Kirby Lumber Company at Call, Texas, in 1902; excerpts from American Lumberman magazine.  
Source: American Lumberman. "Timber Resources of East Texas, Their Recognition And Development", originally published in American Lumberman November 22, 1902. Chicago: American Lumberman, 1902. pp. 145-150.
  Excerpt from "CHAPTER XII., Logging Camps"  

The detailed operations at the different camps are much on the same basis. The company has at present thirteen logging camps, which cut on an average monthly about as follows:

Camp & Feet Cut
Buna (ships to Beaumont) -- 4,000,000
Trotti (logs Orange mill) -- 3,500,000
Bancroft, La. (logs Orange mill) -- 2,500,000
Kirbyville, Texas Tram (ships Beaumont) -- 2,000,000
Call (at present logging to Call mill) -- 2,000,000
Village (supplies home mill) -- 2,000,000
Silsbee -- 2,000,000
Ariola -- 1,500,000
Mobile -- 1,250,000
Woodville -- 500,000
Roganville -- 1,000,000
Fuqua -- 1,150,0000
Lillard -- 1,000,000

Total, log scale -- 24,400,000

This gives a total of about 24,400,000 feet of logs cut each month, which are furnished the various mills and by them reduced to lumber.

  CHAPTER XIX. Mill “G,” Call, Texas

Mill “G” is one of the boasts of the company. It is endowed with what might be termed the power of individuality—the knack of doing things just a little better than others. When a special bill is wanted, and wanted “right off,” mill “G” usually has something to do with the prompt execution of the order. The mill has been noted for its activity since its foundations were laid in the early '90s. The recent alterations which have been made places it oh a level with the most modern lumber cutting plants in the south.

The magnificent timber supply available for the use of this mill undoubtedly has a great deal to do with the ability of those in charge to turn out such splendid results. The location of the mill places it within range of the best growth of longleaf pine in Texas, and from the densely studded forests which border the western bank of the Sabine this mill draws its supply of logs. This point is to be connected with the logging camp at Trotti as soon as the proposed road between the two shall have been completed. This connection will be advantageous to both places, and will place the company's forests more freely at the disposal of Mill “G.”

The mill at Call, formerly known as the Cow Creek Tram, was built by George A. Adams during the first of the 90's. In 1899 the first structure, which was not so commodious as the present mill, was destroyed by fire, and on the site of the destroyed mill was reared the present structure, which, while only a single circular mill at present, produces 100,000 feet daily. The average cut for June, 1902, was 97,000 feet, this being obtained by taking the output for each day, the sum total being divided by the number of days the mill was operated, giving the average for the month. This is the largest monthly average of any mill operated by the company.

Call station is located two and one-half miles from the Gulf, Beaumont & Kansas City railroad, but is connected with it by a standard gauge railroad operated by the company, with adequate terminal facilities at the junction of the two roads. All switching is done by locomotives owned and operated by the Kirby company. The empties are taken from the siding where they are placed by the railway company and loads are substituted by the engine crew of the company, who are kept busy handling the cut from this mill after it is loaded on the cars.

From Call the tram road runs back into the timber lands from four to eight miles, and all intermediate timber has been cut by the loggers in supplying the saw. The logging facilities at this point are ample to provide a daily feast for the saw and, as shown by the illustrations, are of the horse, mule and cow variety. The former company did not, however, derive its name from this feature but from the river or creek of the same name which flows north and south at a distance of about seven miles to the east. At one time this marked the boundary line of the timber lands held by the company, but additional tracts have been bought and the company's holdings reach to the west bank of the Sabine at present.

Although the present capacity of the mill is large, plans for additional equipment have been made, and the work of installation is now under way. The mill is now provided with a single circular saw, with shot-gun feed and the fastest return of the carriage obtainable. This is supplemented by an 8-saw edger, which is often used as a resaw in splitting large timbers. The trimmings from the edger saws are thrown on a bed of carriers which move slowly toward a gang of slashers. After passing from the slashers the waste material drops into the refuse carriers, which convey it to the burner. Leaving the edger, the stock made from the side boards or first cuts passes farther to the rear, where an automatic trimmer reduces it to the nearest even length. After passing through the trimmer the boards are deposited on live rolls which carry them farther out and toward the tail end of the mill, where the sorter is located. From this point the lumber is either taken on trucks to the piles designated or carried to the dry kilns.

