LEMONVILLE: A GHOST TOWN OF ORANGE COUNTY

By W. T. Block

In June, 1972, I was transferred during an emergency as officer-in-charge of the Orange post office, where I soon found outdated metal postmarking handstamps for the discontinued post offices of Terry, Oilla, and Lemonville, Texas; also Shellbank, Louisiana. When I showed them to a postal inspector, he chided me for not having returned them to Washington, D. C., years earlier, so I explained to him that I had only been assigned to Orange 2 weeks earlier.

Years later, while writing a history of Orange County sawmilling, I ran into the ghost town of Lemonville once more. It was established in 1898 as the townsite of Lemon, located on FM-1130, 22 miles northeast of Beaumont and 12 miles north of Orange in the general vicinity of Hartburg and Deweyville. The location was chosen for its proximity to tracks of the Kansas City Southern Railroad, and in 1901 William Manuel filed the town plat among the deed records of Orange County.

Lemonville first became a post office on April 12, 1902, with C. B. Payne as its first postmaster. In 1900 Lemon Lumber Company built a small sawmill there, of 30,000 feet daily capacity, to cut logs that were shipped by rail from Louisiana. By March, 1904, Alexander Gilmer, a prominent Orange Industrialist, purchased the mill and increased its production to 60,000 feet daily by installing double circular saws and a planing mill with 2 machines. At that time Lemonville had a population of 300 persons, and R. M. Williamson, the commissary manager at the mill, was appointed postmaster on Oct. 15, 1903.

In 1905 Gilmer enlarged the sawmill once more to 100,000 feet daily by installing a band saw and a Wickes 36-gang saw, a large dry kiln, and an enlarged planing mill with 6 matchers and moulders. In Oct. 1905, the sawmill "...made a shipment of 150,000 feet of kiln-dried saps to Port Arthur,..." a part of a contract being shipped to Europe. Gilmer owned 10,000 acres of timberlands in north Orange County, which the sawmill harvested. The mill also owned a mill pond and a 3-mile tram road, over which 1 locomotive pulled 12 log cars.

According to Gilmer's obituary of July 31, 1906, he was the mill's majority stockholder, but the minority stockholders are unknown to me. The mill also harvested logs moved by rail from Gilmer timberlands in Calcasieu Parish. For about 5 years the population of Lemonville remained steady at 600 persons, of whom 200 labored as mill hands.

From 1906 until 1922, Ed Pennington and W. L. Friedman served as postmasters at Lemonville. About 1910, after all the Gilmer estate timber had been harvested, the Lemonville sawmill was dismantiled and moved to another big Gilmer mill at Remlig (Gilmer spelled backwards) in Jasper County.

For a few years following 1910, the Miller-Link Lumber Company operated a small sawmill at Lemonville, which they sold to Peavy-Moore Lumber Company of Deweyville about 1919. Peavy used the mill for a few years to cut hardwood crossties and railroad timbers. The last known sawmill on that site was the Talbert-Dewey Lumber Company between 1924 and 1928. George Helm was the last postmaster between Oct. 1922 and Dec. 31, 1928, when the office was discontinued, and Lemonville returned to the forest that had sired it.

Copyright W.T. Block. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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