In History is the Future
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: South Louisiana - Gonzales
Thanks guys, this is a bit embarrassing but I just noticed the forum post was cut off... Must be a max limit on letters... Here the rest!
...Once these smaller timbers were sawn they must be held together to form the structure. This construction style is referred to as timber frame construction... A system of mortices, tenons, half laps and other joints held together by both physics and wooden pegs. These pegs were made by rieving green oak or hickory into small billets with a froe and beetle then allowing them to dry. It was important to use dry seasoned wood for these pegs as green wood would shrink leaving the joints week. And exception to this was likely made on early structures. Building the structure with all green timbers would mean the timbers would also shrink compensating for this. The pegs were then shaped on a shave horse, a form of foot operated clamping bench, with a draw knife. These same tools wod have also been used to produce shakes, or wooden shingles, to cover the roof.
The 1780's & 90's would have been the first period of real commercial prospect of Cypress lumbering. At this time Louisiana was not yet a part of the American states and was under Spanish rule. This was the early days of the New Orlean's Cooperage industry, the trade of building barrels and crates and cisterns. The major market for Cypress was in the form of empty sugar boxes exported to the Spanish Caribean for the packaging and sale of sugar. Louisiana had small crops of sugar cane here and there for use in syrup making but the process of granualization had not yet been introduced. As the end of the 90's approached this export industry all but stopped due to political upheavals. While the export of Cypress dwindled the domestic use of cypress experienced a massive upswing due to the Good Friday Fire.
New Orleans was a well establish port city and in 1788 on Good Friday, a day of reverence observed by the wholly Catholic state the Friday before Easter, resulted in the burning of approximately 80% of the city. 956 building and residencies burned to the ground. Six years later in 1794 another fire broke out consuming approx 20% of the city or 206 buildings. This sudden need for lumber in the rebuilding of businesses and homes meant a rappid growth of the lumber industry. The demand for lumber was so high that many lumber yards in New Orleans were unable to acquire lumber quick enough and many builders resorted to using green, unseasoned lumber - a practice frowned upon by architects and builders alike. This shortage also lead to extensive poaching of lumber by unscrupulous fellers.
The pit saw was the predominate means of cutting lumber until the early 1800's. While the rest of the country was employing water wheel driven sash mills this wasn't an option for Louisiana Lumberers. The lack of mountains or hills here meant a lack of moving water sufficient to power a water wheel. In 1803 an industrious individual had the brilliant idea of digging a trench from the swamp to the river's levee. After the spring flood came and crested the levee's banks the water trapped in the swamp would normally find it's way out through the swamps. This time though after the river receded this man cut a trench through the levee as well causing this trapped water to rush back to the river. This allowed him to power a water wheel! The other ingenious aspect of this design was that this rapidly moving water gave him an excellent means of moving his logs from the draining swamp to the mill that would saw them!
1816 saw the first steam powered saw mill however the high price of steam engines made this cost prohibitive to most mills. As an illustration of this in 1835 an inventory of Evergreen Plantation in Edgard was done following a bankruptcy proceeding. In this assessment of assets the beautiful plantation home along with it's large furniture items was valued at $10,000. Compare this to the 16 horse power steam engine on the property assessed at $7,600! This was a poor quality steam engine from New York at that, the more reliable steam engines came from Pa and cost as much as $20,000.
Despite the high cost of steam power it eventually dominated the lumbering industry and was Louisiana's own Industrial Revolution.
Eventually almost every virgin Cypress tree in Louisiana and the entire South East was felled. Now all we have left of those old days are the subtle reminders found across the South. The once lost but found again sinker Cypress logs. Archeological excavations and most importantly the timber frame buildings which still survive and the tool marks found within.