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Interview with W.A. Settelmeyer Sr., September 13, 2002 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with W.A. Settelmeyer Sr., September 13, 2002
September 13, 2002
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Settelmeyer, W.A., Sr. Interviewer:  Zarbock, Paul Date of Interview:  9/13/2002 Series:  Southeast North Carolina (SENC) Length  55 minutes


Zarbock: Good morning. My name is Paul Zarbock, staff member with UNCW’s Randall Library. Today is the 13th of September in the year 2002. We’re at the mill, the International Paper Co. in Riegelwood, North Carolina. Mr. Harry Warren is on your right, and Mr. W.A. Settelmeyer, Sr. on your left. Harry, take it away.

Zarbock: Well Mr. Settelmeyer, it sure is nice go be with you this morning. We sure appreciate your coming over and spending some time with us to talk about your profession, or life’s work. It still is your life work to some extent, forestry. Could you give us just a little background first, where you live, how long you’ve been in the area, how long your family has been in the area and I believe we were talking earlier, you said your father was actually in the forestry business himself. Any background history you could provide for us.

Settelmeyer: My father came down to Bladen County with his brother, Martin Luther Settelmeyer and they sawmilled down here and cut timber and delivered it. Some of it was delivered on Cape Fear River by barge and carried down the river. I don’t know where it went to, but they had a railroad track around there where I live now. To the river and they sawmilled on the top of the hillside and went through the lowlands to the Cape Fear River where they loaded it on barge and brought it for export, I guess that’s what they’d do with it.

Warren: Now what year was that?

Settelmeyer: That was in 1917, ’16, or ‘17.

Zarbock: It was their sawmill?

Settelmeyer: It was my father’s brother’s sawmill.

Zarbock: Was it called the Settelmeyer’s Mill or…

Settelmeyer: It was called Settelmeyer’s Mill.

Zarbock: And it was located up on the Cape Fear River?

Settelmeyer: Bladen County on the Cape Fear River, Carver’s Creek Township.

Zarbock: Now were they in lumbering in Catawba region before they came down here?

Settelmeyer: I have no idea, I just know they came down here sawmilling. My mother lived down here. My father met her and they married in, I was born in 1922, so It was about two years before I was born, so it must have been about 1920 that they was married.

Zarbock: So when you were growing up around here, you grew up around the sawmill.

Settelmeyer: I grew up around the sawmill.

Zarbock: That must have been pretty exciting for a young boy, growing up around a sawmill. What are some of the memories you have of growing up around that sort of activity?

Settelmeyer: I remember being at one one time and the valve went off, I forgot what they call the name of the value on the steam sawmill and I have never seen so much steam in my life. They were all running. I heard about boilers busting on steam mills you know. I was a little fellow and I couldn’t go fast enough, but I got away from it. They were cutting beech and delivering it to Georgia Pacific in Council, North Carolina. They were putting the lumber on the side of the railroad tracks.

Zarbock: Did you spend a lot of time around the sawmill when you were growing up?

Settelmeyer: My dad, he would be where he had, what do they do to the fuses on a boiler? What do they do Bill? He worked at the sawmill and I would go occasionally. He would come home and they’d go inside the boilers, they’d be leaking inside and they’d go inside and work on them.

Zarbock: They’d cool them down and actually go inside the boiler.

Settelmeyer: My dad would come, he’d be black as a pot working in that boiler there. I was a little fellow then and he’d look like a little tar baby and he would be hugging me and kissing me.

Zarbock: Now he worked on it with your uncle, Martin Luther Settelmeyer.

Settelmeyer: Right.

Zarbock: So did they have men working for them? How big was the operation? Was it just a family operation or did they grow and expand?

Settelmeyer: It took a bunk cart and a low cart that went to the… you know those old log carts, it took one fellow to operate that. They had two or three in the woods cutting logs. They’d cut, I don’t think they cut over 1000 or 2000 feet a day back then.

Zarbock: So they had a half dozen men or so probably working with them or more.

Settelmeyer: They probably had a half a dozen.

Zarbock: Were you indoctrinated in the lumber business at an early age? Did you see that this was going to be something that you were probably going to follow in your father’s footsteps.

Settelmeyer: You know after you’ve been around the sawmill, you get to smell sawdust and it sticks with you. It’ll stick with you the rest of your life and I was just interested in the trees and timber. That’s really the profession that I would prefer.

Zarbock: You wanted to get into the profession of forestry. How did your dad acquire his logs that he was cutting into lumber? Did he have crews that went out or did people come to him or what?

Settelmeyer: Once you got started in an area, you started cutting. There was plenty of timber back then. People would come to you. You didn't have to go to them or want you to cut their timber or sell it to you and that’s the way that it takes place.

Zarbock: And he would send men out in the woods to pick up logs and put them on the tram and bring them over to the sawmill?

