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THE EARLY SAWMILLS AT STABLES AND LORING, LOUISIANA

©  By W. T. Block       (click here for W. T. Block web page)

GULF LUMBER COMPANY OF STABLES, LOUISIANA

If the reader has difficulty finding Stables on a road map of Louisiana, it is because what survives of that erstwhile sawdust city is now known as Newllano, two miles south of Leesville. Since the Stables sawmill(s) were bought by Gulf Lumber Company in 1906, the same company that in 1907 was building the giant sawmill at Fullerton, it would seem logical to write the history of both mills together. The history of Fullerton, Louisiana, however, is too long and too complex to permit that. Since the Stables facility consisted of two adjacent sawmills (Nos. 1 and 2) of almost equal capacity, it certainly appears that Gulf Lumber Company bought out two separate and adjacent sawmills and then proceeded to operate them as one plant. One article about Stables observed that:

. . . Since this property has passed into new hands, it has been thoroughly reconstructed and has become a paying proposition. It is of the No. 2 Stables plant we would now speak. Mill No. 2 is being thoroughly remodeled. Everything will be new except the steam engine. A battery of three 18"x72-inch boilers with Dutch oven founations has been installed, which will give ample steam power for all purposes. A new set of line rollers has been placed in position, as has a new log carriage, a trimmer and resaw.... This mill will have a capacity of 60,000 feet per day. Over 1,000 feet of new dollyways have been built and the old ones repaired...

. . . A four-room National dry kiln with a capacity of 100,000 feet a day takes care of the lumber from both mills.Two dry sheds, one 60'x300-feet, capacity 1,500,000 feet; and one 40'x300 feet, capacity 1,000,000 feet, have been built. To the planer has been added a large 24"x36" sizer...

. . . The capacity of Mill No. 1 is 75,000 feet a day, giving a combined capacity for both mills of 135,000 (feet daily). Mill No. 1 has been thoroughly repaired and is doing first class work. A large amount of export timber is manufactured, and that class of trade is on the increase.

The Stables and Fullerton logging tram was chartered as the Gulf and Sabine River Railroad, and existed in two parts. The Fullerton section ran to the east side of Leesville. The Stables tram ran southwest of Leesville for about ten miles until it connected with the Neame, Carson and Southern tram road. B. Marshall was woods foreman at Stables, having formerly occupied the same position with Nona Mills Company at Leesville, and A. Jordan was team boss. W. R. Fields was saw boss, and B. B. Griffin and Fred Koble were locomotive engineers. The Stables tram consisted of five miles of 60- pound, standard gauge main line rails, and five miles of spurs. The tram rolling stock and livestock included one ten-drive wheel, 70-ton Baldwin locomotive, two Shay engines on the spurs, 70 log cars, one McGiffert log loader and skidder, and several mules and yokes of oxen.

In 1907, the Stables plant included 215 "neat cottages" and one "excellent boarding house" for its 300 employees, all buildings having been purchased from the former owners. In that year, many families resided at Stables temporarily, while the husbands were engaged in constructing the Fullerton sawmill. The company officers in Saint Louis included S. H. Fullerton, president; O. H. Ingram and V. M. Davis, vice presidents; Frank Goepel, treasurer; Paul Rust, secretary; and Mark L. Fleischel, vice president and general manager. Mark Fleischel maintained residences in both Fullerton and St. Louis.

The general manager for Louisiana operations was W. A. Martin, who resided in Stables temporarily while Fullerton was being built. Assistant manager was J. H. Johnson, whose principal assignment was plant superintendent of both Stables sawmills. Other key personnel at Stables in 1907 included W. L. Vernon, bookkeeper; J. G. Minter, assistant bookkeeper and purchasing agent; A. D. McClellan, timekeeper; W. P. Hogan, stenographer and invoice clerk; Dr. M. Monk, mill physician; T. S. Dunnam, sawmill foreman; M. S. Stewart, planer foreman; T. S. Thelan, yard foreman; T. S. Cline, B. Farmer, checkers; L. E. Barton, shipping clerk; Charles Dunnard, filer; E. E. Gaines, Ed. Broussard, sawyers; and Cecil Wintle, Smith Powers, mill engineers.

