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PART O: A SUMMARY OF ORANGE COUNTY SAWMILLING

by W. T. Block

The history of sawmilling in Orange County,Texas, was so unique that it had only one counterpart in all of East Texas, and that was at Beaumont. By 1920, there were only three large sawmills left at Orange and three smaller ones elsewhere in the county. The Miller-Link mill went bankrupt and was dismantled. The sawmilling era there ended on December 16, 1930, when the last logs floated down the Sabine River was used up and the two big Lutcher and Moore sawmills were shut down for all time, silenced by the Great Depression. A way of life at Orange had really sung its swan song and died, leaving only memories in its place.162

Another sawmilling casualty when the supply of sawdust and shavings expired was the Orange Pulp and Paper Mill. Known variously as the Orange Papermill Company and Yellow Pine Papermill Company, the mill and its methods had been a failure at Mobile, Alabama, before the mill was moved to Orange about 1905, where new paper-making processes were tried and proven successful. The paper mill used up all the sawdust and shavings that in Beaumont were usually stacked one hundred feet or higher on every vacant lot. Yet, despite Orange's ridding itself of all the sawdust hazards to mill fires, the rate of sawmills that burned down was not reduced. It was never the writer's intent to add paper mills, and particle board and veneer mills to these chapters, but the Orange paper plant, the first of its kind in East Texas, did add a unique chapter to Orange's history.163

Orange was likewise a perfect example of a community's over-dependence on a "one-product" economy, and the problems entailed when there was no economic diversity to absorb financial shocks created by the sawmills that were either dismantled or burned down or the depletion of the sawmills' timberlands. A good source of information about early Orange's financial "ups-and-downs" can be found in either J. Eddie Johnson's MA thesis at Lamar University or his published article, "The Economic Development of Orange County, Texas, 1900-1920," published in 1977.164

In 1879, when most East Texas counties could still not boast of a single "large" sawmill, the city of Orange manufactured and shipped 52,000,000 shingles, 40,000,000 feet of lumber, and 7,500,000 wood lathes.165 By 1905, the Lutcher and Moore Company alone could manufacture 100,000,000 feet of lumber a year, and not strain an engine or shear a pin. By 1879, Orange also had two sash and door factories attached to its mills. In June, 1878, Capt. G. B. Burr (master of the steamboat Era No. 8) and Boyd built a planing mill at Orange, that was variously referred to as a "portable house factory" as well. In 1880 Hart and Goodman added another planing mill at Orange, but generally the independent planing mills at Orange were unsuccessful because each sawmill eventually added a planing mill to its inventory.166

Certainly no other city or county in East Texas witnessed the rate of and great number of sawmill fires that the city of Orange did, beginning with the burning of the Empire Mills on May 31, 1856, and ending with the burning of the Orange Lumber Company sawmill in 1918. Two sawmill fires were intentionally set due to outlaws hiding out in the area; others were probably arson as well. As far back as when the shingle bundlers struck for higher wages at Orange about 1884, one of the "dirty tricks" endured by sawmillers was railroad spikes driven into company timber, intended to shear teeth off the band, circular, and gang saws. Two Orange sawmillers, A. Gilmer and D. Wingate, lost four or five sawmills to fires in each one's lifetime. The writer estimates that between 18 and 20 sawmills burned at Orange over seven decades of time, and each fire plowed a path of financial misery for each family whose livelihood was lost. It was always sad whenever a sawmill cut out and shut down, but employees could always see that day approaching. Fires robbed hundred of their jobs without even a day of warning.

It has been said that "oil built Beaumont," recognizing no part of the role that sawmilling played there, but "old King Lumber" certainly built Orange without fear of intrusion from any other industry. Oh yes, there was an early rice mill and a large foundry, but no other sizeable industry reached Orange until the shipyards of World War I arrived. And even now, six decades after the last of the big band saws quit its screeching, Orange still reaps the benefits of lumber money that eyes can see all over the town. Today the beautiful Lutcher Theatre and the Lutcher Art Museum are only two of the lovely institutions that owe their origins to the Stark Foundation; another lumber-era landmark, the beautiful Edgar Brown home, was willed to Lamar University.