Settelmeyer: Right, most of the timber back then was cut by the thousand. Instead of buying in a lump sum, they bought it by the thousand. $5 a thousand was a big price.

Zarbock: That was my question, what kind of price.

Settelmeyer: $5.00 a thousand for the prettiest pine timber you have ever seen. That was about as much as you could get, that was a premium price at that time for it.

Zarbock: Was it mostly pine what they were cutting? Did they do much cypress or any other types of wood?

Settelmeyer: Mostly pine.

Zarbock: What kind of tools were they using back in those days? It might be different from what we see today.

Settelmeyer: It was quite different. They used crosscut saws back then and it took one person on either end of that. One would pull it and the other one would pull it back to him and that was the way the logs were cut.

Zarbock: I’ve always thought crosscut saws were pretty much just manual labor kind of tool, but I have since learned that they’re really a finely tuned instrument. They have to have those teeth just right, don’t they?

Settelmeyer: There’s an art to it. When the saw was cutting good, they would pull a string out of the wood, like a shoe string, you could tell how sharp the teeth were by the kind of…what they pulled out of it.

Zarbock: Did they have to sharpen those regularly as they were cutting?

Settelmeyer: They would sharpen it I would say once a day.

Zarbock: And they actually had gauges and all?

Settelmeyer: Right, they had gauges to set the teeth. It had to be a certain way. The saw actually if it was filed right, set right, it would pull easier than it would if it won’t. If the teeth weren’t right, separated where you couldn’t cut very easily.

Zarbock: Would they use any kind of water or any kind of lubricant in the cut? What would they do?

Settelmeyer: They took a bottle like a Coke bottle or Pepsi Cola bottle and filled it full of kerosene and stuck pine needles in the top of it like that. They would turn it over and shake it. The kerosene that they had on the saw so the rosin did not stick to the saw.

Zarbock: That was always a problem, the rosin, because pine trees are so full of that stuff. And of course that was the backbone before any file lumbering was going on, before it, the production of naval stores, tars and pitch and turpentine. There might have been a little of that activity going on in your youth. I mean it pretty much died out by 1940 or so. Do you remember?

Settelmeyer: I remember a little bit of the turpentine. Across the river, there’s a Wilson fellow up there and they had turpentine up there and they had the trees cut so that it would drain into the cups.

Zarbock: Did he have a turpentine still?

Settelmeyer: Evidently, they sold it. They would gather it up and sell it to other people. He didn't have a still himself that I know of.

Zarbock: You decided at a pretty young age that you wanted to go into forestry business just like you said because you got sawdust in your bloodstream.

Settelmeyer: Yeah, and you got to smelling it, Ernest Sanders used to own Tabor City Lumber Company, Waccamaw Lumber Company in Tabor City, he said once you’ve got the smell of sawdust in your system, that you never got it out.

Zarbock: Now did you see the transition from this manual power, crosscut saw to using chainsaws and other ways of extracting the timber? Were chainsaws, they really didn't make an appearance until the 1920’s, 1930’s. It was fairly late, wasn’t it?

Settelmeyer: The first that I can remember of the chainsaws were probably earlier than what I am saying, but when they were used it didn’t amount to anything was in the 40’s and they were a great big old cumbersome, took a man on either end of it to carry it, it was so heavy. They were about 11 horsepower I believe.

Zarbock: We have a chainsaw at the forestry museum that’s huge like that and one end of it actually, on the far end of it, there’s actually a handle where a man would hold that end of it. It was so long and so heavy that a man had to be on one end of it. The motor part of it was of course huge and bulky. Did you see a lot of machines like that in the forest?

Settelmeyer: Quite a few, yes sir.

SETTELMEYER JR: Dad, tell them about that big saw, it was like a circle saw that was on two tires that you run up to a tree. It was so dangerous. Do you remember what I’m talking about? It was like a circle saw.

Zarbock: I’ve seen a picture of one of those.

Settelmeyer: They’re real dangerous.

Zarbock: It doesn’t look like it would OSHA approved.

SETTELMEYER JR: Dad, do you know what I’m talking about? It was like a circle saw at a saw mill. It was mounted where it was, it had a horizontal motor and two big tires and it was like a bicycle with two handlebars. You ran it up to tree and tried to cut it.

Settelmeyer: I don’t remember anything about that.

SETTELMEYER JR: I remember seeing some of them.

Zarbock: I have a picture of it, a man down in Florida using one of those and I’d love to have one of those for the museum.

Settelmeyer: They used to pinch them, but they messed up the timber so they went to saws in the last five or six years, they’ve gone to saws

Zarbock: Now growing up with your dad’s lumber industry and your uncle there, you were just surrounded by lumbermen and foresters, weren’t you? What kind of people were these guys? Were they rough and tough manly men or just what was the culture like around there?

