THE PEAVINE RAILROAD
In the early part of the 20th century, massive logging found its way to East Tennessee. The largest extraction of lumber from Tennessee took place between 1880 and 1920. In 1901 the forest in the Eastern part of Tennessee remained largely intact. Shortly after 1901, logging took so many trees so quickly that Gifford Pinchot head of the US Forest Service predicted that the timber in the US would be gone in 20 years. Tennessee is known by some as the hardwood capital of the world.
One such logging company, the John Heilman Lumber Company, sent its agent to the Greene County area of Bethany in search of good timber where the Appalachian hardwood was excellent and plentiful. The mountain people were agreeable and sold timber rights on such mountain ridges known to the locals as Toehead, Mill Stone, Middle Ridge, Greystone, Black Stacks and others, in most cases for as little as 25 cents a piece for the great trees of the region.
Rarely did the lumber company buy the land, since its value declined after it had been stripped or clear cut of its trees. Clear cutting often left the land owner with barren land that was very prone to flooding. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, lumber companies like other industries, did not have government regulations and had complete authority over the forest that they purchased. The conservation movement of president Teddy Roosevelt’s administration 1901-1908 required logging companies to replace the area with trees that had been harvested.
Years Later in 1936, during the Great Depression, cut over land sold for $2.50 per acre. Unlogged land sold for almost 3 times that of $7.00 per acre. These prices were considered good as times were so hard. A farmer was lucky to clear $50.00 for a whole years work, plus the work opportunities that logging brought to the area. If a man was willing to work, he might find it in the logging camps.