Logging camps were common throughout the lumber industry, and were especially important to the forest products companies of East Texas during the early 20th century. Most of these camps were spread through the forests along the logging railroads, allowing workers to live with their families year-round, yet still be near the current stretch of forest being worked. These camps were full-service communities with homes, schools, churches, civic organizations, stores, and in some cases, even power plants. Families lived in small houses that could be loaded onto railroad cars and transported to the next camp location. Typically, these camps stayed only a few years in each place before the timber ran out and they moved on down the railroad line.
The Southern Pine Lumber Company (SPLCo) camp Fastrill was an exception to the transient rule. Located in Cherokee County on the Neches River about 50 miles from Diboll, Fastrill was founded in 1922 and remained a vibrant community until 1941. Named for SPLCo managers Frank FArrington, P.H. STRauss, and Will HILL, it was the beloved home of as many as 600 people. SPLCo. workers from Fastrill spent 6 days a week in the woods harvesting trees and loading them onto rail cars for transport to the mills in Diboll. Sunday was a day of rest spent at church and with family. Swimming in the Neches was a favorite Sunday afternoon activity. In 1941, with new public highways offering better transportation from sparsely located timber tracts than privately operated logging railroads, SPLCo closed Fastrill and relocated most of its residents to Diboll.
Fastrill was one of the state's last large logging camps, and former residents still fondly recall their days in the camp along the Neches, where the close-knit residents lived in a self-contained community that totally revolved around the logging industry. These residents and their descendants gather on the second Sunday of June every year at the former camp site to catch up with old friends, reminisce about old times, and pass on some of the old ways of life to their children and grandchildren.
Fastrill has received renewed attention in recent years due to a controversial proposal to dam the Neches River between Cherokee and Anderson counties, naming the impounded waters Fastrill Reservoir.
(For more about Fastrill, see the article, "Fastrill: Southern Pine Lumber Company's Finest Logging Camp," in the December 1999 issue of The Pine Bough, available in PDF format through the Publications section of our Homepage).
Most children who grew up at logging camps held a real fascination with trains. Here, Shirley Evans and Carl Burchfield pose on the steps of a Southern Pine Lumber Company passenger coach at Fastrill in 1940. Occasionally the wooden coach was used to transport workers between the woods and camp or carry workers and their families between Fastrill and Diboll.
Burchfield Boys at Fastrill
Harold and Earl Burchfield in their backyard at Fastrill in 1940.
Della Burchfield (left) and Gertrude Waltman White pick berries along the tracks of Southern Pine Lumber Company's logging railroad near Fastrill in 1935, from a hand-tinted print.
Fastrill native Champ McAlister poses for the camera on a front porch with the schoolhouse for white children in the background. Champ's father, Sam, was a Southern Pine Lumber Company logging superintendent.
Fastrill School 1936
One of the Fifth Grade classes at Fastrill in about 1936. Seated from the left are John Richard Powers, L.T. Glover, W.H. White, Johnny Burchfield, Thelton Farrow, Chester Sheffield, Cecil Chester, C.P. May, and Paul Odom (kneeling). Standing from the left are Mary Lou Stokes, John Oaks, Margarette Chester, Margaret Chapman, J.L. White, unidentified, Red Patrick, Sofia Miranda, unidentified, Lou Olla Holcombe Hoover (teacher), unidentified, unidentified, Jose Miranda, Ernestine Berwick, Richie Oaks, Ida Maude Berwick, unidentified, Edith White, Zane Odom, and Alfredo Miranda.
Fastrill School 1938
One of the Seventh Grade classes at Fastrill in about 1938. Kneeling from the left are James Daniel Burchfield, Wayne Goetzman, Dick Burchfield, Junior Newman, and Edward Odom. Standing from the left are Elzada McKinney, Sofia Miranda, Virginia Glass, Evelyn Gardner, Fleta Neil Odom, unidentified, Janice Curry, Simon James (teacher), Francis Farrow, Robert Wells, Edward Trevathan, and Webb Burchfield.
Fastrill School late 1920s
Fastrill School for white children, ca. 1925. Back row, left to right: teacher Bernice Foster, unidentified, Raymond Wallace, Corrine Sanderson, Eula White, Mary Kate Landrum, the rest unidentified. Middle row: Ernie Wright, fifth from left, and Gertrude or Helen Goetzman, seventh from left. All others are unidentified. Fastrill students finished their education in Slocum, Elkhart, or Rusk to receive a high school diploma.
Mrs. Byrd Evans
Mrs. Byrd Evans, wife of former Fastrill doctor Dr. C. W. Evans, enjoys a soda water at the 1961 Fastrill Homecoming.
