Sawmill towns: work, community life, and industrial development in the pineywoods of Louisiana and the New South
Lumbering of massive areas of old-growth forests provided a means to stabilize the economy of the South devastated by the Civil War. During the early 20th century, thousands of sawmill towns were created to meet the needs of the lumber industry and to provide employment for logging and mill workers. Primarily Whites and Blacks, but also other races and ethnic groups, came into sawmill towns and a new industrial society began to be developed. These sawmill towns provided employment in logging and milling crews, housing, medical care, education through the 7th grade, churches, and a commissary where food and other supplies to support the family could be purchased. Although life was hard, housing segregated, and a town’s existence limited by the time needed to cut the available timber, workers lived and worked together, developing skills and building confidence that could be applied in other industrial positions. As difficult and short-lived as many of them were, sawmill towns were largely responsible for moving rural southern families from an agrarian to an industrial society. This document tells of how life in these sawmill towns changed the society and culture of the South.