Kirby's Honey Island (Gulf Coast Lumberman, 1939)  
  Source: "Kirby's Honey Island", Gulf Coast Lumberman, May 15, 1939. Bound in a scrapbook in the collection of Lester Haines.  

  The entire operation at Honey Island presents to the visitor a fine study in modern sawmilling.  
  Kirby's Honey Island  

At Honey Island, Texas, not far removed from the Free City of Beaumont, and likewise just a few miles from the other Kirby mills at Bessmay, Silsbee, Call, and Voth, the Kirby Lumber Corporation, of Houston, owns and operates a mighty fine sawmill. It isn't the biggest of the Kirby mills, being equipped with a powerful band head-rig and a big gang, but it is one of the very best and most efficient of the Kirby group. It is likewise a nice mill to look at. the sawmill and all the other units of the plant to look at. the sawmill and all the other units of the plant are freshly painted in bright red, and everything is just as clean and shipshape as careful management can make it. From the office you look across a very fine little lake, to the mill. Rumor has it that that lake furnishes a mighty fine type of bass to the ambitious angler, and Manager W. H. Bolton endorsed the rumor very strongly to THE GULF COAST LUMBERMAN visitors. the verification of that rumor must remain for a later visit, however, for the mill, itself, furnished plenty of interest for a full day's investigation.


  Kirby Lumber Company at Honey Island, Texas  
  Honey Island's manager W. H. Bolton.  

Honey Island is a strictly Short Leaf Yellow Pine sawmill. the great Kirby-owned forest that reaches to its very door produces a certain amount of high grade hardwoods, likewise considerable fine Long Leaf, all of which is logged at the same time. But only the Short Leaf comes to Honey Island. the hardwood logs are trained over to Call, where the Kirby Lumber Corporation operates a very modern hardwood and flooring plant under the jurisdiction of Manager of Hardwood Production, John Pritchard. the Long Leaf logs are trained over to Bessmay, Kirby's biggest and most pretentious Yellow Pine plant. The day the GULF COAST LUMBERMAN Visitors were at Honey Island they saw a solid train of 35 cars of Long Leaf logs starting for Bessmay, where they specialize in that sort of production.

Honey Island is unique among East Texas sawmills, inasmuch as it cuts nothing but Kirby timber, and buys neither timber nor logs from outsiders, no matter how easy it might be to obtain such a supply. The Kirby forests near Honey Island contain sufficient of their own timber to Honey Island contain sufficient of their own timber to keep that mill slashing away for probably a generation to come, so they prefer to cut their own timber, rather than buy from others. They log both with train and truck. The logs come in and are unloaded onto a moving chain that moves them with whatever speed may be desired to a small water pond at the foot of the bull chain that takes them up into the mill. One by one the logs drop into the water, and are at once lifted upwards toward the saws.

At the top of the chain the logs go to the band mill carriage. the sawyer selects them according to their grain and grade. Dense grain stock is sawed into dimension and timbers. they cut a remarkable amount of dense short leaf timbers at Honey Island. No wide-grained stock is used for timbers and dimension. Wide-grained logs are slabbed on opposite sides and shoved over to the big gang, where one, two, or even three of them go through the gang at a time, and are converted into one-inch stock. this, of course, produces a great deal of vertical grain inch.

From both the band rig and the gang, the lumber goes through a big double edger, then through a piano trimmer, and out of the mill on transfer chains. Outside the mill the chain lifts the lumber to a higher level and over an automatic drop sorter, which drops each separate length of lumber into its proper place for loading on the kiln cars. thus only lumber of the same length goes through the kiln at the same time. these kilns are the pride of Honey Island. There are five double-track Moore kilns of the cross-circulation fan type, that permits them to stack their lumber solid on the kiln cars, and turns it out beautifully and practically seasoned. this battery of kilns holds 400,000 feet of lumber at once, thus allowing them to kiln dry the entire product of the mill without crowding.


The dry kiln department is naturally one of the fire danger spots in every sawmill, and here they have taken every precaution to guard against that sort of danger. the platform that leads from the drop-sorter to the kilns is built entirely on steel rails; and when the stock emerges from the kilns at the other end, it comes out into a big cooling shed, the floor of which is steel rails, and the roof and framing likewise of steel. There is plenty of room in and framing likewise of steel. There is plenty of room in this big cooling shed to allow the stock time to cool off well, before going to the sheds or the planer. Then the kiln cars are unloaded at the far end of the shed onto a transfer chain, where it is graded, and then removed by hand onto dolleys, and separated as to grade, width, thickness, etc. It is hauled by mule power across an open space to a battery of five big rough dry sheds. these sheds are built interlocking, and the roofs are all of the Lamella type, which does away with numerous upright supporting timbers, allowing much more stacking room, and promoting ease and cost of handling.

The lumber remains in these rough storage sheds until needed, when it is hauled by mule power to the planer for further preparation for market. the planer is modernly equipped in standard fashion to make anything in the line of yard or shed stock that the trade requires, and the lumber that comes from these machines shows the same extreme care in handling that marks the same effort at all the Kirby mills. Particularly smooth, bright, well-grained stock is seen going into every car along the loading docks. the management at Honey Island is unrelaxed in its vigilance in attempting to make the best possible finished product out of the fine Short Leaf timber at their disposal. The planer also contains a unit for the making of grain doors.

There are two big storage sheds abutting on the loading docks not far beyond the planer, where they store dressed stock, ready for shipment.

The operation at Honey Island is a very economical one, lost motion being eliminated to an exceptional degree and the cost of handling and performing the service of each unit being reduced to a very satisfactory point.

Just as Honey Island co-operates with the Call and Bessmay plants by sending them Hardwood and Long Leaf logs for manufacture, so do these two mills return the compliment by assisting it in supplying the trade with desirable mixed cars. End-matched Pine flooring, oak flooring, and various items of hardwood desired by the trade, are sent over to Honey Island and loaded in mixed cars with the Short Leaf products of this plant, to give the trade better mixed car service. there is little in the line of Yellow Pine and Southern hardwood products that the ambitious dealer cannot secure in mixed cars from Honey Island.

As already stated, Honey Island is located right at the edge of a great forest of Kirby timber from which it will draw supplies for many years to come. For this reason the entire mill has been built with unusual sturdiness, looking to its long life.

One of the most attractive small town schools in all East Texas graces a greensward across the lake from the mill, and they are now preparing to spend a considerable sum of money building a very modern and attractive Community Center building close to the school.

One of the drawbacks to this interesting little mill town is now being remedied. the roads into town from all directions have, up to the present time, been rather poor, but right now they are building modern highways from various directions right to the door of the mill.

W. H. Bolton is manager for Kirby at Honey Island, and does a very fine job of it. The lumber is sold under the direction of Sales Manager Kirby Herndon, of Houston. H. M. Seaman, of Houston, is Vice President and General Manager, and John Henry Kirby is Chairman of the Board.


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.