WPA History of Lamar County, Mississippi
SAWMILLS AND THE MEN WHO OWNED
In the late eighteen
hundred seventies when Lamar County began to attract attention on
account of the great pine forest, private owners bought up land,
and for twenty-five years saw milling was the chief industry, but
only served to prove that our native pine forests were quick to
put on a second growth. There are many acres of land in Lamar
County which could be more profitably used perhaps for timber
growing than for agricultural purposes. Lamar County affords
opportunities for men who are looking for a place to engage in a
profitable occupation which Mother Nature has placed here.
Mississippi climate and soil particularly favors the rapid growth
of trees, and the forests of the state have been in the past and
should be in the future one of the state's most important courses
of economic advancement.
LOCATION AND EXTENT OF WOODLANDS
Lamar County has
277,236 acres of timbered, uncultivatable land, some being in
each beat. The total acreage in Lamar County of cut-over land is
316,800 acres partly covered with young pine.
During the period of time that we are writing of, what
now comprises Lamar County was covered with a great belt of
virgin pine timber. One could not see anything except the giant
trees. This was the time that all people who had taken homesteads
were beginning to make some cash on selling the timber to many
Lumber Companies that came to buy it. If one of the pioneer men
were alive today, it would be a great thing for him to tell of
the first sawmill, and how they were carried on.
Lamar County has had some of the largest mills that could
be found in the southern part of the state.
ED AND JOHN FARLEY operated the first saw mill in Lamar
County in the year of 1884 until 1890. The mill was located in
Purvis, employed about 20 men, at a wage of $1.00 per day. They
paid the local people $1.25 per acre for their timber. Selling
price for the lumber was on an average of about $35.00 a thousand
feet, sold to northern markets.
CHARLIE RICH operated a saw mill at Richburg, then the
largest town in Lamar County. This was in the year of 1888 to
1898. He paid from $1.25 to $2.00 per acre for timber, employed
150 men at $1.00 per day, sold lumber to northern markets at a
price of from $35.00 to $75.00 a thousand feet.
In 1885 the CAMP AND HINTON BROTHERS purchased from the
government a large tract of timber, 1200 acres, at the price of
$1.25 per acre. This was located in the vicinity of what is now
Lumberton, Mississippi. In 1886 a small saw mill was put in
operation by the Camp and Hinton brothers, who were as follows:
Herbert A. Camp, John H. Hinton and H. A. Hinton from Jackson
County, Georgia. The mill was located in the present town of
Lumberton near Piatonia. They worked about 25 or so men in the
mill at a wage of $1.00 per day. Two years later they built a
bigger mill. In 1901 the mill burned and they erected a still
larger mill. This mill employed at least from 200 to 400 men per
day. The payroll was about $15,000 a week. In 1906 the town of
Lumberton was in its "hey-day". There were three large saw mills
running, two of them going night and day, all of them owned by
Camp and Hinton Co. They also owned a large turpentine still.
They bought all the available timber in the country. Homesteaders
were paid from 75 cents to $1.50 per acre for standing timber.
First grade lumber brought a market price of from $75 to $125 per
thousand. The average price for the other was $35 a thousand. The
lumber was sold to northern markets, also to New Orleans, and
exported from there to foreign markets. Some of it was bought by
the South African Gold Mining Co., shipped from New Orleans to
South Africa and carried on ox teams 350 miles into the interior
to the mines. It was nothing unusual for a tree to bring $70.00.
The highest price ever paid to a homesteader for timber was $2.50
In 1907 the saw mill of Camp & Hinton Co. went into the
hands of the receiver, George Robertson of Meridian. In 1911 the
WELLS LUMBER CO., from St. Louis took over the mill. They
employed from 150 to 200 men a day. The payroll was considerably
less than that of former days. It closed in 1915.
In 1917 EDWARD J. HINES bought the mill. He worked about
500 men with a payroll of about $9,000 a week. He shipped or sent
by train carloads of lumber to northern and foreign markets. It
was about the same price as quoted above. In 1930 Hines moved his
mill and left Lumberton stranded without employment for the men.
The banks went broke and a depression hit the town.
There were many mills in the surrounding territory. At
one time, Uncle Sam Slade states that 17 mill whistles could be
heard on a still morning from his home in Lumberton. Some of them
GARRISON'S MILL, owned by John Garrison in 1886. He
employed about 30 men at the salary of $1.00 per day. His lumber
brought from $35.00 to $50.00 per thousand.
PEARSON LUMBER COMPANY began to operate in the year of
1898. The mill was located three miles north of Lumberton. The
location was known as Slabtown, on the N. O. & N. E. Railroad.
The timber was bought from Camp & Hinton Co. They employed 50 men
and the payroll was an average of $3500 a week. The lumber was
shipped to all parts of the U. S. and to South America, Europe
and to the Panama Canal. This mill operated until 1908 when the
mill was moved to Enlo, and sold to Camp & Hinton Co.
BAXTERVILLE MILL was owned by Alec Hinton and
GEORGE BILBO'S MILL was near Baxterville.
JOHN P. DAVIS'S MILL was at Redtop.