1"Texas' Timbered Wealth," (Galveston) Daily News, January 1, 1900.
2(Galveston) Weekly News, November 21, 1876.
3"More About The Mills," Ibid., August 6, 1891.
4(Houston) Telegraph and Texas Register, October 7, 1840.
5"Mills At Orange," (Orange, Tx.) Leader, 1895 Special Edition.
6"Description of Orange County," (Nacogdoches, Tx.) Chronicle, August 16, 1853: also (New Orleans) Time-Democrat, March 22, 1889.
7"Entrances and Clearances," J. D. Swain, Collector, March 31, 1840, File 4-21/10, Sabine Bay Customs Records, Texas Statge Archives; (Richmond, Tx.) Telescope, April 4, 1840.
8"Quarterly Return," R. C. Doom, Collector, June 30 and Sept. 30, 1839; and "Quarterly Return," N. F. Smith, Collector, December 31, 1842, Sabine Bay Customs Records, File 4-21/10, copied by W. T. Block at Texas State Archives.
9Manuscript Census Returns of 1850, Jefferson County, Texas, Schedule V, Products of Industry.
10Manuscript Census Returns of 1860, Orange County, Texas Schedule I, residences 50, 147; Schedule II, Slaves.
11"Description of Orange County," (Nacogdoches) Chronicle, August 16, 1853.
12"Mills at Orange," (Orange) Leader, 1895 Special Edition.
13"Empire Mills Burn," (Galveston) Weekly News, June 7; July 15, 1856; also Tri-Weekly News, July 15, 1856.
14Dr. Howard Williams, Gateway To Orange: A History of Orange and Orange County (Orange: 1988), p. 108.
15(Galveston) Weekly News, May 26, 1857.
16 "Letter From Hal," (Galveston) Weekly News, June 30, 1857; also reprinted in W. T. Block (ed.), "Extracts From The Writings of Henry R. Green," Texas Gulf Historical and Biographical Record, XI (Nov. 1975), p. 72.
17"Letter From Hal," Ibid., May 10, 1859, reprinted in Texas Gulf Historical and Biographical Record, XI (Nov. 1975), p. 76.
18Manuscript Census Returns of 1860, Orange County, Texas, Schedule V, Products of Industry.
19Texas Almanac, 1859, (Galveston: 1860), p. 150.
20R. E. Russell, "A History of Orange," published in (Beaumont, Tx.) Enterprise, April 23, 1922.
21"Mills at Orange," (Orange) Leader, 1895 Special Edition; "Obituary of E. T. Chenault, (Beaumont) News-Beacon ; "Among the Lumbermen: (Galveston) Daily News, March 21, 1896.
22Manuscript Census Returns of 1860, Orange County, Texas, Schedule I, res. 8.
23"Obituary of A. Gilmer," (Beaumont) Enterprise, July 31, 1906.
24Ibid.
25"Memoirs of Alexander Gilmer," (Galveston) Daily News, February 11, 1905.
26(Sabine Pass, Tx.) Beacon; quoted in (Houston) Tri-Weekly Telegraph, November 12, 1871.
27"A. Gilmer Memoirs," (Galveston) Daily News, February 11, 1905.
28Ibid.
29"The Sabine Trade," (Galveston) Daily News, February 1, 1877.
30(Galveston) Weekly News, August 13, 1877, quoting the Tribune.
31Ibid., September 10, 1877, quoting the Tribune.
32Manuscript Census Returns of 1880, Orange County, Texas, Schedule V, Products of Industry, copied by W. T. Block from Microfilm Reel No. 48, Texas State Archives.
33"The Orange Riot," (New Orleans) Democrat, August 21, 1881.
34"Orange Fire," (Galveston) Weekly News, December 7, 1882.
35(Galveston) Weekly News, December 22, 1887.
36"Orange County Prospects," (Galveston) Weekly News, February 9, 1888.
37"Orange, Texas--The Sawmill City of The Lone Star State," (New Orleans) Times-Democrat, March 22, 1889.
