On the Bookshelf ~ ‘Out of the Storm,’ The Galford Lumber Company

FINDING HOPE IN a hopeless time, Glen Galford moved his sawmill and his men to Northfield, Massachusetts, in 1939 to help clean up timber that was downed in one of the most destructive hurricanes in American history.
FINDING HOPE IN a hopeless time, Glen Galford moved his sawmill and his men to Northfield, Massachusetts, in 1939 to help clean up timber that was downed in one of the most destructive hurricanes in American history.

Winner of the “Best Event Documentary 2002” at the West Virginia Filmmakers Film Festival
Jaynell Graham
“Boy, there’s a right way and a wrong way, and we’re going to do it the right way.” ~ Glen Galford

In the midst of today’s uncertain economic conditions, folks might do well to invest a few dollars and an hour or so of their time to be inspired by a man who always did things “the right way.”

B.J. Gudmundsson and Patchwork Productions tell a story of even tougher economic times.

“Out of the Storm” opens with the mournful strains of “Hard times, come again no more.”

In 1910, Glen Galford, at the age of 21, married 16-year-old Ruth Hudson, and to that union were born 13 children.

That would be hardship enough, but add to that the fact that it was in the midst of the Great Depression, and it is no wonder Ruth was quoted as saying, “We didn’t have no money for nothing. I don’t know how we ever made it.”

Galford was a farmer and operated a sawmill on Back Creek in Virginia.

Logging and sawmilling are tough enough on a good day in West Virginia or anywhere.

But the worst of days hit the New England states on September 21, 1938, in the form of “one of the most destructive hurricanes in American history.”

The storm claimed more than 600 lives, and the inland path of the storm wreaked havoc on the northeastern states and up through Canada.

When the winds died down, more than three billion feet of timber had been leveled. That amount of timber “if cut into one-inch boards would build a 10 foot tall fence around the world.”

The federal government established the New England Timber Salvage Administration and put out an invitation for loggers and sawmills to harvest the trees before bugs and weather could destroy their value.

“Out of the Storm” is the story of Galford’s response to the government’s invitation.

This is a story of hope in a hopeless time.

A story of a man who took a chance.

In a time in this country’s history when folks were starving – what did he have to lose?

Narrator Mitch Scott calls it “a real West Virginia adventure.”

“A picture of who we are in these mountains. Who we are and what we can be.”

Through news clips, diary entries and personal interviews of those who lived it, Out of the Storm tells of the power of nature and the courage and determination of one man.

Three weeks after a notice about the northeastern salvage operation appeared on the front page of the December 1, 1938, edition of The Marlinton Journal, Galford contracted with Frank Williams, of Northfield, Massachusetts, to clean up his timber.

On a snowy, freezing cold January morning, Galford loaded up his machinery, horses and 30 men, and in the dead of winter, left Green Bank and headed north.

Leonard “Roose” McCutcheon recalls the scene of that morning, glimpsed from his bedroom window.

“I was ill at the time…I’ve never seen such an entourage and convoy of men, trucks and animals,” he said.
“I would have loved to have made that trip.”

As there was no electricity in the hurricane damaged area, Galford’s 18-year-old nephew, Ward Crowley, had gone ahead of the group to set up the Delco plant.

At Galford’s invitation, he stayed on with the logging crew.

Charlie and Lee McLau-ghlin, of Huntersville, were in charge of the horses. They boarded the animals on a farm, and they stayed there with them.

“He [Charlie McLaughlin] was a great man with horses, in the logging industry. He took good care of his horses,” McCutcheon said.

By the time the convoy made its way through New York City and into Northfield, and the sawmill was off-loaded at the train depot there, Galford was “out of money.”

There was very little money back then and loans were practically non-existent, so Galford convinced Dr. George Bronson to take his script, and the Pocahontas County men settled into The Bronson Inn.

The local store agreed to take his script, as well.

Galford promised to redeem it in two months.

The men got to work, starting their shifts at 6 a.m. and working long, hard days.

They were paid 75 cents an hour, had a roof over their heads and, from time- to-time, Dr. Luster “Doc” McCutcheon would travel from Green Bank to Northfield to “check out the men.”

Galford’s men had good paying jobs, a comfortable place to live and healthcare to boot, and all of it during the Depression.

Timber cutting was done with crosscut saws and axes.

The lumber was sawed on a steam-powered Frick sawmill, and Grover Sheets fired the boiler. He had taken a test and had been licensed by the State of Massachusetts, because that was the “right way” to do it.

Stories abound in this documentary.

Stories about the kindness of Howell “Big Boy” Riley,” and about “the house” where the younger workers were not allowed to go.

The men worked through the winter, but – since most of them had farms in Pocahontas County – Galford loaded them up and brought them home in the summer to “put up the hay,” while continuing to pay their wages.

They returned to Northfield to take advantage of the warm weather –­ something that is hard to come by in the northeast.

“The salvage ended in June 1940, and there were no accidents on the site during the whole operation.”

Along with stories about hard work, there are stories of love as many Pocahontas County and New England families were joined together through marriage.

“They came, they cut, they stacked, some of them married,” says the narrator. “They made many friends. All of them grew and none of them ever forgot.”

“We saw the world,” laughed Crowley as he reminisced about the experience.

An experience he shared with McCutcheon, the McLaughlins, Riley, Sheets,  J. B. Orndorff, Tony Hamed, Gerald Wooddell, Merritt Kellison, Earl Kellison, Cecil Gaylor,  Kent Galford, Fred Cole, Burt Robinson, Wallace Galford, Jim Galford, Dewey Galford, Cecil Sheets, Forest Grogg, Guy Grogg, Loren Jordan, Letch McCarty, June Buzzard, Ed “Sparky” Carroll, Norman Alderman, Bob Chestnut, Arch Waybright, Sam Sharp, Gash Neathawk, Conel Matheny, Jarrett Crowley, Earl Lantz, Sam Pennybacker, Dick Fletcher and others.

Galford returned to Pocahontas County, re-established his mill on Back Creek and went back to farming.
Galford died at the age of 57. His obituary records: “A prominent businessman in lumber, livestock and real estate. He affected everyone who ever knew him.”

Galford and his wife, Ruth, are buried in the cemetery at the Wesley Chapel Church in Green Bank.

“A natural disaster during the Depression and on the eve of World War II brings as many as 50 West Virginians to New England for 18 months…and, of course, they get the job done,” declares the narrator.

“Hard times, come again no more.”

Hard times did not come again for Galford.

A man with 13 children, in the midst of the Great Depression, took a chance and it paid off.

“Glen Galford was poor no more.”

Galford’s Linwood property passed on to his eldest son, Wallace, who farmed it and ran a sawmill.

That property, today, is a bustling part of Snowshoe Mountain Resort.

Out of the Storm, The Galford Lumber Company was sponsored by the Pocahontas County Historical Society with financial assist- ance from the West Virginia Humanities Council and is available on DVD at The Pocahontas Times, 206 Eighth Street, Marlinton, WV 24954, or through Patchwork Productions at www.patchworkfilms.com

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