Des Allemands Lumber & Shingle Company at Des Allemands, Louisiana, in 1905; excerpts from American Lumberman magazine.  
Source: American Lumberman. "A Journey through the Vast Downman Cypress Interests with Camera and Pen", American Lumberman, Aug 5, 1905 pp.43-82. Chicago: American Lumberman, 1905.

Des Allemands is what the Southern Pacific calls the little bayouside town. It is known by the United States government as Allemands. This town is located on the Southern Pacific railway and on the Bayou des Allemands, thirty-two miles from New Orleans, and has Western Union telegraph and Wells-Fargo express. At this place is situated the Des Allemands Lumber & Shingle Company, Limited, of which R. H. Downman is president and general manager, Sam R. Ely assistant general manager, E. G. Westmoreland vice president and manager and F. H. Lewis secretary and treasurer.

The length of life of the Des Allemands operation will not be so long as that of some of the other plants in the R. H. Downman possessions and yet with all the canal digging and waterway improvements going on it will be only a little while until the people of the Des Allemands plant may reach out to all the cypress territory of southeastern Louisiana for anything it may want in the way of timber, bringing it to the edge of the saw at Allemands. Even now enough timber is in its possession and in sight to run it for ten years.

Early History.
A mill at Des Allemands formerly was owned by Francis Martin, a small circular affair which had cut only about 1,000,000 feet of lumber, all told, which plant was bought in 1900 by R. H. Downman.

This plant was idle until March, 1901, when the Des Allemands Lumber & Shingle Company, Limited, was organized and thereupon the rebuilding of the mill was begun. The first idea was to make a shingle mill, but before much work had been done the saw mill idea dominated. The new mill was "turned over" in October of 1901, but began running regularly in January, 1902, as a circular mill.

In the latter part of 1902 the company put in a Clark Bros, band mill. When operations began there nothing but four or five small shacks and a store fifteen feet square were to be seen on that side of the bayou.

After the original purchase of timber some of it was exchanged with the Louisiana Lumber Company, Limited, for convenience. The Des Allemands people afterward purchased the Paradis tract of timber in St. Charles parish and in March, 1904, bought the Creole cypress mill, situated on the side of the bayou toward New Orleans, With this property went something like 100,000,000 feet of standing timber in LaFourche and St. John parishes. The timber operated by the Des Allemands Lumber & Shingle Company, Limited, lies in St. Charles and St. John parishes.

Timber Operations at Allemands.
The timber delivery for the Dos Allemands plant was contracted for with the Morgan City Timber Company in 1901. That contract was annulled in April, 1903, at which time the company bought its equipment. The company is operating a group of boats in Bayou Chevereiul, fifteen miles from Allemands, going up through Bay des Allemands, seven miles across Lake des Allemands, five miles through Bayou Chevereiul. There it has a canal a mile long and forty foot wide, at the end of which are two pullboats hauling out 35,000 feet of logs daily and one dredge, also working.

Two steamboats are in commission for towing and express service, of which the Pharr is the towboat. This boat is sixty-five feet over all in length, is of 16- foot beam and was built in 1897. The express boat is the Virginia, which has a length over all of thirty-six feet and a 6-1/2 foot beam.

At the Camp.
Two pullboats handle all the timber and both of them make a specialty of pulling full lengths. One dredge does all canal work. At this camp is a commissary for the use of the hundred men at work in the woods. Logs are stored in the Bayou Boeuf and the Bayou Chevereiul. There is unlimited room for storage. At the mill above the Southern Pacific bridge, at Des Allemands, is a boom which holds 1,500,000 feet of logs.

Saw Mill at Allemands.
The saw mill is located on the north side of the Southern Pacific track. The power is generated by four boilers of 150 horsepower, seventy-two inches in diameter by eighteen feet in length. Two small tubular boilers are provided for use while the others are being washed out. The engines consist of one 18x24 and one 14x20.
In this mill is a Clark Bros, band and a edger. The carriage is run with a shotgun 10-inch steam feed, and a Prescott steam set works is provided. There is a lath mill in the saw mill building, and a Hill drag saw which cuts the logs into the required lengths.