Settelmeyer: They didn't get any rougher or tougher than they were, I’d have to say that about them. But they were different, different strokes for different folks you know (laughter). There were bad ones and good ones. Most of them were rough.

Zarbock: What was a typical day for one of those men or a typical work day for your father?

Settelmeyer: They went to work at daylight and they’d come back when they couldn’t see.

Zarbock: They’d be up there all day long. And your dad would be right with them, working right along side them. Did your uncle marry down here and raised his own family? Did the entire family get involved in the lumber business?

Settelmeyer: Yes, the whole family would get involved in it. He married a lady from Catawba County, my uncle did.

Zarbock: And they raised a family down here and got into the lumber business also?

Settelmeyer: Yes, his sons would help him in the lumber business driving trucks, driving tractors and things like that, hauling timber to the mill and from the mill.

Zarbock: Now you’ve seen a lot of trees in North Carolina over your career. What’s the main change in the forests in North Carolina that you’ve seen or is there a change in the forests of North Carolina?

Settelmeyer: You know, back in the fifties, the Green Brothers were in Elizabethtown and they were about the biggest sawmill folks in our area up there. He would cut a tremendous amount of timber and they logged the swamps, Collis Swamp and logged it.

Zarbock: That was mostly cypress I guess.

Settelmeyer: There was some of everything in Collis Swamp, gum, cypress and pine. There were little islands here and there that had tremendous pines on it.

Zarbock: Did you all ever do any logging or lumbering around Caruso Island.

Settelmeyer: I did when I worked with Tabor City Lumber Company, I was in that area.

Zarbock: When was that?

Settelmeyer: That was 1951 until 1959.

Zarbock: Well Caruso didn't even have a paved road.

Settelmeyer: No, they didn't. I worked some in Caruso. Austin Clewis was one of them and he lived at the far end of the trail by the Waccamaw River. You couldn’t go any further.

Zarbock: Now this is getting off forestry a little bit, but you know, I’ve always been interested in Caruso Island. Even today it’s kind of a closed community, but back in the fifties it must have really been a closed, isolated community. What was it like down there? Now everybody knows _____ making dugout canoes. Was there all that activity back then?

Settelmeyer: One of the ones I’m talking about, Clewis, he made some for Airlie, not Airlie, but Gordon gardens.

Zarbock: What was it like working down there on Caruso Island? The men that you hired down there were hard workers, weren’t they?

Settelmeyer: They were hard workers and if they liked you, they would do anything in the world for you. If they didn't know you, they didn't want anything to do with you. You had to be around them. They didn't befriend you very easy.

Zarbock: Kind of had to prove yourself to them?

Settelmeyer: You had to prove yourself to them and once you proved yourself to them, they’d stand up for you from then on.

Zarbock: That must have been a pretty wild time down around Caruso Island back in those days.

Settelmeyer: Yeah, there was one fellow there called Catfish at Caruso Island. He had hollowed a log out and he had an overflow pipe in that area, that’s where he kept his fish and he would sell them. He was a Clewis and he said he noticed one day that his catfish was getting gone and he didn't what in the world was getting his fish out of that thing. He said he happened to look out there one day and he saw an old cat reaching in there with her paws and pulling that fish out. He said he got him a light cord and he plugged it in and stuck the other end of it in that thing. He got in the house and the next time that cat come there, he plugged that in and he hadn’t seen that cat since. He was a character.

Zarbock: (Laughter) Well I imagine that you ran into a lot of characters.

Settelmeyer: I did.

Zarbock: I mean these big tough guys working in the forest, I bet there were a lot of interesting people there. Do you remember any folks similar to the story you just told that stand out in your mind?

Settelmeyer: I’ve got so many. A got a friend of mine…

Zarbock: Well let’s get started. Let’s go in alphabetical order (laughter).

Settelmeyer: A friend of mine that lives in ______ which is across the river from here and he was the best forester and the fellow that looked after nature more than anybody I know. His name was Crawford Marshall. If a squirrel or cat ran across the road, he could see where that thing went and he could tell you exactly what it was. He was my hunting and fishing buddy. I associated with him for 30 years, he was a hunter and a fisherman.

Zarbock: Crawford Marshall?

Settelmeyer: Crawford Marshall.

Zarbock: Now you said he was the best forester. What made a man the best forester?

Settelmeyer: Well I mean the way he took care of the timber. He logged for us at Corbett Package Company and we had a barge operating on the river, up and down the Cape Fear River and I looked after the barge and that’s where we cut the timber and all on Corbett’s land on the Cape Fear River. Crawford and his two brothers logged for us and we’d put it on the barge and we’d take it to Wilmington. We did a lot of thinning is what we’d do. We cut out, and just kept over and over and over.

