SOME EARLY SAWMILLS AT PINEVILLE, EDNA, WESTLAKE, AND ORANGE, LOUISIANA
© By W. T. Block
(click here for W. T. Block web page)
Following the building of the Kansas City Southern and the St. Louis,
Watkins and Southern Railroads into Western Louisiana during the 1890's,
there was a headlong rush to harvest the virgin pine forests because finally
there was a means to ship lumber to market. The most notable of the
sawmills, of 100,000-feet daily capacity and up, were principally owned by
Midwestern retail lumber dealers, who had seemingly inexhaustible funds to
invest in timberlands and equipment. There were also medium-sized mills,
25,000 to 50,000 feet in size, that sometimes were owned by a single person,
but most often consisted of partnerships or joint stock companies. The
smallest of the sawmills, of which there were many, were often portable
mills with a small engine, boiler, and a 50-inch single circular saw, and such
mills usually cut only rough lumber, which was marketed to larger firms,
and were often moved from one small tract of timber to another.
THE J. G. POWELL LUMBER COMPANY OF EDNA AND LAKE CHARLES
In 1908, J. G. Powell owned sawmills both at Lake Charles and Edna,
the latter located midway between Fenton and Kinder. In 1905, Powell
owned 30,000 acres of land west of Oberlin, into which he built a tram road
13 miles long. Logs for the Lake Charles mill were hauled to Jonas' Bluff,
from whence they were skidded into the Calcasieu River and then floated 40
miles downriver to Powell's Lake Charles river boom, although those
statistics would change within two years. Beaumont Enterprise of July 22,
1905, reported that the J. G. Powell sawmill at Goosport burned down, a
$40,000 loss with very little insurance, but would soon be rebuilt.
1 By 1907,
Powell had also built a sawmill at Edna, as the following news report
. . . This is a comparatively new mill, the other mill owned by the
same company being at Lake Charles. Edna is located on the Watkins
(St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern), six miles north of Fenton,
the latter being at present the post office, but in a few days Edna will
have its own postal facilities....
. . . The present mill has a daily capacity of 60,000 feet. It has a
combination sizer. The orders are largely from the railroads and for
export. The present yard stock approximates 2,000,000 feet, and this
mill runs ten hours daily. Fifty (tenant) houses, a commodious
commissary, carrying a $4,000 stock of goods, and a boarding house
ample for all needs has been built. There is a natural pond and a 330-
foot well that furnishes excellent water for the mill and drinking
. . . At present the logging for this mill and the one in Lake Charles is
done three miles from this mill. There are seventeen miles of track
and three locomotives. The logs for the Lake Charles mill are dumped
into the Calcasieu River at Hecker's Bluff and are rafted down the
river for fifteen miles. The superintendent for the railroad and logging
departments is Mr. D. A. Kelley, a veteran woodsman, who also has a
stock interest in the company. That the mills never lack logs speaks
volumes in his behalf. The mills have a fifteen year cut (stumpage
reserve), and two steamers tow the logs down to Lake Charles. At
present there are 65 mill hands in the Edna plant and 60 in the
As of Jun, 1908, the officers of Powell Lumber Company included W.
T. Webber, prsident; D. A. Kelley, vice president; and George M. King,
secretary-treasurer. Other key personnel included G. M. King,
superintendent; R. H. Arrington, sawmill foreman; M. D. Chitwood,
shipping clerk; C. C. Carter, bookkeeper and commissary manager; Grover
Kelley, billing clerk; John Miller, mill engineer; J. A. Prescott, Hy
Blankenship, Hy Grant, locomotive engineers; Will Hollingsworth, team
boss; Chester Smith, saw boss; and --Stanlon, sawyer.
As of June, 1908, the mill equipment included one double circular
sawmill, a planing mill, and one dry kiln. About half of the plant employees
were black, and a church house had already been built for them. A school
house was due to be completed in time for the fall session. Dr. Oden of
Kinder was acting as temporary mill physician. No other information was
offered about the Edna sawmill, but the timber reserve was sufficient to last
until about 1920. 3
THE ALEXANDRIA LUMBER COMPANY LTD. OF PINEVILLE
The Alexandria Lumber Company sawmill was one of the great mills
of the Alexandria-Pineville vicinity, and one article of June, 1908, noted:
. . . The mill of Alexandria Lumber Company Ltd. is located one mile
from Alexandria on the north side of Red River, and is one of the
most desirable mill places in this section. The mill is a double circular
mill with a capacity of 125,000 feet daily. The planer is fitted out with
nine Hall and Brown planing machines and has been running double
time since the first of May....