The Shingle Department at Allemands.
The shingle department at Allemands is northwest of the mill building and is contained in a building 40 by 60 feet in area. The shingle machinery consists of one Perkins double blocker and one Challoner hand machine. Offal from the saw mill is run through a mechanical hog and carried 220 feet north of the saw mill and dropped behind a sheet iron screen twenty-five feet in height, where it is burned.

Stock and Shipping at Allemands.
A nice arrangement is in vogue at Allemands for the handling of lumber, the buildings being located in a straight line in the order lumber should be carried from the saw to the final storage place, or for shipment. Lumber from the yards comes down in a transfer and goes on trucks and is pulled to the yards and to the kilns by mules. Six mules and thirty trucks do the work. The lumber at Allemands is piled down and up. A canal thirty feet wide runs through the yard east and west, dividing the yard from the mill property. This is a very wise provision against the spread of fire. The yard contains ten acres and can be made as large as it is deemed necessary, because the company owns 480 acres of mill site.

The lumber is stored along four alleys running north and south, a very complete picture of which is shown.

Dry Kilns at Allemands.
The dry kilns recently erected at Allemands are very high class. They were built to take the place of kilns destroyed by fire in January, 1905; they are of the steam variety. These kilns have four rooms, two rooms in each battery; the batteries are twenty-four feet apart. Each kiln room is 22 by 64 feet in size.

Two new boilers have been added recently, of 150 horsepower each, seventy-two inches in diameter and eighteen feet long, which will be used to furnish steam
for the dry kilns and to operate the planing mill as well; the planing mill having been operated before from the saw mill. The shavings from the planing mill go directly to these boilers.

The Planing Mill at Allemands.
To the west of the saw mill, about 215 feet, is situated the planing mill of the Allemands plant. The machinery consists of one surfacer, one matcher, one rip saw, one band resaw, one inside molder, one outside molder, one picket machine, one table rip saw, one Byrkitt lath machine, two cutoff saws and one hog, which grinds the refuse.

Handling the Lumber.
The planing mill dry shed is 40 by 150 feet, and in that shed is stored the dressed lumber, pickets, molding etc. There is room in this shed for 750,000 feet of lumber. Next to that are the sheds contiguous to the kilns and 200 feet away is another shed, capable of caring for 260,000 feet of lumber. Seventy-five feet farther on is another dry shed 200 by 40 feet in area, which will hold 1,500,000 feet of lumber. At Allemands is over a quarter of a mile of loading track.

The demand at Allemands for shingles is principally from Texas, Louisiana and the west; the upper grades of lumber go into the eastern and middle states.

Fire Protection.
A water tower sixty feet in height holds 20,000 gallons of water; in piping throughout the various portions of this plant is 5,110 feet—almost a mile. In commission are 1,950 feet of hose, 26 hose pipes, 72 barrels filled with water ready for use in the most appropriate places, 99 buckets also ready for immediate use. There are six tanks all told, including the one just mentioned, and on the property are located fifteen hose houses where the pipes are properly fitted up. These are located at convenient distances from all exposed places.

The Ship Yard at Allemands.
One of the appurtenances that was purchased from the Creole Cypress Company is the ship yard. It is a very complete affair, fitted with a fine machine shop; it has one set of steam ways capable of hauling a 150-foot boat and two small hand ways for launches, luggers etc.

The machine shop is run by a gasoline engine of 40 horsepower and contains a planer, edger, drill press etc.

Collateral Affairs.
The store at Allemands is very finely fitted up, has a cold storage underneath the building, buys ice by the carload etc. The company has also a commissary in the woods for the accommodation of its men.

The buildings at Allemands on the mill side of the river are all owned by the Des Allemands Lumber & Shingle Company, Limited; besides the store a hotel, office and sixty houses for the use of the employees of the company. On this side of the river is a school house, supported by the parish, which has thirty or forty pupils during the school year. There is also a little drug store and a mill physician. This place has been particularly free from accidents, either at the mill or in the woods.

