From 1910 to the mid 1920’s the Davis Bothers Lumber Company continued to prosper and grow. A hardwood mill, the third Davis enterprise in the locale, was built in 1914. As new families continued to pour into the community, it led to the birth of the “Tin Top Quarters” which was what we would today call a subdivision for the workers families.
All went well until the world-shaking “Great Depression” struck in 1929 sending the federal and state government, businesses and families into a tailspin that shattered the way of life that Americans had grown accustomed to in the “roaring 20’s.”
The Davis Brothers could have ceased operations like many companies did but instead the kept the mills running best they could and stayed true to their incredible benevolent ways. The effort to run the mills was a spasmodic at best due to the lack of orders. For a long period of time work was done only one or two days per week but unlike thousands of others across the nation, at least the employees of the company were still able to earn some wages.
Unlike places all over the nation there were no “soup lines” in Ansley as the Davis Brothers did everything in their power to take care of their employees. No worker or members of their family went unfed, unclothed or without shelter. From anything to leaky faucets to replacing shingles on a house, tradesmen were dispatched to do the work at no expense to the families. When the original school house burned in 1930 the company had a new bigger and better one built.Families who were leasing a home saw their rent lowered to just a few dollars each month and anyone who had cattle was allowed to graze on company land. If goods were needed the employees could go into the store and get necessities on credit. As the years of depression continued countless numbers ended up leaving owing hundreds of dollars to the Davis Brothers. Yet not one time did the company file a lawsuit to recover the money owed to them.
Much of the credit for the incredible act of generosity goes to “Miss Lottie” who was the wife of “Mr. Bob” (Robert W. Davis) and president of the Davis Lumber Company enterprise from 1935 until her death in 1961. It is recalled of the time when she was packing large boxes of food and items to be taken to destitute families of the logging community, she was asked by her husband “Who is going to pay for this?” Miss Lottie was overheard saying “Why you are R. W. and there will be no more said about it.”
While the company stayed in operation for another 25 years following the depression, it never really recovered. The lack of orders over too long a period of time took its toll. One by one the skilled members of the workforce and their families were forced to move away for better working climates. To make matters worse, capable replacements were not able to be hired.
In March of 1957 the whistle of the “big mill” blew at the end of the workday for the last time. It not only marked the end of an era but also signaled the beginning of the decay and disappearance of Ansley. By 1963 virtually all of the houses and buildings had been torn down leaving only the memories of what used to be.
Next Week – The birth of Eros!
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