Black Lake Lumber Company at Campti, Louisiana, in 1907; excerpts from American Lumberman magazine.

Source: "A Graphic Story of the Frost-Trigg Interests in Louisiana, Arkansas and Texas", American Lumberman, March 30, 1907. Chicago: American Lumberman, 1907. pp. 51-114.

The Black Lake Lumber Company, at Campti, La., sixty-one miles from Shreveport and sixty-two miles from Alexandria, on the main line of the Louisiana Railway & Navigation Company, is the newest fully installed lumber manufacturing business of these interests. The construction and arrangement of the plant at Campti, taken in connection with the amount of timber behind the proposition, the location of the plant and its installation, and the character of its management, make this a model of its kind, and as such it will be referred to and exploited in the article which follows.

The reader will spend a profitable quarter of an hour in perusing that which is to follow, remembering that less than a year ago the mill and the town site of the Black Lake Lumber Company were an old cotton field.

The founding of the Black Lake Lumber Company is especially interesting because it marks the joining of hands of two great lumbering and financial forces in this section, the Whited & Wheless interests and the Frost interests. These two lines of effort in yellow pine lumber manufacturing have worked along almost side by side amicably and without friction for many years, and the amalgamation of the personality of such men as H. H. Wheless, E. A. Frost, F. T. Whited, E. W. Frost and G. S. Prestridge in one business effort should guarantee the building up of a business out of the ordinary.

George S. Prestridge has from the very first been the commandant of the forces in this undertaking.

In the beginning the officials of the Louisiana Railway & Navigation Company suggested to E. A. Frost that a saw mill proposition existed at Campti which it would be profitable to investigate. They desired that the Frost interests, on account of their high reputation, should manage a business on their road. This suggestion planted the seed. Mr. Frost at once interested Mr. Whited, Mr. Wheless, Mr. Prestridge and W. R. McCrocklin in the venture and Mr. Whited and Mr. McCrocklin, each representing the two general interests to be joined in the proposition, together took a preliminary Cruise through the timber, were favorably impressed and wired Mr. Prestridge at Tyler, Tex., to meet them at Campti to look further into the proposition. After these three experts had spent a few more days in the woods it was decided that the deal was a good one.

March 12, 1906, the Black Lake Lumber Company was organized with an authorized capital stock of $1,000,000, $600,000 paid up, domiciled in Caddo parish; E. A. Frost, president; F. T. Whited, vice president; H. H. Wheless, secretary; George S. Prestridge, treasurer and general manager.

At that time S. B. Hicks owned a mill at Grappes Bluff, La., on the line of the Louisiana Railway & Navigation Company, within six miles of Campti, between Campti and Shreveport. This mill had a capacity of 50,000 feet a day and behind that proposition, also owned by Mr. Hicks, was 27,000,000 feet of standing shortleaf yellow pine timber. This mill and this timber were bought by the Black Lake Lumber Company.

March 15, 1906, George S. Prestridge took charge at Grappes Bluff and began to formulate plans to build a mill at Campti.

The beautiful site for the building of the mill of the Black Lake Lumber Company operation of the erection of the town, store, offices, etc., was found about a mile and a half from the interesting old Red river town of Campti in the old cotton field before referred to, and on May 10, 1906, ground was broken for the erection of the plant which is explained in an illustrative way in this article and in this text.

November 9, 1906, this mill made its first lumber, and perfect were the plans of the Black Lake Lumber Company in the beginning that it certainly would have been making lumber at this mill not later than September 9 had the machinery which it purchased been furnished reasonably soon. But in the midst of all the prosperity of those times there of course must be a little drab lining to the silver cloud, and this lining to the the Black Lake people was "delay in shipping."

May 30, 1906, the Hicks saw mill at Grappes Bluff was destroyed by fire. Logs are yet being taken off the Hicks purchase to log the ill at Campti and are being brough in to Campti by the Black Lake logging road to Grappes Bluff and hauled over the lines of the Louisiana Railway & Transportation Company, at Grappes Bluff, to the pond of the Black Lake Lumber Company at Campti.

The timber possessions of the Black Lake Lumber Company are in Red River and Natchitoches parishes, Louisiana, and the mill site a mile and a half from Campti is located in section 33 township 11, range 7, adjoining the incorporated town of Campti, and Natchitoches parish.

This mill site is ideal in many ways. It has natural drainage; it is high and dry and well watered. In fact it is contiguous by pipe line to the La Virginia Springs, which are so famous in northern Louisiana for the healing qualities of their waters, a source of supply to many mills along the Louisiana Railway & Navigation Company road for pure and wholesome drinking water.

