Besides cotton, the timber industry generated more money and jobs in Mississippi during the early 20th Century than any other. When European settlers came to the territory, they found vast stands of virgin long-leaf yellow pine trees. But it took until the late 1800s before the technology was developed to harvest these giant trees for their high-quality lumber. By WWI, hundreds of sawmills covered the Piney Woods and their tree-cutting and turpentine camps often attracted a rough breed of men from around the country, drawn by the lure of plentiful work. Our storyteller for this episode helped build many of the sawmills and railroads used to process and transport this valuable commodity.
1976 - Charles Ainsworth was born in 1885 near Sontag, Mississippi. In this episode, he describes the hard, dangerous work of cutting timber in the Piney Woods. During the timber boom years, logging camps harvested trees from across the state. Charles Ainsworth remembers the men who worked these camps as “some of the meanest people in world.”
As a young man, Ainsworth helped construct sawmills throughout the Piney Woods. He recalls earning the respect of the mill owner in D’lo through determination and hard work.
Ainsworth moved to Hattiesburg in 1916 and began building houses. He recounts gaining a reputation for working smarter and saving his clients money in the process.