With Kirby at Bessmay (Gulf Coast Lumberman, 1938)  
  Source: "With Kirby at Bessmay", Gulf Coast Lumberman, July 1, 1938. Bound in a scrapbook in the collection of Lester Haines.  
Kirby Lumber Company at Bessmay, Texas  
The mill itself, looking across the great log pond. In the foreground notice selected timber logs stored for future use. This is the "Kirby" idea of service.  
  With Kirby at Bessmay  

At Bessmay, Texas, where The Kirby Lumber Corporation operate their biggest Southern Pine sawmill, there are many interesting and unusual things that catch the eye of the visitor whose business is sizing up sawmills. But there are two in particular that make a deep impression. The first is the particularly large type of Short Leaf Yellow Pine logs they have on hand in such quantities; the second is the wonderful battery of steam dry kilns one of the finest on earth.

They started more than a year ago to transform and modernize some of their old-style kilns into the latest type of Moore Cross Circulation kilns. So highly pleased were they with the results of the first kilns they rebuilt and modernized, that they went right ahead and rebuilt the entire battery, so that today they have completed and in operation eight double Moore Cross Circulation dry kilns, sufficient to expertly season every foot of lumber that comes from one of the biggest mills in the South, and do it in a fashion they never dreamed of with their older type of kilns. Everything goes through the kilns at Bessmay now, even their smaller timbers. Eight by ten timbers come out of those kilns commercially dry and unbelievably sound and free from defects. Dimension of all sizes, widths, and thicknesses is perfectly seasoned, and all this without waiting the customary many weeks for this type of lumber to dry on the yard.

Manager D. R. Bird is so proud of his kilns that he has no words to emphasize their importance to the successful operation of the big Bessmay plant. In front of the entire group of kilns he built a plank-topped platform supported throughout by steel framing set in blocks of concrete, so that the approach to the kilns will be permanently stout and level. The scientific engineering paraphernalia outside and under the front of the kilns is so intricate as to amaze THE GULF COAST LUMBERMAN visitors. Here everything is done automatically, and the highest degree of scientific accuracy obtained in the seasoning of the lumber.

The management of The Kirby Lumber Corporation figured that Bessmay justifies so splendid a lumber seasoning department, as well as the best that can be had in equipment throughout. For Bessmay has a very long life still ahead of her. It will take many years to cut the virgin timber into which she has been cutting for many years, and when that is gone The Kirby Lumber Corporation itself which has several hundred thousand acres of land off which the timber was cut for the first time many years ago, and which will be heavily timbered again by the time they need it. They are giving much thought to the care and protection of this great coming forest of Pine, and feel that it will furnish their mills with an indefinite timber supply.

They have much to be proud of at Bessmay besides the grand kilns and the big virgin timber, too. The sawmill is one of the most impressive in the South. It stands huge and brightly painted not far from the main highway through East Texas, and between the mill and the road there is a mighty sign, "KIRBY LUMBER CORPORATION," that he who passes not only may, but must read. Inside this sawmill two band mills, two air-set 'carriages, a big resaw, a bull edger, two big edgers, a trimmer, and all the necessary adjuncts for a very large mill, are found always in fine running order. It's a grand mill to look at, and if you go through it with Kirby Herndon, the sales manager for the corporation, he is so enthusiastic about it you would think he planned and built it himself, and Harry Seaman, vice president and general manager of The Kirby Lumber Corporation the fellow who says yea and nay about the company affairs and does both smilingly is much inclined to indorse the enthusiasm of Messrs. Herndon and Bird concerning the plant. He makes a swell mill guide, too.

They cut only Yellow Pine at Bessmay, leaving the hardwood cutting to the big Kirby mills at Call and Voth. They do not dip their lumber as it comes from the mill, because it all goes through the kilns. A long drop sorter chain sends it to the racks to be piled on kiln cars, and a rather unique transfer car operated by electricity, takes each car to the proper line of track to start it through the kilns. After it comes from the kilns and is ready to leave the cooling shed, another electric transfer car handles it to the take-off chains. Everything goes under cover. There isn't a shirt-tail full of lumber piled outside of the sheds at the Bessmay plant. Like the sawmill the mighty battery of dry sheds, fourteen in number and capable of holding all the lumber they would ever have on hand, are brightly painted, the Kirby name being on all of them. There is one entire shed with a Lamella roof that houses nothing but flooring. The planing mill at Bessmay turns out a lot of Pine flooring, of the regulation type. They get their end-matched Pine flooring from their Call mill, just a few miles away, and in their flooring shed they carry large stocks of everything in standard Pine flooring, end-matched Pine flooring, and three-inch Oak flooring from the Call mill.

They have no lath mill at Bessmay because that resaw takes everything out of the slabs that usually goes to the lath mill. But they save all their three-foot and longer clears, kiln dry them, and ship them to Call to go through the flooring plant. When they come back to Bessmay they are end-matched flooring, three to six inches in width. The Kirby sales forces are particularly active in pushing the sale of a very valuable and useful commodity, short end-matched six-inch flooring. This can be used for cheap flooring, for sub-floors, for walls, for sheathing, and for a variety of practical purposes. It comes in bundles, and runs three to eight feet in length.

About a year ago they took out a lot of smaller type power equipment from the power plant at Bessmay and installed in its stead a 1,000 horse-power turbo-electric generator, and now they have electric power to spare at Bessmay. The planing mill machinery is driven by direct-connected motors, making it possible to operate the various units separately and economically. The planing mill is like the sawmill, a big one, equipped with everything needed for the dressing and working of standard and also special lumber items.

And timbers. The timber docks at Bessmay are piled as high with big timbers, ordinarily, as they used to be in the days when they cut nothing but Long Leaf at that mill. They do a whale of a timber business, and the big-bodied dense Short Leaf Yellow Pine that they cut lends itself to the making of timbers of great size and length. When THE GULF COAST LUMBERMAN visitors were at Bessmay, there were probably a dozen carloads of big timbers on the docks awaiting shipment, some domestic, some export. It was grand looking stock.

The lumber that you see piled high in the sheds or being loaded into cars at Bessmay looks mighty good. They cut much more slowly than they used to do, get everything they can from their logs in the way of quality; and then the drying, the piling, the dressing, the handling, is all done with more thought and care than it ever was in the "good old days." The result is bright, straight, well-manufactured, good-looking, good-feeling lumber.

The Kirby gang is mighty proud of Bessmay and its products.

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.