The Stables commissary was a three-story, 40'x125-feet in size, and it carried an $18,000 stock of groceries and merchandise. H. W. Graham was the commissary manager, assisted by J. C. Fisher, Tom Richie, and Joe Reavs, commissary clerks. The Stables mill office was a building 30'x50- feet in size, and contained five rooms.

The steam engines at the power houses also rotated one dynamo, which supplied electricity to 300 incandescent and three arc lamps located in the mill and residential areas. The waterworks consisted of two Worthington pumps, one 20,000-gallon water tank and standpipe, elevated 100 feet, supplying 6-inch mains throughout the mill and town areas.

The maximum population at Stables was about 700 persons in 1908. There were also churches and schools for both races, but no details about them were given. Lumber shipments or the month of June, 1907, amounted to 125 box cars, while the yard stock amounted to 7,000,000 feet of lumber being dressed, dried, or in process of shipment.  1

The life span of the Stables sawmill was relatively short by Western Louisiana sawmill standards. The Stables facility was destroyed twice by fire in 1913 and again in 1916. The second time, the mill was not rebuilt due to its depleted stumpage reserve, and the remaining timber was either sold to other nearby mills or was trammed to Fullerton. In 1917, the Llano colonists from California took over the old Stables townsite and renamed the location Newllano. The Llano colony contracted to buy 20,000 acres of cutover land from Gulf Lumber Company, and the "ups and downs" of that colony can be read in the principal Vernon Parish history, Tall Pines II.  2

BOWMAN-HICKS LUMBER COMPANY OF LORING, LOUISIANA

The present-day sawmill ghost town of Loring, Louisiana, is located about three miles east of Zwolle and about eight miles northwest of Many on the Kansas City Southern Railroad. In 1905, it was a prosperous mill town of 1,000 population. Located adjacent to Highway 171 in Sabine Parish, Loring was also the location of Bowman-Hicks Lumber Company's largest Louisiana sawmill, the other being a 25,000-foot mill at nearby Plymouth. With its general and sales offices located in Kansas City, Bowman-Hicks also had several mid-Western retail outlets, but the firm was much smaller than the other Kansas City sawmillers, namely, Central Coal, Pickering, and Long-Bell, that rushed into Western Louisiana in 1895. To begin with, one of the writer's histories of Bowman-Hicks Lumber Company at Loring reported that the entire installation, sawmill, planer, kilns and yardstock, burned, a total loss of $100,000, at 7:30 PM of February 24, 1906; nevertheless, another history of September, 1906, reported the sawmill as already rebuilt. A third history of Loring reported that:  3

. . . The company purchased the property of Plymouth Lumber Company in 1900. The old mill was located about 3/4 mile north of the present one and had only a small circular saw. It was dismantled in 1903, and the present mill erected.... The men of different nationalities... are segregated, the Americans, Mexicans, Italians, and Negroes occupying different localities... The hotel is excellent and is presided over by W. H. Wood...

. . . There is a substantial school building, and the school is in charge of an excellent teacher, Prof. T. C. Gibson. There is an artificial (log) pond of large size, supplied with an abundance of water...

. . . When Superintendent J. T. Burlingame took charge of the plant, the mill was cutting about 55,000 feet daily. In less than six months, the output was increased to 135,000 feet... Very little attention is paid to the export trade, as the interior demands are greater than can be met.

W. C. Bowman of Kansas City was president and general manager of Bowman-Hicks Lumber Company, and George R. Hicks was secretary- treasurer. Superintendent Burlingame, a Cornell graduate, spent ten years with King-Ryder Lumber Company, a Long-Bell subsidiary at Bon Ami, Louisiana; at Burlingame, Arkansas; and in Oklahoma; and Burlingame in both Arkansas and Kansas were named after him.

Other key personnel at Loring in 1905 included E. L. Gossett, shipping clerk; R. M. Frampton, bookkeeper-cashier; D. C. Pettit, stenographer; Joseph Kisler, sawmill foreman; E. O. Smith, yard foreman; James H. Roscoe, planer foreman; J. A. Henderson, woods foreman; Fred Huber, sawmill engineer; Charles Slocum, planer engineer; Rube Lindsey, Ed Taylor, J. C. Kisler, Jr., sawyers; G. E. Labery, Calvin Henson, locomotive engineers; C. E. Whitman, filer; Tony Carroll, A. M. Norvell, checkers; Dr. F. C. Bennett, mill physician; T. C. Gibson, teacher; and T. C. Simpson, deputy sheriff.

