| November/December 1971

Route 1  Mead, Washington 99021

Dear Friends:

Sometimes when searching in Genealogy, you run into other things. The two following articles I read with interest. I am 70 and never heard of this whipsaw method explained like this. These items were taken from 'Wing-field's History of Caroline County, Virginia.'


The first sawed lumber in Caroline was manufactured by the pit and whipsaw method. It took two men to operate those primitive machines. A hole was dug in the ground, over which a crude scaffold was built. The log was then put on the scaffold and one man stood in the pit below the log while the other stood on the scaffold. The log was first hewn to a square with a broad-ax and then 'lined' on the upper and lower sides at every place where it was to be sawed. This was sometimes done with pokeberry juice. The men then drew the saw up and down through the log, sawing off a board about every hour. Two able-bodied men could hardly saw more than two hundred feet per day in this way. This method was assisted later by water power mills, using an up-and-down sliding frame with straight saw in the center with the log fed to the saw on rollers, later by the log fed to the saw on a carriage and using head blocks to set the log out to cut off each board, the carriage being gigged back by hand. Later the circular saw was introduced. Captain Henry H. George built 'Thornberry' in Caroline County, making the bricks for his house on the premises and sawing the timbers and the lumber for his house with a whipsaw using one man in the pit below the saw-log and one or two men on the scaffold above the pit, sawing all of the lumber for his home and the various buildings on his farm of Thornberry, by man power.

Sometimes in the later fifties Captain H. H. George purchased a steam engine and boiler and a circular sawmill and planted this mill on his farm 'Thornberry'sawed lumber for himself and for his neighbors, which business was carried on until the beginning of the Civil War. During the latter part of the War, Captain George was detailed to saw timbers and lumber for the Confederate Government to use in building the fortifications around Richmond and other Government uses. He went back to his regiment after this was done and returned to his home after Lee's surrender at Appomattox.

On reaching 'Thornberry' he found it stripped of everything movable, by the Union troops who had visited that section many times during the return of the Northern Army to Washington, but found the troops had not destroyed the sawmill. He got to work as soon as possible and began sawing lumber and continued in this business of manufacturing and selling lumber until within a few years of his death, which occurred at his home on June 26, 1902, in his seventy-ninth year.


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