J. J. NEWMAN operated a sawmill in the town of Sumrall,
Lamar County, in the year 1905 to 1930. He employed 500 men, paid
$1.25 to $2.00 per acre for timber to local people. Most of the
timber was bought from Edward and Susan Lowe. The daily payroll
was $1,000 and the monthly one was about $26,000. The average
selling price for lumber was $125 per thousand feet for the best
grade, sold to northern and foreign markets and shipped into
different foreign ports.
Here is a clipping from a newspaper:
A BIG TREE
Mayor John W. Watson of Seminary, one of the World's Fair
Commissioners for the district has made arrangements to send to
the St. Louis exposition a sample of Mississippi's short leaf
pine. The tree, which was cut on the J. J. Newman land, four
miles from Sumrall, measured 20 feet in circumference at the
stump and 6 feet 8 inches in diameter, its entire height being
160 feet. Seventy five feet from the butt of the tree measured 10
1/2 feet in circumference and 3 feet 4 inches in diameter. The
top and the end of a 16 foot cut measures 14 1/2 feet in
circumference. Mr. Watson will also ship for exposition a 1,000
pound block of rosin, put up by Lieut. Governor Carter at his
turpentine still at McCallum.
The Columbian, Thursday, April 26, 1904
CARRUTH BROTHERS operated a saw mill at Coral, in Lamar
County, in the year 1906 to 1912. They employed 100 men with a
wage of $2.00 per day. They bought timber from the local people
for $1.25 an acre and sold lumber to northern markets at a price
of from $35 to $75 per thousand.
MAJOR AND SOWERS operated a saw mill at Epley in Lamar
County from 1907 to 1914, paid from $1.25 to $2.00 per acre for
standing timber, employed 125 men at an average of $2.00 per day.
They sold lumber to northern markets at a price of from $25 to
$75 and some at $125 per thousand feet.
LAMAR LUMBER CO. operated a sawmill at Clyde in Lamar
County in the year of 1910 to 1915, paid from $1.25 to $2.00 an
acre for timber. They employed 150 men at the mill and in the
logging woods at $2.00 per day. They sold lumber to northern
markets at $35 to $125 per thousand and sold out to Helen White
Lumber Co. in the year of 1915.
JOHN PORTERMAN operated a saw mill at Porterman Switch in
the year of 1888 to 1898. Paid $1.25 per acre for timber employed
50 men at $1.00 per day. They sold lumber to northern markets for
$25 up to $75 per thousand.
COLLINS LUMBER CO. operated a saw mill at Oloh in the
years from 1905 to 1909. Paid $1.25 per acre for timber, employed
25 men, at $2.00 a day. Sold lumber to northern markets at the
average price, $35 to $75 per thousand.
HAND JORDAN LUMBER CO. began to operate in the year of
1900. The mill was located in Purvis. It was one of the first
large mills to operate in this section of the county. They bought
most of their timber from Otto Peck Co. from New York. This
company bought most of the timber from Meridian to New Orleans
along the New Orleans and North Eastern Railroad Co. (Local
companies) were not allowed to buy any timber along the right of
way, so this company bought all of the timber and sold to local
lumber companies at $1.25 per acre. This mill employed about 125
men and woods hands. The lumber was sold to different firms over
the U. S. Some of the lumber was shipped to New Orleans, then
from there to the Panama Canal. In building the canal there was a
certain grade of timber that could be used, so this company was
fortunate to sell their timber to the Panama Canal. They paid
$5.50 per 100 feet for the lowest and from $7.50 to $9.50 for the
This mill was destroyed by the cyclone of April 24, 1908
and most of their timber was blown down.
HELEN WHITE LUMBER COMPANY bought the Major and Sowers
mill in 1914 and operated until 1920. They employed 150 men at
$2.00 per day, sold lumber to northern markets at an average of
from $35 to $75 per thousand feet.
BAY CREEK LUMBER CO. was composed of the following men:
Jordan, Lancaster, Slay and Edwards. They began to operate in the
year of 1916 and closed in the year of 1919. They bought timber
from local farmers around Purvis and surrounding communities.
They employed 150 men at $2.50 per day. They shipped lumber to
different parts of the United States and some to foreign
The FORREST LUMBER COMPANY composed of the following men:
D. W. Slay, I. H. Jordan, and T. W. Davis. This company had a
cash capital of $125,000. They purchased 12,000,000 feet of
timber from Mr. Hood of Purvis, Mississippi They began operating
in 1924 in Purvis.
( The beginning of this paragraph is missing) year
or 1924 to 1928. He bought timber from local people and paid an
average of from $1.25 to $1.50 per acre. At one time he bought
1400 acres of timber from C. C. (illegible) of Meridian. The mill
employed 166 men at $2.00 to $2.50 per day. He sold lumber to the
northern markets at from $35 to $75 per thousand.
The above list are the main mills that did away with the
timber of Lamar County. There were probably many more minor mills
over the county of which we have not found a record.
These mills were the beginning and end of real money
making in Lamar County. Under their influence Lamar County was
settled and towns were built. They gave work to hundreds of men,
who spent their money as fast as they made it. When the timber
was all cut the mills moved away leaving bare cut over land and
people who had nothing to do .