There have been erected besides the handsome offices a separate doctor's office and drug store combined, and a general store with warehouse and butcher shop attached, which is probably the largest in the parish and which means much to the general population in that locality.

A Masonic lodge is soon to be instituted and there is to be erected in the immediate future a combination church, school and lodge room.

A physician, a sketch of whoso life and acquirements appears elsewhere in this article, is in the exclusive employ of the Black Lake Lumber Company.

Chief in attraction of the things which look to the comfort and well being of the people, it must be mentioned that there is soon to be erected a magnificent parish high school, on a prominent hill half way between the town of Campti and the mill site of the Black Lake Lumber Company. This school will have several teachers and will have a curriculum comparing favorably with that of the high schools of the state.

Campti, the town, has the benefit of the Western Union Telegraph and Wells, Fargo express, and the Black Lake Lumber Company employs a responsible courier whose business it is to meet all trains, convey all express and mail matter between the saw mill town of the Black Lake Lumber Company and the ancient and picturesque village of Campti, located on the banks of the Red River.

A very complete and well regulated hotel, the Lake house, has been built and installed by the Black Lake Lumber Company near the mill site at Campti, the main part of which is [missing text] feet in area, with an "L" 20x30 feet, all two stories in height, with altogether thirty-two rooms. It is fitted with ranges, heating stoves, grates, electric lighted, has baths and in fact is most modern in improvements, and the building is substantially erected on enduring brick piers.

Comfortable homes for both white and negro employees, each in a separate location and divergent enough to meet the requirements for all concerned, have been erected and installed and will be kept up during all the mill operations at this point. The rents range from $4 to $10 a month. Nearly all the houses of the white people are furnished with electric light and running water.

Just how old Campti, La., is no white resident seems to know and the many old negroes cannot even try to guess. Whether or not it was named for a dead Indian or a live Frenchman will not be stated, but it is a quaint old place with rambling, old time houses covered with clapboards, and in the summer time half hidden in vines of vivid green, redolent with perfume and gay with flowers.

The Red River boats touch at Campti and so crooked is the Red river in this section that a boat, announced by its hoarse whistle, often seems to have stranded in the river somewhere and to be throwing out distress signals, when, as a matter of fact, it is going merrily on is red and crooked way, taking on and discharging passengers and freight at its various landings, frequently keeping within hearing for as long a time as twenty-four hours.

Woods Operations at Campti.
The timber proposition at Campti is shortleaf and longleaf yellow pine and a sprinkling of hardwoods. The original purchase of pine timber was in the neighborhood of 200,000,000 feet. That, of course, has been added to, and will be further increased, during the operations.

The logs at Campti are brought in over the company railroad by the Prestridge-Buchanan Logging Company, a well known firm of logging contractors who just now have headquarters and a little store at Grappes Bluff, inasmuch as they are still bringing in the Hicks purchase of logs.

The corral of the logging company is about eight miles from Grappes Bluff, this being the "front" of its operations at present. The employees live at Grappes Bluff and a few miles out on the logging road.

These contractors use, in securing their logs, eighty head of oxen, twenty mules, ten 8-wheel wagons, two log carts, one road wagon, and have for the use of their men twenty-six portable houses. There is in service and use by these contractors one "American" log loader which is doing splendid work.

Most of the stables, sheds, etc. for the stock are at the corral at the end of the line, at which place lives the feeder, who takes care of them. Water is hauled in a tank car, for the men and the stock as well, from a well at Grappes Bluff, 188 feet deep, from which it is taken by an air compressor.

The policy of the Black Lake Lumber Company in its logging operations is to cut and carry into the mill all of its small logs in long lengths. It is the belief of the management that many logs are unavoidably left in the woods as too small to be of any service when the smaller trees are cut into lengths in the woods.

The logging company has to do only with the building of the track and loading the logs on the ear, The lumber company furnishes the cars, rolling stock, rails and log handling, in train.

The Prestridge-Buchanan Logging Company is a partnership and not an incorporation as the name suggests, and consists of J. H. Buchanan, of Campti, actively in the management; J. W. Prestridge, of Lufkin, Tex., E. D. Smith, who just now looks after the commissary and does the bookkeeping for the company at Grappes Bluff, and others not actively connected,

The logging railroad of the Black Lake Lumber Company now consists of about eight miles of steel, all 45-pound and laid very substantially. Its locomotives are two 48-ton Baldwins and one 24-ton Shay.

Logging will yet be done on the Hicks purchase for about six months. In the meantime track will be laid directly out from the saw mill at Campti into another section, and already one mile of that has been laid and probably two or three miles graded.