. . . The sawmill town is only a short distance from the incorporation
of Pineville, which makes it more convenient for the employees in
various ways. There are 75 company houses, which are neat four and
five-room cottages, fitted out with water pipes from one of the best
deep wells in the state. The hotel is in charge of Mr. and Mrs. W. H.
McDonald, formerly of Woodworth....
As of 1908, the Alexandria sawmill had a full complement of key
personnel as follows; W. D. Wadley, general manager; R. L. Boyd,
superintendent; F. J. Hortig, sales manager; C. E. Alday, bookkeeper; D. W.
Alday, timekeeper; Miss Nora Allen, stenographer; T. L. Owen, commissary
manager; C. L. O'Neal, Alex Stokes, J. H. Rodgers, clerks; Louise
Gamewell, cashier; J. H. Daniels, sawmill foreman; W. H. Goodwin, long
carriage sawyer; George Allen, short carriage sawyer; T. P. Rand, mill
engineer; J. H. Adams, fireman; K. C. Brooks, filer; Rich Clayton,
millwright; George Hill, grader; -- Hastings, machinist; L. C. Smith, yard
foreman; Fred Clements, dry kiln foreman; W. D. Armstrong, planer
foreman; Jack Armstrong, assistant foreman; R. Gould, shipping clerk; C. E.
Scarbrock, checker; W. T. Adams, planer engineer; J. H. Peek, woods
foreman; William Clark, skidder foreman; George Shipman, saw boss; Frank
Rolo, chief engineer; and Dr. S. O. Anthony, mill physician. No other
information about the Pineville sawmill was reported.
POWELL BROTHERS AND SANDERS OF ORANGE, LOUISIANA
The exact location of Orange, Louisiana has never been identified by
the author, who thinks it may have been near Anacoco. As of February,
1901, Holton Lumber Company operated a yellow pine sawmill there that
cut 35,000 feet daily, but a year later it suffered a fatal boiler explosion.6 An
article of May, 1905, reported as follows: 7
. . . Orange, La. - Many years ago, there were a few people gathered
together at this place and were insolated from the outside world, there
being no railroads and but few wagon roads. The great pines covered
the country, and with the exception of an occasional clearing, where a
little farming was carried on, there was only the solitude of the forest.
Finally, to supply the needs of the settlers, a small sawmill was
erected, and later one of larger pretentions. Several years ago, the
latter was destroyed by the bursting of the boiler, and several were
killed. Powell Brothers and Sanders Lumber Company began the
erection of the present mill on June 22, 1904, and it is just now
completed. The stumpage (timber supply) consists of over 30,000
acres, and this the company owns in fee simple. Of this holding,
10,000 acres is of hardwood, white oak, red oak, post oak, maple,
beech, and white and red hickory. A mill for cutting hardwood will be
built in October (1905). The present mill is now ready for business
and can fill any orders from 12 to 52 feet in length. Seven miles of
pipe for the steam dry kiln have just arrived....
The sawmill operated a single circular mill with a daily capacity of
30,000 feet, and it owned a stumpage reserve sufficient for 25 years. The
firm also owned a 12x22-inch steam engine, three 52"x14-foot boilers, and
had a natural log pond. The logging equipment included four miles of rails
to the log front, one locomotive, 18 log cars, and several mules and yokes of
oxen. The planing mill machinery included two Hall and Brown planer-
matchers, one Brown moulder, one Brown resaw, one Brown edger, one
picket machine, one engine, and two 52"x14-foot boilers. There was also
one standard dry kiln, with 40,000 feet daily capacity.
The Powell Brothers and Sanders sawmill at Orange also owned 62
tenant houses, a commissary with $8,000 stock of goods, a waterworks with
a 20,000 gallon tank and standpipe, elevated 78 feet. At that moment, an
electric dynamo was being installed, and a church was being built. Also at
that moment, there were only 52 employees, paid monthly wages of $5,000,
but some facilities of the mill was still new and unused. Production up to
April, 1905, amounted to about 1,000,000 feet of rough lumber monthly.
Key personnel of the Powell Brothers mill included J. W. Williams,
president; O. L. Lee, vice president; W. H. Powell, secretary-treasurer and
superintendent; W. W. Carroll, sawmill foreman; J. H. Hopkins, woods
foreman; A. H. Eddin, yard foreman; E. P. Lamburth, timber buyer; T. J.
