My name is Will Thomas, and I live in Nashville where my son Harry is a prominent businessman. Thirty-one years ago, I married, in Smyrna Tennessee, as pretty a girl as that village ever sheltered. She had been well brought up but had no fortune to speak of. I had fifteen-hundred dollars which I had made by running a sawmill. We were young and had the world before us, so we decided to go forth and carve out our future together. I knew of a small but booming lumber town near the Alabama border called Collinwood, so we concluded to go there.
It was late in August when we reached Collinwood. We stayed briefly at the Highland Inn, and I set about looking for a spot to build on. About two miles west of town I found a deep, narrow valley with almost perpendicular sides, one-hundred feet high. A shallow, rock-bottom stream split the valley in half. The stream was called Roanoke Creek. The sides, where they were not too steep, were covered in first class timber. And for hundreds of acres around, the hills were thick with trees of the same quality. I saw there was money in a sawmill right down in that valley, so I built one right on that stream.
I built my mill there, and close to it a little house. So close in fact, that the two joined. I took Nellie, that is my wife, down there, and we began housekeeping. That was well into winter, and I began logging at once. I hired a gang of men to help me, raised money by contracting my lumber ahead, and started in. We cut logs on the hills close to the mill, rigged up slides, and ran them down to the logway. I tell you; it was music to my ears when the saw ripped into that first log and a clean-cut slab dropped away from the teeth. We even had a little jollification. That was the first log ever cut on Roanoke Creek, and people drove miles to see it.