By saying he was the best forester, I mean by that is that he would take care of the tree. He had a love for trees. It was just like a human almost, the way he would talk about nature and stuff like that.

Zarbock: Did he have almost an inherit ability to evaluate or size up a piece of property for what it might be worth lumber wise, how many trees might be on it and so forth?

Settelmeyer: Right, he logged for a lumber company that used to be in Hallsboro.

Zarbock: Yeah, North Carolina Lumber Company.

Settelmeyer: This guy had come from Florida up here and bought this property across the river. Crawford worked for him and it ran into hard times and they quit the logging. I don’t know if they went into bankruptcy or what, but anyhow, they gave Crawford and his brothers about 6,000 acres of land across the river here.

Zarbock: Just gave it to them.

Settelmeyer: Yes for payment. They gave them that for payment.

Zarbock: That was considerable.

Settelmeyer: The company that I worked for, we offered him, they wanted to sell it at one time. We looked at it, Wilbur Corbett and I did. We came up with a figure of two and a half million dollars that we offered him for it. Crawford wanted three and he wouldn’t take the two and a half. So they still, he died and his two brothers are still living, in pretty bad shape, but they’ve still got the property right across the river here.

Zarbock: Didn't want to sell and didn't have to sell.

Settelmeyer: Didn't have to. Crawford told me that the only money he ever spent was the interest on, on the interest of his money. He never spent the interest on his money, only the interest on the interest was the only money that he ever spent and he was right. He gave his wife a Maytag washing machine out there on the outside in the wintertime and she’d be out there washing clothes when they could have had anything in the world in the house. She’d be out there in that cold weather washing out there. But he was a character, that was my buddy.

Zarbock: Sounds like it. He passed away though.

Settelmeyer: Yes, he and I fished and hunted and had many a good time together.

Zarbock: How many years has it been since he passed?

Settelmeyer: He’s been dead about five years or six. His boy wants to know how come I don’t come over and hunt with him. I hunted so much with Crawford that I told him that I thought so much about his daddy when I went over there that I couldn’t hunt.

Zarbock: Just made you a little bit sad.

Settelmeyer: Yeah, I was in a tree at one time and Crawford had some corn and stuff and I came over to see him. We got up in a Live Oak tree there and I got above Crawford, he was below me and I went to sleep standing up in that tree. Crawford said, “If you don’t wake up, I’m going to hit you off of this damn tree” (laughter). He and I had some times together.

Zarbock: I’m glad Crawford made it into this interview. Are there any other interesting characters that you recall?

Settelmeyer: Now Crawford was a good friend of John Burney’s in Wilmington and Bertram Williams and Raeford Trask, all hunted with Crawford here and the Barefoot boys. Fred Tillery, a superior court judge, he used to come up there with his guitar. They called him the singing judge (laughter). He’d be picking his guitar. But I’m getting away from forestry.

Zarbock: Yeah, but it brings up a thought and I want to kind of go back to growing up around the lumber mill. What was the culture like? What did your family…I mean you worked hard every day. The lumber mill, it ran probably about six days a week, maybe seven. Was Sunday truly the day of rest? What kind of family diversions, entertainment, sort of revolved around people that were working in the woods and in the lumber mills? Were you a close-knit group? Not only did you work together, but you hunted and fished together.

Settelmeyer: Right. We were, back then, in the 30’s and 40’s, it was such a hard time making a living that we were mostly working all the time. Then the 40’s came and we had World War II.

Zarbock: You went to the shipyards.

Settelmeyer: I went to the shipyards and stayed down there about 3-1/2 years.

Zarbock: Did your family continue to run the lumber company in Bladen County?

Settelmeyer: Yeah, for a period of time there they did.

Zarbock: During the entire war?

Settelmeyer: I don’t know whether it was the entire war or not, but they were running one, yeah. They had a sawmill. I had an uncle that was cutting poles and piling. The Caruso plant put a mill in there about 1935, 36, and I have an uncle that got involved in cutting poles and selling them to the Caruso Company and I was interested in that. After I got out of the shipyard, him and I formed a little company and I started cutting poles and piling separate from him.

I did that for about four years. Could tell from a 925 to a 275. I could look at a tree and tell, hit it like that and take a red crayon and put what to cut out of it. I could tell you how many feet were in that tree, I mean how long it was, when the boys were cutting, what length to cut it before it ever hit the ground.

Zarbock: Did they get most of their poles from around here, local?

Settelmeyer: Most of them were local. The best poles and the straightest were long leaf pines.

Zarbock: In growing up, was church the main opportunity for socializing and getting together with your neighbors and everything?

Settelmeyer: Yes and the little red school house. We used to have a school house up there and all the social events were in the school house just about and related to the church.

Zarbock: What kind of social events were you likely to have? You probably didn't have rural education at that time?

