Forest Service buys land
Boatwright said that while the Conasauga Lumber Co. primarily used horses to pull logs down the slopes, many of the local logging companies used steers.
By around 1939, Conasauga logging crews had worked their way west to east to the Bear Creek area of Gilmer County. Logging near there and the now-preserved Cohutta Wilderness Area ceased in the next year or two. As areas were logged, the U.S. Forest Service was able to purchase land from the lumber companies, according to “In Touch with the Past”:
“The first tract of land was bought in 1930 from the Conasauga (company) and contained 23,000 acres. Some of the land was acquired by the (Forest Service) without cost. Lumber companies would give timbered acreage to the (Forest Service) in exchange for the right to timber other government-owned land.”
By 1942, the Conasauga Lumber Co.’s narrow-gauge railroad tracks that had hauled so much timbers out of the Cohuttas were taken up all the way back to the switching yard in Conasauga.
In commemoration, the company left standing one of the huge poplar trees workers had been cutting. The “big poplar” in Gilmer County, also known as the “Gennett poplar,” has been topped out several times by lightning and scarred by generations of woodpeckers. The tree does not stretch upward to its former glory, but still sees many hikers visit and gawk each year. To learn more about the trail, visit the Georgia Trails website at www.georgiatrails.com /gt/Bear_Creek_Trail.
The size of some of the virgin hardwoods brought down for timber — especially the poplars — is still remembered by many old-timers whose fathers and grandfathers passed down the memories to their sons.
The late H.C. Tankersley, a former logger and father of retired Forest Service employee Ray Tankersley of Murray County, said in “In Touch with the Past” there were many trees over 100 feet tall.
“We cut down one poplar tree that was so big a 16-foot log from it was cut into 1,400 feet of lumber,” he said. “We cut logs like that. It took three hours with a crosscut saw to cut some of them. On Tear Britches (Trail) there is a stump 11 feet wide.”