Most farm families of any means had a timber cart before the days of tractors. Historians will agree that this was one of the greatest inventions that contributed much to the economy of Effingham County. Income of farmers was dependent on the weather and moisture.
To supplement their income when the activity on the land they cultivated slowed down, they marketed timber to sustain them. Each farmer also felled trees to take to nearby sawmills to build their houses, barns, wagons, etc.
Sometimes the farmers hired out to log for others. In most communities, there were sawmills that needed to buy logs to produce lumber to sell.
The two-wheeled timber cart was built of wooden wheels put together by blacksmiths with metal bands. The wheels stood as tall as eight feet but some were not as large. Mr. Abner Exley, a blacksmith of the Berryville community outside of Springfield, built many of the timber carts used in this area. The cart was pulled by a team of mules or in some cases oxen. The cart was wheeled into the woods by the mules.
A pair of men cut the tree using a crosscut saw. The cart was driven over the log or backed up over the log with the mule team. The tongue of the cart was raised straight up and a set of “dogs” was attached to the log. The dogs were two pieces of metal that were sharpened on the ends and were driven into the log on either side to grasp the log.
The dogs were attached about midway down the log where it would nearly balance. Mules pulled the tongue down with a chain that would winch it up off the ground. They would then wrap the chain around the log when they got it up off the ground and balanced. The end of long logs would drag behind the cart.
The mules would pull the log to the sawmill or sometimes onto a wagon with crosspieces that could haul several logs.
By about 1950, the timber cart was set aside for tractors and later modern logging equipment.
No doubt, the meager income of Effingham County citizens was greatly enhanced by the two-wheeled timber cart.
Mules could pull out logs easier because it lightened their load. The Effingham citizens were industrious and found a way to help supplement their income and provide them with building materials.
Effingham Salzburger settlers had a water driven sawmill as early as 1736. These hard-working industrious pioneers found ways to produce the needed lumber. The timber cart certainly was an improvement over dragging the logs behind a horse or mule.
Although the timber cart is not in use, one can be seen today. Effingham Museum and Living History Site just received one donated by Mrs. Josephine Shearouse and family. The cart belonged to her husband Wilton’s father, Mr. Cecil Shearouse, who lived on Brogdon Road outside Springfield.
Mr. Shearouse was a farmer and owned and used the cart as did most farmers in the area. No doubt, he hauled logs a short distance away to the Carl and Ward Arnsdorff Sawmill.
Effingham Museum and the Living History Site is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. and Sunday from 2-5 p.m. Special group tours are available by appointment.
This article was written by Susan Exley of Historic Effingham Society. If you have questions, comments or photos to share call her at 754-6681 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org