"The Sawmills" (from "A History of William Cameron & Company", 1925)  
  Source: Tolson, R.J., "The Sawmills" chapter excerpt, A History of the William Cameron & Company, 1925, Wm. Cameron & Co., Waco, Texas. Privately printed.  
  The Sawmills  

THE SAW MILLS of Wm. Cameron & Company are now but memories of the past. Where once stood the virgin forests that had weathered the storms of ages and sheltered the ancient tribes and wild life for centuries, is now but a cemetery of the days gone by, each silent stump a mute head-piece to the majestic giants which towered aloft and once lived there.

Where once stood the houses of execution with their tortuous engines and humming, circling saws that ripped the screaming trunks into slabs and shreds for transport to foreign lands now stand the decaying remnants of the old dismantled mills.

Where once the slab pits burned, with seething glare and glow, and shed their lights through-out the nights; and where the saw dust piles heaped high around were once the smoldering crematories of the fallen giants, is now but a graveyard of ashy mounds from which the feeble seedlings of a departed race are timidly trying to perpetuate their species, but all in vain.

But like unto all the great that have gone before, they were benefactors to the human race. In the divine order of the universe they had a purpose and a mission. They lived their day, they served their purpose, and they were martyrs to advancing civilization. They died that man might live.

And Wm. Cameron was one of the pioneers, ordained by fate to execute the orders of Providence, when Westward turned the trend of progress and Texas was the mecca of advancing commerce. With characteristic vision he saw the opportunity; with sensitive ear he heard the call for lumber, and he set about to answer that call, with this necessary product, for the upbuilding of the commonwealth.

Preparatory to his entrance into the saw milling industry, Wm. Cameron first took steps to acquire the timber land, and to that end he was instrumental in organizing the Texas Lumber Company, a corporation formed for the purpose of acquiring, holding and selling timber lands in Texas. This company was incorporated in 1885, and acquired large bodies of virgin pine timber in Angelina, Jasper, Trinity, Newton, Tyler and Polk counties, Texas, and he eventually became sole owner, in 1899, of all the interests of that corporation. In the following year, 1886. Mr. Wm. Cameron formed a partnership with Mr. A. T. Anderson, under the firm name of Anderson & Cameron, for the purpose of acquiring timber lands and operating saw mills, and this partnership purchased several bodies of virgin timber in Trinity and Polk counties, Texas, and in the following year, 1887, they opened the saw mill at Saron, Texas, which might be termed the first Cameron saw mill, as Mr. Cameron acquired Mr. Anderson's interests a few years later. This mill was operated until December 31, 1917.

In 1888, while Mr. C. R. Sherrill was employed by the company as whole-sale traveling salesman, he was sent to Whitecastle, Louisiana, to contract for all the cypress shingles manufactured by a plant at that place, and upon his return he reported to Mr. Cameron and Mr. Brazelton what he thought of the possibilities of cypress mills. Mr. Cameron was very much interested in the project, sent Mr. Brazelton to investigate and as a result the Whitecastle Lumber and Shingle Company, at Whitecastle, Louisiana, was purchased and incorporated in April, 1889, and put into operation in the same year, with the following officers and directors; viz., Wm. Cameron, Fred Meyer, W. B. Brazelton, Geo. M. Bowie, Robt. H. Downman, Chas. L. Johnson, with Wm. Cameron, President; Geo. M. Bowie, Vice-President; Wm. B. Brazelton, Secretary and Treasurer, and Fred Meyer, Manager. Meyer was succeeded as manager by Sterling P. Buster on December 9, 1889. Mr. G. M. Bowie was made Vice-President and Manager, January 29,1896. February 18, 1899, W. W. Cameron was elected President. April 25, 1901, G. M. Bowie resigned as Vice-President and Manager, and Mr. W. J. Alexander was appointed Manager. June 3, 1901. Mrs. Flora B. Cameron was elected Vice-President, vice G. M. Bowie, resigned. In April, 1902, Wm. Cameron & Co, Inc., sold its interests in the Whitecastle Company to Mr. R. H. Downman and his associates, and Mr. R. H. Downman was elected President and Mr. C. L. Johnson, Vice,-President.

The next saw mill acquired was the Yellow Pine plant at Carmona, Texas. which was purchased from R. S Tenner and J. T. Brackenridge on January 27, 1900. This plant was incorporated under the name of Cameron Lumber Mills Company, and its properties consisted of the saw mill at Carmona and a considerable quantity of land adjacent thereto located in Polk and Trinity counties, Texas. This mill continued in active operation until the year 1915, when it was destroyed by fire.

In 1893 The Jeanerette Lumber and Shingle Company, of Jeanerette, Louisiana, was purchased from Milmo-Stokes & Company and put into operation, but the plant was burned shortly after-ward and was not rebuilt until about the year 1898. Mr. H. B. Hewes was manager at the Jeanerette mill. In 1894 Mr. Cameron established the Cypress Mill at Bowie, Louisiana, he having acquired some large tracts of cypress timber adjacent to the plant.

