The Sawmill Era
Helen Becomes a Town
The town of Helen can trace its birth to 1911, when in Sikeston, Missouri, A.R. Byrd, the owner of 36,000 acres of virgin Northeast Georgia timberland, met with C.D. Matthews to form a company that would become one of the largest band sawmills east of the Mississippi River.
The Byrd-Matthews Lumber Company chose to locate their mill in the bottomland along the Chattahoochee River and set about establishing a company town to house and accommodate the workers. One of the partners, R.M. McCombs, named the town Helen, after his daughter.
The Morse Brothers Lumber Company took over operations of the Byrd – Matthews sawmill and operated profitably for 20 years, clearing nearly 56,000 acres, until most of the available lumber had been harvested.
In 1931, the sawmill was closed, dismantled, and shipped to Mexico. Shortly thereafter, with the help of visionaries Charlie Maloof and Arthur Woody, the land harvested by the lumber companies became the core of the Chattahoochee National Forest.