Mobley, tram road manager; P. Davis, sawyer; John Rush, filer; O. L.
Crocker, sawmill engineer; E. Lee, planer engineer; T.J. Runkley, trimmer;
L. Mattox, bookkeeper; Sam Williams, clerk; Henry Cain, commissary
manager and stenographer; and John Reilly, locomotive engineer.
The Powell Brothers and Sanders mill planned to cater to the railroad
timber and export trade. 8
PERKINS AND MILLER LUMBER COMPANY OF WESTLAKE
Another of the large sawmills of Western Louisiana was the Perkins
and Miller Lumber Company of Westlake. As of January, 1905, the
executives of that company included Rudolph Krause, president; Arthur
Wachsen, vice president; and W. H. Managan, secretary treasurer. An article
at that time observed that:
. . . A matter of no little importance to the trade at large was the
change which took place early in the year at the Perkins and Miller
Lumber Company, whereby Messrs. Krause and Managan, president
and secretary respectively, resigned. In their places were elected A. J.
Perkins, president; C. B. Monday, secretary and treasurer; E. H.
Green, Jr., assistant secretary-sales manager; and C. H. Collamer,
assistant treasurer and bookkeeper. The operation of this plant at the
present time is an exemplification of what young men can do when
given the charge of a big corporation. The Perkins and Miller Lumber
Company is among the largest of the sawmills here, and under the
new management, has become more popular than ever.....
A list of Louisiana sawmills of September, 1906, quoted the Perkins
and Miller sawmill's daily cutting capacity at 125,000 feet.
10 Another record
of 1906 reported that the:
. . . Perkins and Miller Lumber Company, Ltd., mill is one of long
standing, having been established in 1873 and incorporated in 1892,
with a paid-up capital of $100,000. It has always been a splendid
producer and has proven very remunerative. Located as it is on West
Lake, it has an abundance of water. The logs are purchased in the
river, the company reserving its fine stumpage for the future. Several
of the officers take an active part in operating it. The machinery is of
the best, and the employees are of the best.....
Mill statistics: stumpage reserve-12 years; dry kilns-3; capacity-
40,000 feet; saws-one circular with top saw; fire protection-3 pumps; men
employed- 120; wages per month-$6,000; tenant houses-12; commissary
stock-$40,000; engines-2 of 160 hp.; feet in yard-2,500,000; production in
December-2,000,000; planing mill-1; equipment-3 Hoyt and Fay matchers, 2
Hoyt and Fay sizers, 1 Fay moulder, 1 picket machine, 1 turning lathe, 1
Other key personnel at the lumber company plant included C. H.
Callamer, bookkeeper; J. J. Walsh, order and invoice clerk; E. J. Carter,
stenographer; A. G. Wachsen, commissary manager; John Goss, outside
superintendent; Allen Carroll, planer foreman; Charles Curley, shipping
clerk; Robert Trousdale, yard foreman; and E. N. Winslow, filer.
Of the four sawmills reported in the foregoing statistics, two were of
large size and two were medium. Each played out a role in the early
industrialization of Western Louisiana, providing sizeable payrolls which
reverberated throughout the Louisiana economy, and in some instances
would help bankroll the oil refining, chemical, veneer, and paper industries
that replaced them. Although often one sawmill dominated a town, each
tended to provide the utilities, mercantile, religious and educational, and the
social and leisure time infrastructure that kept the wheels of civilization
turning. The parish-by-parish sawmill history of Louisiana has never been
adequately dealt with, and hopefully other Louisiana historians of the future
will seek to do so.
- "Lake Charles," Beaumont Enterprise, Jan. 15, 1905.
- "Powell Lumber Company," Beaumont Enterprise, May 22, 1908, p. 4, c. 7.
- "Budget from Pineville, La.," Beaumont Enterprise, June 11, 1908, p. 3, c. 6.
- Kansas City Southern Sawmill Circular No. 52-A, Kansas City, Mo., Feb. 1, 1901.
- "Powell Brothers and Sanders," Beaumont Enterprise, May 15, 1905.
- "Lake Charles," Beaumont Enterprise, Jan. 15 and May 28, 1905, p. 11.
- "Lumber Mills of Louisiana," Southern Industrial and Lumber Review (Sept. 1906), p. 29.
- "Mills at West Lake," Beaumont Enterprise, Jan. 28, 1906, p. 17, cols. 1-3.