The next saw mill plants established were the Yellow Pine mills at Rockland and Angelina, Texas, which were acquired and put into operation in 1898. The Angelina mill did not operate but a few years, or until 1902; but the Rockland mill continued in active operation until 1912. These mills cut their timber from the Texas Lumber Company lands, as well as from additional timber lands acquired in Angelina, Nacogdoches and Tyler counties.

The Haysland mill was acquired in 1898. This mill was operated only a short time and was closed down in about 1902. After the plant at Angelina was closed down in 1902, the Yellow Pine Saw Mill at Nona, Texas, was opened, and continued in active operation until the year 1910. Its cut was from timber owned by the company in Hardin county, Texas In addition to the saw mills owned and operated by the old partnership and the corporation, the company acquired and controlled the output, or cut. of a number of smaller saw mills during the period of the saw mill activities, and while all of the mills were closed down by the end of 1917, the yellow pine timber on the lands owned by Wm. Cameron & Co.. Inc., was not all cut out, vast quantities of same having been sold to other manufacturers since that date.

Prior to the death of Mr. Wm. Cameron, Sr., there was no duly accredited general manager of the Saw Mills department of the firm, as Mr. Cameron looked after that end of the business personally and spent much of his time at the various plants. Soon after his death, however, Capt. Thomas Waties was appointed general manager of the Yellow Pine Saw Mill operations and was given supervision over the mills at Haysland, Angelina, Rockland, Nona, Carmona and Saron, and the Yellow Pine timber and lands located in Trinity, Polk, Nacogdoches, Angelina, Jasper, Panola, Tyler, Newton and Hardin Counties, in East Texas.

Capt. Waties assumed the duties of that position in October, 1899, and continued as manager of the Saw Mills department until he resigned in 1912; a more detailed account of his activities with the firm is presented in another chapter of this history. As near as can now be ascertained the local managers at the various Yellow Pine Saw Mills, in successive order, during their respective periods of operation, were as follows:

CARMONA — A man by the name of Sullivan appears to have been the first manager. He was succeeded, in order, by Mr. Jim Ewing, Mr. J. B. Martindale, Mr. T. W. Brazelton, Mr. John Butler and Mr. P. C. Lipscomb.

SARON — Mr. A. B. Hinkle, Mr. James Wilson, Mr. J. W. Stewart, Mr. John C. Collins, Mr. J. D. Larkin, Mr. John E. West. Mr. E. S. Middlebrook and Mr. P. C. Lipscomb.

ROCKLAND - Mr. H. S. Hubbard, Mr. Chas. R. Ball, Mr. Jno. E. West and Mr. Willis R. Jones.

NONA - Mr. Jno. E. West, Mr. J. K. Salter and Mr. E. S. Middlebrook.

ANGELINA - Mr. J. J. Carter, Mr. Edgar Roberts, Mr. J. B. Martindale and Mr. S. Wilkins.

HAYSLAND - The first manager at Hays-land was named McWilliams, and he was succeeded by a man by the name of Sullivan; the initials of both being now unavailable.

BOWIE, LOUISIANA - There were a number of local managers of the cypress mill at Bowie, Louisiana, the names of whom are not now avail-able, but a Mr. T. Gordon Reddy appears to have been in charge of the plant at the time of the death of Wm. Cameron, Sr., and he was with Mr. Cameron looking over some cypress timber in the swamps near Bowie, and accompanied him to Morgan City to catch the train, on the day of his death.

WHITECASTLE, LOUISIANA - The Whitecastle mill was a separate corporation in which Wm. Cameron and later Wm. Cameron & Co., Inc., owned the controlling interests. As near as can be ascertained the local managers of this plant were: Fred Meyer, Sterling P. Buster, G. M. Bowie and W. J. Alexander, in the respective order named. Mr. Bowie was also one of the partners of the old firm of Wm. Cameron & Co. prior to Wm. Cameron's death and was local manager of the White-castle plant between 1896 and 1899. Wm. Cameron & Co., Inc., sold its interest in the Whitecastle mill to Mr. R. H. Downman and his associates in 1903.

JEANERETTE, LOUISIANA - The Jeanerette Lumber and Shingle Co., of Jeanerette, Louisiana, was also a separate corporation, in which Mr. Wm. Cameron was the controlling stockholder. Mr. H. B. Hewes, one of the stockholders, appears to have been the manager during its entire period of operations. This plant was taken over by the Downman interests upon the division of the Cameron estate.

The picture below is a scene near the Cypress mills, showing the camp houses on the Coteau in the swamps of Louisiana.

