Savannah was founded on an elevated bluff above a gentle river. River and
resource have, with time, combined in response to define the people, places, and
potential of the city. The inhabitants came from distant shores hoping to start
businesses and build homes, many with families, and others alone. Their
determination, skill and ingenuity would transform the original town of wooden
shacks into a bustling port city equal to any in the Union. The shipbuilding
industry has, on multiple levels, enabled and financed the growth of the city.
Savannah became the world's leader of shipping naval stores by the end of the 19th
century. Wasteful extraction of resins from pine resulted in stunted or malformed
growth and often led to the tree's death. Lumbering proponents remained critical until
the turn of the 20th century. In 1901, a little known University of Georgia chemist,
Charles H. Herty, would conduct experiments in Statesboro derived from French
"cupping" techniques. Herty's conservation work would transform the industry.
Warehouse and railroad construction used hundreds of thousands of feet of lumber.
These expansions would facilitate the state's ability to extract resources from the
hinterlands of the interior.
The explosion of construction projects demanded more lumber. The increase in
industry led to the influx of people, all needing housing. The development of now
historic Savannah homes became a business in its own right. Stately mansions and
meager cottages began to fill Savannah, constructed mainly of old growth woods, many
of which still remain today.
Lumber has been shipped from the Georgia coast since the time of James E.
Oglethorpe and the colonists. During the 18th century, the British Crown reserved the
largest timbers for ship masts and made clear their unapproved removal under harsh
penalty of law. To encourage the clearing of land for agriculture after the revolution,
the Georgia State legislature appropriated 500 acre grants to reward settlers for the
construction of sawmills. Naturally the number of Sawmills in Savannah and
Brunswick greatly increased. By the 1870's Savannah would be home to more than
two dozen lumber mills and timber factors.
The sawmill has always established a hub for materials and industry. In 1836, James
Hall observed, "ours [may] be called a wooden country; not merely for the extent of
its forest but because in common use wood has been substituted for a number of most
necessary and common articles - such as stone, iron and even leather."
The Royal Vane Plantation bred one of the most successful early sawmills in
Savannah. William B. Giles and Co. invested a reported $70,000.00 in the operation,
which began production in the summer of 1848. The company and its steam planing
mill at the corner of Price and Liberty Street was sold in its entirety to D.C. Bacon in
1873. In 1876 Bacon incorporated the business with partners William B. Stillwell and
H.P. Smart, and would invest in multiple lumber operations in Georgia including Vale
Royal Manufacturing Co. in 1884.
Southern Pine Company of Georgia was incorporated in 1895 with a reported capital of
$1,250,000.00. The company of Georgia owned and operated docks at the Port of
Brunswick and maintained offices in Savannah and New York.
The major product sold by this company was the famous long-leaf pine which was offered
as rough or finished lumber. The lumber was shipped to both foreign and domestic
markets on a regular basis. This was a very prestigious lumber firm which contributed to
the general development of Brunswick and Savannah, Georgia.
Henry P. Talmage was president, Wm. B. Stillwell, secretary and treasurer, and A. C.
The Homestead act of 1866 limited land purchases to 80 acres and was intended to help
establish the masses of disenfranchised ex-slaves, laborers, and refugees while rejecting
petitions of confederacy. Northern politicians hoped to use the land policy as an instrument
to dismantle the antebellum aristocracy. Despite the intentions of the policy, by 1976 the
restrictions were repealed, and the vast acres of timber were open to large-scale purchase.
The millions of federal lands released in 1876 became the gold rush of the Georgia pine
harvest. -Building Savannah, David E. Kelly
"The American forest has been likened to the goose that laid the golden eggs. This fairy tale
reference applies in more ways than one. The nation's lumbermen, responding to the
demands of the unenlightened public, once tried hard to kill the goose in order to extract all
the eggs at once. There was a dismal dawning, however, and we realized the folly of hoping
for eggs from a dead goose. By slow degrees we reached another conclusion: that a forest,
like a goose or any other living thing, must be fed, nursed and shielded from wanton injury
if its yield of wealth is to continue indefinitely." -The American Forest Association
Pine was used in the building of Savannah's colonial homes, but was also major cargo for
our young port. Fast-forward to the ruinous 1970's when many of those wonderful old
homes were being ripped down to make room for more important things, like strip malls
and street widening. Then award your gold star to Ramsey Khalidi who valued that old
lumber and wrestled it out of dumpsters to squirrel away as the treasure it was, often having
to beg different friends for storage space in their garages. "I couldn't stand to see it hauled
off to the landfill," he once said. "It's so beautiful." -Waking Up Men, O. Kay Jackson
Today Ramsey is the owner and president of the historic Savannah Pine Company of
Georgia, originally established in 1895.