One of two marked graves, both children, at the Fastrill site: Elvira Miranda, Died September 28, 1940, Aged 13 hours. The other grave is that of Maryelle Smith, Died Oct. 7, 1935, Aged 4 months, 7 days. Photo made in June 1999 by Jonathan Gerland.
Southern Pine Lumber Company locomotive engineer Ramsey Minton enjoys a rare snowfall with daughter Charlene "Sally" and son Douglas "Bill" at Fastrill in the winter of 1939-1940.
Fastrill School Award 1933
In 1933 eight year old student J. D. Burchfield earned a Fastrill Public School award "for being neither tardy nor absent" for the six-month school term ending March 3. Mr. Burchfield, pictured in the next photo, posed at the Fastrill Reunion in June 2003 with his certificate and teacher Pauline Bowman Powers who presented him the award 70 years earlier. The certificate was donated to The History Center later in 2003.
Fastrill School Award Student and Teacher Reunion
In 1933 eight year old student J. D. Burchfield earned a Fastrill Public School award "for being neither tardy nor absent" for the six-month school term on March 3. Mr. Burchfield posed at the Fastrill Reunion in June 2003 with his certificate and teacher Pauline Bowman Powers who presented him the award 70 years earlier. The certificate, pictured in color in the previous photo, was donated to The History Center later in 2003.
Clyde Thompson Smith at Fastrill
Young Clyde Thompson Smith poses for the camera at Fastrill in about 1939. Neighbor Mrs. Gertie White, partly visible, assists.
Hattie Mae Ray and Tilda Hodge
Young Hattie Mae Ray (Clyde Thompson Smith's mother, see photo above) and Tilda Hodge at Fastrill in the early 1930s. Mrs. Hodge is remembered as a kind of medicine woman, someone who seemed to always have a cure or fix for most ailments.
Wife and husband Lillie Mae and Mack Jenkins with friend and neighbor Hattie Mae Smith at Fastrill in about 1940. The Jenkins were Clyde Thompson Smith's God Parents.
The red clay hills of Cherokee and Anderson counties made for difficult logging. This photo of Southern Pine Lumber Company logging crews was made in about 1930 near Fastrill.
Fastrill Historical Marker Dedication
More than a dozen persons born at Fastrill posed with the new state historical marker at the former logging camp townsite on April 16, 2000. Left to right are John Powers, Edith White Burchfield, Carl Burchfield, M. H. "Red" Patrick, Joe Miranda, Kenneth Flowers, Gloria Guerra Hernandez, Charles White, Ada Guerra, Dolores Guerra Juarez, Mathilda Miranda Macias, Ruby Berry, Bernice Durham Compton, and Alfred Miranda. Also a native of Fastrill, and in attendance, but not pictured, was John White. Photo by Jonathan Gerland.
Fastrill Historical Marker
This Texas Historical Commission historical marker was dedicated at the site of Fastrill in April 2000.
Fastrill Baseball Team 1939
A Fastrill baseball team in 1939 included (front row) Pete Collins, Thelton Farrow, and Dick Burchfield. Also (middle row) Red Patrick, Donkey Odem, and Wayne Goetzman. And (back row) Serb Trevathan, L.D. Farrow, Webb Burchfield, and Robert Wells.
Neches River Java
Former Fastrill resident Dick Burchfield pours a cup of Neches River coffee during the 1999 Fastrill Homecoming. Photo by Jonathan Gerland.
Log Train at Fastrill
Forty-eight miles north of Diboll, Southern Pine Lumber Company woods engine No. 11 and crew pose with a train of thirty-seven loaded log cars and an extra water car on the south leg of the Fastrill wye, Cherokee County, in the late 1920s. Roof tops of camp houses and buildings are visible in the left background.
The loaded cars will be set out for engineer Titus Mooney and fireman J.J. King who will carry them to the Diboll mill ponds behind mainline Engine 13, now displayed at The History Center. The engineer of Engine 11, a 60-ton 1912 Baldwin 2-6-2, was J. T. "Big Boy" Farrow, shown leaning out the cab window. Paul Durham Sr., woods foreman, is at the far left standing below the cab. Others are unidentified.
Southern Pine Lumber Company officials located the town of Fastrill in 1922 on a slight bluff on the east bank of the Neches River, as indicated here in a modified USGS map, Denson Springs quadrant. Today the site is near the confluence of state highways 23 and 294.
Young friends Pauline Durham and Elmer Ray Wells pose in about 1928 with Baalam, a friend to many Fastrill children. Note in the background sycamore trees, a Fastrill favorite.