38"Laurel's Laurels," (Galveston) Daily News, November 22, 1890.
39"Orange Marine Matters," Ibid., September 14, 1891.
40"Texas Fires," (Galveston) Daily News, February 19, 1891.
41"A. Gilmer Mill Burns," (Galveston) Daily News, March 16, 1893; "Lumber Mills Burned," (Galveston) Weekly News, March 23, 1893.
42"Gilmer Mill Destroyed," (Beaumont) Journal, October 6, 1899.
43(Beaumont) Enterprise, July 31, 1906.
44"Memoirs of A. Gilmer," (Galveston) Daily News, February 11, 1905.
45S. G. Thigpen, Pearl River: Highway to Gloryland (privately printed: 1965), pp. 83-86; N. Hickman, Mississippi Harvest: Lumbering In The Long Leaf Belt (University, Ms., 1962), pp. 18-19.
46Letter, J. H. to E. H. Cushing, and article, "Night Attack at Sabine Pass," (Houston) Tri-Weekly Telegraph, November 5, 1862.
47Vol. B, pp. 302-303, and C, p. 43, Orange County, Texas Deed Records.
48(Galveston) Tri-Weekly News, February 5, 1872; Weekly News, September 19, 1873; July 16, 1891.
49(Galveston) Daily News, February 18, 1899; Weekly News, October 29: November 5, 12, 1877; April 1; August 26, 1878, each quoting the Tribune.
50(Galveston) Weekly News, August 20 and November 5, 1877; August 26 and October 7, 1878, each quoting Tribune.
51(Beaumont) Enterprise, December 4, 1880; Weekly News, October 7, 1878.
52Manuscript Census Returns of 1880, Orange County, Texas, Schedule V, Products of Industry, copied by W. T. Block from Microfilm Reel No. 48, Texas State Archives.
53(Beaumont) Enterprise, December 4, 1880; (Galveston) Weekly News, December 2, 1880.
54(Galveston) Daily News, February 18, 1899.
55"Prospects of Orange County," (Galveston) Weekly News, February 9, 1888.
56(Galveston) Daily News, June 2, 1890; Vol. L, pp. 351-355, Orange County Deed Records.
57(Galveston) Daily News, March 10 and April 14, 1895.
58"Life of Judge Wingate," (Sabine Pass) News, February 23, 1899; also "Obituary of Judge Wingate," (Galveston) Daily News, February 18, 1899.
59"Among The Lumbermen," (Galveston) Daily News, January 10, 1903, p. 6, c. 6-7.
60(Galveston) Weekly News, April 9, 1877.
61Ibid., April 20, 1877.
62" T and N O Railroad," (Galveston) Daily News, July 15, 1879.
63"Orange County," Ibid., October 22, 1879.
64(New Orleans) Democrat, November 20, 1881.
65(Galveston) Weekly News, April 9, 1877, quoting Tribune.
66Ibid., August 13, 1877.
67Ibid., October 22, 1877, quoting Tribune.
68Manuscript Census Returns of 1880, Orange County, Texas, Schedule V, Products of Industry, Microfilm Reel No. 48, Texas State Archives, copied by W. T. Block.
69"History of the Lutcher and Moore Lumber Company," (Beaumont) Enterprise, October 15, 1905.
70"Orange," (Galveston) Daily News, March 28, 1885.
71Ibid., April 5, 1885.
72"Among The Lumbermen," (Galveston) Daily News, June 16, 1895; April 25 and August 15, 1897.
73"History of the Lutcher and Moore Lumber Company," (Beaumont) Enterprise, October 15, 1905.
74"Among the Millmen," (Galveston) Daily News, December 20, 1887.
75"Prospects of Orange," (Galveston) Weekly News, February 9, 1888.
76Ibid.
77"Orange and Beaumont," (Galveston) Daily News, September 1, 1890.
78"Orange, Texas," (New Orleans) Times-Democrat, March 22, 1889.
