Sunburst historical marker

Sunburst (P-92)

Model logging village established in 1905. Supplied lumber to WWI effort & Champion paper mill. Flooded by Lake Logan, 1932. Was here.

Location: NC 215 south of Waynesville
County: Haywood
Original Date Cast: 2013

During the early twentieth century, Haywood County manufacturing was centered on the region’s extensive timber resources and the operations included logging, milling, furniture making, and tanneries. Timber companies purchased large tracts of land in order to harvest the hardwood. Most of the investors in Haywood County at that time were wealthy non-residents, such as Peter Thomson, owner of Champion Fibre Company in Ohio. Thomson was looking for a location to build a pulp factory to supply the mill in Ohio. He had many sites to choose from, but selected Canton for its abundance of desirable spruce trees. Although the pulp mill was in Canton, the logging for the mill was conducted elsewhere.

Logging operations required the establishment of temporary villages for the workers and sometimes for their families as well. One of the largest and most well-appointed villages was Sunburst, built about 1905 on the Pigeon River in Haywood County to supply timber to the Champion pulp mill in Canton, about fifteen miles away. Sunburst was on land owned by Thomson and was operated by Whitmer Lumber Company. There were dozens of houses, a boardinghouse, commissary, and a multi-purpose building that held a church, school, and even a skating rink. A post office was established in 1906. The community offered modern conveniences such as electricity, running water, and ample telephone service.

Carl Schenck, the German forester hired by George Vanderbilt to manage his estate, launched a school of forestry at Biltmore in 1898. After parting ways with Vanderbilt, Schenck used the facilities at Sunburst between 1910 and 1913. Sunburst offered “plenty of rooms for the students . . . and the most modern schoolhouse in western North Carolina.” Schenck did not formally move the Biltmore Forest School there but used the location to allow students to study the local forests and logging operations.

During World War I, spruce lumber, such as that found at Sunburst, was important in the construction of airplanes and ships. After the war, however, timber production decreased. In the 1920s Whitmer reorganized and created Suncrest Lumber Company, which moved its base of operations to Waynesville and then closed in the late 1920s. Champion continued to thrive in Canton, and in 1932 built a dam at the west fork of the Pigeon River. The resulting lake, Lake Logan, flooded most of Sunburst.

Curtis W. Wood, Jr., Haywood County: Portrait of a Mountain Community (2009)
Ronald Eller, Miners, Millhands, and Mountaineers (1982)
W. Clark Medford, Land O’ the Sky (1965)

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