The present arrangements for sorting and storing the lumber will be very much changed when the contemplated improvements shall have been made, and instead of using trucks for carrying the lumber conveyors will be used almost entirely. The site of the yard is to be changed, and it will in the future be located south of the mill at a distance of about 100 yards, instead of to the south and southeast, in close proximity. Men are at work now clearing up the ground for the new yard and as soon as this shall be done the stock on the old yard will be moved to the new location.

The machinery will be increased by the addition of a band saw, with a 12-inch feed to carriage, and one edger. The present trimmer will be moved to the center of the building and later will be used for both saws. The new saw will be provided with an individual edger. No increase will be made in the power plant, which is able to produce force enough to run the new equipment in addition to the old. The engine used now is a Corliss, with a 28-inch cylinder and a 48-inch stroke, equal to about 200-horse power. It is fed by three boilers, 66 inches by 18 feet, and in view of the extra power desired three additional boilers, 66 inches by 16 feet, will be installed. The furnaces are fed with sawdust exclusively. This is carried to the boiler room by a chute and is fed directly to the flames by a specially arranged distributor, which practically does away with the duties of firemen, one man taking care of the three. The boiler house is brick, with Dutch ovens.

The present dry kiln has a capacity of about 30,000 feet a day. The plans for the improvements include the erection of two more of the same size. Under the new arrangement the sorter will leave the lumber destined for the kilns practically at the kiln doors, where it will be loaded on the trucks and placed to dry. After leaving the dry kilns the stock will be taken to sheds near the planer, to be stored until desired. The dry kiln is provided with separate steam generators, which will be increased so as to provide for the two new ones to be built. The method of firing in use at the plant which generates the steam for the kilns is somewhat peculiar. After supplying the boiler room with sawdust for fuel, there is nearly as much as required for the purpose sent to the refuse burner by blow pipes. Instead of utilizing this for fuel for the kiln furnaces, as economy would suggest, the founders of the plant had wood furnaces put in, and they are in use today. The wood for firing has to be hauled some distance and this keeps one team busy. This will be changed when the plans of the Kirby company have been fully matured.

Close to the kiln boiler room is the electric light plant, which is used to light the mill when it is necessary to work by night and which also furnishes light for the company's store room and office. It is operated for only a short time each evening, and usually is stopped at 10 at night, except when a night force is worked.

The planer, which is located in front instead of at the rear of the saw mill, is equipped with a No. 2 sizer and matcher, combined; four flooring machines; one inside and one outside molder; one picket header; two resaws; a two-saw edger or rip saw. The engine which furnishes the power for the planer is larger than is often found in a plant of much greater capacity, having a 20-inch drive with a 30-inch stroke, and is supplied with steam by two 66-inch by 16-foot boilers. The planers will be remodeled when the other repairs are made, and while no additional machinery will be put in the changes will be very advantageous for the workmen and will greatly facilitate the handling of rough and dressed stock, both as it comes to the machines and as it leaves them.

In addition to the machinery enumerated, at the tail end of the saw mill is located a 20 x 30 sizer. This sizer is placed at the end of the live rolls, and timbers which are to be surfaced can be passed through it without rehandling. This machine can accommodate anything not over 20 by 30 inches and a great deal of money is saved by its use.

When the additional equipment shall have been installed the plant will have a capacity of from 150,000 to 175,000 feet for each 10-hour run. This will make an increase in the logging capacity necessary, and also an addition to the present log pond, which will be increased to about twice its present capacity. The mill will then be a combination circular and band saw, with ample driving power, and the interior arrangement will be such as to give the best possible results with the least expenditure of labor.

After passing from the saws through individual edgers, the strips will be cut to the desired length on the trimmer now in use. At the tail of the trimmer will be located the sorter, which will be geared to a much higher speed, so as to carry the cut from both saws. From the sorter the lumber will be loaded on trucks drawn by mules, which will carry it to the new yard site.

Each alley of the new yard will be traversed by truck lines and the lumber will be loaded directly from them to be piled. The dry kiln carriages will be loaded in a like manner, but the kilns will be only a short distance from the sorter and on a level therewith. From the kilns the seasoned stock will he taken to either the storage shed or the planer as desired.