Settelmeyer: You know, you’d be surprised, one of the head men of the mill, Pete Peters, was in a play they put on. They put on plays and stuff like that. They had a colored minstrel and old Pete was in that thing and he was head of the mill. They put that thing on over here at Acme Delco and several schools and all. It was real good. But they did things like that, they put on plays. What’s our buddy’s name, Charlie Daniels’ son? Charlie Daniels, he told my uncle, this was uncle Edgar, he said, “Please let my boy come up and play for you boys at the schoolhouse one night.” He said I’ll do anything. He about worried me to death over that thing.

Charlie was 16 years old then. Uncle Edgar said to bring him on and they would try to get somebody up there to hear him. He was up there one night, it was hot. There was no air-conditioning. The song of Elvis Presley had come out, don’t step on my “Blue Suede Shoes” and that boy played that, I believe a dozen times. He was a big old heavy boy and the sweat was running off him. He was wet all over with perspiration. I left about 11:00. He had been there from about 7:00 to 11:00 singing just as hard as he could. When I left at 11:00, he was still singing that song, Don’t Step on my Blue Suede Shoes.

We had a good time together. People enjoyed life more then than they do now. They had time to visit with one another and now they’re trying to make a dollar and they have to be somewhere else so they can help their families.

Zarbock: Is that the main difference, that people kind of took the time for each other?

Settelmeyer: They didn’t have anything else back then but time. They didn't have television. I had one of the first televisions up there. That was in the 40’s.

Zarbock: If you don’t mind, kind of put together a chronology of your career Mr. Settelmeyer. You were born in 1922 and grew up…was the lumber company there at the house? Was it all like part of the homestead situation or was it a little further away?

Settelmeyer: They were ground sawmills, steam boilers and they would move from track to track and saw as many logs as they could. It was a mobile mill.

Zarbock: So there wasn’t any real manufacturing activity going on at the house that you grew up in?

Settelmeyer: No sir. The only thing we did there was eat and go back to work in the field.

Zarbock: So the sawmill really was where it needed to be.

Settelmeyer: That’s right, it could be here, 20 miles from here, 30 miles from here. Then it would move to another track. There had to be a certain amount of timber to move the mill you know.

Zarbock: So in those early days, you smelled the sawdust and got it into your blood system and decided this was what you wanted to do. You said you went to a one room schoolhouse in Bladen County, your early education.

Settelmeyer: I went to a place called Zara, I think there were three rooms in the schoolhouse.

Zarbock: What was the name of it again?

Settelmeyer: Zara, Z-a-r-a. It’s right up the other side of the East Arcadia school on the right. One of my first teachers up there, Miss Kate Monroe, this uncle of mine when he went to school, that was his first grade teacher.

Zarbock: Oh really.

Settelmeyer: There was quite a difference between my age and his.

Zarbock: Was this Martin Luther?

Settelmeyer: No, this was Edgar Flowers, my mother’s brother.

Zarbock: He was from around the area too?

Settelmeyer: He lived right close to me and he’d been involved in the timber business in South Carolina and different places here and there working.

Zarbock: So your whole family was involved in it it sounds like, not just your dad and Martin Luther, your uncle, but on your mother’s side of the family also.

Settelmeyer: Right, my mother’s side of the family, her uncle would cut hardwood logs. They called them lighters back then instead of barges. They would say they were gong to cut logs and put them on the lighter down there. ______ still in the towing business down there.

Zarbock: Right, the older man passed away a couple of years ago.

Settelmeyer: Well they’d send lighters up the river and pick up these logs to take them back to Wilmington, they used to have a sawmill there. I remember the mill at Bolton, Waccamaw Lumber Company. I used to go to Bolton when they had locomotive they’d send to Makatoka. They’d take them that whole week and then come back from Makatoka on Friday evening.

Zarbock: Where is Makatoka?

Settelmeyer: It’s way down in the Green Swamp at the end of the line down there. Well old Waccamaw Lumber Company, at the time it burned a little bit. They had a coal fire during World War I and they thought the Germans had set it on fire, but they got it repaired and there were three fellows that rode the carriage on that thing and turned it back and forth like that. It had a big old flywheel on that thing. It must have been 12-15 feet. But Waccamaw Lumber Company was on the largest lumber companies. I heard at that time it was the largest in the United States.

Zarbock: Right in Bolton.

Settelmeyer: Right in Bolton. That’s where Bolton comes from. There was an old hotel there.

Zarbock: Now was there any proof that there was German sabotage? Was there any proof?

Settelmeyer: No, that was just what somebody was thinking.

Zarbock: There were a lot of Germans in the area. I’ve always been mystified by this superstructure down in the Leland area that has always been referred to as the old sausage plant. It’s right on the river, about five stories high. I heard that a bunch of Germans ran that. Nothing but a superstructure left now. Do you remember what I’m talking about? It’s kind of near Navassa right across of the CP&L power plant.