The log pond at the mill is a made affair which will hold a half million feet of logs. It has a depth over all of five feet and is fed by rains and a deep well. The logs are handled in the usual manner.

The Campti Logging Road.
Reference was made in the woods division of this article to the now logging road at Campti, but this pertained only to the immediate logging operations. The car equipment of the Black Lake Lumber Company consists of forty-one logging cars and one feed car, two speeders and four hand cars.

In time will be taken up the steel that is now used in the Hicks purchase and laid into the main holdings of the company, north of Campti. A considerable distance of this road has already been graded and will all be ready for locomotives when the time comes for the use of that timber. It is not known what the intention of the Black Lake Lumber Company may be in the matter of railroad building, but the abstract fact is that this company is very advantageously situated in that but few miles would have to be built to connect its line with the Louisiana & Northwest railroad, which runs south from McNeil, Ark., to Natchitoches, La., and is known as the "Beardsley" line; also it would be an easy matter to build a line to Goldonna, where a junction might be effected with the Louisiana & Arkansas railway without going out of the way or deflecting from the Black Lake timber.

The Saw Mill at Campti.
The saw mill of the Black Lake Lumber Company, at Campti, La., is everything that all the other mills of these interests are, and just a little bit more than many, in that it is fitted with a complete high class lath mill.

The mill building stands east and west in its general direction on the west side of the pond and is a two and a half story building, 40x170 feet in area, exclusive of the lath mill, which is in an addition on the south side of the mill, flush with the west end. The foundation is of concrete and brick piers. The framing of the lower floors is 14x14 inches. The first story is 14 feet in the clear. The framing of the second story is 12x12 inches. The lath mill addition referred to is 18x40 feet in area. The filing room, located in the half story of the building, is 28x40 feet in area.

The building is covered by corrugated iron, furnished by Woodward, Wight & Co., of New Orleans, La. In fact it may be remarked here parenthetically that, all and severally, the buildings of the Black Lake Lumber Company are covered with this corrugated iron. It has been made one of the principles of construction at Campti. The boiler house, on the south side of the plant, is 30x33 feet in area, built entirely of concrete. This entire building, the combined boiler house and engine room -- the engine room being 20x38 feet -- is built of concrete, 6 inches thick, with a pilaster every 14 feet which measures 16x16 inches. This pilaster is reinforced with 12-1/2-inch iron rods. From pilaster to pilaster is a lattice-work of one-half inch iron which runs through the center of the wall. About this most solid set of iron bones the concrete body was poured into a mold formed by planking on the outside.

This description of the concrete work will stand for the concrete work elsewhere in the plant, to which reference will be made. It is spoken of here because this is the first time a concrete building has been reached in this description.

The roof of both the boiler house and the engine room is of corrugated iron, reinforced by steel trusses. The boilers are two in number, made by the Casey & Hedges Manufacturing Company, of Chattanooga, Tenn., each 18 feet long and 72 inches in diameter, in marine settings with Dutch ovens, and are used exclusively for the saw mill.

There is in this boiler room an Ingersoll-Sargent Drill Company air compressor, made in New York, N. Y., used for pumping the two deep wells located a little farther south.

In this boiler room is also an F. M. Prescott Steam Pump Company pump, for boiler feed purposes. The boilers are fed exclusively by sawdust, with endless chain working automatically. There is ample space for sawdust on the second floor and on the bottom of the floor of this boiler house.

In the engine room is a Reynolds-Corliss heavy duty Allis-Chalmers 22x42 inch engine. There is also a coil heater for heating the exhaust steam.

The entire mill is run by one line shaft 170 feet long. The power is applied in the middle. This line shaft is 5-7/16 inches in the middle, tapering to 3-7/16 inches at either end. The "nigger" was built by the Lufkin Foundry & Machine Company. The steam trip and all the various and sundry log handling devices are also by the Lufkin Foundry & Machine Company. These include the contrivance with its iron teeth which bites into the logs and holds them steady while the drag saw cuts them into proper lengths, this first operation, of course, being done on the saw floor.

On the saw floor of the mill is a Filer & Stowell right hand band -- an 8-foot mill with a 14-inch saw, furnished with a 3-block Allis-Chalmers carriage with a shotgun 12-inch feed made by the Lufkin Foundry & Machine Company.

The heavy Allis-Chalmers 72-inch No. 2, 6-saw edger runs saws 24 inches in diameter.

The left hand trimmer is a 13-saw undercut automatic affair suitable for 24-inch saws, handled by overhead levers, manipulated by one man standing on a platform directly over the trimmer.

