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W.M. Ritter & Ritter Lumber Company Collection

Identifier: MSS 88-03
William McClellan Ritter (February 19, 1864-May 21, 1952) organized the W.M. Ritter Lumber Company in 1901. From the original core of operations in West Virginia and Virginia the company expanded operations into other southern states. The company also diversified beyond the hardwood lumber industry into such areas as coal, gas, and rail lines.

The W.M. Ritter Lumber Company operated from 1903 to 1926 on Hazel Creek (Swain County, NC), an area and time period described by Horace Kephart in his writings about life in western North Carolina . After that time the company moved operations to Nantahala, NC. Ritter established the town of Ritter, NC, near the junction of Hazel Creek and the Little Tennessee River. In addition, the settlement of Proctor, about four miles up the Little Tennessee River from Ritter, experienced substantial growth after Ritter Lumber Co. started a sawmill there in 1909.

The collection contains seven volumes of The Hardwood Bark, a monthly publication issued during the 1920s "for the employees of the W.M. Ritter Lumber Company and subsidiary companies." In addition to articles on the Ritter Lumber Company and the timber industry, The Hardwood Bark had a news column featuring human interest stories concerning Ritter employees and associates. Included in these columns were the Hazel Creek and Nantahala communities in North Carolina; Maben, Fitzpatrick, Beaver, and Barrett in West Virginia; Fremont and McClure in Virginia; and Colleton in South Carolina. The Hardwood Bark also devoted space to the Red Jacket Consolidation Coal and Coke Company located in Red Jacket, WV, which the W.M. Ritter Lumber Company acquired in 1923.

Also in the collection is Dennis E. Reedy's The W.M. Ritter Lumber Company Family History Book, which offers background information on Ritter and on the company. Individual sections are devoted to the towns and camps, aspects of the logging industry (camp work, transportation methods, processing of timber into products), wages and working conditions.


Dennis E. Reedy, The W.M. Ritter Lumber Company Family History Book. 1983.

Michael Frome. Strangers in High Places. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Company, 1966.

Sam Gray. Hazel Creek: Patterns of Life on an Appalachian Watershed. Part of a comprehensive project in Environmental Education undertaken jointly by TVA (Division of Land and Forest Resources), WCU (Mountain Heritage Center), and Center for Environment & Energy Education. N.d.


  • 1920 - 1983

Condition Description


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2.75 Linear Feet