A St. Johns River Logger
The Upchurch Lumber Company of Jacksonville, FL
Donald R. Hensley, Jr.
(All photos from the Donald R. Hensley Jr. Collection)

Dumping logs into the St. Johns. using the borrowed Florida Ry # 1.

    The St. Johns,  is Florida's greatest river and is the only pure tropical stream in the United States that is navigable its entire extent and it is also contrary to other rivers in America in that it flows northward. The river also boasts the slowest current to be found anywhere; the total drop is only twenty feet during its two hundred mile course through Florida. This river for many years was Florida's main highway into its interior and even today commerce still plies it’s waters. This is the story of a lumber company that utilized the St. Johns in its logging and railroad operations prior to the First World War.
The Upchurch Lumber Co.'s mill at Jacksonville.

    The Upchurch Lumber Company of Jacksonville, Florida was chartered on May 20,1907 by John Upchurch and George Drew and $400,000 dollars of stock was issued. Then construction of a modern sawmill began on the former site of the L. Bucki & Sons Lumber Co. in the Panama Park area of Jacksonville. The mill was situated along tidewater on the St. Johns River so that ocean going schooners and steamships could take on their cargoes on the mill's own docks.
Another view of the mill, showing the log pond.

    The Upchurch operated two standard gauge logging railroads in connection with their two logging operations on the upper St. Johns. The first of which I will write of is the Deep Creek operation, which harvested Long Leaf Yellow Pine along the watersheds of Dunn's and Deep Creeks in Flagler, Putnam and St. Johns counties. The Deep Creek Tap Line began at the mouth of Dunn's Creek where it flows into the St. Johns some eighty-five miles upriver of Jacksonville. From there it ran east to the headwaters of Deep Creek where it turned north and ran along Deep Creek until it reached the town of Hastings where interchange was made with the Florida East Coast Railway. Hastings was the headquarters of the operations here and the shops and commissary of the logging camp were located near here. Upchurch operated some thirty miles of 30 pound rail here.


    Operations on this tap line were simple, every morning an empty log train would head out of Hastings to the area that was being cut. The train then would back into the spur leading to where the activity was located at and the train would begin loading. The loggers lived in portable camp cars that would be moved by train from one cutting area to another. When the train was loaded they would head to Dunn’s Creek where the logs would be dumped into the water. Then the logs would be tied into rafts which would be towed by gasoline lighters the eighty-five miles to their mill, where the logs were towed into a holding pen where they were hauled out to be cut into lumber. There was also a planning mill there also. The Deep Creek Tap operated from 1908 to 1912 when the rails were taken up and moved to their second operation at Norwalk.
McGiffert Self-Propelling Log Loader of the Clyde Iron Works works  on the Norwalk Line loading logs unto flat cars.  Note that the cars are pulled under this machine which has raised it's own wheels up. The McGiffert was self propelled.
    Upchurch's operation at Norwalk started out small with only five miles of track in 1908. This was increased to 35 miles with the addition of the Deep Creek rail in 1912. The Norwalk Tap operated from Norwalk Landing on the St. Johns, 103 miles from Jacksonville. Prom the landing it ran west to the logging camp of Norwalk where the headquarters were located. From Norwalk it ran due west as far as the Ocklawaha River in what is now the Ocala National Forest. This was situated in Marion and Putnam counties. Operations here were similar to Deep Creek's, the empty log train would start the day at Norwalk, backed west down the main to where the trees were being felled and loaded, then they would head east with the loaded log cars to Norwalk landing where the logs would be dumped into the river. Then they would be tied into rafts and towed by small boats the 103 miles to Jacksonville and the mill. There was one complication here, all equipment, rails and supplies had to be transported by barge from Jacksonville or Palatka which was the nearest rail head on the river.

This is a probably a Clyder double ender skidder and loader.

    Because of the light rails and the problems with transporting equipment by boat the Upchurch had to use the lightest locomotives available. They owned at least seven small second hand wood-burners and at busy times leased two others. The smallest was old number four, a twenty-four ton 2-4-0t forney built by Baldwin in 1884 for the New York & Seabeach RR. She had been rebuilt into a 2-4-0 with a four wheel tender before she reached Upchurch in 1908. She served at Norwalk until abandonment in 1917. A complete roster of locomotives will be found in Appendix I.
A log train passes one of the logging camps on the Norwalk line.