The electric dynamo in use at Allemands was manufactured by the Northern Electrical Manufacturing Company and is located in the saw mill pump house. This dynamo runs six arc lights and 250 incandescent lamps. The dynamo is driven by an 8x12 high speed engine.

A private telephone line connects the manager’s house with the office and the depot, with three receivers.


So much was to be said about the plants of this institution in the small space devoted to text in this 40-page story that it was planned to devote as little space as possible to individuals. Yet inasmuch as the personality of one man affects all the affairs of these interests, and inasmuch as a story of this kind would be incomplete without a very pointed discussion of the antecedents and characteristics of that man and those other men who have helped to create this business, the LUMBERMAN will, in closing this story and under this general head, give the personal history of R. H. Downman and his managerial associates.

R. H. Downman.
Robert Henry Downman, president of the five companies and general manager of all the business of those companies, is one of the very few masters of detail that the writer has ever known who did not allow the minutiae of his work to weigh him down and put him in long straight furrows.

It is no exaggeration to say that Mr. Downman goes more explicitly into the innermost happenings of his business than does any other lumberman in the United States. He is a man of wonderful memory and seems to store away all the facts he gathers on his many trips through his possessions against the time when he might need them for reference. Ninety-five percent of the men and all of the foremen who work for the five companies know him personally. From stable boss to manager he knows each man, his value, his mental weight and the work that he essays to do.

Mr. Downman is a personal court of adjustment for claims and grievances inside and out of business; while most men with his responsibilities would act by proxy. He literally keeps open house—possibly an attribute of Virginia hospitality inherited from a long line of Virginia ancestors. He is as easy to see as the town pump in a country village. But by being swift in his conclusions and thus being able to say he will or he won’t on all propositions he does a personally conducted business—a rare accomplishment in these modern days.

Robert Henry Downman was born in Fauquier county, Virginia, February 27, 1860. The place of his birth was near Warrenton. About 1869 the family moved to Warrenton. Robert Henry attended school until he was nearly 15 years old.

Mr. Downman’s father was the county clerk of Fauquier county and Robert Henry was from 1874 to 1878 a clerk in his father’s office.

Mr. Downman was educated at the Agricultural and Mechanical college of Virginia, located at Blacksburg. After his school days he went back to Warrenton and was interested in the hardware, agricultural implement and lumber trades during 1879 and 1880.

Mr. Downman had an uncle at Bryan, Tex., who was in the retail drug business, and after his experience in Virginia he went to Texas and stayed with his uncle for about a year in the retail drug trade.

In 1881 R. H. Downman went to Waco, Tex., where he opened up a retail business in drugs. He sold that business in 1882 and went on a farm near Waco to do general work. He went with J. W. Castles & Co., of Waco, in the spring of 1883 as a clerk in the office, taking care of invoices and correspondence relative to orders. He stayed there until January 1, 1884. At that time J. W. Castles & Co. became Cameron, Castles & Story, wholesale groceries and drugs, and R. H. Downman was put in charge of the wholesale drug department. He stayed there until 1886, when the drug business was sold to Behrens & Castles, whereupon Mr. Downman went to represent Mr. Castles in that firm.

Mr. Downman married June 6, 1888, Miss Annie S. Cameron, daughter of the late William Cameron.

He stayed with Behrens & Castles until in February, 1889—at the solicitation of William Cameron—Mr. Downman went into the lumber firm of William Cameron & Co. as one of the working partners of that business, his part of the work being to look after the retail yards. Mr. Downman stayed there until the end of the term of that partnership, March 1, 1897. When that partnership was dissolved by mutual consent, in 1897, the firm continued under the name of William Cameron & Co., with William Cameron, R. H. Downman and W. W. Cameron the partners—the other junior partners retiring. This latter firm existed until the day of William Cameron’s death, February 6, 1899.