78a"History of The Lutcher and Moore Lumber Company," (Beaumont) Enterprise, October 15, 1905; "The Lutcher and Moore Lumber Company of Port Orange," Where The Port Of Orange Is Located On The World's Map (Orange Leader, 1916), pp. 24-26; "Lumber History," Southern Industrial and Lumber Review (Nov. 1902), p. 36.
79W. T. Block, Cotton Bales, Keelboats, and Sternwheelers: A History of The Sabine River Trade (Nederland: 1976), p. 54.
80(Beaumont) Enterprise, "History of The Lutcher and Moore Lumber Company," October 15, 1905.
81Ibid.
82Dr. Howard Williams, Gateway to Texas: A History of Orange and Orange County, p. 113; "Orange: The Gateway to Texas," Southern Industrial and Lumber Review, November, 1902, p. 37.
83R. Maxwell et al, Sawdust Empire: The Texas Lumber Industry (College Station: 1983), pp. 32-33; Dr. Williams, Gateway to Texas, pp. 111-114; "Orange: Gateway City To Texas," Southern Industrial and Lumber Review, November, 1902, pp. 36-39.
84Williams, Gateway to Texas, p. 114.
85"Lumber History," Southern Industrial and Lumber Review, November, 1902, p. 32.
86"History of Orange," by Robert E. Russell, January 11, 1911, published (Beaumont) Enterprise, April 23, 1922; also (Orange) Leader, January 21, 1918.
87(Galveston) Weekly News, October 29, 1877.
88Ibid., October 29, 1877.
89Ibid., August 12, 1878.
90Ibid., August 26, 1878.
91Ibid., December 3, 1877; January 21, 1878.
92Manuscript Census Returns of 1880, Orange County Texas, Schedule V, Products of Industry, Microfilm Reel No. 48, copied by W. T. Block at the Texas State Archives and published by Block in Texas Gulf Historical and Biographical Record, IX (November, 1973), p. 58.
93"Death of a San Jacinto Veteran," (Beaumont) Enterprise, December 4, 1880; see also (Galveston) Daily News, December 9, 1880.
94"Orange, Texas: The Sawmill City of The Lone Star State," (New Orleans) Times-Democrat, March 22, 1889.
95"Some Sawmill History," (Galveston) Weekly News, July 16, 1891.
96Ibid., "More About The Mills," August 6, 1891.
97"Orange: Gateway To Texas," Southern Industrial and Lumber Review, November, 1902, p. 34; (Galveston) Weekly News, August 20, 1877.
98(Galveston) Weekly News, April 1, 1878.
99Census Returns of 1880, Orange County, Texas, Sched. V, Products of Industry, Microfilm Reel No. 48, Texas State Archives, copied by W. T. Block and published in Texas Gulf Historical and Biographical Record, IX (Nov., 1973), p. 59.
100"Orange, Texas," (New Orleans) Times-Democrat, March 22, 1889; "Lumber History," Southern Industrial and Lumber Review (Nov. 19010, p. 34.
101Ibid., (Nov. 19020, p. 35.
102George Bancroft, "Retrospective and Memorandum of Business Events" (undated 21-page unpublished manuscript of family business history: Orange, Ca. 1920), pp. 2-3, to be hereinafter cited as "Bancroft."
103None of the writer's research ever noted a "Sims" mill at Orange, and apparently Bancroft's memory may have failed him. However, in 1873, Eberle Swinford operated the "Phoenix" or "Upper" shingle mill on the Louisiana side at Phoenix Lake. In 1874 the Phoenix mill became Wingate and Swinford, and in 1877 it became Moore and Swinford, when D. R. Wingate sold out to Charles H. Moore of Galveston. Moore and Swinford also operated the Conway's Bayou or "Lower" shingle mill, both mills being in Louisiana, and hence not a part of this story. The "Lower" mill burned out on March 25, 1884, but was soon rebuilt, and the "Upper" mill was eventually dismantled around 1892 when the cypress timber was cut out. See "Shingle Mill Burns," (Galveston) Daily News, March 27, 1884; also "Orange, Texas," (New Orleans) Times-Democrat, March 22, 1889.