Settelmeyer: Another friend of mine, Hobson Sammon, he had German prisoners working for him.

Zarbock: Really, out of Wilmington? We were talking about prisoners of war working for in the tobacco industry last night.

Settelmeyer: They worked for this friend of mine, Hobson Sammon. He had a sawmill and a planing mill and they worked for him during the war. I don’t know whether he picked them up, or they went and got them, but they were Germans.

Zarbock: POW’s?

Settelmeyer: Yeah, prisoners of war.

Zarbock: Did they have guards to keep an eye on them or something?

Settelmeyer: No, they didn't. I don’t remember there being any guards. That’s one thing a little boy would remember, you know, seeing somebody with a gun. I don’t remember that. They would check them out. They got real good service out there, they were real good workers.

Zarbock: Where was this?

Settelmeyer: Rosindale.

Zarbock: Another lumber company. It sounds like lumber companies were just scattered all over this place.

Settelmeyer: Well there wasn’t much else to do. It was either textiles or lumber when I come along. Some had truck farming in my area.

Warren: Were those prisoners paid or how was that handled?

Settelmeyer: I don’t know as much as I should about them. They did something for them. They evidently lived in camps and they would go and get them and haul them there and let them work. Then they’d take them back to camp. I’m not sure just how it worked.

SETTELMEYER JR: Mr. Sammon said they were good workers. There were a bunch of them after the war that didn't want to go home. They wanted to stay, but they had to go anyway.

Zarbock: I think in general German POW’s were happy to be here for a variety of reasons. Getting back to your career Mr. Settelmeyer, you grew up around the industry, decided to go into it. Did you decide to go to school to be trained in forestry?

Settelmeyer: I got my forestry license through the grandfather’s clause that they had, you know.

Zarbock: What was that? I’m not familiar with that. Were you an apprentice?

Settelmeyer: If you had been in forestry for a certain period of time and you knew Silva culture and knew this and that about forestry, they would let you get your registered forestry license. I got mine, 362.

Zarbock: You were the 362nd person to get your forestry license in North Carolina?

Settelmeyer: Right in North Carolina. Nelson Squires, Squires Timber Company, he got 363. I just happened to know that. Crawford Marshall, they were giving him a hard time. John Burney and I, we talked to John Burney about it and he told us to talk to some guy in Raleigh, an attorney I think. So we went before the board and they gave me mine. They were kind of slow about it.

Carl Gibson, head of Canal Woods, Mr. Gibson, I wrote him a letter for him to sign and he said he thought I was already a registered forester. Him and I used to go around and buy timber and land. We bought that Pineland Creek Farm over there in Tabor City. It was 9,999 acres in that tract. They sent me mine and didn't send Crawford his. So we went back up to Raleigh and when they saw we meant business, they gave him his too.

Zarbock: When did you get your license? What year was that?

Settelmeyer: It must have been about ’85, ’86.

Zarbock: Well you’d been doing it for years, I mean your whole life. That was just a formality really.

Settelmeyer: It’s not the way it is now. You had to go to forestry school for a period of time and after you got out, you had to practice forestry for two years before you could get your license.

Warren: What did the license mean? If you were licensed, what could you do if you weren’t licensed?

Settelmeyer: I think what it really meant you couldn’t hardly appear in court against somebody unless you were a forester. It was like a doctor, nobody could appear for a doctor.

Zarbock: It just kind of gave you a legal standing more than anything else. It didn't really have a reflection on what you knew especially for a man like yourself who had been in it his entire life.

Settelmeyer: I hadn’t been keeping mine up. You were supposed to go every year and do so and so to get points. I didn't go and they probably threw me out. It really doesn’t make any difference.

Zarbock: You worked in all aspects of the lumber mill business when you were growing up with your father. Did he employ you in labor?

Settelmeyer: Yeah, I had to cut with the crosscut saw you’re talking about. I used to have an uncle and a little colored boy, Alan Troy. Alan and I would saw trees down for the poles and he would give us a quarter a tree to saw them down. We were making a little money (laughter). We were cutting more than he thought we ought to cut in the length of time we had, and we weren’t smart enough to know.

Zarbock: You were cutting as many as you could and making as many quarters as you could. So you worked at your father’s lumber mill in the early part of your life and what were the other companies?

Settelmeyer: My father didn't own the lumber company. He just worked for his brother.

Zarbock: Oh really, he worked for Martin Luther Settelmeyer.

Settelmeyer: I left there. Like I said, the pole company came into Navassa about 1935. My uncle got into cutting poles and delivering them to the Caruso Company. I got involved with him and worked in the mill.

Zarbock: Around 1935 or 1936?