Opposite the back table of the edger is a 5-saw 24-foot slab slasher.

All of the refuse is dropped into a conveyor inside of the lath mill room, and the stuff for making lath can be picked up conveniently and laid upon the lath tables.

The lath mill consists of a complete mill with bolter, trimmer, bundler and all accessories for producing 30,000 lath daily.

The file room in the half story at the top contains a No. 90 saw-shaping machine for 14-inch right hand band saws; one stretcher for 14-inch saws with punch and shear attachment; one lap grinder; one brazing machine for 14-inch saws; one 16-foot filing vice and one forge, all by the M. Covel Manufacturing Company; one 5x12x14 anvil; one leveling block 3x14x48 inches; one White band saw swage; one shaper; one gummer; one circular saw sharpener; one 6x6 inch vertical engine; one circular saw for slasher and trimmer saws and especially for lath saws.

The offal, after the lath stock is taken out and all of it is used for fuel that is needed, is carried out center north of the mill 140 feet to a Muskegon Boiler Works brick lined burner, 20 feet in diameter and 90 feet high over all, bricked up 65 feet.

The general smokestack of the boilers is 112 feet high, 50 inches in diameter, with a ladder attachment.

There is a butting saw in the back of the mill for trimming timbers etc.

The saw mill is already cutting an average of 60,000 feet of lumber daily. Its banner run thus far has been 66,000 feet.

The Dry Kilns at Campti
The dry kilns are located 200 feet south of the saw mill and consist of five rooms, each 20x121 feet in area. These kilns will hold 400,000 feet of lumber and turn out 90,000 feet of dry lumber daily. They are of the National type.

There are about five miles of piping in those five kilns and they are built of concrete with 6-inch walls, with the exception of pilasters every eight feet, which are fourteen inches square each.

This dry kiln building is erected entirely without the use of wood. Even the roof is reenforced concrete supported by 10-inch steel I-beams and the rest of the proposition is coal-tar paper and gravel. They are almost as indestructible as a retort. The steam pipes are so arranged that live steam could be turned right on to the fire should a blaze occur.

The lumber is stacked by hand at the end of the sorting chain and is transferred to the front of the kiln and goes into the kiln endwise.

The Planing Mill at Campti.
The planing mill stands north and south in general direction, just about south in direction from the east line of the log pond, and covers an area of 82x168 feet. The boilers are housed in a concrete building 50x60 feet in area, are three in number, built by the Casey & Hedges Manufacturing Company, Chattanooga, Tenn., and are high pressure type, marine setting, 72 inches in diameter and each 18 feet long. These boilers are used to furnish not only the steam for the planing mill but for the dry kilns as well.

The fuel supply of sawdust is fed to these boilers automatically. Situated in a depression in the floor of this boiler house is a hot water pump which receives the condensed water from the kilns and puts it back into the boiler.

This boiler house is also the general engine room of this part of the plant. On a great concrete and brick base, elevated above the level of the boiler floor, is a Houston, Stanwood & Gamble engine, heavy duty type, 20x28 inches, which runs the planing mill; and on a little lower level -- likewise on secure foundation's an Erie City Iron Works high speed engine, 12x16 inches in size, with which the dynamo of the electric light plant is run.

The shaving room, 20x32x22 feet, will hold enough shavings to last the plant a week. The refuse or oversupply is blown through a pipe thirty inches in diameter 600 feet to the southwest by a 72-inch Sturtevant fan. This equipment was manufactured and installed by the Shreveport Blow Pipe & Sheet Iron Works, Limited, of Shreveport, La.

The walls of the boiler house are six inches thick, all of concrete, of construction similar to the other concrete buildings described, and the roof is of corrugated iron steel-trussed.

The line shaft of the planing mill is 180 feet long and the machines now installed are two 18-inch matchers, three 15-inch matchers, one 11-inch matcher, two 12-inch matchers, one 12-inch molder, one rip-saw and one band resaw, furnished by the Hall & Brown Woodworking Machine Company, of St. Louis, Mo.; one S. A. Woods molder, one E. & B. Holmes edger, and two 15-inch Berlin Machine Works high speed flooring machines.

Handling Lumber at Campti.
The lumber at Campti falls to two tables for sorting purposes. All the lumber is graded at the tail of the mill where it leaves the trimmer. The 16-foot and short "B and better" goes straight away on one of the transfer affairs. All the common lumber is taken from the first set of chains, put on "dollies" and taken to the yards. All the clear 16-feet and under is moved by the first set of chains to a point about 100 feet from the mill. The good lumber over 16 feet is placed on a quick roll and shunted on to the other sorter, which runs in the same direction as the first sorter mentioned, where it is handled in proper shape and made up for the dry kiln.