Probably due to the expense of towing the logs down river to the mill at Jacksonville the Upchurch began having financial difficulties in 1913. By then the Deep Creek Tap had been taken up and the Norwalk Tap had been expanded to thirty-five miles. The company limped along until 1916 or 1917 when they shut down for good. In November of 1917 George and Frank Drew, directors of the company, began scrapping the Norwalk Tap where they took up thirty-five miles of track and four locomotives. The two Drew brothers were also directors of the Florida Railway that also went under in November of 1916, and which they would pull up next, in 1918. But now in 1917 they were concerned only with the Upchurch job and within a few months there would be nothing left but the faint trace of a logging grade.
A good look of the primitive track behind the McGiffert loader. Logs have already been skidded to the location.

Upchurch Lumber Co. Roster of Locomotives
1            2-6-0 Baldwin 10887 1890 14x22" 38" 40 tons rated 12 cars & caboose Original Drew Lumber Co.#1 “Columbia”  to Suwannee & San Pedro RR #1 in 1899 to Florida Ry. #1 in 1905. Leased to Upchurch Lumber Co.#1 from 12/7/1910 to 6/25/1911, used on the Deep Creek Railway. Returned to Florida Ry and used there until end of operations in 1916. Returned to Upchurch to scrap the Deep Creek and Norwalk lines in 1917-1918. Scrapped by 1919.

4             2-4-0 Baldwin 4064  1884 13x26" 404" 24 tons Original New York
and Seabeach #1"Seabeach" and was built as a 2-4-0t Forney type. Rebuilt by Baldwin with a four wheel tender and sold to Upchurch by a second hand dealer in 1907. Scrapped in 1918.

N.Y.L.W ?    ?  15x30" 57"  50 tons rated 20 cars & caboose Live Oak & Gulf #96 to Florida Ry.#5 in 1905. Leased to Upchurch Lbr. Co. from 1/6/1910 to 6/25/1911, used on the Deep Creek Ry. Returned to Florida Ry. and used there until end of operations in 1916 and was scrapped by 1919.

7 (1st)      2-6-0 N.Y.L.W. 285 1887 18x24" 44" Original West Virginia'& Pittsburg #9 to B&O 910 to Georgia Car & Locomotive #75 To Upchurch Lbr. Co. #7.(1st) but was returned to GC&L and traded for GC&L #86 (ULC#9')' in 1911 because it was too heavy for track. Went to GC&L #160 and sold to Alabama, Tennessee & Northern #80 on 3/4/1912.

7 (2nd)     2-6-0 Baldwin  3266  16x24" 44"  Original owner St. Louis-San Francisco # 27 to BR&L to Alger Sullivan Lumber Co. # 1 (1st) in 1901 to BR&L to Florida,-Alabama & Gulf #4 in Jan of 1905 to Georgia Car & Locomotive # 206 to Upchurch Lumber Co. #7(2nd) 10/1912. Resold to GC&L #273 in 1916, to West Yellow Pine Co.#117 on 2/29/1916, returned and resold to Bradford Farms (Florida State Prisons)#2 on 7/27/1916.

            4-4-0 Grant  1321  1880 16x24" 56" Original Carolina Central
#25,re 415 to Seaboard Air line #415 to Georgia Car & Locomotive #86 to Upchurch Lumber Co., Hastings ,F1 on 3/21/1911, scrapped at Norwalk in 1918.

10            4-6-0 Baldwin 15469 8/1897  15x24" 48" Original Georgia Pine Ry. #1 to Georgia, Florida & Alabama Ry.#1, re 121 to Georgia Car & Locomotive # 158 to Upchurch Lumber Co. #10 on 7/10/1911. Sold to Birmingham Rail & Locomotive on 11/19/1919 and from there went to Bienville Lumber Co.# 7, Forest, Miss,

101         Baldwin - no other information.

271          ?     ?     ?     ?    ?    ?  30 tons

Note:A company publication from around 1911 or later listed locomotives owned as #s 4 (24 ton Forney at Norwalk), 7 (at Deep Creek), 101 (Baldwin) and 271 (30 tons).

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