Zarbock: Well you were just a young teenager.

Settelmeyer: Well I was born in ’22 so I was about 13 or 14 years old.

Zarbock: So you worked in the pole business for a while.

Settelmeyer: I worked in the pole business for a while. Then the war came on and I went to Fort Bragg and worked over at Fort Bragg in the barracks for about a year. Then I came to Camp Davis up here in Wilmington. I wasn’t making but 35 cents an hour. So I came to Camp Davis making 90 cents an hour. I thought that was great. So I went over there to see if I could get a job. And I got a job. And I worked over at Camp David for several years, well not several, it was about a year.

After that, I left there and went to Dock Street and helped build a recreation center for the soldiers, the USO Building. Helped build that. There were some comical things. I have to add this into it. They put down maple floors, beautiful maple floors. When we were nailing it down, I had my hammer close up so I wouldn’t make a track in the floor you know. Had an old shop steward then from the union. He came around and said, “Boy, if you don’t get your hand back there at the end of the hammer, I’m going to take a handsaw and cut the handle off there”.

That made me so mad. But I was, “yes sir, yes sir.” But anyhow I had some buddies that had gone to work and December 7 came along and I went, I wanted to get into the service. I had an arm that got burned when I was a boy, two years old and it kept them from taking me into the service. But the boy that went in with me went up to Missouri and was there for the whole four years.

Zarbock: So you didn't go back to the pole company after World War II?

Settelmeyer: No, I went to the shipyards after I couldn’t get in. I went down and volunteered for service and they wouldn’t take me. December the 7th had already happened. I went to the shipyard, and went to work for the shipyard and for three and a half or four years I was a pipefitter at the shipyard.

Zarbock: Then after you worked at the shipyards, you got back into forestry?

Settelmeyer: I got back, I was still interested in smelling that sawdust I reckon. I wanted to get back in the woods and my uncle was still in the pole business and that’s when I got into the pole business and I stayed in the pole business from ’45-’46 until ’51. I was cutting poles, state highway piling.

Zarbock: This was down in Navassa?

Settelmeyer: In Navassa and we were selling poles to Taylor, Carlton, Caruso and Company.

Zarbock: What was the name of this company you were working for, the pole company?

Settelmeyer: It was Settelmeyer and Sigman, the fellow that helped us wanted to get in there with me. They’d give us so much a load. I needed a new truck to haul them things with. Taylor ____ down there, we’ll buy you a truck, but we’ll take out so much a load. Well I bought two trucks cutting poles for them. They’d take out so much a load for the trucks, for the trucks.

Zarbock: So you paid for the trucks through them getting free logs, or they weren’t really free logs…

Settelmeyer: We were hauling timber to them, they didn’t give me anything. They took out maybe $15 a load.

Zarbock: After the poling, is that when you started getting into the cruising and the other aspects?

Settelmeyer: I’d been buying some little tracts on my own here and there. I was getting along pretty good. And this fellow that had the sawmill up in Rosindale was a real close friend of mine and he had talked to a fellow, Ernest Sanders, who was at the Waccamaw Lumber Company and the Tabor City Lumber Company in Tabor City. He told him about me. I reckon he was bragging on me because the fellow wanted me to come down and go to work for him. So I went down there and started to work for him in ’51.

Zarbock: For Sanders?

Settelmeyer: For Sanders Lumber Company. It was Waccamaw Lumber Company is what they called it. I worked with them. They had about five or six timber fires when I went down and there was a fellow Hanna who was the head timber man down there and he was an old gentleman. He was up getting towards where he was going to retire I would say.

He used to work for Sellers Lumber Company and did this overhead logging and railroad type logging, you know pulling them out of the swamp. I keep jumping on something else. Mr. Hanna told me one time that they were logging in Poquoson and pulled an alligator out of there about 6-7 feet long. It had a big old knot and it stunk. So they wanted to know what that knot was so they took an axe and cut the alligator open and took it out and it was a lightwood knot. He swallowed that thing, I reckon to keep his insides from coming together in there. But it was a lightwood knot. You know what I’m talking about, a lightwood knot?

Zarbock: Yeah, well the alligator would have made some good kindling (laughter). I mean people eat alligator meat, you would have been able to cook it from the inside out. So you started working for Waccamaw Lumber Company in 1951. How long were you there?

Settelmeyer: I worked with them for seven years and I got to where I was a head man down there.

Zarbock: Were you doing mostly cruising and finding lumber, log trees for them to cut?

Settelmeyer: Yeah, I had a boy, Hickam Mitchum, down in Monk’s Corner, South Carolina. He worked down there, he was registered, he had gone to forestry school. He worked down there and was scattered around Lumberton and different places.

Zarbock: Now did you sort of…in 1950, you were still a very young man, you were only 28 years old then. Did Mr. Hanna sort of take you under his wing and did he kind of mentor you a little bit?