R. H. Downman was one of the executors of Mr. Cameron’s will together with his (William Cameron’s) wife and son, W. W. Cameron, and assisted in winding up the affairs of the estate. This resulted in a division of the estate under the terms of Mr. Cameron’s will. Mr. Downman in this division secured the Bowie Lumber Company, Limited, at Bowie; the stock that William Cameron owned in the Jeanerette Lumber & Shingle Company, Limited; stock in the Whitecastle Lumber & Shingle Company, and two retail lumber yards in San Antonio. This inheritance, however, brought only a modicum of what has since been added to the original in the six and a half years that have elapsed since the division.

Mr. Downman is today the owner of 90 percent of the stock of the Iberia Cypress Company, Limited, New Iberia, La.; the Bowie Lumber Company, Limited, Bowie, La.; the Des Allemands Lumber & Shingle Company, Limited, Allemands, La., and of 70 percent of the stock of the Whitecastle Lumber & Shingle Company, Limited, Whitecastle, La., and 60 percent of the stock of the Jeanerette Lumber & Shingle Company, Limited, at Jeanerette, La.

Mr. Downman’s properties in Texas and elsewhere are not made a part and parcel of the general estimate of his holdings in this article, but reference—in figures —is made only to his lumber possessions.

The William Cameron interests in cypress lumber began in the Whitecastle Lumber & Shingle Company, Limited, at Whitecastle, La., but their chief pride in the latter part of Mr. Cameron’s life was the building up of the plant at Bowie, of which Mr. Downman took active charge and which has prospered under his management in a wonderful way.

After getting Bowie in proper order Mr. Downman purchased the timber holdings of Francis Martin in La Fourche parish and acquired a mill at Allemands. This he bought November 5, 1900. The rebuilding of the plant of the Des Allemands Lumber & Shingle Company, Limited, was begun in June, 1901, and between that time and January 1, 1902, was rebuilt and put into shipshape order. December 26, 1900, Mr. Downman bought out the P. L. Renoudet Cypress Lumber Company, at New Iberia.

Mr. Downman moved to New Orleans October 1, 1900, and now occupies offices in rooms 1003-4-5-6 in the Hibernia Bank building, shown elsewhere.

Mr. Downman purchased the C. L. Hopkins tract of land of the Creole Cypress Company at Allemands, La., March 15, 1904. This plant has been abandoned.
Outside of his lumber business Mr. Downman owns large tracts of highly mineralized lands at Llano, Tex. It is considered a very valuable property, worth into the millions.

Besides his lumber stock and mining properties Mr. Downman owns stock in many other institutions which would not be of interest to lumber people to have mentioned.

E. G. Westmoreland.
Erdley Graham Westmoreland is also of the Cameron-Reddy-Downman school of cypress lumbermen, and one might expect him to do as he did do—get his education swiftly.

Mr. Westmoreland has been nearly all his lumber life with the Cameron and Downman interests in cypress. He has been in the business nearly all the time since 1893 and has had a remarkably successful career, as is evidenced by his achievements.

Mr. Westmoreland was born in Middlesex, England, just outside of London. He attended a private school until 13 years of age and then went to the London public schools.

His first business experience was in that most thorough and practical school of insurance business as it is done "at Lloyds." After serving a very thorough apprenticeship at Lloyds Mr. Westmoreland, after the manner of the conquering Englishman, concluded to come to the English part of America to make his fortune.

He immigrated to Canada in 1892 and went into the cattle country—Calgary, N. W. T. He spent 1892 and 1893 there and then, having established relations of intimacy by letter with some old friends, he concluded that was not the country for him and came on to Pensacola, Fla., where he was associated as clerk and wharfman with the Southern States Land & Timber Company, that experience being from 1893 to 1895.

In 1897 Mr. Westmoreland went to Bowie, La., to gain a practical knowledge of the manufacturing end of the cypress business. He did this after having thoroughly investigated the business and believing that at that point he could best learn the business so he could make his very decided and deeply aggressive mark in the world.

He became assistant in the office and shipping clerk and yard foreman until Mr. Reddy’s death, which occurred in. 1901. In May of 1901 the Des Allemands Lumber & Shingle Company, Limited, was started at Allemands, La., and Mr. Downman made Mr. Westmoreland vice president and manager of the company.

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.