The lumber is taken on thirty buggies to the yards, where is piling ground for 10,000,000 feet of lumber.

There is the usual scheme of piling "down and up" from tramways.

The foundations are made of 6x8, piled transversely in a sort of crib, just the width and length of the lumber which is to be piled thereon. All trams are 16 feet in width.

The rough lumber sheds are two in number, stand in east and west direction, parallel with the saw mill, and are each 58x225 feet in area and will hold, all told, 2,000,000 feet.

The two dressed sheds are located at the extreme southern side of the plant, running north and south in general direction, one of these being 250x58 feet, a double affair; the other, single, 20x250 feet, the room for dressed lumber being 1,500,000 feet.

A runway or tram crosses back over east, running past the southern ends of these two dressed lumber sheds, and connects with a tram 20 feet wide which extends at least 800 feet to the north, passing directly east of the long side of the planing mill. This is the loading dock and will accommodate for loading twenty-five cars at a time.

There is on hand at Campti at the present time in the neighborhood of 2,500,000 feet, and it is the plan of the management to carry about 6,000,000 feet of stock, this being always in shipping dry condition.

The first shipment was made from Campti January 4, 1907, being a carload, 12,369 feet of piece stuff, and was shipped in Texas & Pacific car No. 2576 to William Cameron & Co., at Fort Worth, Tex.

Mercantile End at Campti.
The Black Lake Lumber Company undoubtedly maintains the largest general store in its parish, and it is a store, also, that is admirably and intelligently kept.

The main building in which the merchandising is done is 36x104 fet in area. An extension of this building 36x66 feet has been erected since the first building was put up, to use for warehouse purposes. Both of these buildings are well heated in the winter months, are fitted with electric fans for the summer and are electric lighted.

Departments of drygoods, shoes, groceries, furniture, furnishing goods, notions etc. are maintained, and there is also, as a particular feature of this business, a butcher shop, fitted with cold storage compartments.

B. C. Peyton, an experienced man, whose biography is printed elsewhere, is in charge of the merchandising, assisted in the drygoods department by W. L. Harwood, in the shoes by P. W. Whatley, in the groceries by Walter Mozingo and in the butcher shop by Henry Ward.

Electric Lights at Campti.
The electric light plant was installed by Spranley & Reed, of New Orleans, and is situated both as to its power and its machinery in the planing mill boiler house.

The dynamo is of 60-kilowatt, of the Bullock type, of 240 volts, capable of producing electricity sufficient to run 1,000 16-candle power lamps. The dynamo is run by a medium speed side crank engine, 12x16 inches in size. Installed at this plant are 427 16-candle power lights and 14 arc lights, and all the principal buildings in the Black Lake Lumber Company settlement are electric lighted.

On the lower floor of the mill the wiring is in steel conduits; steel cabinets are furnished for the mill and steel troughs for the carriage, edger and sorter.

Important Miscellanies at Campti.
There has been constructed by the Black Lake Lumber Company a saw mill that is well nigh indestructible. No other plant has recently been erected anywhere that has been so favored as has this one in the matter of the use of concrete in the construction of not only the foundations but also the buildings. Notably is this true of the boiler houses and the dry kilns.

The water supply is very superior. South of the saw mill boiler house is a well 176 feet dep, 6 inches in diameter, which produces 60,000 gallons each twenty-four hours, and not far away is another well of similar character 140 feet deep, which produces a like amount of water.

The water from these two wells is forced into a concrete lined tank 18x10, and the water is elevated from the ground tank to an elevated tank 75 feet high, which holds 30,000 gallons. The tub of this tank is of cypress and the tower is of steel. After both of these tanks are full the overflow goes into the log pond. There is at least two miles of water pipe laid in the vicinity of all buildings, including the company houses, and the pipe is of standard sizes, from 8-inch to 2-1/2 inch. Eighty water barrels are maintained with full complement of buckets, and over fifty hydrants are available for use in case of fire. The fire pump is a Knowles 14x7-1/4x12 and there is in service a Newman watchman’s clock, with nine stations and two watchmen.

A machine shop 30x60 feet in area has been erected just east of the saw mill and contains a complete blacksmithing outfit and all sorts of facilities for car building and general repair of those things most liable to need repair in a lumber manufacturing concern.

The Black Lake Lumber Company has access to long distance telephone through the town of Campti.

Text and images were digitized and proofread from the original source documents by Murry Hammond. Contact Murry for all corrections and contributions of new material.