MR. PAT C. LIPSCOMB was in the service of Wm. Cameron & Co., Inc., in various capacities, a little over twenty years; he having started with the firm in October, 1897, before the death of Mr. Wm. Cameron, Sr., doing some special work at Waco, after which he was sent to Quanah, Texas, as yard man and salesman, at the Armstrong Brothers lumber yard, in that town, which was owned by Wm. Cameron & Company.

In June, 1898, Mr. Lipscomb was transferred to the saw mill of Wm. Cameron & Company at Angelina, as shipping clerk, where he remained until July, 1899, when he took charge of the mill at Carmona, Texas, as manager, and continued in that .capacity until the mill burned, and was shut down, on July 28, 1914. After the Carmona mill burned Mr. Lips-comb moved to Saron, he in the meantime having been appointed manager of the Saron mill, when Mr. E. S. Middlebrook, the manager, died, in April, 1914. Mr. Lipscomb continued as manager at Saron until that mill was closed down on January 1, 1918.

Mr. Lipscomb's record with the saw mills, which he operated for the company, was one of continuous success. He was a man of fine judgment and executive ability, who always obtained the maximum results from the operations. He was connected with the yellow pine saw mills of Wm. Cameron & Company during a large part of the period of their activities.

After leaving the company on January 1, 1918, Mr. Lipscomb became interested in the automobile business at Trinity, Texas, which he conducted a few years, and he later engaged in the saw mill business in East, Texas, on his own behalf, which he is conducting very successfully at this time.

MR. JOHN E. WEST entered the service of Wm. Cameron & Company as bookkeeper at the Carmona saw mill in 1895. Later on, due to his intimate knowledge of the saw mill business in all of its branches, he became assistant to the manager and he was used where his services were most valuable - at times serving as saw filer and mill foreman.

In the latter part of 1900 he was made manager of the Haysland mill, serving as such until 1902, when he was transferred to Nona to superintend the construction of that mill, and to manage it. He was transferred to Rockland as manager in 1903, and remained there until 1908, when he was transferred to Saron as manager, where he remained until his death on May 21, 1913, the eighteenth anniversary of his connection with Wm. Cameron & Co, Inc.

John E. West was one of the most faithful, loyal and efficient saw mill managers who was ever connected with the firm of Wm. Cameron & Co., Inc., and his untimely death was a source of profound sorrow to the entire organization.

MR. J. D. LARKIN entered the service of Wm. Cameron & Company in 1898, in the capacity of shipping clerk at Rockland, and served as such until 1903, when he was transferred to Saron and made manager of that mill. He resigned from the company in 1908 to go into the saw mill business for himself, near Houston, Texas, and he was engaged in the operation of that plant at the time of his death in March, 1920.

Mr. Larkin was a splendid mill man and a splendid gentleman who will be remembered by every one who had the pleasure of knowing him. His geniality and good fellowship won for him many friends among his saw mill associates as well as the retail yard managers of Wm Cameron & Co., Inc., during the period of his incumbency as manager at Saron. The annual visits to Saron, which were a part of the programs of the Retail Managers Conventions in the early days, will always be remembered with pleasant recollections associated with the memory of John D. Larkin.

MR. EARL S. MIDDLEBROOK, who will be remembered as manager at Nona, and later at Saron, started with Wm. Cameron & Co., lnc., at Saron under Mr. John I). Larkin, as general utility man, and worked in various capacities from scaler in the woods to shipping clerk. He was transferred from Saron to Nona, as manager, succeeding J. K. Salter, about 1906, and remained in that position until the mill was closed down in 1910, when he left the service. In 1913, when Mr. John West died at Saron, Mr. Middlebrook returned to the company as manager of that plant, where he continued until his death in April, 1914. Mr. Middlebrook was an unusually capable manager and had many friends within the organization.

MR. WILLIS JONES was for a number of years the bookkeeper and cashier of the Rockland saw mill, prior to the time he became manager of that plant. He succeeded Mr. John West as manager in 1908, when Mr. West was transferred to Saron, and continued in that position until Rockland was closed down in 1912. After Rock-land was cut out Mr. Jones left the company and moved to Beaumont, where he is now very successfully engaged in the drug business.

Reviewing the personnel of the other employees who were connected with the saw mills of the company in the past, the following notes may be of interest:

MR. E. P. HUNTER, now general manager of Wm. Cameron & Co., Inc., started with the firm as checking clerk at Saron.

CAPT. THOS. WATIES, who later became general manager of the Saw Mills Department, and who is now manager of the Sales Analysis Department, started with the company as office manager in Bowie, Louisiana, in 1897.

MR. CHAS. R. BALL, who was general wholesale sales agent of the company, at Waco, from 1903 to 1906, was at one time manager at the Rockland saw mill. Mr. Ball died several years ago in Shreveport, Louisiana.