The 135,000-foot Loring sawmill was equipped with two single- cutting band saws and one single circular saw, driven by an 18x24-inch, 150 hp. steam engine. The planing mill contained one 15" Berlin planer-matcher, two 8" matchers, two Berlin 9" matchers, one 12" Berlin moulder, one resaw, and two edgers, rotated by another 150 hp. engine and two 16'x66- inch boilers.3 In May, 1908, one flooring machine and one fast-feed surfacing planer were added to the mill to increase daily planing capacity to 200,000 feet. The firm owned one Standard dry kiln, that could steam-dry 40,000 feet daily. Also the old hotel building was completely remodeled in 1908.  4

In 1904, the total output of the Loring sawmill was 33,000,000 feet, with another 10,000,000 feet drying on the yard. Its stave mill could cut 15,000 barrel staves daily. The Bowman-Hicks tram road was fifteen miles long to its "log front," where three locomotives and 67 log cars brought several train loads daily to the log pond. The "stumpage reserve" (uncut logs) was sufficient to last five years, and the owners would need to locate more if the mill were to survive.

There were also 125 tenant houses at Loring, also one school, one church for whites and another for Negroes, one dispensary, and one commissary with a $21,000 stock of groceries and merchandise. The company paid out monthly wages of $21,000 to its 300 employees. Another quote noted that:

. . . The company has furnished for its employees an amusement hall and fitted it up. The club has a pianola (player piano), which allows them to have music when they so desire. Dances have been quite the order of the day this past winter.....

Loring also had a tennis club and court, a baseball club and diamond; a Woodmen of The World lodge, organized in 1902 with 25 members; and an I. F. F. Card (playing) Club.  5

By May, 1908, the Bowman-Hicks sawmill had already experienced a considerable turnover of key personnel. Burlingame resigned his position in 1905 to accept other employment in Arkansas, and was replaced as superintendent by B. M. Musser. Other employees included J. M. Hughes, assistant superintendent; E. M. Taylor, sawmill foreman; J. H. Roscoe, planer foreman; E. L. Gossett, yard foreman-shipping clerk; M. M. Robertson, master mechanic; John Deming, woods foreman; A. W. Bryan, cashier; A. E. Hendrickson, timekeeper; and Dr. W. C. Middleton, mill physician.  6

With only five years of timber in reserve, the Loring sawmill may not have experienced a long life span unless the owners were able to locate additional stands of long leaf pine. At the latest, the mill was certainly cut out by the early or middle 1920's. The Louisiana road map of today does not even list Loring as a village, indicating that it has returned to ghost town status. Probably today, an abandoned cemetery and a few concrete foundations, covered with pine needles, are the only evidences left of that once thriving sawmill town of yesteryear. And on most any quiet day at sunset, provided one cups his ear to windward, there might still be heard an echo of the big band saw's screech, drifting with the breeze across some distant horizon.

FOOTNOTES:

  1. "Gulf Lumber Co. at Stables, La.," Beaumont Enterprise, June 30, 1907, p. 6, col. 1.
  2. E. W. Wise, Tall Pines II: A History of Vernon Parish, La. and Its People (Sulphur: 1988), p. 41.
  3. "Bowman-Hicks Mill at Loring Burns," Beaumont Enterprise, Feb. 25, 1906, p. 2, cols 3-5; "Lumber at Loring, La.," Beaumont Enterprise, May 15, 1905, p. 4, cols. 7-8; Kansas City Southern Sawmill Circular No. 52-A, Kansas City, Feb. 1, 1901; "Lumber Mills of Louisiana," Southern Industrial and Lumber Review (Sept. 1906), p. 29; "Mills on the Kansas City Southern," Beaumont Journal, Oct. 30, 1904.
  4. "Loring, La. Notes," Beaumont Enterprise, May 24, 1908, p. 13.
  5. "Lumber at Loring, La.," Beaumont Enterprise, May 15, 1905, p. 4,cols. 7-8.
  6. "Loring, La. Notes," Ibid., May 24, 1908, p. 13.

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