The following tale is told by David Haenke,
following a visit with Noble Barker:
In May 1996 I visited with Noble Barker. He told me the story
of the Big Mill and the pine forest. Noble's grandfather came
to this country in the 1830s, the time of the first pioneers.
The span of Noble Barker's generational memory through his grandfather
goes back to the time of transition from the Indians to the settlers.
The Barker family story is also the story of the history of the
pine forest. In Noble's words:
"The Landers and the Barkers got together in 1917 and formed
the Landers and Barker Lumber Company. In 1922 the company built
the Big Mill. The Big Mill included a sawmill, dry kiln, and planing
mill." The Big Mill was located along Cane Bottom Hollow near
the Bryant. This is the hollow on the south side of the Bryant
where Highway 95 runs today.
"The mill was the center of a small town which included a company
store and office, a blacksmith shop, horse and mule barn, and
27 'sawmill shacks'. Pine logs cut in the woods were between one
and two feet in diameter. They were cut by crews of two or three
men who used a crosscut saw to bring down the trees. A mule skinner
would then skid the logs out to a landing, where they were loaded
on a wagon bound for the mill.
"Fifty men worked at the mill. They used milling wastes for boiler
fuel. All the machinery was powered by steam. The operation was
built so the logs could be piled at the top of the hollow, then
rolled down to the mill.
"Sawn lumber was taken to the company lumber yard in Mountain
Grove by wagon, and later by truck. Wagons took two days to make
the round trip, trucks a half day. Today it takes an hour and
a half to make the drive. The mill and settlement thrived from
1922 to 1929. By 1929 the big pine was all cut. They packed up
the mill and moved it to Texas County."
Written by David Haenke.