Lamar County, Mississippi Genealogy and History


Pamela J. Gibbs County Coordinator

Lori Thornton,  State Coordinator
Deb Haines
, Assistant State Coordinator

WPA History of Lamar County, Mississippi


        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.

        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 per acre.

        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 were:

        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 Leeke..Lumber Co.

        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:


        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 best grade.

        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 countries.

        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 .

W. P. A. Table of Contents               Outlaw Days


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007  by Pamela J. Gibbs except where otherwise noted.


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