BY JENNINGS HATFIELD
In this day the question of present and future of American hardwoods is becoming more and more a matter of concern. This was a concern around 1900 when a Western Virginia company known as the New River Coal and Coke Company purchased what was known as the Bird Lands. This was a vast boundary of virgin timber located in the New River Valley just above Norma and extending some distance on each side of the river. This boundary contained walnut, cherry, oak, chestnut, beech, poplar, ash, hickory, basswood, elm, sycamore and buckeye. Some of this timber was 5 feet in diameter. January 27, 1905, previous to the purchase of the stumpage of the Bird Lands by the New River Lumber Company, General Manager FRANK G. NORCROSS, a woodsman of long experience in that region, with the aid of WILLIAM MUMFORD, a cruiser and timber estimator of long experience, made a report of a careful examination of the timber. They found that a greater part of it was of virgin growth and of high quality. Mr. NORCROSS and Mr. MUMFORD estimated the timber standing on the Bird Lands to be 485,300,006 feet.
Front View of New River Lumber Company Mill at Norma,
It was evident at that time that a railroad would be necessary for the proper development of the property. In 1905 the Tennessee Railway purchased the Paint Rock Coal and Coke Railroad which ran from Oneida to Stanley Junction and extended it to Norma in 1906.
A circular saw mill was constructed for the purpose of manufacturing lumber to construct the band mill and was discarded on completion of the band mill.
The New River Company’s mill was a model in arrangement and equipment. It was capable of manufacturing 125,000 feet of lumber per day. Some of this lumber was 36 inches to 48 inches wide and 20 feet long. Norcross engineered the construction of the mill. The entire plant was powered by one giant steam engine. It had a drive wheel 20 feet in diameter and the drive belt was made of leather 54 inches wide. It took 110 steer hides to make this belt. All the lumber handled on live rollers, not by man power. The lumber left the band saws on tram cars and traveled by gravity to any part of the lumber yard. The empty tram cars at first were pulled back to the mill by mule power but later an elevated tram track was constructed whereby the empty cars traveled back to the mill by gravity, thus making the entire operation gravity powered. This was the only construction of this nature in the United States. The mill and lumber yard was protected by a water system fed by a 10" main capable of water delivery of up to 1000 gallons per minute. There was no fire loss during the life of the operation. The source of water for the system was from New River which flowed by the lumber yard. To insure a bountiful supply of water, a rubble rock dam was built across the river about 3 miles down stream at Bull Creek thus creating a lake from Bull Creek to Norma. A second dam was built of concrete next to the mill to store logs in. It developed that the boilers could not use this water because of the tanic acid in the water created by the logs. A third concrete dam was built to store water in for the boilers. It was also stocked with sun perch, blue gills, red eye and rock bass fish so the town people could enjoy fishing.
All the mill and principal buildings were lighted by electricity. There was also a street lighting system. The principal buildings had hot and cold running water and steam heat furnished from the boiler of the mill.
Two school systems were available, private and regular. The private school, in addition to the basic skills, offered organ, piano and violin lessons. The regular school system employed local teachers while the private school imported teachers from Ohio, Virginia, Georgia and California.
The Commissary was equipped to handle the entire needs of the community even a factory that built caskets, the only color was gray. If a store bought casket was not desired, the company would furnish a handmade coffin without charge. These coffins were made by the company carpenter, Sam Burnett, covered with white cloth or black muslin. Black muslin was the popular color.
The New River Lumber Company carried the idea of thoroughness and proper care of its buildings as to construction and maintenance of houses which it owned and rented at a reasonable figure to its employees. The company owned 87 houses. The general color was slate with white trimming. In the arrangement of the houses, the conventional method was avoided. There were no long streets of houses in straight and narrow file. Instead they were distributed in picturesque confusion through the white oak grove just above the mill and near the base of Gray’s Mountain, the mighty eminence, that overlooked the community of Norma, the saw
— Please Turn To Page 5 —
— Continued From Page 1—
mill, the lumber yard and that part of the New River Valley. The side walks were 5 feet wide made of white oak lumber 2 inches thick and kept in good repair by employees under the instruction of Foreman WILLIAM "Bill" NEWPORT.
There were several buildings of unusual interest, the bungalow occupied by General Manager, FRANK G. NORCROSS, Club House, Yeiser Club House, Ingles Bungalow and Fuller Bungalow. These structures were from products of the saw mill. The interiors were of cherry paneling wainscoating with beams of chestnut overhead. The Ingles Bungalow had tapestry between the upright beams. The Yeiser Bungalow had a massive river stone fireplace. The most noted was the Norcross Bungalow occupied by the General Manager, FRANK G. NORCROSS. It stood, and still stands, on a hill overlooking the valley of New River. From its base stretched some of the richest valley farm land to be found in any country. The club house was a large two story structure containing the library and auditorium with a large stage for entertainments. The upper story was used for a hall for the Masons, Odd Fellows, Knights of Pythias, Knights of Columbus and the Boy Scouts.
The Attractive ‘Bungalow’ Residence of Frank G.
In addition to the large band mill there was a hickory mill which manufactured automobile wheel spokes, wagon wheel spokes, wheel hubs and artillery wheel spokes. Mr. H. E. FULLER was the General Manager. Also there was a clothes pin factory employing women mostly. Mr. FARREL was the General Manager. The hickory mill used the hickory timber and the clothes pin factory used the beech and sycamore. The vast amount of dogwood timber was cut into stock for manufacturing bobbins and shuttles.
The Town and mill site was purchased from FOWLER HATFIELD by the New River Lumber Company in 1900.
Norma was a town of changing names. Where the name originated has not been recorded. According to postal records the site was Skull Bone, Tennessee when the post office was established December 17, 1878 and JOSEPH F. HATFIELD was appointed Postmaster. The name changed to Norma, March 17, 1887 and JOSEPH F. HATFIELD remained Postmaster. On April 5,1887 NETTLE HAMON was appointed Postmaster. On December 17, 1915 Norma was changed to Norcross and WILLIAM SHANNON was appointed Postmaster. The name was changed back to Norma on June 21, 1919 with WILLIAM R. SHANNON remaining Postmaster.
FNB Chronicle, Vol. 1, No. 1 – Summer 1989
First National Bank
P.O. Box 4699
Oneida, TN 37841
This page was created by Timothy N. West and is copyrighted by him. All rights reserved.