Settelmeyer: He lived at Myrtle Beach, Mr. Hanna did, not very far from the Ocean Park Hotel. Mr. Ernest was one of the ones that started doing the club, the golf course at Myrtle Beach and he used to have Billy Graham coming down there and playing golf with him. So I got a lot of things I’d seen. Mr. Hanna lived pretty close to Mr. Ernest. Mr. Hanna owned a big farm down in South Carolina and raised cotton. He retired. When he retired, I got his job.

Zarbock: Which consisted mostly of finding timber.

Settelmeyer: Of finding timber and looking after ______.

Zarbock: What were the tools of your trade as a forester back in the 1950’s?

Settelmeyer: The biggest thing I had was the _______

Zarbock: That’s right. That’s what I meant, compass. One of the things that was given to us was a snake bite kit from a forester. Did you take a snake bite kit with you?

Settelmeyer: No, we were too bad for the snakes. We wouldn’t have paid no more attention to a snake then we would to a mosquito I have walked this Cape Fear River from Fayetteville and Wilmington on both sides in my lifetime. I’ve been up and down at Colley Swamp over there. I’ve never been bit.

Zarbock: So in 1950, you were Waccamaw Lumber until 1957 or 1958.

Settelmeyer: I went to work with Corbett Packaging Company in 1959 in Wilmington.

Zarbock: What did you do for Corbett?

Settelmeyer: Bought timber, cruised timber and land and we bought a lot of stuff off the military bases, Fort Bragg, Camp LeJeune and Cherry Point and places like that. It kept me busy going back and forth.

Zarbock: How long did you work for Corbett?

Settelmeyer: I worked from ’59 to 1987. I retired in 1987 and three years ago they wanted me to come back to work for them. I went back to work for them and I’m on the payroll now.

Zarbock: You’re on the payroll now with Corbett? They know a good man when they see one.

Settelmeyer: I don’t know, felt sorry for me I guess.

Zarbock: We’re winding down the tape here. I want to try to squeeze a couple of quick things in. What would be your typical day as a forester in the 1950’s?

Settelmeyer: A typical day would be to get up at daylight, have a tract of timber to cruise and try to be there by 7:30 or 8:00 depending on the size of the tract and work on it until, I hope I get through that day. If I didn't, I went back the next day.

Zarbock: What would you be doing, estimating how many trees were on the property, condition of the trees?

Settelmeyer: You know, you just get the feel of it, what it takes to make a truckload and you could go in and do this and do that and go in a place and tell how many thousand feet there were just by looking at it. You knew how many acres it was.

Zarbock: So you spent your day walking through the woods?

Settelmeyer: Walking and running some cruise lines and going through the woods.

Zarbock: When you say you ran a cruise line, what would that be, a tape measurer?

Settelmeyer: A compass line through the woods. I didn’t use tape, I just run a compass line.

Zarbock: Did you do this alone or did you need a helper?

Settelmeyer: I did more of it alone. Occasionally I’d have a helper, but I’d do a whole lot more by myself.

Zarbock: You didn't have to do a bush axe or anything like that?

Settelmeyer: No, I carried a machete with me. That was for stray dogs or something, you never knew what you were going to run into in the woods, snakes, stray dogs and alligators.

Zarbock: Did you ever see any accidents in the forest industry either way back in the old days? You told me about the steam valve blowing off. Do you know of any other situations? It was kind of a dangerous business sometimes.

Settelmeyer: I don’t know of any more dangerous work than forestry work. I didn't realize it at the time, but if you look back, you can tell. We had a tree flying off the stump and hitting a fellow in the chest and it just buried him over here forwards, Long Creek.

Zarbock: That’s where Wilson’s Grocery Store came out of.

Settelmeyer: There’s not as many accidents where someone gets killed, but get hurt a little bit you know.

Zarbock: What do you think is the biggest challenge facing forestry today?

Settelmeyer: To me the biggest challenge is the amount of timber you’ve got on the market, you’ve cut most of the old original timber. What you’ve got now are trees that have been planted and it doesn’t have the grade for lumber that the old standard of pine timber had.

Zarbock: So it’s keeping a viable supply, is that the biggest challenge?

Settelmeyer: I think it is, is the viable supply. It’s keeping the lines up ahead. Cutting timber, you’re going to have to cause it’s getting gone.

Zarbock: And just to sum this up even though I could go I know at least another tape’s worth with you, if you had to do it all over again, would you?

Settelmeyer: Exactly, same thing I’ve done in the past.

Zarbock: Great ending (laughter). Great ending, great tape.

Between me and you I wanted to go in all kinds of directions and you did we could just sit here and talk for a long time.

Settelmeyer: I’m like you I can do a lot of talking (laughter).

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