The new yard will have a separate alley for each length of stock, as well as for each thickness of the same length. Special terminal facilities for loading the stock on cars will be provided. The plans for the improvement are most minute and were drawn with a view of saving time and labor in handling the stock cut, as well as to provide for properly storing and stacking it, both in the sheds and on the yard.

A man who cuts on an average of nearly 100,000 feet of lumber a day for a month with a single circular saw, even though he is provided with the latest and quickest return power for his carriage and a fine quality of logs, is something of a novelty in lumber circles. George Moore is a young man with about twenty-five summers and an equal number of winters behind him. He has been sawing for six or seven years, and bears the reputation of being the easiest man on machinery and men in Texas. There is a fascination about the manner in which he handles a carriage loaded with its equipment of men and logs that holds the spectator spellbound. It is not that there is any ostentation or display in his work, for the contrary is true. Judging from the methodical manner in which he directs matters, on first appearance it would seem that he was very leisurely in his movements; that he was in no particular hurry, and yet despite this apparent take-your-time air there is scarcely a moment during working hours that the carriage is stationary.

A log makes its appearance on deck, the steam flippers give it a friendly lift from the endless chain carrier; it is caught and held ready for the carriage by the steam trip. The carriage at length is vacated and for a minute fraction of a second stops, but even before it has reached a standstill the hand of the sawyer has depressed the trips and at the same time the “nigger” is temporarily given his freedom. As the carriage reaches the proper station on its return, the log rolls into place, the nigger gives it a kick to make certain, the lever is reversed, and before the beholder is well aware that another log has been placed on the rack the first cut is on its way to the slashers, where it is cut into even lengths and dropped on the refuse conveyor. By the time the first slab has reached the refuse conveyor the log has at least three flat surfaces and is ready for the fourth cut. There is some difficulty experienced here, and the nigger seems impotent. A harder shove is given to the lever which controls the action of this all-indispensable nigger, and a vicious response at length forces the obstreperous log into the desired attitude and the carriage again moves rapidly forward. The “nigger” is an illustration of the boomerang; the harder the lever is pressed the harder it kicks, and the principle is so simple that one would naturally use the right method in operating it. If it is desired to move it toward one, the lever is pulled up close, and when the opposite direction is desired it is pushed away from the operator. The harder one pushes the lever the more vigorous the response, and in this regard closely resembles a man's conscience, which reacts with a violence equal to the power that overcame it.

Mr. Moore, the sawyer, has a very youthful appearance, weighs about 140 pounds, and is a thorough master of the art of producing the most lumber with the least expenditure of nerve force. He rarely raises his voice above the pitch necessary to be understood and to make himself understood prefers a motion of his hand, as is the case with most sawyers. to using loud language.

The minute a log rests on the carriage his eye glances at the cutting orders and the log is sized up. A motion of the hand indicates the kind of material he desires to produce from the particular log, and the dogs are set accordingly. There is no waste of timber, time or temper under his reign.

Call itself is a beautiful site. It is located two and a half miles east of the Gulf, Beaumont & Kansas City railway. At present there are possibly 400 or 500 people within its limits, most of whom are in some manner connected with the company's milling operations at that point. There is considerable travel to and from the town.

The company has selected a block in the center of the town site on which it intends to erect a 40-room hotel for the accommodation of employees and those visiting the place, and in view of the number who daily make the trip from Call Junction to Call station the hotel will be a blessing, as there is nor means provided at present for the entertainment of visitors other than that afforded by a few who have placed their extra rooms at the disposal of those seeking such accommodations. The lot on which the hotel will be erected has been planted with sycamore trees, which are now about two years old and present a decidedly healthy appearance.

Naturally a saw mill town, all of which has been built within the past few years, cannot boast of many advantages, but the push and energy of the present population promise many good things for the future. The town is laid off in squares, streets made and maintained; trees have been planted to replace the forest of pines which were cut when Call was nothing more nor less than a lumber camp. The site of the town is at the apex of a rising knoll, which insures good drainage. Pure water is to be found at a depth of twenty to fifty feet, the people are healthy, and the population growing steadily.

The Kirby company conducts a commissary at Call that is perhaps its largest in point of equipment and stock maintained. The surrounding country for several miles is dependent upon this store for its supplies as well as the employees of the Kirby Lumber Company at Call.

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.