Tri-City Ledger -

By Russell Brown
Guest Writer 

Housing the history of logging carts and oxen


August 13, 2020

Since 1988, The Alger-Sullivan Historical Society has worked to collect and display items that reflect an earlier time.

Originally dedicated to the lumber and logging history of Century, the society’s museum now holds relics that also represents the regional history of many communities of the great logging era.

Above the doorway of our first display room is a huge carved oxen yoke donated from one of the area’s last oxen drivers, Joe Ross. In another room other yokes are seen.

One item crucial to the work of oxen sits among the saws and axes of our wood tools display. It is a heavy piece of iron, a cylinder about 30 inches long with teeth around one end. Once very valuable as the major part of a logging cart, it is called a cast roller. The cast roller was mounted between two massive wagon wheels and acted as a winch, lifting one end of huge logs destined for cutting at the local sawmill.

Today, we recognize such relics, but must depend on information handed down to understand how these machines worked.

One interesting picture is from Joe Alford, born in 1878. After marrying his wife Oridel, Joe spent his life logging and farming at Parker, Alabama near Brewton. He was 82 when he talked with historian Ed Leigh McMillan.

“I began driving an ox team hauling logs when I was 19 years old driving a team for my father, Tim Alford. From the time that I began I drove oxen until 1922 and I think that I am competent to describe ox team and the log cart.

The first ox log team I recollect seeing was a three yoke team with a 7-foot cart wheel – a homemade cart built by Peter Herrington, an old Negro. This team and cart belonged to my Uncle Bob Alford. This three yoke team’s tongue steers were Mike and Tony. Mike was a red steer with white flanks and Tony was brown with long horns. The second yoke – swing steers – were Bill and Jack. Bill was a dun steer, Jack was a pieded steer – black and white.

The next yoke of steers were the lead steers. Their names were Lap and Lam. Lap was a white steer with a blue head. Lam was a speckled steer with a horn that turned down across his nose and lay on his nose.

Bob Alford bought this team from Lank Anderson. Uncle Bob swapped him a black stallion for the team and I don’t know if anything else was given to boot.

In the five yoke team, the first pair of steers were the tongue steers, the second yoke is the grab steers, the third yoke is the swing steers and the fourth yoke is the lead swings and the fifth is the leads.

In the beginning of the logging in the country, they never had over a three yoke team and they hauled the biggest timber that was ever cut in this country and most always hauled two logs at a time.

I never understood why nobody wanted a five yoke team when they could do the same thing with a three yoke team. The tongue steers were rigged to the cart by a 6-inch steel ring in the yoke. The next yoke had two chain links in the staple in the center of the yoke and they hooked the pull chain in those links. The pull chain was attached to the nose iron on the end of the tongue of the cart then hooked on the link of the first yokes head. The third yoke was hooked together in the same way the second was and also the third, fourth and fifth were the same.

All log carts in the country were made locally. Mr. Charlie Stone who lived in Damascus was wheelwright and made many ox carts.

The tires for the wheels were made by a blacksmith. The material for the tires was purchased and then was shaped to fit. The cart wheels were made of white oak. The height of the wheels was usually 7 foot with a 5-inch tire. The hubs for the wheel were usually purchased but there were some wheelwrights who could make the hub.

Temp Stevens who made hubs lived at the Pad Foshee Old Place which property is now owned by T.R. Miller Mill Company and is planted in pine.

A cast roller was purchased and with this roller, a ‘jacking stick’ that hoisted the logs. They hoisted the first log up to the axle and they had a hook called the shackle and hooked it the chain that held the log up to the axle.

The shackle was attached to the axle. Then they took the chain off of the roller (that was always the right hand chain), then they took another chain – the one that hung on the left hand side of the cart and drove over another log and hoisted it over (up to) the axle and let it hang to the chain on the roller until they got to the mill or wherever they were carrying the log.

To unload they would trip the roller that was holding up the log and it fell to the ground and they put the other chain that was shackled off on the roller and hoisted the log with the hosting chain attached to the roller, then tripped it off, took the shackle hook off and let the log fall.”

The Alger-Sullivan Heritage Museum is located at 610 4th St. Century. Open Saturdays. Come by for a tour, or a cup of coffee, its free.


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