104Bancroft, p. 3; also Vol. F, pp. 397-398, Orange County Deed Records.
105(Galveston) Weekly News, Dec. 24, 1877.
106Ibid., March 17, 1879.
107The 1880 Orange County census, Sched. IV, Products of Industry, copied by W. T. Block from Microfilm Reel No. 48, Texas State Archives, and published in Texas Gulf Historical and Biographical Record (Nov. 1973), p. 58.
108Bancroft, p. 4.
109"Orange, Texas," (New Orleans) Times-Democrat, March 22, 1889.
110Bancroft, pp. 5, 12.
111Ibid., p. 8.
112Ibid, p. 9.
113Bancroft, pp. 13-18.
114Ibid., p. 10
115Ibid., pp. 12-21.
116Kirby Lumber Co., Timber Resources of East Texas (Houston: Nov. 19020, p. 131.
117Kirby, Timber Resources of East Texas, p. 132.
118Typescript, "List of Kirby Lumber Company Plants--Mill D," Houston, Feb. 9, 1903, p. 3, Kirby Papers, SFA State Unviversity Forestry Archives.
119Ibid.; Bancroft, p. 21; Timber Resources of East Texas, p. 136.
120"List of Kirby Lumber Company Plants-Mill D," p. 3; Santa Fe Railroad Circular No. 2090, Galveton, March 28, 1904.
121"Mill D Sold to Miller-Link," (Beaumont) Enterprise, July 4, 1905.
122"List oif Kirby Lbr. Co. Plants-Mill D," p. 3; Bancroft, p. 21; "Lumber History," Southern Industrial and Lumber Review (Nov. 1902), p. 37.
123"Lumber History," Southern Industrial and Lumber Review (Nov. 1902), pp. 34, 37.
124"Orange, Texas," (New Orleans) Times-Democrat, March 22, 1889.
125"Orange and Northwestern Railroad," Southern Industrial and Lumber Review (Nov. 1902), p. 25.
126"A Great Lumber Manufacturing Enterprise-Miller-Link," The Orange Leader, Holiday Number (Nov. 1910), pp. 3-4; "Miller-Link Buys Machine," Southern Industrial and Lumber Review (June, 1909), p. 73.
127Webb, "Quigley, Texas," Handbook of Texas, II, 424.
128The Orange Leader, Holiday Edition, Nov. 1910, p. 3; also Webb, "Bunker Hill, Texas," Handbook of Texas, I, 245.
129Orange Leader, Holiday Number, Nov. 1910, p. 3; also "Miller-Link Buys Newton Sawmill," Southern Industrial and Lumber Review (Sept. 1908), p. 28; also Ibid. (Jan. 1909), p. 28;l also Ibid., (Feb. 1909), p. 45.
130"A Great Lumber Manufacturing Enterprise," Orange Leader, Holiday Number (Nov. 1910), p. 3.
131Nellis and Pierson, Directory of American Sawmills (Washington: 1915), p. 211.
132"History of the Miller-Link Lumber Company," in Where The Port Of Orange Is Located On The World Map (Orange Leader: 1916), p. 50.
133Webb, Handbook of Texas, II, 841; also American Lumberman (December 15, 1918); also J. E. Johnson, "The Economic Development of Orange County," Texas Gulf Historical and Biographical Record, XIII (Nov. 1977), p. 25; also Gulf Coast Lumberman (Nov. 15, 1917), p. 30.
134Bancroft, p. 21; Dr. H. Williams, Gateway to Orange, p. 117.
135"Lumber History," Southern Industrial and Lumber Review (Nov. 1902), pp. 34, 37; also (Galveston) Weekly News, Apr. 29; Aug. 26; Oct. 21; and Nov. 11, 1878.
