Home » A Look Back: Collinwood Chemical Plant, Circa Early 1900s (by the late Mrs. Eva Burns Smith Luttrell)

A Look Back: Collinwood Chemical Plant, Circa Early 1900s (by the late Mrs. Eva Burns Smith Luttrell)

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Early in 1913, the Superior Lumber and Tie Company purchased several acres of forest land around the area where Collinwood is now located. W.W. Collins was a Superintendent of the operations for the company and it seems was a man of great energy. He hurriedly set up the company’s sawmills and started a plan toward building a town. He named the town Collinwood – “Collin” for him, and “wood” because of the great wood industry. At this time the Collinwood Land Company was formed by the businessmen of the town along with the companies. They purchased the land from Mr. J. E. Wilburn for $12,000.00. They hired an engineer, a Mr. Edward Lull, to lay out the town. They sub-divided a portion of the land into town lots and laid off and located a number of streets and alleys.

In December of 1913 the first train pulled into the settlement. Work had begun one year before by the Tennessee Valley Railroad Company who had a contact to build and operate the railroad known as the Tennessee Western Railroad Company, and to furnish telegraph equipment and lines from Collinwood to St. Joseph, Tennessee. There was much excitement in the town when the first train pulled in for its first shipment of lumber.

The crashing sound of falling timber, the hissing of locomotives and the rush of immigrants gave Collinwood a real boom town air and the population reached two thousand. All this was before World War I. The town was incorporated in 1915, but this lasted only a couple of years. During this time a Mr. Holmes started publishing a newspaper called the Collinwood Pilot and it had all the splendor of a frontier newspaper. A beautiful depot was built.

When the outbreak of war in Europe came and Uncle Sam began scouting around for something to fight his war with, the still large reserves of hardwoods beckoned and in almost no time, two thousand men were at work setting up a chemical plant with which to manufacture alcohol, acetate of lime, car tar, pig iron and charcoal. The furnace for the plant was shipped from Rusk, Texas. In order to keep a supply of wood for the chemical plant and logs for the sawmills, a tram line made if wood and similar to a railroad was constructed to haul the logs from the forest to the mill. These trams were first pulled by a steam engine but they didn’t prove successful. Then mules and horses were used to pull them. This brought on a demand for horses and some car loads of wild western horses were being shipped to the Collinwood area and sold at auction.

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