MR. T. W. BRAZELTON, a brother of Mr. W. B. Brazelton, was manager at Carmona a number of years during the lifetime of Mr. Wm. Cameron, Sr.

MR. W. H. BIGGERS, who is at present the East Texas representative of the Purchasing Department of the company, was employed at the mills at Nona, Saron and Carmona at different times and in various capacities.

MR. W. T. HARALSON, the East Texas representative of the Land Department of Wm. Cameron & Co., Inc., has been in the continuous service of the company about twenty-two years, and knows every foot of land owned by the firm in that section of the state.

MR. C. B. EDWARDS, who was at one time assistant auditor at the General Office, was originally employed by Wm. Cameron & Co., Inc., in 1905, at the Nona mill. He later was transferred to Waco as assistant auditor, but re-turned to the mills, as bookkeeper and cashier at Saron, where he remained until he engaged in business for himself at Lufkin, Texas. Mr. Ed-wards is now one of the most prominent and successful men in East Texas.

MR. LUKE WRIGHT, who is now engaged in saw mill operations under the name of the Wright Lumber Co., headquarters at Lufkin, was at one time shipping clerk at Carmona and later at Saron.

Among other saw mill employees who will be pleasantly remembered, may be mentioned Mr. P. H. Strauss, formerly bookkeeper at Carmona, now prominently connected with the Southern Pine Lumber Company, at Diebold; Mr. S. M. Beaman, at one time bookkeeper at Nona and at Saron, who is now a prominent druggist in Houston; Mr. C. B. Barclay, who was with the saw mills about fifteen years or more, as foreman at Rockland and Saron, and Mr. Tom Pennington, formerly bookkeeper at Saron, who later organized the Pennington Lumber Company at Houston. Mr. Pennington was accidentally killed, while hunting, in 1920.

The General Sales Managers Department for the wholesale distribution of the products of the various saw mills, was located at the General Office at Waco. The first regularly designated wholesale sales manager was Mr. C. R. Sherrill, who became manager of that department in 1897, and occupied that position until 1901. Mr. Sherrill resigned and was succeeded by Mr. J. B. Beatty in 1901, who only served a few months. Mr. V. G. Longacre succeeded to that position in 1901 and served until 1903. Mr. Chas. R. Ball became sales manager in 1903 and resigned in 1906. Mr. E. P. Hunter succeeded Mr. Ball in 1906 and filled that position until 1914. Mr. G. H. Zimmerman succeeded Mr. Hunter, as sales manager, in 1914, and served until 1915, and Mr. L. D. Dewey conducted that department about one year, until the Wholesale Sales Department was discontinued in 1916.

Among the employees connected with the wholesale lumber department, as traveling salesmen, during the early period of Wm. Cameron & Company's saw mill operations, may be remembered Mr. Joe E. Johnson, Mr. J. M. Hale and Mr. John Sutherland, who were connected with the whole-sale sales department under Mr. C. R. Sherrill, who was sales manager, during the early days, before the corporation was formed. Mr. J. E. Johnson, who had previously been yardman at East Waco and West Waco since 1889, was made traveling salesman in 1899, a month or so after Mr. Wm. Cameron's death. Mr. J. M. Hale, Mr. W. E. Fall and probably some others, whose names are not accessible, were traveling salesmen about the same time. Mr. Hale later became manager of the Waco Retail Yard, and Messrs. Johnson and Fall resigned in 1901 or 1902.

From the year 1902 to 1916, the following names appear in the list of traveling salesmen for the Wholesale (Lumber) Sales Department of Wm. Cameron & Co., Inc.: C. E. Gillette, A. W. Pearsall, Henry B. Fall, H. C. Mills, Geo. A. Sauer, Will H. Wilson, Carey Davenport, G. C. Goss, R. G. Gebhart, V. L. McCarty, J. D. Clark, Gus Zalmanzig, Chester M. Dewey, W. H. Heck, C. H. Machen. E. V. Staude, J. R. Snyder, Merle E. Carothers, L. Henne, Jr., C. A. Evans, R. H. Van Dorn, J. M. Hester, J. R. Grimsley, C. S. Burton, Frank M. Wolfe, D. C. Pettit, G. W. Bright, L. C. Lingham, W. R. Heckman, C. P. Stocksdell, H. J. Wier and Jno. A. Kendall.

NE of the most pleasant memories associated with the saw mills, which may be recalled by some of the older Retail Store Managers, were the trips to the mills in 1906 and 1908. These trips were made at the time and formed a part of the programs of the annual conventions of retail managers in the years mentioned. The trips were made by all of the managers, accompanied by the executives and department heads from the General Office. Pullman sleepers were chartered for those occasions, and the itineraries included stops at Rockland, Nona, Carmona and Saron. At each point the retail managers were entertained by the mill employees, and much valuable and instructive information, relative to saw-milling and the manufacture of yellow pine lumber, was gathered by everyone in attendance.

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