company got their first diesel skidder. They gave me a day if I’d go on Sunday and grease and change oil. I was living at Honey Hill. A lot of times I’d get up and my wife would get up and fix breakfast and I’d go in the woods and have that done and come back, eat my breakfast.

Wyche: And you’d go down there and grease it and change the oil?

Gilliland: Yeah and put the fillers, they wouldn't trust the colored people, afraid they’d leave the plug loose or something and tear the motor up. Been down there many a Sunday. They wanted it done every week. Made no difference how they run it. They wanted it changed every week.

Wyche: And you’d change oil in your Franklins and tractors about every week?

Gilliland: Yeah.

Wyche: No matter how many hours you had on it.

Gilliland: Tried to get them all ready for Monday morning.

Wyche: So that they wouldn't have to stand around while somebody was working on the tractor.

Gilliland: A colored man make a half a day greasing one (laughter). Some of them, some of them real good.

Wyche: Well you got to know what you’re doing there. When you bought your first tractor, you had a lot of studying to do about it, I guess, and play with it and use it. I can’t think of anything.

Interviewer 2: Any particular people that you knew in the logging business that were interesting people that come to mind when you start thinking about the old days?

Wyche: Anybody else that logged along with you as long as you did that are still living? Do you know of any?

Gilliland: No, I don’t.

Wyche: Did you ever work Lacey Powell?

Gilliland: Yeah.

Wyche: He was a good logger.

Gilliland: Yeah, he was a good logger and a good man.

Wyche: How about Robert Bellamy?

Gilliland: He was a good logger too.

Wyche: Most of them that stayed with it got to be pretty good about not getting hurt and knowing what they were doing.

Gilliland: Yeah.

Wyche: And you don’t know of any other than Marvin, now Marvin’s still in it?

Gilliland: Still living, yeah.

Interviewer 2: Where is he?

Interviewer 2: What was his name?

Wyche: Marvin Beatty I think. I’m going to look him up for you. You don’t know of any others other than Bill that logged with you that are still alive and so forth?

Gilliland: Well there’s some few around, they didn't stay long that worked with me. Blade White they called him he stayed with me until he died. William Butler stayed until he died. He worked with me for years and years.

Wyche: Anything else you want to say about logging in the old days, Mike?

Gilliland: Well lots of things a man learns. Lacey Powell and Robert Bellamy were good at it, fixing lines, cables break in two, you splice them together, put eyes in them to put your tongs and things on. There ain’t many people could do that.

Wyche: And they could do it?

Gilliland: Yeah Robert Bellamy was really good at it. And Lacey Powell had a brother James, he was good at it. Break a skidder line in two, they’d cut off that frazzled up end, splice that thing back together and it would be going in a little while. But that’s some of the hottest work you ever done. You’re always in a hurry and have to get out and set on a log to do that, to drive that mull and spike through that cable to get that end, that’s mighty hot work.

Interviewer 2: Would you do it all again? If you could do it all again?

Wyche: Would you go back into logging?

Gilliland: Yeah, I’d wait for daylight to come in the morning (laughter). If I could get any labor, in the county, I still have enough equipment to log with, I’d go back. I never would have quit if I got any help.

Wyche: But it kept getting harder and harder to get help with this kind of work because it was hard, dirty work.

Gilliland: And you get sorry and sorrier labor.

Wyche: Tear up the equipment.

Interviewer 2: That was the main problem, was the labor.

Wyche: And Mike, when you quit, the labor was a lot easier than it was when you started, wasn’t it? In other words, it wasn’t as hard to log when you quit as it was?

Gilliland: No, good gracious no.

Wyche: You had all that machinery with you now.

Gilliland: See, I had that tree cutter of mine had air conditioning and everything you got in your automobile on it, tilt steering wheel, it was housed in, yellow jackets couldn’t get to you.

Wyche: Did you ever have any trouble with yellow jackets?

Gilliland: Plenty of it. If I ever found the nest, I had my bulldozer, they’d had it. Get me a bladeful of dirt and go over. You could go back in a few minutes and dig it up, do whatever you wanted to. They wouldn’t bother you.

Wyche: How about hornets?

Gilliland: They’re bad, they’ll knock you down just about. You remember Mr. Wilson used to be the machinist for North Carolina Lumber Company. He and Mary had a small kid then. We went to the beach one Sunday and I was driving, Mr. Wilson was sitting over there. Two or three little colored boys on the side of the road throwing sticks at a hornet’s nest. I stopped. I said get you some sticks and beat ‘em good and lay down behind the car. I thought the hornets would fly into that glass, but they wouldn’t. They done that and I said well give them another good one (laughter) and they got ’em some sticks and got them stirred up good, and I took off and left. You talk about some colored boys running, they was goin,’ old man Wilson said “That’s the commonest thing I ever seen anybody do.” (laughter)

Wyche: That’s about it. Well, Mike we thank you sir.

Gilliland: Yes sir.

Interviewer 2: Thank you, Mr. Gilliand, sure do appreciate it so much.

Wyche: I told him you knew more about the old logging than anybody else. You know anybody around here that’s been logging longer than you have?


Gilliland: I sure don’t.

Wyche: They’re all dead.

Gilliland: Somebody asked me a while back why don’t you go home, you’re retired. I said I ain’t got no business down there, ain’t nobody down there I know. I know two people that’s living down there.

Wyche: Where you were raised?

Gilliland: But all the people I know, they’re gone.

Wyche: How old are you Mike?

Gilliland: I’ll be 86 the 31st day of March.

Wyche: And you worked until you were 80, didn't you?

Gilliland: I was about 83 when I quit, come out of the woods.

Wyche: And you were doing everything, chainsaw, Franklin, loader?

Gilliland: Up until I had that stroke, I could go mighty good, but after that, I can’t use my feet. I fall down a lot. I still do more work than most people (laughter).

Wyche: You still do a big garden?

Gilliland: I got over an acre of gardening and I help other people.

Wyche: You’ll do that.

Interviewer 2: Well thank you sir, we do appreciate it.

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