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Fastrill: A Texas Logging Camp
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).