Story by Rich Donnell,
The cover story of this issue is about a sawmill modernization project just completed at McShan Lumber in McShan, Ala. Specifically it’s about the installation and startup of new gang and edger systems at the southern pine lumber operation. Associate editor David Abbott was the fortunate one who drew the assignment to make the trip to McShan Lumber to gather material for the article he has written beginning on page 12.
I say “fortunate” because we’ve always felt fortunate to be able to visit McShan Lumber and the McShan family members through the years. They’re just great people to work with.
I did a little research and since I’ve been with Timber Processing magazine, 1983, the article in this issue marks the fifth article we’ve done on McShan Lumber. Look over these years and the headlines that ran on the articles:
• 1983: John McShan’s Crane Love Affair
• 1989: McShan Lumber Keeps Pace With Annual Mill Upgrades
• 1994: The McShan Way: McShan Lumber Has Become One Of The South’s Most Sophisticated High Grade Pine Mills
• 2001: McShan’s Got Game: When Markets Go Soft, McShan Lumber Can Position For The Rebound With The Best Of Them
• 2012 (the current issue): In With The New: McShan Lumber Hasn’t Missed A Beat Despite Tumultuous Economy
Not only that, our publication Southern Lumberman, which was retired a few years ago, visited McShan Lumber in late 2008 for a long Question-and-Answer article with John Tyler McShan and his family members. David Abbott also made that visit. I was the fortunate one to visit McShan Lumber for those articles in 1994 and 2001. The 1994 article included some detail on the mill’s machinery improvements in the early 1990s, including an optimized edger system, which was the very edger system recently removed for the new one that is covered in David’s article in this issue.
McShan, Alabama is located just west of Tuscaloosa, Ala. and east of Meridian, Miss. In 1898, when the railroad came through, the town of Farrar quickly changed its name to McShan because the post office discovered another town was already named Farrar. The name McShan was chosen in honor of Feaster McShan and his sons. He was the current John Tyler McShan’s great grandfather. Feaster’s son, Nathan (JT’s grandfather) laid out the town and drew up the streets and lots.
McShan Lumber celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2007. In 1907, Nathan, who operated a seasonal cotton gin, built a rough sawmill which produced lumber sold to wholesalers in St. Louis.
McShan Lumber has been producing lumber at its current site, the Melrose Plantation, since 1926, when John Tyler’s father, Tyler, who had been operating sawmills in the area, purchased the plantation and the sawmill operation on it from the Sparkman family.
John Tyler McShan, who is 86 and still active, grew up in the family sawmill business. He once told me that the sawmill business was a labor of love. “If you’re looking for comfort, there’s not much around,” he said.
It remains one of my favorite sawmill quotes of all time.