136Manuscript Census of 1880, Orange County, Tx., Sched. IV, Products of Industry, copied by W. T. Block from Microfilm Reel No. 48, Texas State Archives.
137Southern Industrial and Lumber Review (Nov. 1902), p. 37; "Orange County Prospects," (Galveston) Weekly News, Feb. 9, 1888.
138"Orange, Texas," (New Orleans) Times-Democrat, march 22, 1889.
139(Galveston) Daily News, March 10 and April 14, 1895.
140"Lumber," (Galveston) Daily News, jan. 11, 1902; Jan. 10, 1903; (Beaumont) Journal, April 9, 16, 1905; also (Beaumont) Journal, Oct. 23, 1904.
141"Lumber Mills of Texas," Southern Industrial and Lumber Review (Sept. 1906), p. 28.
142Dr. H. Williamd, Gateway to Orange, p. 117.
143"Miller-Vidor Lumber Company," American Lumberman (Oct. 8, 1910), p. 52.
144Webb, Handbook of Texas, II, 841; "Beaumont Sawmill Co." (Beaumont) Enterprise, Oct. 15, 1905; "Miller-Vidor Mill Burns," (Beaumont) Enterprise, Jan. 6, 1918.
145Webb, Handbook of Texas, II, 768; "R. W. Weir Lumber Co." Orange Leader, Holiday Number, Dec. 1910; American Lumberman, Dec. 15, 1918; "Lumber Mills of Texas," Southern Industrial and Lumber Review (Sept. 1906), p. 27.
146Webb, Handbook of Texas, II, 160.
146aSouthern Industrial and Lumber Review (Feb., 1909), p. 45.
147Ibid., II, 727.
148Webb, Handbook of Texas, I, 515.
149Nellis and Pierson, Directory of American Sawmills (Washington: 19150, p. 211.; also Webb, Handbook of Texas, II, 308.
150Handbook of Texas, II, 48.
151G. C. and Santa Fe Circular No. 2090, Galveston, mar. 28, 1904; (Baumont) Enterprise, Oct. 30, 1904.
152(Beaumont) Enterprise, Oct. 15, 1905.
153"Gilmer Obituary," (Beaumont) Enterprise, July 31, 1906.
154Webb, Handbook of Texas, II, 48.
155"Lumber History," Southern Industrial and Lumber Review (Nov., 1902), p. 36; "Orange, Texas," (New Orleans) Times-Democrat, March 22, 1889.
156"Lumber Mills of Texas," Southern Industrial and Lumber Review (Sept., 1906), p. 28; "Orange Lumber Shipments By Rail and Water," (Galveston) Daily News, Jan. 11, 1902 and Jan. 10, 1903.
157"Miller-Vidor Lumber Company," American Lumberman (Oct. 8, 1910), p. 52.
158Company Advertisement, (Beaumont) Enterprise, September 29, 1910.
159Webb, "Vidor," Handbook of Texas, II, 841.
160"Miller-Vidor Lumber Co.," American Lumberman (Oct.8, 1910), pp. 84-85; "Orange Sawmill Burns" (Beaumont) Enterprise, Aug. 4, 1910, p. 2.
161Ibid.
162Dr. H. Williams, Gateway to Orange, p. 117.
163L Miller, "Lumber-The Great Asset," in Where The Port Of Orange Is Located On The World Map (1916), pp. 9-10; "Paper From Yellow Pine Waste," Southern Industrial and Lumber Review (----, 1909, month blurred), p. 47.
164J. E. Johnson, "The Economic Development of Orange County, Texas, 1900-1920," Texas Gulf Historical and Biographical Record, XIII (Nov. 1977), 10-27.
165Ibid., W. T. Block, "An Early East Texas Captain of Commerce: David Robert Wingate, XIII (Nov. 1977), p. 72.
166Dr. H. Williams, Gateway to Orange, pp. 109-119; (Galveston) Weekly News, June 24 and July 22, 1878.

From W. T. Block, "East Texas Mill Towns and Ghost Towns, Vol I, pp. 245-297, copyrighted 1994, Piney Woods Foundation, Lufkin, TX.

Used with permission.

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