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Hardeeville steam engine kept lumber business rolling

The uniqueness of the Argent Steam Engine Number 7 on display near the Hardeeville City Hall attracts railroad enthusiasts from across the country. The narrow-gauge train hauled timber from the forest to the mill in Hardeeville during the middle of the last century. Although the Argent Lumber Company went out of business in 1960, forestry is the top manufacturing industry in South Carolina, with over 90,000 jobs and a payroll of over $4 billion, according to 2014 data from the South Carolina Forestry Commission.

Record of South Carolina’s forest industry dates to 1670, about the same time as the settlement of Charleston as the colony’s first permanent settlement. By the turn of the 18th century, coastal pines were being harvested for pine tar and tapped for their “gum” which was distilled for the production of turpentine and various by-products.

Sawmill operations began in the Palmetto State following the Civil War. By the late 1800s, Sumter County had 31 sawmills. The Argent Lumber Company was a Cypress lumber facility with a mill in Hardeeville. Operations began in September 1916, and logging mainlines were eventually built going in various directions from Hardeeville. The mill was the city’s largest employer until it closed in 1959.

By the time World War I was completed nearly all of South Carolina’s forests were depleted. However, a reforestation effort including timber management and sustained yield began in the 1930s, sparing the trees of extinction.  The efforts have paid off. In 2014, the total economic impact of the forest industry on South Carolina was about $17 billion annually, and forest products were the top export by volume out of the Charleston Port.

Stops at Engine 7 and historical monuments, strolls through nature preserves, and picnics in the parks are just some of the opportunities available in the Hardeeville area and just a few miles from your home at Hilton Head Lakes. To learn more about living opportunities, call us at 843-784-5253 or 866-396-3230.

Argent Steam Engine Number 7
Woodburning narrow-gauge engine with a balloon smoke stack
Built in 1911 by H.K. Porter, Pittsburgh, Pa.
Weighs 58,000 pounds
With 12”x16” cylinders, the engine operated at a boiler pressure of 160 psi delivering 11,150 pounds tractive effort
Donated to the city of Hardeeville in 1960
On display at 205 Main St.


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